Bugs and creepy crawlers are often nuisances for gardeners, but one insect, the worm, can be a helpful tool for keeping a garden healthy and blooming.
Bob Hill, 66, has used worms to garden since he was a teenager and now gives classes on worm composting. He led a class Saturday at the Copperas Cove Public Library for 23 people from Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful and other residents.
“The worms do all the work for you, but you have to take care of them,” Hill said. “Give them good conditions to live in with good food to eat.”
Worm composting is a simple five-part system that starts with selecting a square-foot container at least 12 to 18 inches deep, followed by acquiring a pound of red worm wigglers. The worm compost garden must be placed in a ventilated, controlled area, such as under a sink, with an ideal temperature of 59 to 77 degrees.
While he doesn’t recommend using earthworms from the backyard, Hill said they are still an option for worm composting. One pound of worms eats about a half-pound of food every week, and the worm herds reproduce and double in size every six months.
It’s easy and inexpensive, instructor says
Worm composting helps keep waste from going to the landfill, Hill said.
“It’s not hard and it’s inexpensive,” he said. “If you are growing your own food, then it’s the best compost as you do not (have to) worry about the pesticides.”
Class participants were interested in trying something new, but hesitant about working with worms.
“They are slimy things that I never touch,” said KCCB member Erika Poppel. “I do a lot of gardening using coffee filters, eggs, vegetables and water that I used for cooking, and I wanted to do a lot more composting on my own.”
Linda Kaplan, of Copperas Cove, has been composting for more than a decade but never had the opportunity to work with worms.
“I’m interested in learning,” she said. “I use leaves, grass clippings, fresh leftover vegetables, paper towels and anything that will decompose because it actually feeds the soil, and you get better soil since the soil around here is hard in most places.”
Negva Moten, of Copperas Cove, who has been worm composting for about 15 years, attended the class as a resident expert.
“I used plastic tubs and filled it with holes,” she said. “I just shred up newspaper and lay it in the bottom of my garden, weigh it down and put the worms in with organic matter.”
Waste such as milk, fat or meat should never be mixed in or used to feed the worms, Moten said. The worms do well as long as they are fed and left alone.
“If you don’t, then they will cannibalize themselves,” she said.
Silvia Rhoads, KCCB executive director, said the group has hosted composting classes for three years, but the worm class was a first. The classes have gained attention from residents, and the group is considering expanding and providing the lessons twice a year.
“There are a lot of people that are good at composting and want to learn about worm composting even if it is not as popular,” Rhoads said.