Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs If, like me, you’ve formed a strong composting habit and it kills you to toss coffee grounds, spoiled lettuce, melon rinds and baked potato skins in the trash barrel, it might be time for you to consider vermicomposting.
Yep, it’s safe to bring worms into the house to eat your kitchen scraps. They’ll eagerly turn them into one of the best garden soil additives you could ever come by.
North Routt resident Chris Bradley will build you an elegant vermicomposting bin for $95. It comes with 2,000 new pets. Luckily, these pets don’t need to be walked twice a day. It’s actually the excretions of red worms that make vermicomposting worthwhile.
Bradley is a woodworker whose shop, Sacred Resource, is in a light industrial area just off Elk River Road near the Moots Cycles factory.
He is something of an expert on vermicomposting and has approached the manufacture of composting bins from a doubly green standpoint.
“The two things I shoot for are locally sourced and biodegradable materials,” he said. “You can buy the Chinese plastic (composting bins) or, for about the same price, I’ll build you one with local beetle-killed pine.”
Bradley packages a basic vermicomposting kit in his bins. The standard package includes three nesting composting trays (usually enough for a household of two), a lid that fits flush with the top of the upper tray, and a half-pound of red wiggler composting worms. The whole setup is about only 16 inches square, meaning it requires little floor space.
“The thing with most people is they’re concerned the worms will get loose in the house,” Bradley said. “But once they’re in their food, they aren’t going anywhere.”
The trays are where the red worms do their thing. Bradley recommends starting your new pets out slowly. Put a modest amount of vegetable kitchen scraps (no dairy and no meat) in the bottom tray along with a little dry carbon-based material. He finds that sawdust and wood shavings from his shop are ideal. If you’re resourceful, you’ll find your own source of wood shavings at shops and sawmills across Routt County. But shredded newspaper also will work as long as it doesn’t get too wet.
Fresh green vegetable matter should supply ample moisture for vermicomposting, but in Steamboat’s dry climate, it might be necessary to add a little moisture.
The vermicomposting bin needs to be kept inside because the worms are most active between 60 and 80 degrees.
“At 50 degrees they slow down, and at 40 degrees, they’re dead,” Bradley said.
He keeps his bin in the basement. But mudrooms work well, too. Properly balanced, your vermicompost bin should not smell bad. If it begins to smell sour, it’s too wet and anaerobic bacteria are growing in it.
Your new worms should get right to work, but with a new batch of pet worms, it’s advisable to take it easy and get to know them as a community.
“Some people say their worms won’t eat garlic,” Bradley said. “But my worms eat garlic.”
Bradley is frank in saying that the potential for a fruit fly bloom is one of the downsides of vermicomposting indoors.
And to be clear, I do not yet own a vermicomposter and am unsure of how it might go over on the home front. Red wigglers are one thing; fruit flies are another.
If, however, you can’t get enough of vermicomposting, Bradley always is standing by to sell you another half-pound of worms for $15.
He’ll be exhibiting at holiday craft fairs this season at
Christian Heritage School and at the Moonhill Schoolhouse in North Routt.
You can check him out at www.sacred-resource.com.