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More ways to cut food bill

Worms eat my garbage

Since I love to eat vegetables and have a lot of vegetable scraps, I decided about 10 years ago to feed my garbage to worms.

Worms2 It’s an easy way to get food waste out of the landfill. Food scraps make up 12.4 percent of garbage in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

When I planted my container garden last weekend, I used worm compost to enhance the soil.
Red worms can breakdown waste from vegetables and fruits, such as spinach, lettuce, and apples.

Here are tips for creating a worm compost bin:

  • Choose a container: You can buy a worm bin or use a large plastic container that you can’t see through. The worm bin needs a lid and should be at least one foot deep.
  • Drill holes: Small holes need to be drilled in the bottom of the bin so liquids can seep out. You’ll need a liner to catch the liquids.
  •  Choose a suitable location: Extreme temperatures will kill the worms. In the summer, the worm bin can be kept outside under a shaded tree, or in a garage. In the winter, consider keeping it in the laundry room, a warm basement, or an enclosed garage.
  • Choose the bedding: Newspaper strips, leaves, shredded cardboard, untreated sawdust, or straw can be used. The materials should be soaked in water, and they should be the consistency of a rung-out sponge when they are placed in the worm bin. It’s important to keep the bin moist, but not wet.
  • Add the worms: You’ll need about one pound of red worms to get started.
  • Prevent odor: Bury your vegetable and fruit scraps in the bedding to prevent odor. Food scraps should be buried in a new place each week. Place a piece of cardboard or newspaper over the top of the bedding.
  • Change the bedding: Every four to six weeks, push the bedding, which has become compost, to one end of the container, and add some more bedding. Place the fruit and vegetable scraps in the newly added bedding and the worms will go to that side of the container to eat.
  • Worm binStep01Lg Using the worm compost: When the worms have moved to side of the bin with the new bedding, you can remove the worm castings and feed your plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. To make sure that there aren’t any worms in the compost, you can use a trowel to place the castings in piles on a black plastic bag spread on the ground. Because worms like the dark, they’ll crawl to the bottom of the pile. You can scoop off the top two-thirds of the pile to use in your garden.

Occasionally add sand and ground egg shells to your worm bin. Tough items such as orange peels and banana skins take a long time for the worms to eat, so most people don't put them in the bin.

For more information on creating a worm compost bin, read the book “Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System” by Mary Appelhof or visit Seattle Tilth, a non-profit organic gardening and urban ecology organization in Seattle, Wash.

Other sources of information include:

"Composting With Worms"  earth911

“Cuttings: Making Compost, With a Little Help” – The New York Times

“Composting With a Worm Bin” – Oregon Metro

Copyright 2008, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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