Step by Step Instructions for Vermicomposting Food Scraps at Home
Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) has many benefits. It's easy, convenient, good for the Earth, good for your plants, and fun. Worm composting allows you to responsibly dispose of your kitchen scraps (food waste) while at the same time creating a high-nutrient compost (called vermicompost, worm poop) that you can use to make your indoor or outdoor plants healthier. This article contains step by step instructions for how to make a worm bin for composting at home.
Worm Composting Overview: Vermicomposting is a form of composting in which you feed your veggie food scraps to a specific type of earthworm called red wigglers. Vermicompost (worm poop) is better for plants than almost any other type of compost. The worms have three jobs: eat, poop, and make babies. Your job is to keep them happy so that they do their jobs. Check out this article for more on the principles and theory of worm composting.
To make your homemade worm bin you will first need to gather your tools and materials. You will need:
- One 14 - 20 gallon storage tub with a lid
- A drill and drill bit (any size close to ½ inch)
- LOTS of shredded newspaper (way more than you think!)
- A bucket of water
- ½ to a pound of red wigglers (Eisenia Fetida is the scientific name). You can order them online from a number of different websites.
- Drill air holes. Use the drill and drill bit to drill holes in the sides of the storage tub. The storage tub will be the bin that the worms live in and the earthworms need to breathe (through their skin!). Six to ten holes on each side is enough. The worms will not crawl out the holes because they know they will die outside of their moist worm bedding.
- Shred or rip up the newspaper. Your red wiggler worms need bedding to live in. Any carbon source will work but we will be using shredded newsprint (no glossy paper). Rip the newsprint into 1 to 2 inch strips.
- Soak the newspaper. Red Wigglers (Eisenia Fetida) need a very moist environment in order to live. You will be building you worm bed with shredded, soaked newspaper. Put all the ripped newsprint strips into the bucket of water and submerge them.
- Wait 5 minutes for the newsprint to soak up the water.
- Fill the storage tub with worm bedding. Fill your homemade worm bin with the shredded soaked newspaper. Pick up handfuls of the newsprint and let the water run out of it for 10 seconds or so before adding it to the bin. Red wiggler worms like a moist environment like a wet sponge. They don’t like swimming. there should never be standing water in the bottom of your homemade worm bin. Fill the worm bed at least half full with the shredded soaked newspaper.
- Add dirt or compost. Add a handful of dirt of homemade compost. Earthworms have gizzards like chickens do. They do not have teeth. The dirt or compost will give them tiny bits of grit and sand that they can eat and use in their gizzards to grind up the food scraps that you will feed them.
- Add your composting earthworms. I recommend starting a homemade worm bin of this size with ½ pound to 1 pound of worms (roughly 500 to 1000 worms). The worms will multiply (remember one of their 3 jobs is to make babies). So, the amount you start with really depends on how productive you want your homemade worm bin to be right away and how much you are willing to spend.
- Put the lid on the bin and leave it alone for 2 days in a lighted room or closet. Earthworms like to explore their new home. In the first two days they will crawl all over the inside of your worm bin. Worms don’t like light so leaving a light on in the room of closet encourages them to stay in the bin. After 2 days, if you are taking good care of them, they won’t ever leave the bin.
- Feed your worms. Pull some of the bedding back on one side and add some food scraps. Then, cover the food scraps with bedding. Remember worms are vegetarian, don’t feed them any meat. Be careful not to over feed them. Start with a small amount and monitor how fast they eat it. When it is gone or mostly gone add some more veggie food waste. For more info on feeding your worms check out What do Red Wiggler Worms Eat?
- Keep feeding them. You should feed your worms once or twice a week depending on how much you feed them each time.
- Harvest the worm poop! (vermicompost). One reason you are doingthis is to gain the nutrient rich compost that is worm poop. Vermicompost (the fancy name for worm poop) is really good for all plants indoor and outdoor and excellent to add to a vegetable garden. It will take around 6 months before you are able to harvest for the first time. After that you will be able to harvest every month or so. There are a couple ways to harvest worm castings (another name for worm poop). Start by simply digging down to the bottom of the bin and grabbing a handful of the vermicompost. You can either add that straight to your garden or pick out the worms and then add it to your garden.
That’s it! Your done. Now you know who to make a worm bin or vermicomposting bin and some of the benefits of vermicomposting.
Enjoy your new role as a worm farmer. If you have kids, be sure to get them involved in caring for the worms. Kids love worm!
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