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How Many Composting Worms Do I Need?

By Edited Jun 4, 2016 1 0

Discover What Size Vermicomposting System (Worm Farm) You Need to Compost Kitchen Scraps

Learn How to Conduct a Family Food Waste Audit to be Sure your Worm Bin Fits your Needs

Adding the Composting Worms
Worm composting (Vermicomposting) is a form of composting in which you feed your vegetable food scraps to a specific type of earthworm called red wigglers (scientific name: Eisenia Fetida). Why worm compost? Because it allows you to responsibly dispose of your kitchen scraps while at the same time creating nutrient-rich compost that you can use on your indoor or outdoor plants. 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. Composting worms have only three jobs: eat, poop, and make babies. Your job is to manage the worms in a way to maximize all three. If you are a beginner worm composter, be sure to read: Getting started with Worm Composting and How to Make a Worm Bin

This article will teach you how to measure your food waste, calculate how many composting worms you need, and determine what size worm bin you should use to compost all your food scraps.
What do Red Wiggler Worms Eat?

How much food waste does your family produce? - Before you can calculate howmany worms you need, you need track the average amount of veggie food waste that you or your family creates. Below are simple instructions for how to track food waste and conduct a family food waste audit.
  • Collect a day’s worth of vegetable food waste.
  • Be sure to only collect the types of food waste that worms can eat. For more on this read What do Red Wiggler Worms Eat?
  • At the end of the collection day, place all veggies scraps in a plastic bag and weigh it. A small kitchen scale or fish scale works well.
  • Repeat for one week, then average the results together
  • You will now have your daily average food waste.
How many red worms will it take to eat your average daily household food waste?
  • Amazingly, red wiggler composting worms eat roughly half their weight every day.
  • So, if your daily average food waste is 2 lbs, you will need roughly 4 lbs of composting worms to eat that amount each day.
  • In this scenario, 4 lbs of worms is your optimal worm herd.
What size worm bin do you need to house your optimal worm herd?
  • Assuming that temperature and moisture conditions are ideal and there is plenty for a worm population to eat, your worm population will expand to the size of its habitat (worm bin and bedding).
  • Composting worms feed in the top inch of worm bedding so the next step is to calculate how many square feet you need on the surface of your worm bin.
  • One pound of red wigglers for one square foot of surface area in a worm farm is a good, healthy ratio (1:1).
  • So, if your optimal worm herd it 4 lbs, you will need a worm farm with at least 4 square feet of surface area.
  • Many plastic storage bins fit this size and make excellent worm farms. For more on setting up a worm bin using a plastic storage tote read How to Make a Worm Bin
In-Ground Worm Composter
How many red worms are in a pound?
Since all of our calculations are ba
sed on weight, you don’t actually need to know how many worms are in a pound. However, just because it is fun to know roughly how many worms are in your worm herd: most worm composters use the estimate of 1000 worms in one pound. Therefore, if you have 4 lbs of worms in your vermicompost bin, that means you have around 4,000 worms that you are feeding!

How many composting worms should I start with?
In our example so far, you need to have a total of 4 lbs of composting worms to eat all the food scraps that your family produces. To get up to 4 lbs of red worms you can do one of two things:
  • Buy 4 lbs of composting worms. This is the simplest but also the most expensive way to reach your optimum worm herd.
  • Another approach is to start your worm farm with ½ or 1 lb of worms and let them reproduce. This is a slower approach but will save you money.
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