The Worm Evangelist

Worm farming just sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Like it would be some sort of wiggly, poop-ridden stinkfest - and all for what? A ball of worms? Um, liked 'em when I was five. Not so much now that I'm 40.

So when Jenny (one of "The Girls" as well as my gardening mentor) mentioned the fact that composting with red worms was clean, easy and fast, and that the resulting soil was nearly magical in its garden-boosting abilities - a natural antibacterial, loaded with vitamins and the perfect fertilizer - I was interested.

Not so interested that, you know, I'd go out and get all the stuff and actually DO it, but interested in a let's-stand-back-and-watch-YOU-do-this kind of way.

"Yeah," she said, "you need a couple of dark buckets, a handful of dirt and some damp, shredded newspaper. Later, the worm food comes from stuff you use in the kitchen - vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds... they LOVE coffee grounds."

"Wait. You said the worms love coffee grounds? You mean they're little caffeine fiends?", I ask, suddenly intrigued.

"Yep," Jen replies, "you throw your old grounds and filter in there and they eat it up. Turn it into soil."

"Huh," I say, "Wonder if they wiggle faster after getting their jones on..." For some strange reason, the idea of worms getting all juked on coffee just cracks me up.

Funny. I seem to be getting a little more intrigued about this worm thing, though I'm still a little grossed out by the term "Worm Tea" that she keeps throwing around. Spray your plants with worm poop? Really?!

Jenny in the gardenAnd that's when Jenny, The Worm Evangelist, senses that it's time to go in for the kill.

"It'll cost you less than $15, you'll have the best soil in the world for your garden, it's environmentally conscious - and Makenna will LOVE watching them," says Jenny, oh so smoothly.

"Yes," I hear myself say, "Worms. Why not? And you're sure it doesn't stink?"

"No stink."

"No real maintenance?"

"No maintenance."

"Lots of good soil?"

"Uh-huh. There's this office I know where every person in the building has a worm composter under their desk. It's that stink-free and smart." 

And just as I decide that yes, yes, thank you - I will take some worms, we are in the parking lot of the City Garden that just happens to sell them. They hand you a little Chinese carryout carton, and send you to the back to this huge mound of dirt. You dig 'em up and grab them yourself and fill your carton full of red worms - about 1lb. for $2.

Jenny's good. She's really really good.

Less than an hour later, thanks to Jenny and Dusty, I've got my composter set up, worms safely installed and Makenna and I are heading home with 300 new friends wiggling in the back of the car. 

It's been over a month now, and I've got to say, it's all turning out exactly as promised. I keep my Worm Condo in my garage, just off of my kitchen. There are deep, dark mounds of worm castings (the polite term for worm poop) developing. The worms are happy and thriving, and I've got a great, useful place to put some of my kitchen compost. It smells... good, actually. Earthy and a little loamy - like fresh-turned soil.

Plus, it's strangely gratifying to pull back the newspaper bedding, drop off a few bits of banana peel and watch several dozen little red backsides waving up at me as they dive for darker depths.

"Hi guys!" I say as Makenna and I wave.

I might inadvertently kill that fern over there - but these worms? They're doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. 



  1. Jen said on August 4, 2008 11:28

    If you want your own worms go to City Nursery in San Diego. I love that place! A gem. Rumor has it they are getting Tilapia for home fish farming soon. Can't wait...project # 546.



Please enter your contact information, so we can verify you aren't a bottom-feeding spambot. We promise we won't pass it along to anyone.

I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >