Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review - Worms Eat My Garbage

Since we are planning to attempt vermicomposting for the first time, I decided to re-read Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. I first heard about this book at the 2010 Mother Earth News Fair, where I attended my first workshop on the topic. Since the book came so highly recommended, I went ahead and bought a copy then, and read it shortly after, but clearly had forgotten quite a bit of the information covered in the book.

This is a fairly short book, with only 126 pages of information, plus a few appendix pages at the end. There are, however, several references to other works for those who might be interested in a more detailed information. For the recreational worm composter, or those just getting started, this book provides plenty of info on its own.

The first several chapters focus on the practical aspects of setting up a worm bin: Where should the bin be located? What materials should it be constructed of? What are the idea dimensions? What worms should I use? To answer that last question the author provides summaries of several types of worms, with information on how well suited they are to worm bin composting. She then moves onto to the topics of reproduction and eating habits, to help with the decision of how many worms may be needed to process a given amount of food waste.

I was pleased to see in the chapter on what items can be composted in the bin that the information is more aggressive than is normally presented in composting information. Along with the normal fruit and vegetable kitchen waste the author indicates that dairy and small amounts of meat can safely be composted in the bin. In fact, the only items she lists that should be strictly avoided in the bin are items that are not biodegradable, which should be pretty obvious, and pet manure. I suspect that when she says pet manure, she is really referring to cats and dogs, since those are the most common pets in this country and are both carnivorous. I'm sure that if one were to have a herbivore for a pet, such as a rabbit, its manure could probably be added. However, there are also likely better uses for rabbit droppings than throwing into the worm bin.

The information presented for using the castings isn't as detailed as I would have liked, but is sufficient. The author talks about ideas for getting the most benefit from the, relatively, small amount of castings that will be available after the process has completed. The topic of using the compost tea, however, was not really addressed at all. The book discusses some methods for dealing with excess moisture in the bin, but not for using it for fertilizing plants.

I would recommend this book for anyone just getting started with vermicomposting. It has been recommended in multiple workshops I've taken on the topic, and I can see why. The length of the book makes it easy and quick to read, which is really nice for those short on time. A great deal of information is packed into the pages, however, so that the book is more informative that one might guess from its length.

I feel the need to qualify my recommendation, however, with one additional piece of information. Since this is the only book I've read dedicated to the topic, I can't say how it compares to others. I have read other books that touch on the use of worms for composting, such as The Complete Book of Composting by J. I. Rodale. Since those books do not cover the topic in detail, though, they can't really compare. I'll likely pick up another book or two on the topic once we get started with our bins, just to get some additional information. Of course, if I do, I'll do a review of those as well.

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