Having an interest in exotic pets alongside a reasonable concern for the environment more often than not leads to conflicting values. Thankfully, in one case I can indulge in my tree-huggeryness while satisfying my craving for invertebrates. Vermiposting (or vermicomposting) is using worms to do the dirty work of composting for you. It's easy, interesting, and educational if you have any young minds which need to be weaned off of the "bugs are icky" mentality.

Vermiposting is mostly odour-free when the bin is maintained properly, and not only helps you eliminate some of the waste sent to the city compost (some of which is actually diverted to regular landfills... our recycling/composting programs aren't terribly thorough), but also gives you excellent, food-plant-safe compost for your garden/pots. My own vermiposting bin sits below my sink beside the garbage and compost. It is completely odourless, which I can't always say about my regular compost some days.

The requirements of vermiposting are small. All you need is a container of 10 gallons or more, enough damp, chemical-free soil to fill the container to a depth of at least 6", and approximately a pound of red wiggler worms, Eisenia foetida (Imperial measurements make me sick, but they're what we were all raised on for some reason). Add to this no more than a 1/2 pound of vegetable scraps each week, with enough shredded paper or dry leaves to balance out the moisture, and your worms will be busily munching away and giving you their plant-friendly poop in no time.

The above is the simplified method which I have adopted. In truth, worm bins should be at least 15 gallons and have ventilation and drainage. I've made up for this by being more stingy with the scraps which I put in my worm bin, and avoiding getting the bin too damp. My bin is still less productive than it could be, though.

Harvesting the worms is as easy as keeping them, and there are two methods. Both require that you don't add to your worm bin for at least a week.

Compost Harvesting Method the First:

  • Move all contents of the bin to one half.
  • Fill the empty half of the bin with fresh soil of the proper dampness.
  • Place some delicious worm-victuals in the fresh soil.
  • Wait a few hours, then scoop out the compost: your worm-poop!

Compost Harvesting Method the Second:

  • Dump the bin out in a pile onto a tarp/smooth surface in the sunlight or under a bright artificial light.
  • Wait a few minutes while the worms run from the light.
  • Scoop the now worm-free top layers away, and return the worms and any un-harvested poop to the bin with fresh soil/food.

Vermiposting on such a small scale certainly isn't going to save the earth, but it gives me a small amount of fertilizer and lets me observe the worms, which frankly... aren't all that interesting.

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