Photo by Jason A. Smith
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in McDonough hosted a Lunch and Learn seminar Tuesday on  benefits of earthworms in the composting process. Patsy Cash, instructor for the seminar, said using earthworms helps to create healthier soil.

Photo by Jason A. Smith The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in McDonough hosted a Lunch and Learn seminar Tuesday on benefits of earthworms in the composting process. Patsy Cash, instructor for the seminar, said using earthworms helps to create healthier soil.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Vickie Pace smiled as she peered into a plastic bin full of earthworms. That's not the reaction the slimy little creatures usually generate -- especially from females.

Pace, of Hampton, is special. She is a master gardener, and during a Lunch and Learn seminar Tuesday, at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office, in McDonough, she was telling others how she learned worms can help make a garden grow. She said her desire to know more about the tiny creatures came from seeing the impact they have had on the garden at her home.

"I see worms in the soil, and see how much better that area is, where worms are growing," said Pace. "I wanted to see how to encourage the worms to be in my soil."

Pace was among roughly 15 area residents who gathered at the Extension Office, at 97 Lake Dow Road, for a session on vermiculture, also known as vermicomposting. The seminar was designed to teach participants how worms can be used to break down organic matter to make compost, said instructor Patsy Cash.

"We're talking about the need for compost in your soil and plants," said Cash, a retired physical-education teacher in Henry County. "We're talking about how you can use the waste that's in your garbage cans -- the food waste, the paper waste. We can throw all that in a worm bin, and they can compost that for us, and we can use it in our plants and in our gardens."

Cash said composting has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people are searching for more inexpensive ways to garden. She added that people with a concern for the environment can also find benefits in vermiculture.

"Yard and food waste make up approximately 30 percent of all the waste in the United States," she said. "Worms can help us reduce the amount of waste that goes into our landfills."

One way to use worms for composting is through building a harvester worm bin with eight- to ten- gallon plastic storage boxes. Cash advocated drilling 1/4 inch and 1/16 inch holes into the bins, for ventilation, filling the bins with newspaper strips, water, and about a pound of redworms.

Frank Hancock, agriculture and natural resource agent for the Extension Office, arranged for Cash to speak at the seminar. He said vermicomposting with earthworms helps to build healthier soil.

"Healthy soil leads to having healthy plants," said Hancock. "People don't do enough to build up their soil. They plant year after year in the hard, red clay...don't get enough organic matter established, and don't have any earthworms, so the soil is never up to optimum [levels]. Raising earthworms leads to better soil and, therefore, raising better crops."

Retiree Rhett Paul frequently attends the Extension Office's seminars because he enjoys learning about agriculture. "I knew absolutely nothing about raising worms, so it piqued my interest," he said.

The McDonough resident said of the biggest lesson he learned is how easy it is to improve a garden through vermiculture. He said many make fertilizing a yard more complicated than it has to be.

"You don't have to spend an awful lot of money," said Cash. "You don't have to spend an awful lot of time. Just get the basics down, and you can do it in the kitchen. I have a home garden, and fertilizer is very expensive these days. If you can grow your own, you're ahead of the game."

For more information, call the Extension Office at (770) 288-8421.