We got some new pets! Well, they're not exactly your run-of-the-mill furry, four-legged friends. They're squirmy, slimy and wiggly, but these somewhat unappealing little guys produce something called black gold that gardeners rave about. I first read about vermicomposting in Gayla Trail's wonderful book You Grow Girl. Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer, and to get loads of your very own all you have to do is care for a type of worm called red wiggler, by creating a hospitable environment for them. Caring for and feeding your little wiggly friends properly will have you with plenty of nutrient-filled worm castings (manure) that you're plants will love in a few months. What you need: • 1 newspaper • 1 medium bin • Drill and 1/4" drill bit (to drill air holes in the top and bottom of your bin) • Spray bottle for water • 1lb. worms (red wigglers) • Bravery (if you don't really like worms) In this photo you see: • Fred • Liz • Norm • Jimmy • Wellington • Ellie • Tim • May • Kipp (he's not a pet, though) Making our worms at home For the worms to get used to their new home, you must add shredded newspaper and moisten this bed with a good spray of water. Once the worms finish reading their daily, they will eat it up and turn out castings. There's a fine balance between too little and too much water, though. When you see your little guys slowly making their way toward the air holes at the top of your bin, you know you need to either moisten their home or leave the lid off to dry it out a bit. Time for a feeding In a couple of days your worms will be nice a settled in their new home and ready for a feeding. Worms eat vegetable and fruit scraps (there are some restrictions to what they eat, so it's important to do some research before feeding them) and enjoy a small amount of coffee grinds every once in a while. They're apparently quite picky with the size of their food, so I chopped up everything quite finely. When feeding worms, you're supposed to bury their food under the newspaper in one corner of the bin (worms don't like light) and then a few days later, bury another cup of food in the next corner of the bin. Just keep repeating ... eventually (we hope soon!) we'll see lots of that black gold and we'll be able to add it to our seedlings and transplants. Hey! Get back here you. When we opened up the bin to feed our little wormy worms we saw that trouble-maker Fred was trying to escape. By giving the paper a feel, we (oh, who am I kidding? I made Kipp do this. I'm still a little, um, shy around our new pets ... but I'm getting better) determined their home was too damp. To fix this problem we just propped open the lid for a few hours to dry out the bin, which seemed to do the trick. I'm very excited about this whole project! Before you start your own vermicomposter, visit Gayla Trail's website You Grow Girl - she'll tell you exactly what you need to do to set up and maintain your very own wormy home. It's a fairly cheap investment for (hopefully) many years worth of black gold! For great info on gardening, check out www.canadiangardening.com. Do you vermicompost? Plan on it? Any tips and tricks you'd like to share?