One sunny afternoon three summers ago, Kevin and I were tidying up the backyard in preparation for our joint birthday party. We were both turning older than dirt that year and thought we would have a big soiree and invite all our friends to celebrate, check out the garden, and see my latest artwork.
While cleaning up the various bags of potting mix and accumulated stuff on the bench, I came across an old plastic grocery bag containing something which appeared to be dirt. Kevin said he had brought the bag home months before, and the contents were worm castings from the large demonstration bin used by his master composting program.
Looking closely at the bag of castings, we realized there were juvenile red wrigglers in the castings and we had everything we needed on hand to get started. All cleaning for the party immediately stopped.
Although Kevin hadn’t been particularly excited about vermicomposting, being otherwise engaged, I thought worms eating my vegetable scraps was fabulous and wanted to start immediately. A suitable plastic bin was found, holes were drilled, newspaper was ripped and leaves gathered, miscellaneous bits fit together, and voila! An hour later we had a bin. It was so exciting when we gently dumped the little worms and castings into their new home.
The only tasks left to complete were to actually finish the cleaning and the great debate over where to locate said bin. It was a full afternoon.
We moved the vermicomposting bin indoors for the winter and it took up permanent residence in the laundry room. It operated better free from pests and the wild temperature swings endemic to Denver.
Months later we had reached full capacity. We thought about splitting the bin, but due to limited space, that wasn’t going to work. However, one afternoon while visiting pseudo-spring at the local garden shop, I asked the manager if he would be interested in carrying vermicomposting worms. He said no. I was dashed. But, he would be happy to give our phone number to people who came in looking for them. It was perfect. And BackyardEcosystem.com was born.
People would call, wanting vermicomposting worms and would end up sometimes staying an hour while we walked them through all the details of this tidy, compact indoor composting set up, and also show them the beehives, the garden beds, herb garden, leaf mould pile, weed tea container, and outdoor conventional composting set up. (Okay, maybe longer than an hour.) After a local high school science project wiped us out, demand forced us to upsize and split into two separate bins. We learned a lot along the way about how not to run the bin, and about what made the worms happiest.
Denver Recycles estimates that about 11% of the waste stream is compostable food waste suitable for a worm bin. When you include the leaves (yard waste is another 20%) and paper products (another 20% although technically recyclable) we add to the bin as bedding, the total reduction is probably closer to 33% of our waste stream.
Realizing there was a serious interest here in Denver and other large urban areas in vermicomposting, urban backwards beekeeping, urban farming, and composting in small spaces, we started this blog to share with others what we had learned through bitter experience. We also learned a lot about what others were doing right and wrong from talking with them about their own urban homesteading experiences.
And it’s amazing what one can learn! For example, we recently learned from a reader that growers of medicinal (and maybe not so medicinal) marijuana consider worm castings their fertilizer of choice. Who knew that drug dealers wanted to work so hard to save the world by converting food waste to fertilizer in an ecologically sound manner? A refreshing change from the approach of conventional drug and pesticide peddlers in the guise of multinational corporations whose products often seem to be deliberately engineered to destroy the planet and the customers they pretend to serve.
Here is a link to the Denver Urban Gardens Vermicomposting Guide. The Vermicomposting Guide is a great basic introduction to indoor worm composting. You too can save the world with urban worm composting.