Friday, November 16, 2012

For the Love of Worms

Did you know if you cut a worm in half it will not produce two living worms? Despite
what the neighbor boy told you all those years ago, the result is one dead worm cut in two.

At this month’s Garden Leader Workshop, attendees learned this fun fact and all about composting food scraps using worms, or vermicomposting. I just love that word. Say it aloud with me. Vermicomposting.

In front of about a dozen parents, community members, and teachers attending the workshop, I assembled a worm bin made of two plastic containers, two tin cans, some shredded newspaper, and a wire kitchen sink strainer. You use what you have around here. Together worm expert, Jane Maginot from University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, and I demystified vermicomposting by providing easy tips for turning food waste from the kitchen into a nutrient rich soil amendment for garden beds or indoor plants. Attendees learned why it’s important to compost, the benefits of compost, and worm anatomy and reproduction as they hunched over small piles of worm castings (compost aka worm poop) identifying critters with a magnifying glass. Eisenia fetidaalso known as red wiggler, red worm, or manure worm, are by far the best worms for decomposing organic matter; though, all worms are decomposers to some extent. The red wigglers are red and smaller than earthworms and a fisherman’s best friends as they are often used as bait.

There was a feeling of genuine fascination in the room. Many attendees commented on how simple it was to build a worm bin and start composting. Others said they had a new appreciation for worms and had never thought about them in this way before.

At the end of the workshop, the demonstration worm bin went home with one lucky raffle winner. Jane donated some red wigglers to get the bin off to a great start. Jared, the garden leader at Washington Elementary, won the bin. Those worms are on their way to a new home to hopefully evoke in students a love and fascination for two things I am very passionate about: composting and worms. Vermicomposting. I just love that word.

For more information about worms and vermicomposting, check out these resources:

Benefits and general information about compost, bin designs and maintenance:

General vermicomposting information, including what foods can go in a worm bin:

Learning about vermicomposting in the classroom:

by Ally Mrachek 

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