Composting for Worms

When I was really young I’d get a shovel and turn over dirt, knock it around and pull out a few worms for a fishing trip. There was a lot of luck involved and I remember it taking a while to fill up a can. I must have slept through science class because I didn’t remember that worms liked moisture.

Once I had that tidbit of information I shifted over to look in shady areas, particularly those with lots of leaves that were always soggy. The bigger the pile of leaves the better, and there were worms galore. My pals and I would spend less time looking for bait and more time fishing. We liked that.

Still later on, a friend told me of an interesting way to find worms. In the warmer months and when the sun was setting he’d take a garden hose and soak the concrete on the sides of his driveway. He’d go and have dinner with his folks, watch a little TV, and then before going to bed he’d grab a flashlight. Nightcrawlers were all over the wet edges and in minutes he’d have a bucket full of bait.

In searching for a way to build a better mousetrap, I stumbled upon an idea that works like a charm: composting for worms. We live in an area that is very sandy, and have a need to compost to get soil decent enough for plants or the vegetable garden.

The first part was to find an area that was open enough to get any and all rain. Composts need to be constantly wet in order for the filler to decompose. If you live in a dry climate you’ll need to water your bin on a regular basis. The next step was to build a frame of 2X4’s and to surround it with chicken wire. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to hold the filler. Then, you’ll start to layer the compost bin.

The best way to fill the bin is with a layers of green and brown. The green in the mix typically comes from grass clippings, and they’re easy to gather if you add a bag to your mower. Dump it in, fill the bin, and spread it around. Next, add a layer of brown which comes in the form of leaves or pinestraw. Fill it up as there is a lot of airspace that will pack down when you add the next layer: horse or cow manure. Add some leftover remains from the kitchen. Coffee grinds are great, and so are vegetable skins from potatoes, sweet potatoes, or turnips. Egg shells, the bases of lettuce, cauliflowers, or carrots, it's all good. Soak it with a garden hose, get it nice and wet, and add the next layers. Keep the compost wet and you’ll have a lifetime supply of garden hackle in no time.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at