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on November 19, 2012
This is a cute and eccentric, rather dated, oddly organized, and not very scientific guide to vermicomposting. It's fine on the basics of keeping a worm composter, but much of its advice is easy to misunderstand or understand incompletely due to the lack of good pictures and hands-on, detailed description of specific scenarios. On some issues it is simply wrong. If you really want to understand your worms and the compost ecosystem you're creating for them, you'll be better off reading multiple online sources devoted to vermicomposting and talking with people who do it.

"Worms Eat My Garbage," like many guides, provides fine advice as far as it goes; it just doesn't explain much about *why* you should do this or not do that. It also fails to put the key issues front and center for people new to worm and compost care: how the worms will behave in your vermicomposter if they are healthy or unhealthy, what they need or like and don't like in their environment and diet, how to understand what you see, and the main ways you can screw up.

I don't believe the book ever points out that worms live on *microbes* in decomposing organic matter, and they only eat your "garbage" in the process of getting at microbes. Explaining the chemistry of composting and decomposition processes (aerobic and anaerobic) would be really helpful, but that's not really covered here either. For example, nitrogen and sugars or starches can break down into wet, potentially toxic byproducts like ammonia and alcohols, which are not good for worms in quantity, especially if the worms can't get away from them. How pH/acidity levels rise and fall is a related concern you won't learn much about from this book.

Here is an example that is typical of the book's main flaw. There is a rambling discussion about how worms may not like something in lemon rinds or orange rinds, or citrus fruits in general. The author talks about a kid who wrote to her about this, explaining how limonene works, apparently based on experiments or expertise of a parent who may or may not have worked at a laboratory. Wouldn't you rather have some hard science and real sources about the relative toxicity of limonene and acidity in your compost, what fruits have it in quantity, and so on? Instead you just get this long anecdote that shows the author does not understand the chemistry and can't tell you definitely how to handle certain fruits in your compost based on an actual known risk. You will find other sources online that say citrus is fine, including lemon and orange peels, but some worms dislike their acidity, as well as other food, like onions, that is acidic. Worms will only eat things they don't like when there is nothing else to eat or the disagreeable food is decomposed enough to be full of microbial life and attractive to worms. I am not sure what the 100% correct view is on this subject, but it's clear "Worms Eat My Garbage" provides more opinion and anecdote than science.

Some things I've read in this book and others like it are confusing because they're presented as rules to follow but are contradicted later, or by other sources. For example, "Worms Eat My Garbage" advises blending up and microwaving your food waste before adding it to the vermicompost, but it doesn't explain the pros and cons, especially if your bin doesn't allow much airflow. Breaking down the food before adding it to the bin can actually help offset the potential problems of foods worms like less, especially if you let the blended mush dry out and get moldy before you add it to your worm bin. In "Worms Eat My Garbage" there's no explanation like this, and no warning about how too much finely chopped food waste -- especially if it's wet -- can also create a sludge the worms can't enter. Too much dense sludge will result in anaerobic decomposition as well, creating a stinky mess and leachate that may be toxic to worms and houseplants. The importance of surface area, air flow, and loose solids should have been emphasized to offset the idea that you should put a lot of "compost smoothie" in your bin.

What you're dealing with are many variables in a dynamic system, so it's really not a matter of "don't ever do this" or "always do this" -- it's "do A if you also B this under these other conditions C and D, but look out for E and F happening." I don't mean to make it sound like vermicompost is a very delicate system but that it's much more educational and fun to understand as a variable and dynamic system that provides certain feedback you can understand and respond to as conditions change.

"Worms Eat my Garbage" is, like many worm guides, insufficient on the subject of proteins in a similar way it mishandles acidity and citrus. Meats, eggs and dairy, raw grains and processed grains or breads are generally not wanted in compost due to the odors, flies and critters they can attract. Nevertheless, these foods will break down and be enjoyed by worms, so with sufficient care in a well-sealed (or basement/garage) composter you can add them if you take care to understand what you are doing and maintain appropriate moisture and airflow levels. "Worms Eat My Garbage" says small amounts of meat are OK but should probably warn the reader that meat is generally a bad thing to add to compost due to the smell and leachate meats will produce and the creatures it may attract, especially outdoors. On the other hand, dairy and grains can work fine--a subject not covered in this book. Wet, spent (brewing) grains or breads are a special case, as adding a thick pile of them may cause anaerobic decomposition that creates alcohols and ammonia. Yet grain can work out fine if it's not overdone in a well-drained and aerated composter.

This level of detail is entirely lacking in "Worms Eat My Garbage." If you want more than dos and don'ts, if you want to experiment and explore or learn the science of worms and decomposition, this book won't satisfy you.
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on November 21, 2001
This was a fun book about the little creepy crawlers! It gives a very solid scientific introduction to the little critters and answers most of your basic questions about worms. The focus of the book has to with vermiculture--the use of worms for developing super-rich compost material for organic gardens. Vermicompost is without a doubt the best composting material available for organic gardeners, and setting up your own vermicomposting bin is the best way to get yourself some of this richly organic fertilizer.
The book details how you can set up your own vermicompost bin, either by making it yourself or by purchasing a commercial worm bin. It also even describes how some school systems have saved themselves bundles of money by having worms eat the schoolkids' lunch scraps rather than pay for commercial garbagemen to haul the stuff away!
I would most strongly recommend this book for anybody interested in either worms, vermicomposting or organic gardening. It's a very fun read!
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Mary Appelhof's book is both amusing and educational. This is the "Vermi Bible" for most people who compost their household waste with worms (vermicomposting).

