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Vermiculture: An Easy Alternative to Outdoor Composting

Vermiculture: An Easy Alternative to Outdoor Composting

If you've always wanted to compost but think it's impossible because you live in an apartment or a house with a small yard, consider composting with worms.

Using worms in composting is called vermiculture. It involves keeping special red worms—either Red Wigglers and Red Earthworms—in bins with organic matter in order to break it down into a high-value compost called castings, which is the fecal matter the worms produce.

Photo courtesy U.S. EPA

Worm castings makes a nutrient-dense, highly concentrated fertilizer that you can use in your garden or on your house plants.

Vermicomposting has only a few basic requirements, among them: worms (not the nightcrawlers or field worms found in gardens), worm bedding and a bin to contain the worms and organic matter such as food scraps. Maintenance includes preparing bedding, burying compostables and separating worms from their castings.

Vermicomposting has some distinct advantages over regular composting:

  • It's faster—the fertilizer can be ready as soon as two months rather than two years.
  • It's richer —worm castings contain five to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • It has more beneficial micro-organisms and plant growth hormones—so it is better for your garden and indoor plants.
  • It takes less effort—you feed the worms and forget about them.
  • It can be done indoors or outdoors—this allows apartment dwellers and people with small yards to compost.

Worm bins can be easy and inexpensive to build.They are also commercially available at sites such as Clean Air GardeningWormWoman.comGREENCulture and Worms4Earth.com.

Worms will eat almost anything you would put in a typical compost pile such as food scraps, paper or plants.

To get the right kind of worms, check out CityFarmer.org, which maintains a list of worm suppliers for vermiculture throughout Canada and the U.S. Or consider online vendors such as WormWoman.com or Worms4Earth.com.

CityFarmer has a step-by-step photo gallery of how to put a worm compost together.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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