Vermicomposting: Or, my adventures in worm wrangling

Mom always had a compost heap when I was growing up. She read books, researched methods and tried out a variety of techniques. It was an impressive compost setup to go alongside her giant vegetable gardens. Now, as teenagers we didn’t appreciate the pile of rotting food scraps to the degree Mom did, in fact I can recall at times we were downright embarrassed of that section of the yard. One summer our beloved family pet, a muscular Rottweiler, discovered a bear in the compost pile and proceeded to chase him off. Coincidentally my preteen sister was skipping down the driveway at that very moment and was nearly trampled by the ‘chasee’ and ‘chaser’. The compost heap went on hiatus that summer.

Eight and a half years since the last time I participated in composting I opted to take it up again this past winter through the compost collection service known as Bootstraps Compost. These fine folks would pick up my compost and bring an empty 5-gallon plastic bucket every other week. It was great. No smell, no pitchforks, no shovels, no chicken manure. Then the great came to a screeching halt when they wrote to say they’d not be able to service my neighborhood anymore due to low subscriptions. BUMMER!


I wasn’t new to the term but I hadn’t spent much time considering applyingvermicomposting to my own routines. That all changed when I realized I had this spiffy compost can under my kitchen sink, a rediscovered habit of saving vegetable peels from the garbage bin, and a guilty feeling for shrugging off compost simply because it was “smelly.”

Websites and gardening magazines told me I could easily shell out some hundred or so dollars for a worm compost bin with special trays and spigots and shelves. Or I could get myself a plastic bin from the hardware store, drill ventilation holes, and voila! instant worm farm. Being budget-minded and not entirely sure if my new hobby would simply be a fad I opted for the latter option.

Homemade worm bin

Using a cordless drill I created vent holes around the bin

Then I layered damp shredded paper, food scraps, crushed egg shells, followed by a final layer of damp shredded paper

Then came a thousand red wigglers

The day the worms came in it was raining like mad, or as my partner would say “all of the gulleys needed washing”, and it didn’t occur to me that worms have natural instincts to climb high so they don’t drown in a rainstorm. Heh. I gently release my worms into the bin and leave the house for several hours. Upon my return I’m thinking I’ll just peek in on my little bin, so I haul it out of the crawlspace to look and they’re trying to escape. Worms on the outside, worms on the lid, worms on the ground, worms wriggling up the sides of the bin. Eeeps! Armed with a foam plate leftover from a holiday party I start wrangling up my worms, one anorexic worm at a time. It took about 20 minutes to catch them all and I got to do it all over again the next morning. Then everyone settled into their new worm condo with an enticing banana peel and peelings from a kiwi, two ingredients worms are sworn to love. No worms have tried to escape in the two weeks since.

You can call me the Worm Wrangler.


2 thoughts on “Vermicomposting: Or, my adventures in worm wrangling

  1. still can’t sell the wife on worms, and my daughter runs screeming when she finds one in the garden, oh well 🙂

    • Hehe! Had no issues running it past the S.O. but a couple of friends have timidly asked if the worms “lived indoors”. I’ve read on blogs where folks have stashed their worm bins under beds and kitchen sinks but I’m not THAT cozy with them. They’ll stay outdoors until the weather turns cold in the fall then will live the basement or sunroom.

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