Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for February, 2008

Worms, elevating life on the ^56th floor^

Monday, February 11th, 2008


The urban dweller has no reason to be excluded from the cycle of life. Cities are coming around with community gardens, green roofs supporting endangered wildlife, to water catchment and rain gardens…. Feeling a little disconnected on the 56th floor? Live in a building that doesn’t allow pets?
You can compost in the city with no yard. a small 2′x2′ box could take care of your compost and you can have 10,000 pets! You can have a mini farm on the 56th floor! Never underestimate the power of the earthworm.

….nor does as lowly an animal exist that doth do such noble work. The advancement of civilization has been built upon the backs of this pack animal the earthworm…

I call worms my urban hogs because they wallow in mud (sort of), I feed them my food scraps, and they thrive. I then take their “castings” (worm poop) which is ph balanced and jam packed with ready available nutrients and side dress my house plants, seed starts etc. There are many good books to choose from (”Worms eat my garbage” for one, or my favorite “Earthworms”; Rodale press) on the use of worms as bio-digesters in the home and it is surprisingly easy and fun. Start off simple and small. Use a flower pot. Darwin was fascinated with the earthworm and studied them for nearly half a century. He had pots full of them all over his house. Dude was no slacker either.

Start With a flower pot or comparable container that drains. Get some shredded newspaper from work. You know, the kind they throw away, and gets sent out to the ocean. A little bit of dirt from the park should have enough dog pee in it to jump start some worms. Hmmm. where are you going to get the worms there in the city? Good question and you got me there. Perhaps Google and mail order. You want what is called the red wiggler. It’s a smaller red worm than the night crawler, and thrives in rich compost piles. The night crawler which lives in fields will not do well in a compost pile and will perish. I got my worms from a Quaker friend’s compost pile. I prefer Quaker worms. Quieter than the others. Mail order will get you some, heck we have a vending machine for fishermen outside a tackle shop here in Asheville and you can get them 24/7! Red wigglers, gotta be red wigglers.

Now the cool thing about food scraps and even humanure is as long as you cover it with some organic material it doesn’t smell. So when I add food to my worms I usually scratch some of the material off the top and bury the scraps and cover, not unlike my cat. The finer the scraps are chopped, the more easily the worms can access the food and the quicker they will break it down. The best is to take a couple of days worth and blend it up into a worm smoothie. In the beginning you may not have enough worms so again go slow and see what the optimum moisture level is, how much food can be eaten. The worms will reward you with the abundance of their numbers, quick digestion of your scraps, and rich castings left behind from their handiwork.

The harvesting of their castings takes full advantage of their dislike of light. When your box is full, simply place it under a light and the worms will bury down into the dark. You can now skim a layer of castings off the top until you see the worms again in which case they will be chased down even deeper enabling you to skim more castings off. So on and so forth until you get to the bottom. Fill again with shredded paper or leaves or what ever may be handy and being thrown out. What to do with the castings?

You have a remarkable substance at your disposal. Magical. Fairydust. Miraculous things will spring forth from it. Buy a plant that is suitable for your conditions and plant it, or put it around your existing plants. Take it outside and sprinkle it around a favorite tree whirling around in circles while you recite it Hafiz poems exhaulting gratitudes of God and life. What if, in an almost full worm box, you sprinkled wheat or rye grass seed and placed it in your sunny window? It would grow and within a couple of weeks could be harvested for wheat grass juice. Or peas for pea greens in a salad. A friend of mine gets$ 50.00/lb for pea greens. Radishes grow really fast. People spend zillions of dollars for exotic medicinal plants and the ones that grow around you, the simple ones you take for granted, are a 1000 times more powerful. Shorten your supply line! Just the act of growing wheat in a pot full of worms will change your attitude about life completely. Health, vigor, love, connection, abundance will come your way. I guarantee or your money back.

Here’s a place to start looking for info on worms: