Worm composting a slithery solution to unfertilized gardens, plants

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By Deanna Godman

Curt Barnett first heard mention of worm composting in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” After noticing a couple other references, Barnett’s interest was piqued.

Barnett, who lives in Waterford, started doing research into worm composting and eventually ended up working with a company to grow worms on his own.
The company ended up being shut down, but Barnett believes that raising worms was good for his family and the environment. He has not had worms in a few years, but he looks forward to getting back into it.
“I never got to sell many,” said Barnett. “If I can ever get back into it, I plan to for the castings.”
Worm castings, or worm manure, is a rich fertilizer but does not need to be composted before use like most manures. It can be used on plants immediately and will not burn them.
“They turn organic matter into a good, rich soil,” said Barnett. “It just smells like earth – it doesn’t smell bad.”
Barnett had 20 worm beds that measured 4 feet by 8 feet and were 2 feet deep.
The average worm composter can get worm castings for the garden with a much smaller bed.
Barnett used shredded newspaper, shredded leaves and composted cow manure purchased by the bag at a home improvement center to create the bedding for his worms. He built his worm boxes from plywood and was able to make two boxes from five sheets of wood.
He hung florescent lights over the beds because worms do not like light and it kept them in the bins.
He fed the worms produce from suppliers whose inventory was no longer suitable for selling to grocery stores. Barnett’s worms preferred watermelon, cantaloupe and bananas. The newspaper and leaves from the bedding also got eaten.
Worms will not eat bone, meat or tobacco, according to Barnett, but will eat eggshells and coffee grounds. Just about anything that can be placed in a compost pile is suitable for a worm bin.
Barnett kept his worm beds covered with corrugated cardboard, and found that the worms would even eat that.
The boxes were kept tilted so they could drain. Worms need a moist environment but will drown if the bedding is too wet. Barnett collected the liquid that drained off and used it to water his plants. The liquid is known as compost tea. Barnett suggested watering the worm bin to keep it moist and to collect the tea.
Barnett had tiger-striped worms, which he said did not produce as many babies. They produced a lot of castings though, and Barnett now sees that as the greater benefit.
“I don’t care if I sell another worm, if I can just keep them making castings,” Barnett said.
Barnett is devoted to worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, because he saw the results in his garden. He said he had the best pea crop ever while using worm castings.
“I like what it does to my vegetable garden,” he said. “If I can grow food, then I’m not buying it.”
Barnett sees worms as an almost perfect animal for his garden.
“They don’t stampede. They don’t tear down fences. And they don’t bite,” said Barnett.
If you have an idea for an At Home article, contact Deanna at ideas@funmama.net.