Listen to the Worms! Getting Started with Vermicomposting

by Alyssa Carabez for SUST 240

A Facebook status post from a co-worker inquiring if any friends wanted a “free composting bin complete with worms and soil to get you started” prompted my curiosity. Sarah is a bartender at the restaurant where I work. She has been worm composting for the past four years and offered both a gander at her worms and some words of advice on a pleasant, autumn evening.

Sarah's worm composting bin (photo: A. Carabez)

Sarah’s worm composting bin (photo: A. Carabez)

Sarah has resided in the neighborhood of Rogers Park, a few blocks from Loyola University’s lakeshore campus, for over a decade. She credits her interest in sustainability to her earth-minded parents. Her parents composted (without worms), raised goats and rabbits, and grew various fruits and vegetables at their home in Michigan. She notes how they taught her to have a respectful, conscious relationship with food. She gushed about the closed cycle in her home that having worms provides: the composted soil goes into her garden and potted plants and then the food is eaten by humans and worms and so on.

Here are some worm composting basics from Sarah:

  • Bedding, like shredded newspaper or cardboard, surrounding your worms and their dirt should always be kept moist.
  • Feed worms (depending on how many you have, of course) about half a pound of food a day. You’ll know if you gave them too much that day as fruit flies will surely gather.
  • Do not feed your worms spicy food, animal products, or cooked food. Raw fruit and vegetable waste is ideal. Some say to not feed them citrus foods due to the acidity, but hers enjoy them in small amounts. Egg shells are okay, as well as some coffee grounds, but not too much as it makes them wired just like people — “just listen to the worms!”
  • Be sure to keep worms insulated in the winter, in a cool or air conditioned space in the summer, and in a container in which they are able to breathe. She used a simple Tupperware storage bin with holes drilled throughout.
  • There will be leakage so prepare for that at the bottom of your bin. It should have a “healthy earthy smell.” If it’s stinky something is wrong; you more than likely gave too much food to your worms that day.

From more information to get started on your own worm composting bin, check out this link from the Cornell Waste Management Institute.

Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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