Turning of the worm

WILTON – It is estimated that about a quarter of household trash is organic material – vegetable scraps, uneaten food, egg shells – that can be easily turned into high quality soil for gardens and potted plants. All you need is the right containers.

And worms.

On April 18, the Gregg Free Library joined with Fireseed Alliance and Earthward of Amherst to present a family Earth Day program on composting with worms. Each of the participants left with a worm box, 100 worms, and the information needed for a worm farm.

Book illustrator Jill Weber of Mont Vernon also took part in the program. She helped the children (and many parents) develop a garden book.

The program began with a short video on recycling and worm culture. Each family then prepared a plastic tray for their worms.

Rachel Milligan of Fireseed Alliance led the program assisted by experienced local worm culturists Kim and Bill Smith. While billed as a family event for the kids, many adults came as well, some to learn more about their worms, some out of curiosity.

Three starter bins were prepared ahead of time by science students at High Mowing School. Most participants chose to build their own.

“Earth worms eat organic material,” Milligan said. “And you end up with really good soil for gardens.”

The bins were prepared with shredded newspaper mixed with “very old composted horse manure” supplied by Fireseed.

The newspaper holds moisture, she said, provides air spaces for the worms, and provides the initial food source. Food scraps in small pieces are added. Library Director Pat Fickett provided a tray of raw vegetables and dip for snacks with the suggestion to “put the end of each piece into your tray for the worms.”

While there are many kinds of earthworms, red wigglers are the preferred type and are available from worm farms.

A well working compost bin will hold up to 1,000 worms which can eat up to a half pound of food each day. All food scraps can be added except acid (such as pickles or spaghetti sauce) and citrus. Egg shells should be dried and crushed to provide the worms with needed grit for digesting.

As the worms work through the food, they leave “castings,” which create the rich soil.

Composting bins should be kept in the dark at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees.

The composting materials need to be kept damp, but not wet, “so the soil clumps but isn’t muddy,” she said.

More information, and a supply of worms, can be found on line at unclejim’swormfarm.com.