Sabrina Clarke, the founder of the Yukon Wigglers project, displays one of her red wiggler composting worms in Whitehorse on Aug. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The wonderful world of worm compost

Worms kept in a bin under your sink can let you compost organic scraps year-round

Most people are familiar with the humble compost pile, where vegetable peels and apple cores are turned into a nutritious jumble to sprinkle on your flowerbeds or supplement your heirloom tomato plants.

But what to do during the long Yukon winter, when even the mightiest of compost heaps is reduced to but a single, solid mass, incapable of doing anything to a banana peel except lower its temperature?

The solution lies in having hundreds, if not thousands, of little friends living under your sink in the form of a worm bin, whom you can feed your organic scraps all year long in exchange for plant food.

The compost you get from using worms — usually red wigglers — is “quite different” from the compost you get from heaps, explained Sabrina Clarke, the founder of the Yukon Wigglers project. The project aims to educate Yukoners about worm composting, and is holding a workshop at the end of the month on how to start your own worm-composting bin.

“Everything in (worm) compost has made it through a worm’s digestive system, so it’s really small, which means that it exchanges nutrients really well with plant roots,” Clarke said in an interview Aug. 14.

“And it’s really microbially-active because it doesn’t get to a high temperature (like) in your compost heap, so a lot of bacteria is able to flourish in your compost bin, which might scare some people but is actually a really good thing. I guess probiotic is the word people are using now.”

Clarke said she first got introduced to worm composting when she was a university student in Montreal, where there’s no city-wide composting program. She moved back to the Yukon in May to a country-residential area where there’s also no composting program, and so decided to keep going with worm composting.

The worms, Clarke said, are very low-maintenance — basically, all you need to do is put them in a bin (preferably one with an opening about two square feet in size) with some dirt and keep the bin in a dark place and at room temperature. The wigglers are good at self-regulating their population based on the space and amount of food available, and can be left alone for up to three weeks without issue.

The worms also aren’t too picky about what they get fed, although how long it takes to break something down may vary.

“Depending on the type of food, if it’s a banana peel, it’ll usually disappear within a week, if it’s something harder like a watermelon rind or something, it’ll take longer … Especially for harder things, they have to wait for it to be partially broken down by other microbes because they basically have no teeth, they just wait for it to get really soft and then they digest it through their system,” she said.

And to answer the question that Clarke says she always gets whenever she talks to someone about worm composting — no, the bin doesn’t stink.

“It has that earthy smell of course, because what the worms are doing is they’re basically digesting the food scraps and turning it into humus, like a type of kind of soil builder, so you’ll open it up and you’ll definitely get that kind of soil smell,” Clarke said.

The only time the bin might give off a funk is if you dig up food scraps before the worms have had a chance to get to them, or if you put items on the “no” list, like meat or dairy products, which the worms have a harder time breaking down.

“So in that sense, it’s not perfect, you won’t get rid of all your organic waste,” Clarke said, “but for me, in my apartment, having a choice between like at least getting rid of 80 per cent of it as opposed to none, I thought it was a good alternative.”

Clarke said that the Yukon Wigglers’ upcoming workshop is open to both beginners and those already familiar with worm composting — the morning session will be an introduction to the process, with worm composting kits available for purchase, while the afternoon will be focused on the components and benefits of the compost.

The worms in the kits will be supplied by Clarke herself; using a grant she received as a finalist for the Yukon Innovation Prize, she bought 10 lbs of worms, an amount she described as “semi-commercial but also quite small,” and set up an eight-foot-by-four-foot “mega worm bin.” They’re fed with food scraps provided by Whitehorse cafe the Poor Creature, with every two worms producing one new worm every week or so.

Clarke said she’s expecting two types of people to attend.

“(There are) really, really a lot of people doing it in Whitehorse already, so gardeners, farmers, and more and more people just concerned about what to do with their organic waste,” she said.

“So you kind of get two different types of people, one type of people who are really motivated to use the compost, the final product, and one type who like the idea of having their food waste get turned into something else right in their house.”

“A Workshop on Composting with Worms in the North” is being held at the Northlight Innovation Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 31 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. More information and tickets are available online at

Contact Jackie Hong at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read