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Getting Started with Worm Composting

By Edited Oct 16, 2016 1 0

Discover the Key Principles of Vermicomposting

Composting Worms

Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) is easy, convenient, good for the Earth, good for your plants, and fun. Worm composting allows you to responsibly dispose of your kitchen scraps while at the same time creating a high nutrient compost that you can use on your indoor or outdoor plants. This article will give you an overview of the key concepts of worm composting.

Overview: Worm composting is a form of composting in which you feed your veggie food scraps to a specific type of earthworm, red wigglers. Vermicompost (worm poop) is better for plants than almost any other type of compost and is worth about ten times as much as compost from a pile. The worms have three jobs: eat, poop, and make babies. Your job is to manage them in a way to maximize all three.
Vermicomposting (worm composting) bin

Container: Almost any container (purchased or built) can be used to contain worms as long as you can vent it somehow or drill holes in it. The simplest bin to use when you are getting started is a plastic storage tote. 14 to 20 gallon sizes work well. You will need to drill holes in the sides so that the worms can get air. Don’t worry about the holes being so big that the worms will come out. The worms wont go out the holes because they don’t want to leave the nice comfy home that you have made for them. In fact, if they do leave, they will die without moisture, bedding, and food.
Adding the Composting Worms
Worms: Eisenia Fetida or Red Wigglers are the most widely used composting worms. These worms are used because they eat well (up to half their weight everyday!), tolerate being dug through, and are easy to keep contained indoors or out. Red wigglers can be purchased online and mailed to you (in weather that is not too hot) or you can look for a local provider.

Bedding: Your red wiggler worms need bedding to live in. Think of it as their furniture in the house that you have provided. Any carbon source can be used as bedding. For example, leaves, shredded paper, shredded cardboard, and shredded newsprint (no glossy paper) all work well. In my home bin I always use newsprint and it works well. The bedding must be moist at all times. For more info on worm bin bedding read What to Use as Worm Bin Bedding

Moisture: Red Wigglers need a moist environment to live. The easiest way to provide this moisture is to soak the bedding in water before adding it to the bin as your are setting it all up. The ideal moisture level is close to that of a damp sponge. It should feel moist but when you squeeze it, no water should drip out. You should not have standing water in the bottom of your bin. For more indepth info on the moisture content of your worm bin and how to adjust the moisture level read What is the Correct Moisture Level in a Worm Bin

Food: What can you feed your worms? You can feed them any vegetable scraps including egg shells and coffee grounds (if you use a paper coffee filter, throw that in too!). You can also feed your worms lint from your dryer and paper towels (that were used to clean up spills and do not have cleaning solution on them). Worms are vegetarian, they do not eat meat. Don’t feed them meet, eggs, butter, or oil. They also don’t do well with bread or cheese. Be careful not to overfeed as this can attract fruit flies. For more info and instruction on feeding your composting worms read What do Red Wiggler Worms Eat?
Worm Castings (Poop)

Harvesting the Compost: When it is time to harvest (you won’t harvest the first time for at least 6 months, after that it will be more frequent) you have several options. You can simply dig down to the bottom and pull out a handful of worm castings (poop). This can be added directly to your soil with the worms included or you can pick out the worms and add them back to your bin. Another option is to wait until most of your bin is worm castings (they eat the bedding too) and then dump the whole bin out on to a tarp on a sunny day. Form a couple small pyramids of worm castings and the worms will burrow into the pyramid because they don’t like the light. Then, carefully brush off the outside of the pyramid of worm castings and set aside. The worms will burrow again. Repeat until almost all worm castings are harvested and you are left with a ball of worms. Refill your bin with fresh bedding and add your worms back to the bin.

Still not sure if worm composting is for you? Check out this article on Why You Should Worm Compost.
 
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