By Larraine Roulston:
Compost Song (To the tune of the “Hokey Pokey”)
You put your wet greens in,
You spread your dry browns out,
You add a little water and you stir it all about.
You invite all your bug friends
To have a two-month feast,
Then shovel your compost out!
Within any composting environment, billions of organisms are busy making their living. The decomposition process begins with microscopic bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. As organic material is softened, invertebrates including insects, isopods, millipedes, earwigs and worms mulch leaves and food scraps. Their actions result in a dark, crumbly compost, or humus. All living plants then absorb this nutrient rich material. In 1987, E.O. Wilson referred to insects as “the little things that run the world.”
Earthworms have an important role in our soil’s ecosystem; in fact, they are also known as “ecosystem engineers,” as their modifications to the soil can influence the habit and activities of other organisms that dwell in the soil beneath our feet. They live in compost heaps, but also do the same work in orchards and pasture soils by decomposing plant litter. Every year, they can process from 2 to 20 tons of organic matter per hectare. As an earthworm burrows into the soil, it opens up small spaces, known as pores. This leads to increased aeration and water flow, thus bringing nutrients down to the plant roots. In 1881 Charles Darwin, when referring to earthworms, remarked, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly organized creatures.”
Earthworm expert and soil scientist Dr. Trish Fraser states, “The next time you see an earthworm struggling on the footpath, perhaps you will be kind to our little underground ally. Indeed, perhaps you will also think about the rest of the large army of earthworms working hard for us below the ground. Maybe then the important role that this underground army plays in our lives will be forgotten no more.”
In her book Worms Eat My Garbage, Mary Appelof details how hardy little red wigglers create rich compost in a worm bin. By depositing food scraps under their bedding of moistened shredded paper, you will be rewarded with rich worm castings that can be sprinkled on your indoor plants or added to your garden.
It is essential that we incorporate early education to familiarize young minds with the significant contribution that insects and worms make in the world. Do the “rot thing” and have fun introducing compost and insects to young children. Day care workers, elementary school teachers and parents can use these two other ideas with children:
Compost Word Game: Everyone stands in a circle and individually calls out something that can be composted. When your turn comes, quickly name something that has not been already mentioned. If you can’t, then sit down. I’ll start you with a hint that you can compost anything that was once alive, such as pet fur, wilted flowers, feathers, grape stems, etc. Last one standing is the winner.
Act Like Compost Critters: Children can pretend they are part of the compost community. Those who are worms,wiggle; sow bugs roll into a ball; springtails hop up and down; millipedes scurry; fruit flies buzz while flying; snails crawl on their belly; and bacteria can just sit cross legged and burp.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Vermicomposting – Organic Gardening …
Act now to get amazing benefits of making your own compost:
Larraine authors illustrated children’s books on composting at www.castlecompost.com