The introduction of worm composting to Fairware

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We have some new pets at Fairware. 500 red wiggler worms! They’re living in a sweet little compost bin next to our bicycles. Yes, we’re now a vermicomposting workplace.

In the beginning we had names for each of the worms. We even named a few after ourselves (Leah Jr. was so cute!). But quickly we worked through our naming repertoire. We discussed getting one of those baby naming books, but no one actually felt motivated to go get one. So we decided to move on to numbers instead (Worm 323, Worm 324, Worm 325…). But at this point we’ve forgotten all but about 7 of the names. They’re now referred to as The Worms. Learning point: There are some serious challenges to naming the little guys.

First, they have few distinguishing features that we can recognize. They all look like this:

And even though they don’t have eyes or ears they’re sensitive to light and vibration, so they scurry to the bottom of the bin whenever we try to find them.

Also, in perfect conditions, they can multiply each week! The worms just need the right balance of moisture, ventilation, temperature and acidity in the compost bin.

But beyond our challenges with naming, things are going great. Starting out the worms can eat about 1L of raw fruit and vegetable waste each week. They have 5 hearts so their metabolism is extremely high. This 1L of consumption has been just right for the number of apple cores, fruit and veg off-cuts created by our 7 staff.

Quick Red Wiggler Facts

They’re pretty fascinating creatures. Here are some quick facts on red wiggler worms:

  • They’re hermaphrodites and have a high rate of reproduction. After mating, each worm produces a cocoon that produces 5-6 worms each. After about a year, if conditions in a bin are right, you can harvest your worms and create a second bin, doubling your composting capacity.
  • Worms don’t have lungs. They breathe through their skin, so keeping the bin moist enough that they don’t dry out but dry enough so they don’t drown is really important (we’ve been told the bedding should feel equivalent to that of a wrung out sponge).
  • And they don’t have teeth either. Worms grind food in their gizzard using muscle action and small bits of soil.
  • It’s a myth that if you cut a worm in half it will grow into two worms. If a small part of a worm is cut-off (like its tail) it can heal itself through regeneration, but that’s it.
  • Once established, red wigglers can consume their weight in organic material every two days!

Worm Bin Online Resources

And here are some fantastic online resources for how to get started if you’re looking to introduce a worm bin to your office or home:

Urban Agriculture Notes: Composting with Red Wiggler Worms, City Farmer – includes a useful list of FAQs and online resources

Worm Composting Slideshow, City Farmer – step-by-step pictures showing how to setup a worm bin

Worm Composting Comic, City Farmer – step-by-step pictures in an illustrated comic format showing how to setup a worm bin

Cathy’s Crawly Composters – this site sells worms, bins and other composting equipment. It also has some good information including a FAQ section

Do you have worm facts or resources to share? We are keen to learn more about our new pets so please post details through the comments below.

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