Adventures in Vermicomposting 

I'm willing to bet your kids would be fascinated by worm composting! Have you ever thought about using worms to compost your vegetable peels, fruit scraps, newsprint, egg cartons, egg shells, etc.? Yeah, I know, probably not.  A very, very long time ago, when I was about ten, I learned about composting using worms. Vermicomposting didn't creep back into my mind until about six months ago. Suddenly, I was really curious, so I did a little digging to find out more about it. Worm castings are an amazing fertilizer and it's completely natural, organic and safe. Plants LOVE the stuff!! I was hooked, because, 1) I love plants and 2) vermicomposting is a way to compost in the dead of winter. The "yuck" factor is something I will get over. Your kids, if they're under 8 probably won't find worm composting gross at all. They'll likely think it's pretty cool and they can learn so much from it. So if you're thinking, "I'd never in a million years keep worms in a box in my basement”, then maybe skip the rest of this post. I get it, it's not for you right now, but who knows.... maybe in a few years.

However, if you're interested in vermicomposting, the first thing you need to do is build yourself a composter. This is another great activity to do with children and you can likely recycle containers you already have. Upcycling and composting, these are the things we need to teach our kids!! It's super easy to build the composter. I used a couple of large rubbermaid totes I had lying around, and some window screening. If you have a glue gun, and a drill you are good to go. The only thing I needed to buy was the worms. You need specific composting worms called Red Wigglers, and they aren't so easy to find in Ottawa, especially in January, which was when I got mine. I did find some though thanks to the Internet and I also learned how to build the composter thanks to YouTube.

Once you have the composter built and the worms residing in it, the fun begins. I thought I'd be able to compost all of my vegetable peels, and the coffee grinds we were producing, but it takes time to develop your worm population to be able handle your volume of compost. You need to start slowly and watch the bin carefully to make sure the worms are happy so that they'll make baby worms. About five weeks in, I opened the bin to find worms all over the sides of the bin and clinging to the lid for dear life. At first I thought that the population suddenly exploded, but it turned out their bedding was too acidic from all the coffee grinds we were adding. I Googled what to do and articles suggested adding crushed eggshells to lower the acidity. To play it safe, I also added lots of torn up egg cartons just in case the bedding was too wet because that can also make the worms abandon ship. Over the next week or so, thankfully all the worms returned to their bedding. Within another few weeks I discovered tons of tiny white flecks in the bin. It turns out they were a type of mite, which sounds gross, but they're actually beneficial and the mites help break down the compost to make it easier for the worms to eat.

I am finally to the point where I get to harvest the worm castings. I'm going to do it tomorrow with one of my sons, who is much less squeamish than myself. I'll have to Google it because there are lots of ways to go about harvesting, but I'm hoping to find the quickest, least messy way that will also keep the worms happy. There's so much you and your children can learn from worm composting. It's pretty incredible to create an environment for these tiny creatures and to observe this ecosystem. You'll get to tweak their environment to their needs so that they'll multiply and create some amazing worm poop for your plants. Gardening is another great activity to do with your kids, however if you do decide to vermicompost and you don't have a garden, I'm sure there'll be people lined up to take the worm castings off your hands. Myself included. ;)  Happy composting!!

Written by Cynthia Stuart on June 7, 2019

If you live in the Ottawa area and want to try out vermicomposting and need Red Wigglers check out the website Smart As Poop