A bin tucked away in a bathroom closet houses hundreds of invertebrates working their way through soil - chopping and churning last week’s food scraps.
Once a week, Jeffrey Ellom feeds the eisenia fetida (commonly called red wigglers), happily creating compost in his home while taking care of his fruit and vegetable scraps.
Ellom, the child and youth education coordinator at the Victoria Compost Education Centre, reveals the secret life of worm herders – a growing trend in Greater Victoria – during a free virtual session (Saturday) March 4.
The Capital Regional District banned kitchen scraps from Hartland Landfill in 2015, and the interest has risen steadily since.
“People have been looking for alternative ways to deal with their food waste,” he says.
The centre sells the bins ready-made, but folks can use anything of appropriate size. Start with newspaper and leaf molt – available free for Victoria residents through city works at Beacon Hill Park – moisten the mix and put in the worms.
Ellom has as list of worm breeders he’s willing to share.
The eisena fetida are adaptable to a wide range of conditions and while not native, are not considered invasive and won’t harm the garden should a couple get out.
“It’s really a self-sustaining system,” he said. “Once your worms are happy they’ll start breeding and produce more and more of the little worms.”
Once a week, he feeds the team with scraps saved up – Ellom keeps his in the freezer to avoid unwanted smells. While folks might consider odour a concern, he says it’s an issue avoided by a well-maintained bin – with appropriate ventilation and the right level of moisture.
Ellom spends five to 15 minutes a week working on with or about the worms – maintaining the moisture level, ensuring the air holes are working, watching for clumps and that weekly feeding.
“They can create finished compost in a bin like this in about four to six months as opposed to six months to a year for a back yard compost bin. It’s one of the faster ways of making compost. And it’s one of the best ones worms are great at breaking things down to a small level, freeing up nutrients more quickly,” Ellom said.
The life of a worm herder is a story he’s shared far and wide in classroom sessions across the Capital Region and as far afield as Nanaimo and Salt Spring Island. Kids love to learn about worms.
The team at the compost centre has helped develop hundreds of bins to create quality compost in schools. “It’s helping classrooms deal with their waste,” he says.
Plus kids love to learn about – and hold – worms.
Ellom hosts a free online workshop through the compost centre on March 4 at 10 a.m. Find a registration link online at compost.bc.ca.