Yes, I really do have tens of thousands of worms in my kitchen. And no, I’m not trying to get rid of them. That’s because I’m a die-hard fan of vermicomposting, which is the process of using worms to compost food scraps instead of throwing them in the garbage.
Why, you might be wondering, would I do such a gross, disgusting thing in my own kitchen?
Well, that’s the whole point. Unlike using a regular compost bin, let alone trash cans, vermicomposting isn’t gross or smelly. In fact, you can’t even tell the worms are there. Check out the photo; looks kind of like a side table, right?
But I don’t keep worms in my house just for fun. Vermicomposting not only makes a big difference for the environment by substantially reducing what I send to the landfill, but it also saves me a significant amount of money.
Why Vermicomposting Is Beneficial
The amount of food waste here in the U.S. is enormous. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 12.7% of our waste stream is thrown out food. In fact, an astonishing 25% of all the food bought by American families is thrown away.
The problem is that when food is tossed into a landfill it begins to produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the second largest producer of methane gas, which is a huge contributor to global warming.
So the more food we keep out of our landfills, the less methane we release into the atmosphere.
This is where vermicomposting comes in. In my house, zero food goes in the trash. And that’s something I feel really good about.
Another major benefit to vermicomposting is that it can save you money. If you pay for trash collection, it is often based on volume. Since your trash volume will probably be reduced by at least 25%, you will see your bill go down as well. If you have a home garden or landscaping ideas for your yard, you probably spend quite a bit of money each year on soil and fertilizer for your plants. If you have a vermicompost bin, however, you get it for free. Worm castings make an incredibly rich and nutritious soil for plants. And the microorganisms that pass into the soil from the worms help your plants become more resistant to disease and pests.
Also, worm compost is 100% organic, so you won’t be putting yourself, your family and the environment at risk by using chemical fertilizers.
Why Vermicomposting Isn’t Gross
Some people find the idea of having thousands of worms in their home creepy, and maybe even a bit disgusting. And there’s no doubt it takes some getting used to. But I’ve been vermicomposting over a year now and I have to say I’m completely fascinated by what goes on with my worms (which I named the Snickersons). They take my food waste and turn it into a liquid fertilizer called “worm tea,” which I use to water my plants, and a rich compost I use in my garden. It’s pretty amazing.
When done correctly, worm bins don’t smell at all. When you lift the lid, all you smell is damp, rich earth. And you get to participate in nature’s finest recycling system.
I’ll be the first to admit that I made some mistakes along the way with my worm bin. There were times, especially in the beginning, when it did stink. But this was because I was feeding my worms too much and I didn’t have enough newspaper bedding on the top. You need to start off slowly, and build up how much you feed your worms as their population grows.
Another time (thinking that the Snickersons might want some fresh air) I moved them to the front porch to enjoy the summer weather. Big mistake. My worm bin got infested with so many fruit flies that it literally took months to get rid of them all. I also didn’t think about how hot the sun would be on that black plastic bin – I almost roasted the poor Snickersons to death.
So, there’s definitely a learning curve! But I’ve had fun every step along the way and I know I’ll be vermicomposting the rest of my life.
What to Feed Your Worms
Worms eat a wide variety of things we normally throw out. They love:
- Vegetable scraps and peelings like corn cobs, cucumber ends, tomatoes, avocado shells, etc.
- Fruit scraps and peelings like watermelon rinds, banana peels, apple cores, etc.
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea Bags
- Paper towels
As with all compost bins, you should never put any animal products (aside from eggshells) into your worm bin. Worms don’t like:
- Meat scraps
- Dairy products
- Organic materials from outdoors like leaves and grass clippings
How to Pick a Worm Bin
There are many different kinds of worm bins out there, and it’s fairly easy, and cheap, to make your own (there are tons of great tutorials online). You can also buy a complete vermicompost system, which is what I did.
Even though it was a bit pricey, I went with the Can-O-Worms system, which you can buy on Amazon. I love this system because it makes vermicomposting pretty effortless. Because there are so many trays, I can easily take out the compost once it’s ready. Take a look:
The spigot at the bottom makes it really easy to drain the worm tea for my houseplants and the Can-O-Worms system is made with 100% recycle plastic, which is a big plus.
I’d love to hear from you about this. Do you vermicompost? If so, how do you like it? What’s been your biggest faux pas with your worm bin? If you don’t vermicompost, would you ever consider starting a worm bin in your home?