Composting with worms is easier than you might think! Hesitating before starting a new composting project? Take a look at these five common vermicomposting myths.
Myth: Composting is a Ton of Extra Work
Facts: The worms do most of the work. They convert kitchen scraps into valuable fertilizer 24/7. Initial setup takes less than an hour; more if you build your own composter from a tote or wood pallets. Collecting kitchen scraps add very little time to kitchen cleanup. Feed the worms every few days in about two minutes. Several times a year, you can harvest the valuable worm castings. Typical harvesting times:
- Tray-based composters: Takes 1 minute to remove the bottom tray. The worms should be fed in the top tray, so the bottom tray should have few or no worms. Or
- Compost bin with a door in the bottom: 5 minutes. Open the door and scoop out what you need. Or
- Generic compost bin, tote, or pile: Choose from manual sorting, making piles, or sifting through a screen. 30 minutes or more depending on the amount of worm castings. Or
- Add 10 to 20 minutes to sift the fertilizer through a screen. Optional. Screening removes sticks, rocks, debris, indigestible items, fruit stickers. Screening also makes the compost fluffier, which helps regulate soil drainage.
Myth: Composting Stinks
Fact: A well-maintained vermicomposting bin has an earthy smell. Composting with worms is aerobic because air is circulating. Stinky anaerobic bacteria proliferate in trash cans, landfills, and composters that are not aerated. Composting depends on bacteria and fungi to start breaking down the food scraps. Worms then quickly gobble up the organic matter. Some factors that keep vermicomposting smelling sweet:
- The decomposition process is faster because the worms eat the organic in a few days or a couple of weeks.
- Bacteria and fungi start predigesting the scraps, and this makes a little odor. Bury the scraps to keep down odors. And avoid over-feeding so the worms can keep up.
- The worms aerate the bedding by tunneling. Their castings have tiny air pockets. Oxygen promotes aerobic bacteria populations.
Myth: I Have Nowhere to Put the Bin
Fact: Actually, a worm bin can be as small as a plastic tote. Slide a small bin into a closet or under the sink. Tray-based composters have a footprint of less than 4 square feet. These types of composters can go anywhere in the house, or outside – even on a patio or balcony! Worm composters of any size fit into most suburban and urban yards. Pick an area sheltered from rain and sun. Read more about where to put your worm bin.
Myth: I Will Have Too Many or Too Few Compostable Scraps
Facts: So long as you feed regularly, your worms will adapt. Learn some of the tricks for regulating scrap volume.
Before starting a composting bin, estimate how much organic matter you will produce. Choose a composting bin size that matches your output. A composting worm can eat approximately its own weight in scraps each day. Therefore, a pound of Red Worms will each up to a pound of scraps per day under ideal conditions. One pound of Red Worms is 1,000 worms.
Too many scraps? Don’t over-feed the worms.
- Freeze some scraps for later. Or
- Add more worms. Add more trays. Expand the bin or get a bigger bin. Add another bin. Or
- Throw out scraps that you can’t use. Or
- If you have space, start an overflow outdoor compost pile.
Not enough scraps? If you have a bumper crop of worms and few scraps:
- Don’t worry about it. The worm population will self-regulate. Just feed them what you have. Or
- Share the love. Give some worms to a friend. Or
- Appeal to a neighbor, co-worker, or restaurant to provide additional scraps. Coffee shops have plenty of coffee grounds and tea waste. Refrigerate or freeze until you need them.
Myth: It Won’t Make Any Difference to the Planet
Fact: Organic matter that you toss in the trash contributes to climate change. Some landfills capture the methane produced by organic material decomposing. Methane is a major greenhouse gas. Burning off the methane produces carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. Incinerating converts the waste to heat, but also produces pollution. However, the cycle of life depends on decomposition. Tossing scraps “away” is out of touch with nature. Composting produces very few greenhouse gasses. Fertilizer from composting helps new plants grow. Composting is far better for the planet than trashing scraps.