As Dominic headed off to his first day of school yesterday I took my worms on a field trip to the Botanical Garden in my GNAUSA cart. The Bronx Green-Up* was hosting a booth at the farmer's market and after a year of watching those little worms consume all our compostables I was wondering how their ecosystem was holding up.
I rolled up to the table and a Master Composter named Junior was delighted to use a plastic fork to poke through my container. As he pushed aside the remains of our produce he commented on how he likes to look at people's composts because it shows what kind of diet they have. I wondered what he thought of my avocado peel (the worms have been working on that for months) but I didn't ask. I was curious about fruit flies though, which I have seen come by from time to time. He gave me this tip: lay a full newspaper on top of the soil. The grown flies will not be able to escape to reproduce and it doesn't hurt the worms one bit.
As it turns out, soil containers (the kind I started) aren't the Green-Up's ideal. They much prefer newspaper. To make a newspaper compost you would place your worms in half of the container, add your food scraps and then plop some moist newspaper strips (about 1 in wide) on top. The worms work through everything creating compost itself - which is better than my soil/compost mixture. Purer would probably be the appropriate term. You just push that aside as it develops and continue adding your food products to the side with the worms. I would use compost if I had a garden, but for now my plants are perfectly content in their potting soil.
Despite my set up, Junior was complimentary. He said I had a good number of mites. This is a good thing since apparently they help the worms break down the food (worms don't have teeth after all). He also noted that there is no foul odor coming from the bin and that the moisture seemed to be balanced. I was shocked by his approval. I thought for sure I had killed off every last worm. I'll admit that I accidentally forgot them on the fire escape during one of those early-summer heat episodes we had, they must just be far more resilient than I originally anticipated.
I got up the nerve to ask - I was just dying to know from the compost master - if I was being graded on my bin how would I do? Imagine my delight when he gave me an A! How's that for lifelong learning. I'm a real urban composter!
As if the day could get any better, I left the worms with Junior and finished up my grocery shopping and found out it was the Green Market's 75th anniversary. I got a brand new reusable bag for spending $10!
Here's a picture of Dominic on first day of class. Happy Back to School season everyone!
*The Bronx Green-Up is a community outreach program that sends great teachers like Junior to the Garden to provide horticultural advice, technical assistance and training to community gardeners, school groups and other community organizations.