by Maxine Herr

Andrea Polk is talking trash these days. But it’s actually doing some good.
Egg shells, shredded paper and table scraps are delicacies to her new roommates. Polk has a worm farm adjacent to her kitchen, and the little red wigglers have been an exciting addition to her home.
“I felt it was really important for my children to have something in the house they could work with,” Polk said. “It’s a way to teach them that their garbage can go back into the earth and actually help it.”
Polk is grateful for a mother who instilled the value of recycling and caring for the earth. She feels what her mom gave her was truly a gift. “I have the knowledge I have now because it’s been a part of my life since I was a child,” Polk said.
Usually, when someone says they’ve opened a can of worms, it’s not good. But in the Polk house, it means a better garden, lawn and houseplants. Polk spent around $100 on her worm farm, a composting system that utilizes the benefits of worms which are nature’s own recyclers. The investment was well worth it as she pulled produce from her robust tomato and cucumber plants last summer, and did her part to keep garbage at the curb to a minimum.
“The worms eat anything but citrus, protein and onions,” Polk said. So besides food waste, you can feed them your pizza cartons, vacuum cleaner dust, and even coffee grounds. The greater variety of material, the better the castings, or worm poop, will be. The worm castings are an organic fertilizer and are full of nutrients. “We need to replace nutrients in the soil, but I don’t want to do it with synthetics,” Polk said.
Polk learned about worm farming while watching an Earth Day special on Oprah in 2008. “I have always been conscious about recycling, so when I heard there was a way to compost all winter long, I wanted to do it!” she said.
Polk’s worm farm consists of four trays that clip into each other. The bottom tray collects the liquid that drains through, which can be tapped and used as a liquid fertilizer. The worms start at the first tray and “eat their way up,” leaving their castings behind. Once you’ve taken out the castings, you move that tray to the top. The cycle is never ending (sorry, worms, you’ll never truly reach the penthouse) so it ensures a constant supply of your own quality fertilizer. “The worms reproduce really fast too, so you can get three to four times the number of worms you started with and then share them with a friend, “Polk said.
Since the worms can eat up to half their body weight every day and can double their population every few months, Polk says the more worms you have, the more waste you can place into the worm farm, and not in a landfill.
Polk also plans to add a compost bin to her patio to hold additional waste scraps to be turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer. She recently purchased a rainwater tank to collect and maintain harvested rain. “It has a screen on it to catch debris and you can attach a garden hose to it to water the garden,” Polk said. Her family is also avid recyclers of plastic, tin and aluminum.
“Am I curing global warming? No, but I’m teaching my kids a valuable lesson. It helps my family, and that’s important to me,” Polk said.