Thursday, August 13, 2009

Composting with Worms

Plenty of Pets
Has your kid been nagging you for a pet? Tell him you'll give him not one but thousands of pets.  These composting redworms aren't just easy to keep--they earn their own keep. Just feed them kitchen scraps and they'll thank you with great compost or fertilizer tea for your garden. My son likes to watch them squirm in his hand.

We bought our Can-O-Worms earlier this year from All Things Organic. I was frustrated with the slow progress of my regular compost bin, and tired of buying fertilizer. We've already fed our watermelon plant some of the "tea" you can drain from the bottom of the can. Eventually, I'll harvest some of the castings (i.e. manure) to add to my soil. 

According to All Things Organic, worm castings provide a slow, steady release of nutrients to feed plants. And worm castings are loaded with humic acid, which is "a natural soil 'glue' (binding agent) that is vital in binding humus with mineral soil, and helping to prevent it from being washed away." 

Our worm farming hasn't been trouble free, but it's not much of a challenge either. Originally, I ignored the advice to freeze my kitchen scraps before throwing them to the worms. So, yes, fruit flies moved in. This problem disappeared once I put the compost bucket in the freezer. (The cold stuff also keeps my worms cool on these hot summer days.) 

Next, some larvae took up residence. I think they are Soldier Fly larvae. I've been scooping them out and tossing them in the garden for birds to eat. According to All Things Organic, they don't threaten my red wigglers or harm my compost. They're just yucky. All Things recommends you leave them alone, let them develop and fly away. My copy of Insects of the Los Angeles Basin informs me that they occur naturally in garden soil, and do not bite or sting.

For more than you'll ever need to know about worms and composting with them, check out Worm Digest.


  1. I have tons of those soldier fly larvae in my outdoor compost. I find them a little bit gross, but not nearly as nasty as cutworms, which I find occasionally. It's good to hear they're harmless (unlike those cutworms).

    Do you like your Can-o-Worms? Do you think store-bought worm composters provide features that a homemade Rubbermaid tub worm composter wouldn't?

  2. EAPPster,
    I'm with you the maggots are on the gross side, but I'm trying to be less squeamish about creepy, crawlies in the garden. Indeed, I've been snacking on aphids. (Just kidding.)
    I think building things yourself is best, but don't always have the time, and I know many other folks are limited, too. Better that people compost than sit around thinking they don't have time/energy for another home project.


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