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Composting: Alternative Methods Cont.

Worm composting (vermicomposting) is growing in popularity in spite of the worms. Worms are the real workhorses in the garden when it comes to turning organic materials into compost and you can easily harness these guys to work for you even if you don't have a yard. Since worm composting is virtually odorless, it can be done in an apartment, though most people opt for a basement or a garage. Worms digest food waste, even peach pits disappear, and leave behind worm casting "vermicompost" which is considered to be some of the best compost available.

All that is required to begin vermicomposting are the worms and a container to hold the worms and the food waste. The worms of choice are red worms (Eisenia fetidae,) also know as red wigglers, that are usually raised for fish bait so are readily available in most areas. If you cannot find them locally, they can be ordered on the internet. The container can be most anything. Originally, wooden boxes were the containers of choice, now many people use commercially available worm composters. Home made bins can be made from inexpensive plastic storage containers readily available at big box stores. Make sure the container has 1/4 inch holes in the bottom for drainage. Add about 8 inches of appropriate bedding materials, the worms and vegetable scraps such as potato skins, coffee grounds, moldy bread. Once set up, the system begins to be self regulating. As the food materials break down, the worms will begin digesting them and turning them in to 'castings'. The more food you supply, the more worms will be produced to consume it. Cut back on the food and the quantity of worms will decrease. If you begin to notice odors, you are probably overfeeding and need to cut back on the amount of food for a while. To harvest the compost, just begin feeding on only one side of the bin. In about a month, all of the worms will migrate to the side of the bin which contains the food, leaving the other half of the bin available for harvesting.

Since worm composting is clean, self contained, and virtually odorless, many apartment dwellers are avid worm composters. Single people have been known to compost on their kitchen countertop using one gallon milk containers, which produce enough compost for maintaining houseplants.

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