by Sandra Wiese
Reviewed by Sarah Harwood
In North America, we typically deal with garbage in two ways: burn it or bury it. Sandra Wiese—environmentalist, author and teacher—advocates burying it, but not in the way or place you might assume.
In her fabulously practical and funny vermicomposting guide, The Best Place for Garbage, she shows us how we can easily divert a great deal of our garbage from landfills—not only food waste but also other once-living stuff that worms love to eat: old Daily Herald Tribunes (they’re printed with soy-based ink, FYI), raked leaves, cardboard, sawdust. Apparently the buggers will even eat certain brands of duct tape!
Wiese’s book is indispensable for answering all the questions that you, as an eager rookie, might not even know you have. “If you are not the nurturing type, if all things green do not already thrive under your touch, if baby animals do not inexplicably recover with your careful ministrations, if people far and wide are not miraculously cured by your homemade soup, then you will have a LOT of questions,” she says.
Luckily, composting with worms isn’t rocket science. But there are many websites preaching lots of vague, contradictory or illogical dos and don’ts that can scare the squeamish or completely intimidate a beginner. The Best Place for Garbage helps enthusiastic newbies sort out the crap, so to speak.
Wiese covers everything: what to use for worm bins and bedding, worm chow, maintenance, population control, troubleshooting, harvesting the castings (worm poop) and what to do with them (a.k.a. “bartending for plants”). She outlines how you can vermicompost outdoors as well, but I wouldn’t recommend trying that through the winter in Alberta. Red wigglers are much less effective in frozen form.
Wiese is a small-scale commercial worm composter with a simple dream—that someday the statement “I have worms” will not cause wrinkled noses and the reaction “I hope the doctor can give you something for them!” According to Alberta Environment, compostable stuff makes up 40 to 60 per cent of Alberta’s waste stream. With statistics like that, it’s easy to understand why Wiese so passionately promotes vermicomposting and why so many people are eager to start. Her guide is indispensable for anyone wanting to get involved. Five dollars for the e-book version is money well spent.
Sarah hails from a ridiculously small logging and mining town in central BC that fills her with nostalgia and an affinity for the unusual. She now happily illustrates, teaches, writes and designs in Grande Prairie, Alberta.