This 2nd edition includes description and discussion on commercially-available vermicomposting bins. Unfortunately, with the excitement and growing interest in worm composting, there are bins now available that are not reviewed in the book. (I guess we'll need a 3rd Edition!)

For the beginner as well as the worm hobbyist, I recommend this book highly.
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on January 14, 2004
Now in its revised second edition, Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof is a practical and "user friendly" guide to recycling kitchen food waste, producing fertilizer for house and garden plants, growing fishing worms, and saving money, all through the process of a worm composting system. Worms Eat My Garbage is a simple, effective, "how-to" guide covering everything from how to set up a worm bin, to what types of garbage are best for worm composting, to taking care of the worms, to effectively saving money while reaping the benefits of the process. Worms Eat My Garbage is easy-to-follow, thorough, and enthusiastically recommended reference for environmentalists and gardeners.
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on August 26, 2007
I must say that I knew most of the stuff contained in the book, since the web contains a LOT of information. Nevertheless, the online info is quite dispersed. Here you can have all the knowledge in one book. Also, I did not give it 5 stars, because I think it still lacks a bit of professionalism; the author indeed knew a lot from decades for worm composting, but still, a lot of her knowledge was empiric and seems unsure of some of the causes. For instance, she emphasizes a lot on cold climates and gives little info on hot climates.
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on April 23, 2000
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in lowering the ammount of garbage they send to the landfills. If you have an interest in raising more healthy plants, better fising bait, or just want the experience this is the book to start with. While written on a 10th grade reading level, this book is wonderful reading for anyone. My background is in biology and I found some of the side notes very useful. This is a book that everyone should read even if you have no desire to raise worms.
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on February 1, 1999
I enjoyed all of the information and found this book to not only be informative and interesting but also very easy to read. I also found the author to be humorous in her writing. This book gives the do's and don'ts that are very helpful.
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on April 9, 2009
This is one of the most referenced and most often quoted books on home vermiculture. It is clearly written, simple to read, and generally useful.
It is also out of date.
This book is based on the time it was written, when there were only a few options other than "build it yourself", and build it yourself was big bins outside. If you are an apartment or small house dweller you will find this book less useful as it *mostly* assumes a larger scale operation than a small home can manage.

This book is going to be useful to the small scale composter, and inspirational, and educational, but will leave many questions unanswered, and will not answer a lot of the questions in managing a small plastic based bin.
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on May 3, 2009
Can't recc this book enough. I had real problems composting. My organic matter didn't break down fast enough and it smelled. Now thanks to this little book my organic (and kitchen) waste breaks down 20X faster w/o chemicals or back breaking churning! The worms do it all. OH, my kitchen garbage doesn't smell because I toss all my organics into the compost bin. I never buy soil anymore.
My son loves to go on bug safari.
This book is great for teachers.
One tip. Follow her advice. Make sure to get the right worms, reds for breaking down, nightcrawlers for churning, in my case.
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on March 21, 2015
I was thinking about buying a multi-tray Worm Composter, I thought it might be easier and provide Humus quicker than normal Composting. While reading the reviews on one of the multi-trays a reviewer recommended buying and reading this book before trying to Vermicompost (Composting with worms). I’m glad I took the reviewer’s suggestion; Vermicomposting isn’t quite as easy or quick as I thought. I planned to get a multi-tray composter buy some worms from the Local Bait Shop and add Organic waste as I accumulated it, after a few weeks I figured I’d have Humus. What I learned from the book is it’s not that simple, you need to determine how much Organic waste you produce in a week (the Author tells you how) and from this determine the size of the Worm Composter you need, she helps you with this also. Once you have your Composter you need to have bedding for the worms, the book tells you how to make this, materials to use. The book explains that not all worms are the same, some are better than others. The book lets you know which ones are best to use. Worms decompose waste by ingesting and excreting it, the excrement called castings keep getting re-ingested by the worms creating Vermicompost. This goes on for two to four months, at two months you should have more worms but less Vermicompost and at four months almost no worms and all Vermicompost, depending what you’re trying to achieve dictates how long to keep it. I live in the Midwest so the weather would be a concern, either the heat or cold. The author suggests having an insulated Composter and keeping it in a garage or in the house. Vermicomposting isn’t complicated but this book gives you information that’s critical if you want to do it right. I haven’t decided when I’m going to start Vermicomposting, my garden isn’t that large and I already have a Compost heap but it is something I’m going to try. I’m trying to reconnect with the Natural World. I grew up in a time when it was believed that there was better living through Chemistry, that Technology would solve all our problems. I now realize that we can’t create a synthetic world custom designed to our whims. I realize that I’m a child of this Planet and I was DESIGNED to eat natural foods. The fact that the air I breath which is essential to me living is a by-product of the plants I grow and the CO2 a by-product I discharge is essential to these plants means we’re interconnected, we are one. Why would I not provide the best environment for that which is a part of me to flourish? There’s one point the author made that I found interesting. She says recycling her waste reduces her garbage bill, the city she lives in charges her for garbage pickup by weight. Imagine that, we are forced into living Life by DESIGN because our synthetic world costs too much.
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