Vermicompost is one of the most nutrient-rich organic fertilizers you can add to your garden, yard, or pot soil to help your plants grow, develop, and thrive. It’s made by using different types of worms, bedding, and food scraps – worms eat the green waste and turn it into vermicompost, also known as worm castings, through digestion.
Among different species, nightcrawlers are some of the most commonly used worms for vermicomposting as they offer numerous benefits to the soil and plants that grow from it.
This blog explores how to raise nightcrawlers for composting. So, if you’re looking to learn some tips and tricks to level up your vermicomposting game, you’re at the right place – discover everything you need to know and make your plants happy!
Why Use Nightcrawlers for Composting
There are many reasons why you should use nightcrawlers for composting. Besides providing many essential nutrients to the soil, they are also easy to maintain, even indoors. Here are some other benefits of using nightcrawlers for vermicomposting:
- Nightcrawlers decompose organic waste into nutrient-rich compost.
- As they tunnel, they increase the aeration of the soil.
- They add beneficial bacteria to the soil.
- Worm castings enhance the structure of the soil.
- They improve the water retention capacity of the soil.
- You can use worm compost as a soil additive to benefit the plants that grow on it.
As you can see, your plants can benefit significantly from the abundance of worms in your compost. That said, let’s see which nightcrawlers are best for composting and how to raise them to maximize their benefits.
What Is the Average Lifespan of a Nightcrawler?
In ideal conditions, the average lifespan of a nightcrawler is between seven to nine years. With moist soil and an abundance of food, nightcrawlers can live for years to come. Their long life expectancy is one of the main reasons worm farmers choose them for vermicomposting, as they don’t have to buy new worms often.
How Frequently Do Nightcrawlers Reproduce?
Nightcrawler worms mate a couple of times a year, and it takes them around one year to reach sexual maturity. Compared to other types of worms, they mate fewer times and produce around 13 offspring during the cycle, making their reproduction slower than other worm species, such as red wigglers.
Which Nightcrawlers Are Best for Composting?
Different types of worms behave differently when composting. And to make an excellent vermicompost, you will need the right type of worm.
Worm compost is richer in nutrients and beneficial bacteria than regular compost because of worm castings that are left behind after nightcrawlers digest the waste material.
Although tiny red wiggler worms are a popular choice for worm composting, many individuals prefer bigger nightcrawlers, as they can digest more waste than their smaller counterparts and thus accelerate the whole process.
That said, here are the best nightcrawlers for worm composting:
European nightcrawlers are an excellent choice for vermicomposting. They are similar to red wiggler worms because they love eating. However, they are up to three times bigger than their red counterparts, meaning they will produce more worm castings during the same timeframe. Also, they reproduce fast, which speeds up the composting process.
While Canadian nightcrawlers are a great choice for fishing, you will want to avoid using them as composting worms. They typically live deeper underground, reproduce slowly, eat a little, and are demanding high maintenance. For these reasons, Canadian nightcrawlers aren’t effective for work composting.
African nightcrawlers are a good alternative if you live in warm areas, as they need warmer temperatures to thrive and keep their skin protected. When the temperature is 70 degrees or more, they tend to eat and digest more waste material and generate more worm castings. African nightcrawlers produce nutrient-rich vermicompost you can use to improve your garden soil.
If you’re looking for composting worms for a compost located outdoors, look no further than Alabama jumpers, as they are the best choice for aeration while they crawl through the compost pile.
Although they tend to live deeper underground, they don’t have issues with coming to the surface in order to eat food scraps, leaf litter, and other green waste. This worm species will likely stay in your compost pile so long as you keep them well-fed.
How to Raise Nightcrawlers for Composting?
Rasing nightcrawlers doesn’t have to be challenging if you have the right supplies. Before starting your vermicomposting journey, you will want to prepare a warm bin, bedding, and your composting worms of choice.
You can order the supplies and worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm or make and dig your own. But unless you know worm species, you may gather worms that aren’t suitable for composting. For this reason, it may be wiser to simply order your worms from reputable suppliers.
Here are our tips for raising nightcrawlers:
1. Prepare Your Worm Bin
Prepare a large lidded bin, turn it over, and drill 1/8-inch holes in the bottom to allow the draining of excessive moisture. Then, using a 1/8-inch drill, make holes across the lid and around the upper part of the bin on all sides.
