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Having learned my lesson with litter bucket composting, I resolved to do better the next time around. After I had moved to California and was planning a garden, my then-boyfriend’s aunt serendipitously gifted us a box of worms.
Raising worms, or vermiculture, is another way to turn (some) food scraps into fertilizer It’s supposed to be a bit easier than regular composting, too– if you have a worm frame (like this one by Nature’s Footprint or this one by VermiHut), you can move around and swap out trays of food scraps as they’re broken down into nutrient-rich worm doots. The worms’ll migrate to where the food is, so you don’t really need to worry about spending too much time moving them around or picking them out by hand.
We did not have a worm frame.
What we did have was a large Rubbermaid-style container; the kind you’d use to keep winter clothes in an attic. After being assured that this would suffice, we put a layer of paper and hay in the bottom, added some worm-safe food scraps, and drilled holes in the sides of the container for ventilation. In went the worms, and we let them sit near the door to the laundry room. It was too hot out to just stick them outside, so we didn’t worry too much about it beyond adding new food scraps as needed and making sure things didn’t get too dry. It’s not like we’d have to worry about them figuring out how to climb and making a break for it, right?
“Perfect!” I thought as I read vermiculture sites with a nearly religious fervor, “This is going to be way better than regular composting.”
I am dumb.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened. All I know is that, over a period of weeks, worms steadily disappeared from the container and reappeared throughout the house– usually desiccated into ramen noodles as envisioned by Guillermo del Toro. We made sure they were getting enough air, they kept climbing out. We made sure things were moist, they insisted on drying up on the floor. We made sure that they hadn’t been given papaya, pineapple, or anything else unsafe for worms to have, they mutinied their non-existant asses all the way into the living room. I didn’t want my tiny fertilizer buddies to suffer, but the “How To” sites I’d been combing for info weren’t any help– as far as they were concerned, worms leaving food, darkness, and safety in favor of a foot-and-a-half vertical climb up a smooth surface should not have been a thing.
Eventually, the container sat empty. We considered putting fresh worms in and stapling tiny screens over the ventilation holes, but IIH had left me too tired and run down to consider maintaining a garden by then. About a year later, I made my way out of California and back across to the east coast. Now I live in an apartment, which is probably a good thing– even if I have a lot of potted plants, the lack of a yard saves me from any more composting notions.
Interested in vermicomposting, but not sure how to start? Check out some of these titles to help get you on your way: