The Fast and the Squirmiest

Adventures in worm composting.

There’s a mass of worms inside my house, writhing around the decomposing remains of a garden salad, some old canned pineapple, and a moldy slice of what used to be bread.

This is all part of a birthday present for my wife. No, really.

Stacey, an avid gardener, had been longing for months to start worm composting as an ecologically-friendly way to get rid of our food scraps while providing her garden with loads of free, nutrient-rich compost.

She was thrilled on her birthday to find we had gifted her with a brand new green plastic worm farm. She was slightly less thrilled when the live worms arrived in the mail a few weeks later — a 1-pound mass of wiggling, slimy wormflesh that had to be removed from its box and introduced to its new home inside our house.

Stacey and I quickly overcame the ick factor and have been gradually figuring out how to care for our several hundred new pets. We need to keep their new habitat at just the right level of moisture and filled with a good mix of food scraps, shredded paper, and newsprint, so the worms can chomp on all the decomposing stuff and keep on making that wonderful, nutrient-rich “worm dirt” — which is to say, worm poop.

I don’t think we have it quite right just yet. Though it’s hard to judge a worm’s happiness by looking at it, a disturbing number of them seem to be determined to squirm their way out of the home we’ve made for them; a small handful have succeeded in actually escaping, only to end up as little desiccated carcasses scattered on the carpet, vaguely resembling French fried onions.

Clearly, we need to keep working at improving the quality of life in their little plastic home, because I can’t think of much that’s more depressing or pathetic than worm suicide.

Article © 2010 by Michael Duck