Worms: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Dec 18th, 2012 | By | Category: blog, gardening tips
Red Wigglers, Image Courtesy of Marle Worm Growers

Red Wigglers, Image Courtesy of Marle Worm Growers

This time of year we struggle with trying to decide what to get the people on our holiday shopping list. It’s not that we don’t want to be bothered by the custom or the cost associated with the tradition, but rather, we dread the difficulty of finding the perfect gift for certain people on our lists. We want to please and impress these people, put smiles on their faces.

The problem is our best and most creative ideas are used up early on in our relationships with these folks. As years pass, we have fewer and fewer options from which to choose. In the worst-case scenario, friendships must be suspended because we’ve given all the really good gifts already. And while such relationships were originally founded on qualities other than good taste in gifts, we have sunk far too deeply in this muck to see the truth.

I say stop the insanity. Wow them with worms.

Although you find very few, if any, requests for worms on wish lists—it’s not for lack of desire. After all, a gift of worms is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Most people feel unworthy to receive such a thoughtful and meaningful present, and therefore, do not dare ask. Instead, these sad souls settle for cashmere sweaters or iPads, when, in fact, they really wanted worms.

The worms they desire are not your garden-variety legless wonders. They are special. I’m talking about red wrigglers. They are the Ferraris of the worm world, even though they stay at the zero end of zero to sixty.  But how fast do you really need to go when you live in a box under the sink and eat garbage?

Oh, the look on your friend’s face when you hand them a box of worms and instructions on worm composting will be priceless. Make sure you have a camera on hand.

Recycling organic household waste into compost allows us to return badly needed organic matter to the soil. In this way, we participate in nature’s preferred cycle and cut down on garbage going into overburdened landfills. The advantage of worm composting, versus the pile in the backyard method, is that it can be done indoors as well as outdoors. In our area, decomposition of outdoor compost heaps slows down somewhat during the cold months. Not so when you worm-compost inside the house.

You don’t need anything more fancy than a plastic tub or wooden crate to produce worm compost.

Make worm compost in a wood or plastic container filled with moistened bedding and your red worms. Just add food scraps to their container, and over time the worms and other microorganisms convert the entire contents into rich humus. In some cases you’ll have useable worm castings in just one week. Here’s another added benefit: what comes out of a worm is seven times more nitrogen rich than what went into the worm.

Your composting cohorts need a moist, dark environment in which to do their work. Their bedding can be made of shredded newspaper and cardboard, shredded autumn leaves, or other dead plants. Vary the bedding in the bin and you’ll provide more nutrients for the worms. In turn, they’ll create richer compost. Throw a couple of cups of soil or sand into their container, too. This provides the necessary grit for the worm’s digestion. Like us, worms need air to live; a well-ventilated container will prevent your worms from becoming compost themselves.

The most common problem associated with vermiculture, or “wormy culture”, is unpleasant, strong odors.

This happens when there is a lack of oxygen in the compost due to overloading the bin with food waste. The red wrigglers may be top-of-the-line worms but come on, they’re only human. If you overfill the bin, it will become overly wet and icky and slimy because the worms just can’t eat enough to make a difference. Goodness knows they try. If you keep overfilling the bin, you will either end up killing the worms or giving them an inferiority complex. All they want to do is eat your garbage and poop out great garden fertilizer; is making them live in a waterlogged, festering heap of fetid food any way to show your appreciation?

So how do you fix wet, slimy, stinky worm bin conditions? Just stop adding food until the worms and microorganisms have some time to catch up. Gently stir the entire contents of the box. This process is called aeration. You may also need to check the drainage holes in the bin. If these are blocked, the bin can also become too wet and inhospitable.

Worm composting is easy, fun, and educational. It’s a great way to take care of the planet and the people on it. And when you give worms as gifts to friends and family this season, your generosity and thoughtfulness will be remembered for years to come. You can count on it.

NOTE: Check with your local nurseries to see if they carry red wigglers or can order them for you. If not, there are many online options, including Marle Worm Growers, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, and Worms, Etc. to name just three.

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  1. I’ll admit it. I could use some worms for Christmas.

  2. I could use some worms for Christmas — or any time — too, Lauren. First, though, I need to revamp the garden. The last time we had high winds out here it blew down some of the fence that’s around the garden. Plus, I need to weed, and refresh the soil. I’ve been a bad gardener this past year, but have resolved to be better in the New Year. 🙂

  3. Worms: Nature’s Gift. Thanks for this post.