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Red wigglers raised on coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps. Photo: <a href="">Marc Tyler</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Red wigglers raised on coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps. Photo: Marc Tyler, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Welcome the red wrigglers for indoor composting

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Worms? In your kitchen? Eeeew! But wait... Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy tells Martha Foley a little bin of red wigglers under your sink (or, in her case, your desk) makes a great project for kids, as well as a supply of compost for houseplants and garden.

True, it's a small-scale operation probably not suited to handling all your vegetable-y food waste, but still, she says it's fun, and NOT smelly.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

It’s really nice to have another place to put your waste besides the compost pile outside, especially with these cold winter winds. Vermicomposting is an indoor compost pile with worms. It’s not a huge solution to waste disposal, but it’s a wonderful activity for kids.

People set these vermicomposting stations up in their houses. But because the worms do not feel as comfortable in the cooler temperatures, keeping the small compost station in a basement is not the best idea. Also, you’re more likely to forget about the compost station in a basement, so locating it in a closet or another place you can frequently check up on it.

All you need is a dishpan with holes at the bottom so the extra water can drain out with a saucer underneath to catch the liquid. Because the worms need some air, your best bet is to use something simple to cover up the compost station. Amy says that she just uses a plastic shopping bag as a lid to give the worms some air. You want to make sure that the soil is damp- not too wet and not too dry. To maintain the dampness, get a spritzer bottle and lightly spray some water on the compost.

The most important factor is to use the right type of worms for the vermicomposting pile in your home. The night crawlers that we have in our soil inhabit the deeper soil and prefer cooler temperatures. It’s important that you use a type of worm called red wigglers, which are the same worms that you use for bait. They are smaller than Earth worms. They are probably at the most four inches long. Amy recommends the book called “Worms Eat My Garbage,” which includes the procedure that she followed. Also, if you Google sources for red wigglers, you can buy them online. You only need a cupful of red wigglers to get started. And if you’re a fisherman, you could be raising your own bait this way.

Also, you will need a supply of worms but you need to give them the right amount of food. If you give the worms too much food, you will have rotting food. Amy says to feed the worms slowly. They love lettuce, coffee grounds, and soft foods such as the flesh of apples but not the peel.

Vermicomposting is a great science fair project for kids. Kids can shred up their homework paper to use as the bedding, add the worms, put in some food scraps and watch the transformation over a course of a month. These are quicker results and children can watch decomposition in action. Vermicomposting is quite a balance, and Amy says that it takes a while to get a hang of it. But it’s fairly easy project as long as you’re paying attention.

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