In the garden

Vermicomposting benefits
Pet worms? Well, not exactly.

But those whose plants have benefitted from the rich vermicompost that worms produce are usually enthusiastic about having a plastic bin of these wiggly red creatures in their home. Vermicompost is a humus-like material that contains large numbers of worm castings produced when organic materials pass through a worm’s gut.

“It’s an alternative to conventional backyard composting,” said Henrico Extension Agent Karen Carter. “And it’s generally a faster process.”

Conventional composting depends on micro-organisms to break down organic wastes. Vermicomposting uses worms for most of that work. The worms are housed in a plastic “worm bin.” Carter periodically gives “make and take” workshops for people interested in trying the process.

“None are scheduled right now,” said Carter, “but if you’re interested, call the Extension Office, and we’ll put your name on a waiting list.”

To make a worm bin, drill air holes around the top of a 14-gallon plastic container, roughly 24 x 16 x 12.5 inches. Add roughly 4 pounds of shredded newspaper, a gallon of water, and 2 quarts each of coffee grounds and purchased bagged compost.

“We recommend the bagged compost,” said Carter. “With backyard compost, you run the risk of bringing in insects.”

Last, and most important, add a pound of worms.

“Be sure you get the right worms,” said Carter. “That’s critical because not just any earthworm will work. You need Eisenia fetida, the red wiggler worm.”

The worms are commercially available on line, or you may be able to get them from someone who is already vermicomposting. Periodically, the bins have to be divided both as a method of harvesting the vermicompost and because the worms can easily double in number.

“Harvesting the compost can be the most challenging part,” said Carter. “Some people use purchased systems rather than making their own because they can make separating the worms from the vermicompost a little easier.”

Worms can eat most fruits and vegetables provided they are not too salty or too acidic. Meat, dairy products, and fatty or greasy foods shouldn’t be given to the worms. Coffee grounds including the filters and tea bags also make excellent food.

“Make sure you don’t overfeed the worms,” cautioned Carter. Under optimum conditions, worms can process their body weight in food each day. Typically, however, they can’t quite eat that much, and overfeeding can create odor problems.

Carter recommends anyone interested in starting a worm bin look online at the Virginia Extension publication, “Composting Your Organic Kitchen Wastes with Worms.”

“It’s excellent,” she said. “But we recommend one slight change. Don’t drill drainage holes in the bottom of the bin. Not having them doesn’t turn out to be a problem, and sometimes having those holes in the bottom of your bin makes a mess.”

Without the drainage holes, a worm bin can be kept in the kitchen or basement, anyplace where temperatures don’t fall below freezing or go over 100 degrees Farenheit.

“Vermicomposting can be more convenient than backyard composting,” said Carter. “Plus, it’s an interesting process to watch, particularly if you have children and want to teach them about the natural world.”

Patient First to offer free Halloween candy x-rays

Patient First will offer free digital X-ray imaging of Halloween candy at all neighborhood medical centers from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.

While an adult should always inspect candy before allowing a child to enjoy their trick-or-treating rewards, the free X-ray offer gives parents an additional precaution to consider and to provide peace of mind. X-rays may detect objects such as glass, metal or plastic; however, parents still need to provide supervision, since some foreign materials may not appear in x-rays. > Read more.

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter announced

The theme for the annual Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside has been announced.

This year's event, which opens Nov. 25 and will continue through Jan. 9, will explore "Living Color" and show how the world's kaleidoscope of colors speaks to people, impacts nature and influences culture, according to Garden officials. The event features more than a half million lights, botanical decorations, trains, holiday dinners, family activities and more. > Read more.


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The Henrico County office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension will offer the workshop “Caring for an Older Tree” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Varina Library. Admission is free. Registration is required by calling 501-5160. Full text

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