Sense & Centsibility Blog

Free Fertilizer and Fun Pets

I’ve been gardening organically for 35 years on my urban lot. It used to be difficult to find manure fertilizer living just a stone’s throw from downtown. I would beg my country relatives for a bag of horse manure or bring an armful of plastic grocery bags to the circus in town to load up on elephant droppings. That is until I started raising my own manure-producing livestock.

My livestock of choice?

Worms. Red Wiggler worms to be exact (Eisenia foetida). These aren’t your garden variety earthworms. Red Wigglers eat garbage. The resulting manure has a technical term: vermicast. The art of raising worms is vermiculture. FYI for those who care (I did): the Latin word for worm is vermis. 

Worm castings are ready to use, no need to age it for months or years as with large animal manure. They can be added directly to house plants and garden beds. Or, toss a handful in the watering can for ease of application. Worm castings make great gifts, too! Your indoor or outdoor gardening friends will "ooh" and "ahh" over the yogurt container of black gold. And, sheepishly ask for more.

Vermiculture is EASY!

  1. You’ll find lots of ideas online for worm bins, but all you really need is a plastic storage tub.  Drill drain holes in the bottom and sides of the tub. Worms need air.
  2. Find a tray to set the bin on, either a lid from another tub or a shallower, larger tub. The worm juice that drains out is liquid black gold. Dilute with water for compost tea. Mmmmm!  (Not for you, for your plants!)
  3. Prepare bedding, like damp leaves or dampened shredded paper. Not dripping wet, think damp sponge. Have enough bedding to fill the bin about two-thirds. Add a little actual dirt.  (Another fun fact: worms have gizzards like chickens and need grains of sand and dirt to grind their food.)
  4. Add your worms. You can buy them online, at a garden store, or a generous friend can share a small container full.
  5. Add vegetable kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden, more leaves. I avoid citrus peels because they really stink when they start to decompose.
  6. There are different ways to harvest the prized poop. Again, lots of ideas online. Basically, worms will move to new food when they’ve eaten what you provided. Keep one side of the bin for fresh kitchen scraps and bedding. Just scoop out the finished product from the other side.

My worms are my favorite pets. They’re quiet, no vet bills, and their poop is worth something! And, nothing is cuter than a baby worm. Okay, maybe baby ducks are cuter, but baby worms are a close second. Gardening is a great way to save money on your grocery bill as well as eat healthy all summer long.

At LSS Financial Counseling, we are all about saving money and still living your best life. Give us a call at 888.577.2227 to meet with a financial counselor about making your budget work.

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Financial Counselor at LSS Financial Counseling.