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[whitespace] Worms and Lady Slime Time: A handful of worms can save the careful composters money.

Make Your Trash Bloom

Worms can make the most out of compost

By Traci Hukill

THERE ARE PLENTY of good reasons to compost: Love of gardening or love of a certain gardener; guilt; stinky garbage cans; a desire to make the world a better place; or a fascination with worms.

That's right -- worms. Worm composting is the perfect solution to the apartment dweller's food-scrap disposal problems. All that's needed is a covered bin about the size of a laundry basket with small holes for ventilation and drainage, a pound of red worms and two piles of damp, shredded newspaper (one on the bottom for bedding; one on the top to cover food scraps so they won't attract flies).

The worms plow through the food, eating and "casting" all the day long, at the rate of about a pound a week. The soil resulting from the worms' nonstop bingeing is incredibly rich, wonderful stuff.

Basic composting is better for people with lawns. It can be done simply in a pile, in a hole in the ground or in a bin that has holes poked in it for drainage and ventilation. Basic composting takes a little more work initially, but requires less face time with the worms. First, put down a layer of rough material like sticks or straw that lets lots of air circulate. Then start alternating "green" (grass cuttings, fruit and veggie scraps) and "brown" (sawdust, dry fallen leaves and shredded newspaper) material. Meat, dairy products and pet droppings are strictly forbidden in all forms of composting. Be sure to add enough water to keep the compost damp, and in a couple of days, decay will be well on its way.

Worm-composting classes are sponsored by the California Grey Bears and Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. To reserve space in a class, call Karin Grobe at Organic Recyclers Anonymous, 831.427.3452. Need a financial incentive to act? The City of Santa Cruz will take $40 off your municipal utility bill if you buy a compost bin, worm bin or any of the accessories from its website. Check out www.composters.com/santacruz/ for details.


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From the September 26-October 3, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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