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Urban Composting Made Easy with the Worm Factory

A Green Mama real-life story of vermicomposting

For years, I’ve half-heartedly composted my kitchen scraps, piling them in a bin or a designated spot outdoors, occasionally turning the pile and knowing that I’d never live anywhere long enough to see any actual compost.  (This was, after all, in my twenties, and do you know that it can take up to two years to complete the composting process?) Still, whether or not I produced any compost, I figured that at least I was keeping kitchen scraps out of the landfill.

Then I moved to Chicago. In December. You know, the Chicago where it doesn’t get above freezing for several months of the year. Suddenly my bin was filling up quickly as the food wasn’t breaking down in the colder temperatures. Then the bin got buried in the snow. Soon I was tossing kitchen scraps in the garbage and looking for a new system.

I did some research, beginning with the Green Mama Composting 101 guide, and decided to try vermicomposting with the Worm Factory. I could leave it in the basement (like me, the worms prefer temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees) and the process would only take about three months from kitchen scraps to garden-ready compost. And best of all, my kids would probably think it is SO COOL.
My Worm Factory arrived in the mail with a voucher for one pound of worms. As recommended, I assembled the system before contacting to get my red wrigglers from a farm close to me. Assembling the trays was easy, and I prepared the worms’ bedding using dead leaves from my yard as well as the coir (fiber from coconut husks), pumice, and shredded paper that came with the composter.  The worms arrived in a vented Priority Mail box two days after I called to order them, and I quickly stumbled upon my first hesitation about vermicomposting: a thousand worms, on my porch. Admittedly, I was a bit squeamish. Was this for me? I bravely donned rubber gloves, opened the package of worms snuggly settled in special bedding material and upended them into my prepared Worm Factory. I then covered everything with a few sheets of moist newspaper, closed the lid, and left them alone. Surprisingly easy.

To help the worms acclimate to their new home, I kept the basement light on for a few days to encourage burrowing. Though  I discovered that my worms were natural escape artists; for close to a week, I found several worms on the floor each time I paid them a visit in the basement. I scooped them up (or had my eager kids help) and placed them back in the bin, getting more comfortable with them each time, I might add. Yup. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Next up: my first few weeks of the (short) vermicomposting learning curve, including basic management and troubleshooting some common concerns.

Learn more about the Worm Factory.

Photos and Review by Renee Bosman, Green Mama contributor

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