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Green Kids: Grow Your Own Soil with Worms!

Holding a wormToday’s green tip might seem a little “out there” to some of you…but I’m fairly certain the kids will LOVE it, as will your garden, indoor plants, and prized petunias.

Have you ever thought about the kitchen scraps you throw away? Banana peels and orange rinds. Coffee grinds and filters. Cilantro that’s gone south and turned into a slimy sludge. Rather than just throwing these things away, turn them into the richest soil you can imagine.

My article today explores the concept of vermicomposting. I work with a second-grade teacher, Rena Huntington, who says it best:

Vermicomposting may be a scary word, but the process is easier than making soup, which is basically what you end up with! When you chop up vegetables, toss in some egg shells, and shredded newspaper to a pot of worms in soil you end up with the most nutritious soup for your garden. For any school/home with a garden, this is an activity full of seeds for learning.

Vermicomposting uses earthworms, specifically red wigglers, to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. With vermicomposting, the worms speed up the composting process and reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill; it also creates a fantastic fertilizer. Vermicomposting can be done all year long and you can even keep your worm bin inside. Anne Lowry, a pre-school teacher I work with, says vermicomposting is much easier than composting; you literally put bits and scraps in a worm bin and close the lid. There’s no turning or temperature checking; the worms do all the work.

Inside the worm bin.
Inside the worm bin.

I started my own vermicompost bin a few years ago and our kids love it. I keep a bin in our garage filled with soil and worms. When we have scrap paper, old fruits and vegetables, and leftovers from the toddler’s highchair tray the kids take these kitchen scraps out to the worms. In turn, the worms eat our discards and create “castings” (worm manure) which is the richest fertilizer. The worm bin doesn’t smell at all; at most it smells like stepping into a forest or the lumber area of Home Depot.

My kids love feeding the worms, watching them move, seeing the food disappear, and observing which foods the worms prefer (cooked carrots vs. raw carrots…why is that?). I love the science exploration going on in our garage, feeling better about throwing fewer things away, and turning our kitchen scraps into something useful. My husband, our resident green thumb, loves using the soil in his succulents, cactus, and even our tomato plants. It really doesn’t take much time, the worms are the quietest pets you’ll ever own, and if you enjoy gardening, you’ll love the results.

Feeding the worms.
Feeding the worms.

Advice for creating a worm bin is beyond the scope of this blog article, but here are a few great resources to get you started:

  • To help introduce younger kids to the benefits of worms, I recommend these two cute books:  “Wiggle and Waggle” by Caroline Arnold and “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.
  • Nevada Recycles made a great brochure for vermicomposting. This brochure focuses on making your own worm bin from Rubbermaid containers you can purchase locally. It includes great advice for getting started.
  • UNR’s Cooperative Extension also created a good booklet you can download which describes the benefits and how-to’s in creating your own worm bin and getting started.
  • One of my favorite resources is Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. Their site provides tons of advice as well as every product you could need – even the worms.
  • We’re also fortunate in the Reno area to have a local resource at Full Circle Compost. Located outside of Carson in the Minden area, the folks here sell worms, complete systems, and can offer oodles of advice.
  • If you’re keen on the benefits of worm castings, but aren’t quite sold on raising worms of your own, you can also buy the castings locally to use in your own gardens. Red Worm Organics in Sparks sells bagged castings ready to use.

So, what do you think? Is vermicomposting something you might give a try? If you have any questions or want help getting started, please drop me a line: I’m happy to help!

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About Fayth Ross

Fayth Ross
Fayth moved from a no-stoplight town in rural Utah to Reno in 2006. She’s happily married with three kids ages 11, 6, and 2. Fayth is a Director of Development for a Reno-based non-profit. When she’s not working, doing endless amounts of laundry, or helping with homework, Fayth loves her Keurig, reading, pedicures, baths without children, naps, Mommy juice, and dancing to 80’s music while cooking. Fayth embraced life in the biggest little city and, despite the multiple stoplights on her daily commute to work, loves living in Reno.

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