Earthworms are often taken for granted, but they work hard to make soil healthy. They aerate the soil allowing water to circulate. They are responsible for breaking down grass, leaves and other organic matter and mixing it with soil. Their castings provide extra fertilizer. Most native worms are welcome additions to the compost pile but red wigglers are particularly good since they don’t burrow, and can found fairly near the top of the soil surface. They can eat their own weight in compost every day, which quickly turns scraps into rich, dark soil that your plants will love. If you have to buy worms for your worm tower, look for red wigglers at a bait shop.
Directions for making a composting worm tower:
Materials needed: Two 2-liter plastic soda bottles without caps, scissors, marking pen or pencil, ruler, newspapers, 1 cup chopped up vegetable scraps from the kitchen, 1 egg shell, potting soil, 1 small plant, red wiggler worms.
- Take one bottle and punch several holes in the bottom using the scissors. Draw a line about 4 inches from the bottom of this same bottle and cut along this line. Turn the long end upside down and place the smaller end in the top so it fits snugly. This will be your planting container.
- Draw a line around the other bottle about 8 inches from the bottom and cut the bottle along this line.
- Place the first bottle inside the second bottle so the screw top neck faces down.
- Tear or shred the newspaper into very thin strips and soak in water for a few minutes, letting them drain well before you use them- you want them moist, not wet. Finely chop the vegetable scraps and egg shell and mix them with the moist paper strips in a ratio of 1 cup scraps to 4 cups shredded paper.
- Open the top of the bottle tower and lightly fill with the paper and scrap mixture. Gently add several worms and put the top back on the bottle so it fits snugly.
- Fill the top of the tower with potting soil and a plant of your choice. Water it well.
- Put the worm tower in a cool place inside where the sun will not shine on it and check it every few days to make sure it is moist and not dry.
- Slowly pour out any brownish water that collects in the bottom and use it on your plants. Add more shopped chopped vegetables scraps and paper strips in two to three weeks.
The worms will eat the paper and scraps and turn them into compost for use on your house or garden plants. Have fun watching this recycling miracle happen!
Source: Friends of the Governors Residence and Heritage Garden, Barbara Velez Barbosa. www.governorsresidence.ohio.gov