Another way to transform waste into gardening gold is a worm bin, in which our favorite little hermaphrodites break down food waste into worm castings. A worm bin acts like a living garbage disposal, transforming kitchen and paper waste into nutrient-rich soil. You can keep one indoors during the cooler months (they do not stink unless something goes wrong0 or outside when above freezing.
In milder climates, you can build one outside from cinder blocks to provide some insulation during cooler temperatures. If you have space for it on an enclosed porch or a quiet corner of your kitchen, an indoor bin can be made out of a 5- or 10-gallon opaque plastic tub. Black or dark plastic or wood is ideal to reduce the amount of light that reaches the worms. To provide your worm colony with air, drill 1/8-inch holes about 1 inch apart all the way around the bin about a foot off the ground.
Purchase red worms or brown-nose worms at a local feed, garden, or tackle store to introduce to your bin (regular garden worms will die because there is not enough soil). You will need about a pound of worms per pound of kitchen waste each week. Worms can double their population about every 90 days, so you shouldn’t need to ever buy more. If your bin gets too crowded, help your neighbor set up a bin for her garden.
Fill the bottom of the bin with shredded water soaked paper-newspaper or untreated cardboard works well. Place your worms on this bedding, and then feed them cut up kitchen scraps once a week (no bread, oils, or meat, just vegetables and fruit). Your bin may accumulate excess moisture from decaying plant matter; to absorb this moisture, pile more newspapers at the bottom of the bin. The worms will eat the newspaper as well; it may need to be replaced regularly.
About twice a year, when the bedding material has been consumed, remove the castings from the bin. To do so, move the worms and all the bin’s contents to one side of the bin. Pull out uneaten food waste and put these chunks on the empty side. In a few weeks the worms will finish any matter left in the casings and move over to the other side. Carefully remove the abandoned castings, sifting through them to make sure you don’t remove any worms. Replenish the bin with wet bedding and thank the worms for their gift. You can use castings on your garden as you would compost. For more information on worm bins, see Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.
This article is composed of sections from the book Sacred Land by Clea Danaan.