Day 163: Free Range Worms

wormsAs I have mentioned before, we have a compost.   Just the plain, out-in-the-back- garden variety.  We don’t do much to it besides throw veggies in and cover them with the occasional handful of leaves.  It’s really only in the past two years that I have bothered turning it or maintaining it at all.

It’s this lackadaisical approach (and our sufficiently large back yard) that has kept my knowledge of indoor worm composting to a minimum.  I’m talking about those small bins, complete with lid and drip tray that are basically the only option for apartment dwellers.  I have always managed to avoid them by inhabiting homes with at least a small square of grass, and hence, a traditional outdoor compost.

Now, it’s true that my compost has worms in it, but those are wild, free-range worms.  They fend for themselves.  If they don’t like what I’m giving them, they canworm-bin go elsewhere.

They are not the same as the apartment-dwelling red wigglers that have to be maintained in a closed worm composter.  Those worms have to be fed on a responsible schedule – not too much, not too little, bury it in one corner, then the next.  It seems to me that indoor composting worms are more like pets than anything else.

But, if I did live in an apartment, you bet your boots I’d break out the indoor composter.  I think I have a 3 out of 5 chance of success based on the following personal examples:

1- my old roommate: his worms died after the backyard compost proved much easier and they got abandoned in the back yard.

2- my sister: after a brief escaping-across-the-kitchen-floor episode, she has hers happy and under control, but she sometimes has to bicycle her excess veggie trimmings to a friends to avoid an overload.

3- my office: our floor of three companies shares a single composter on the fire escape.  It is chalk-a-block full of coffee grinds and is perpetually very very full.  That said, it is quite handy, and someone does take it home to unload every once in a while, so the worms seem pretty happy.

4- my co-worker: he recently acquired a worm composter high rise!  Yes, imagine three tiers of worms in your very own apartment.  Truth be told, he managed to get them a spot on the common deck in his building, and now he has got the whole apartment involved.  I deem this composter a gold-star success.

5- my other co-worker: he came to work the other day and announced that something had gone dreadfully wrong in his kitchen, and all the worms had crawled through the ventilation holes and committed suicide in the draining tray.

Which just goes to show that some worms are more temperamental than others, and we should probably just not make sweeping judgements about any of them, pets or not.

If you want to see step by step photos of how to worm compost, click here.



Filed under composting, DIY

6 responses to “Day 163: Free Range Worms

  1. Oh Boy! Now you have me worried. I have an outdoor compost pile as well, but am wishing for the indoor variety for the winter months. I put it on my Christmas list, so we will see what Santa brings me this year. Hopefully not a stocking full of suicidal, anorexic, Houdini red wrigglers!

  2. kate

    i actually had two escape incidents and one massive suicide, after which the temperature dropped and they froze. now my box of rotted worms and moldy food is covered in snow and i don’t know what to do about it. i think i’ll try again in the spring though.

  3. hihihi, I got both! Since I also have a compost-toilet, I do throw a lot on the compost….and so the worms (no they do’nt eat my toilet waste, lol!) take care of a lot of the vegetables, hairballs, q tips and stuff…I really need both! and I do so love my wormies!!!

  4. Emilie

    I’ve had a worm composter for over 2 years and no dramatic event happened. I keep the box in my porch most of the year, except in colder weather when I bring it inside in the stairwell (next week??!!).
    It’s working relatively fine, even home to 1 or 2 cool snails stuck upside down inside the lid. The only down is the annual sorting (finished compost vs worms), which takes me oh so long (especially when the day you pick to do it is not that sunny and rain comes in…). I definitely need some worm-friendly friends to make a party out of it.

  5. Jen CleanBin

    Kate, I hope you are at least still taking your compost over to your neighbors’ back yard. Sorry about the loss of your worms.

    I don’t mean to discourage anyone from giving it a go. The thought of not having to tromp outside to the nether-reaches of the yard in the middle winter is pretty appealing. I really do admire those of you who manage to maintain healthy worm bins.

  6. DSF

    A couple of years ago, I became a mass vermicide. Involuntary, really! -G- Served my sentence, and now my new worm bin’s waiting for spring-born inhabitants. I’m planning on feeding them bokashi–what of it I don’t feed directly to my plants or compost by other means–and hoping the curing process takes some of the hassle out of juggling food, bedding, and moisture ratios. Also, that the verms’ll eat bunches and produce lots of lovely vermicast.

    composting through winter’s cold. in buckets.

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