I was lured in by her moniker, The Worm Whisperer. Intrigued by the notion that worms may have a secret language, I had to meet this organic gardening guru who advocates for composting with a twist.
I wasn’t disappointed. Hassena “Sena” Kassim’s earth mama vibe is undeniable, as her soulful eyes scan a worm bin with her young daughter for signs of her tiny trash compactors.
To Worm With Love
“I’m a girl in love with worms, which is very easy to do,” she smiles, adding that she started worm farming eight years ago when she opened her Phoenix-based organic vermicompost company, Vermi-Love Worm Farm & More.
A horticulturist, herbalist and nutrition expert, Kassim is no stranger to the fact that commercial farming in the last several decades has left food crops lacking in the minerals and nutrients they once provided. She believes that instead of reaching for supplements to bridge the nutritional gap, we should focus on restoring the health of our soils.
If you love to garden or tend to potted plants and herbs on your patio, homegrown worm compost – or vermicompost — is a great way to feed and grow them, while also recycling food waste.
The U.S. Composting Council estimates every American generates 4½ pounds of waste each day that is recyclable through composting. The Council offers awesome resources and information for home composters, with a state-by-state breakdown at http://compostingcouncil.org/home-composters/
“Worms don’t need a lot of space,” says Kassim. “One pound of worms can occupy one square foot of space and be comfortable. They are semi-social creatures. You’re just providing the ecosystem.”
Red Wigglers are the species you’ll need for composting. These babies were born to recycle, have voracious appetites and will eat half their weight in food scraps daily.
Kassim says getting started is as easy as purchasing a large plastic storage bin at a hardware store. Cut a series of 2-inch round holes around the bottom perimeter of the bin and plug with screened vents to prevent the worms from crawling out of the bin. The lid of the bin should also contain similar venting for oxygen. Ready-made bins are available online, or you can access local worm farms for supplies and information.
Fill the bin with 60% “brown” content (shredded paper, cardboard, dried leaves, dried grass clippings, small twigs, coconut coir, cooling or finished compost) and 40% “green” (veggies and fruit). For paper, soak it overnight, dump the water, squeeze out excess moisture and hand-shred it into the compost bin. Avoid paper with colored inks.
Locate bins inside or out, but worms do best at a comfy 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal output. Kassim recommends starting with ¼ pound of worms. Within 3 to 4 months, you’ll have your first harvest of vermicompost and a weekly harvest thereafter.
Composting With a Twist
- Feed and water 2-3 times a week.
- Use banana peels, grape stalks, apples, pineapple, salad greens, coffee grounds (sparingly).
- Keep bedding moist.
- Store bin in areas where temps range from 65-85 degrees.
- When adding new worms, keep a soft light shining from above to ensure they burrow into their new bin.
- Rotate the area where you feed each time to encourage the worms to move through the entire bin.
- Add coarse materials, such as eggshells, once a week.
- Allow the bin to become overcrowded.
- Use animal manure in the bedding.
- Cut worms in half – one worm cannot become two.
- Overfeed – onions, spices, garlic, peppers, bone, meat, cheese or beans as these foods will result in a stinky bin.
- Feed citrus.
- Feed in the same place daily.
For more information about verticomposting, compost kits, and finished compost, visit www.vermilove.com or email Kassim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Another great source of information is Planet Natural Resource Center at https://www.planetnatural.com/worm-composting/