Don’t forget to prepare another bin over which you will place the composting bin. This way, the second bin will collect the excess fluid, preventing mess.
2. Make Worm Bedding
If you don’t want to buy worm bedding, you can make your own by taking your garden soil or potting mix and mixing it with sawdust, shredded newspapers, dry leaves, grass, and veggie scraps. The ratio should be around 50% of soil and 50% of organic waste.
3. Fill the Bin
Take newspaper pages and soak them in water. Then, squeeze the excess water, stretch them, and place them on the bottom of the bin, maintaining air pockets and wrinkles to prevent the paper from compacting. Fill the lower four inches of the bin with this wet paper.
Next, you will add a handful of worms and spread a layer of bedding soil over them. Then, place moist brown cardboard over the last layer and press it slightly. Finally, put the lid on the bin.
4. Find a Location for the Worm Bin
Once you’ve made your worm composter, it’s time to find a perfect location for it. And once you find it, place the worm bin over your catch bin. You can elevate the first container using bricks – this will help air circulate and allow the excess moisture to drip into the second bin.
5. Feed Your Nightcrawlers
Avoid feeding your worms for about a week, as this way you will allow them to adjust to their new home. And don’t worry, they should have enough nutrients from the bedding for a couple of days.
After several days, remove the lid and the cardboard and add grass, food scraps, dead leaves, and more bedding to cover fresh food. If you notice the bin content is dry, spray it with dechlorinated water to keep your worms healthy.
As you see the food vanishing, add more green waste and bedding.
6. Remove the Compost
When you notice the compost layers are reaching the side holes, allow your nightcrawlers to finish the whole process. Then, empty the vermicompost and start all over.
How to Take Care of Your Nightcrawlers for Composting
If you want to learn how to raise nightcrawlers for composting, you will need to take proper care of them. That said, here’s our expert advice on how to keep your worms happy and healthy in your vermicompost.
You need to be gentle when placing nightcrawlers into your composting bin. The same goes when you need to separate them from the compost. Avoid overstretching them or dropping them into the composter because this can harm their skin.
Maintain the Temperature
Dramatic changes in temperature can weaken or even kill the worm population in your compost. When the temperature is 65 degrees or higher, a worm bin can stay outside. However, you will want to keep it away from the sun and rain. Even though worms like moisture, too much water can cause them to drown.
Remove Sick and Dead Worms
When transferring worm castings or adding new nightcrawlers, make sure to remove any worms that look dead or sick, as they can contaminate other worms. Sick and dying worms will crawl slowly to the surface, so if you notice such behavior, gently remove them to keep others alive and healthy.
Provide Your Worms with the Right Bedding Material
When making bedding for your composting worms, avoid using anything that contains cleaning agents or chemical fertilizers, as these will destroy your nightcrawlers. Black and white newspaper cut into pieces and misted with water is a great choice and a good way to reduce household waste.
Maintain the Right Level of Moisture
Nightcrawlers need moisture to breathe and keep their skin protected from drying out. However, too much moisture can drown your worms and compress the soil, preventing your worms from moving freely.
When adding water to your worm bin, make sure to use dechlorinated water, as chlorine can harm nightcrawlers.
Provide Them with an Adequate Amount of Food
Keep your worms well fed, but don’t overdo it, as there can be too much of a good thing. Ensure to give them just enough food so they can comfortably eat it and produce worm castings. If you notice the food is pilling and your worms are eating it more slowly, stop adding more until they process what they already have.
When adding a fresh supply of worm food, make sure to cover it with a layer of compost to protect them from the light. You can remove the remaining compost or move it to one side of the worm bin, and add more food scraps on the other side. The nightcrawlers will eventually move there to eat fresh food.
Rasing Nightcrawlers for Composting Can Be Fun
Vermicomposting can be fun when you know how to do it. And having a nutrient-rich vermicompost always on hand is one of the many benefits of worm composting. This way, your soil will be abundant in nutrients, helping your plants grow and thrive. All you need to do is follow our advice, and your vermicompost will be ready in no time.
If you need supplies for vermicomposting, browse our website and find what you’re looking for. And if you want to skip the whole process, simply order Uncle Jim’s worm castings and let your plants become the best versions of themselves.