On a sunny Wednesday morning in June, Town of Huntington Deputy Clerk Stacy Colamussi presented her vermicomposting “worm fertilizer” demonstration to over 60 residents at the town’s Senior Center.
As an avid gardener, Colamussi has always composted, but over the past several years she has started vermicomposting: raising special composting worms that eat all her kitchen scraps, newspapers and junk mail. Colamussi then uses their waste, or castings, to fertilize and protect her plants.
“Worm fertilizer is a great way to go green – imagine if everyone practiced vermicomposting,” Colamussi, who wholeheartedly attests to the process and its success, and has now devoted her time to educating others on its benefits, seeking to make everyone’s backyard a little greener. “We can dramatically reduce waste sent to waste management facilities, while reaping the benefits of vigorous and healthy flowers, plants, shrubs and lawns, not to mention vegetables! Worm castings can be used on anything, not only in the garden.”
During her presentation, Colamussi demonstrated the vermicomposting process, explained how to get started and answered various questions about using worm castings in the garden before giving away bags of her homemade worm fertilizer as souvenirs for attendees.
Upon receiving an interested and enthusiastic response from those present, Colamussi announced she would be presenting her vermicomposting demonstration at several local libraries during the summer and fall.
For gardeners eager to immediately launch their own vermicomposting project, Colamussi explains the process:
To begin, you should weigh your food scraps for one week to see how many pounds of scraps you accumulate. Then, buy the number of worms you need to consume your scraps. One pound of worms, which is about 1,000 of them, will eat ½ to 1 pound per day. You can buy red wiggler (Eisenia fetida) worms online.
You can make a homemade bin or buy a commercial one in which to keep worms. It’s very simple. I started with a homemade bin, using two Can-O-Worms and a Worm Factory that a friend gave me. I have now migrated to commercial bins. I actually have three. They can be kept inside or outside, but temperatures have to be 55 to 80 degrees year-round. Therefore, I keep mine in the house. There are many YouTube videos and articles online to show you how to make a bin.
To set it up you need bedding. Shredded cardboard and /or paper is what I use. No plastic or glossy mail. For the initial setup, soak the cardboard and paper and wring it out so that it’s like a wrung-out sponge in terms of moisture. Place the bedding in the bin and add the worms. Leave them for a few days so that they can acclimate. Then, add a small amount of chopped up food. Check in a few days to see if they finished it. Start out with small amounts and don’t add anymore until its mostly gone. Over a few weeks, you’ll learn how much to give them. I rotated spots where I deposited the scraps for about a year, for example: top left, then top right, then bottom left and then bottom right. Each time I feed them, I add some dry shredded paper to absorb moisture from the food. It will take three to six months in the beginning to get a good amount of castings (aka: poop). Now I harvest castings weekly. Castings are miracle food for plants!
“Worm fertilizer is a great way to go green – imagine if everyone practiced vermicomposting.”
— Stacy Colamussi
Currently, I feed the worms once a week. I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and every day I just throw my scraps (banana peels, avocado skins, pineapple, asparagus, pepper scraps, etc.) in the bags. At the end of the week, I defrost the scraps and chop them up and give it to the worms. No citrus, onions, garlic or hot peppers. Other than that, anything you would normally compost you can give the worms. Coffee grounds, eggshells and so forth. You don’t have to chop the scraps, but it will take much longer for them to eat if you don’t. I put mine in the food processor, because I want tons of castings all the time.
I have raised beds and practice square-foot gardening. My soil is ⅓ castings, ⅓ peat moss and ⅓ vermiculite. I brew worm tea weekly and apply as a fertilizer and pesticide. I also side dress my plants, vegetables and flowers every couple of weeks with the castings. I have been gardening for 40 years and have learned new things every single year. I am now completely organic, and I stopped all chemical fertilizers and pesticides. So far, the castings seem to be providing the soil amendment I need, and the plants are super healthy and growing vigorously. The use of worm castings is supposed to increase yield by 20 to 25 percent. I am seeing that this year. I grew zucchini and cucumber plants from seed one month ago. At three weeks, 5-inch high plants had six to eight flowers on each. I’ve not experienced anything like that in the past!
Worm castings are GOLD and you get to save the environment!