My friend Kate gets the willies from creepy-crawly things. Of course, my friend Kate is also a landscape architect. I suppose there is a possibility that she became a landscape architect specifically to battle her demons, but in the end, they still give her the heebie-jeebies. When Kate heard that I was getting all "environmental," she mentioned that she had a "vermicompost" in her apartment. A vermicompost is a scientific, and also really polite, way of saying "I have a bin of worms in my home, on purpose."
The concept of having something in my home that would eat my vegetable waste seemed pretty appealing to me, so after asking and getting permission from my Very Special Ladyfriend, I asked Kate if she could help me start my own vermicompost. I was intrigued by the information Kate gave me, but I wasn’t completely convinced I wanted to share my apartment with several dozen live worms. I already share my apartment with my VSL and our two cats, Buddy and Miep, and it seems crowded already. Our home is considered what Montrealers would call a 5-and-a-half-room apartment, which occupies the second floor of a triplex. I think non-Montrealers would possibly call our place a one-bedroom apartment — so you imagine that it doesn’t have too much free space. If I were going to have worms, they would not be free-range worms — I would definitely keep them in some sort of containment situation, no matter what anyone said about cruelty to animals.
While I was still mulling over the idea of having worms in my home, I ran into my ex-next-door-neighbor Bryn, who is a baker at a nearby mostly-vegan restaurant called Restaurant Aux Vivres. Bryn and his family had just moved into a spacious ground-floor apartment with a yard, so he no longer needed his vermicompost bin, and offered it to me. That settled it: We were going to have worms. On purpose. My mom will never believe me.
I looked up the term "vermicomposting" on the Internet and found two very good sites, one from a Montreal non-profit that I am already familiar with, and the other from the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction council — both sources were satisfyingly Canadian! The bin that Bryn gave me was all ready to go, but if I wanted to start from scratch it seemed pretty simple: I needed a plastic bin with some holes in the top for air circulation and some holes in the bottom for drainage, and also an extra lid to put under the bin to collect the stuff that may drain out the bottom.
I set up my bin and Kate brought over a small plastic pail full of California red wrigglers, which we poured into a pile of earth that I snatched from one of the plastic buckets I have on my balcony, where I grow tomatoes in the summer. If you would like to start your own vermicompost and don’t know where to get worms, here is a pretty good resource. We covered the soil with some damp shredded paper.
We keep our vermicompost in the "back room," which is a general storage/workshop room where we keep our recycling and do our laundry. The worms do not smell and are not supposed to attract or breed fruit flies, but we did have a problem at the beginning which we took care of with a fruit-fly trap we MacGyver-ed using the guide from one of the above-listed websites.
We feed the worms vegetable and fruit waste, such as potato peelings, onion skins and ends, carrot peel, apple cores, etc. The worms cannot keep up with our eating habits, so it was suggested that we try having two bins — but I am only willing to devote so much real estate to worms. One bin will have to suffice. I am feeding the worms a lot of crumbled egg shells, which is supposed to help them multiply. If I can get my worm population high enough, maybe they will be able to keep up with us, or maybe they'll become so powerful that they will wage war and try take over our apartment.
Stay tuned for more updates . . .