Finally I'm ready to start my own worm farm. I went to a workshop today organized by our Gang Green crew and taught by a laid-back former science teacher, Mark DiDonato. I came home with a worm-ready container and my name on a list to get two pounds of worms in a couple of days from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.
The idea seems pretty simple: you give a thousand or so red wiggler worms a comfy place to live (a plastic bin in the basement), deliver food (fruit & vegetable scraps) to them on a regular basis, throw in torn-up paper to keep things at the right humidity and allow for air circulation, and pretty much leave them alone.
The worms eat, poop and reproduce. Not a bad life, and Mark pointed out that escaping worms are rarely a problem. Why would they want to leave?
So the worms do their thing, and every now and again you scrape out the worm poop—called castings—and put it on your plants and in your garden. The stuff is great organic fertilizer, chock-full of healthy organisms, that sells for $7 a pound at the garden-supply store.
When you make it, you get rid of lots of food scraps and paper that you'd otherwise have to compost or recycle. Let the worms take care of that and help your houseplants and/or garden thrive. What's not to like about that?
Now as with all great ideas, putting this into practice will no doubt not be as easy as it sounds. Mark did point out that if you don't have enough paper in the bin it may start to smell (solution: more paper). Fruit flies can be a problem if your scraps are from tropical fruit like bananas, mangos, etc. (solution: freeze the scraps for a day or two to kill fly larvae). And he did admit that there are always a few rebellious worms who do escape. You'll know that happened when you find dried up worms on the basement floor (solution: scrape 'em up & throw 'em back into the bin).