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Vermicomposting: How to Compost with Worms

kitchen vermicompostingComposting kitchen and garden scraps using worms is faster than without worms. Adding a bag of composting worms results in richer compost. This dark compost is treasured by gardeners because it contains soil nutrients and living bacteria. Composting with worms is called “vermicomposting.” Vermicomposting is easy, and it’s a fun hobby too! Children and adults embrace their wiggly helpers as working pets. Vermicomposting is also great for the environment. Instead of tossing out scraps vegetation, you create free fertilizer. Let’s find out the benefits of vermicomposting, and how to get started.

Why Compost with Worms

In nature, worms help break down organic matter into simpler components. They are nature’s recyclers! Worms eat discarded vegetation and excrete a dark material called “humus” (worm poop). Humus contains valuable nutrients and microorganisms that help plants grow.

Modern householders of all types can harness this natural process via vermicomposting. Starting a composting bin or pile concentrates the composting process into one small area. Composting with worms can be done outdoors on a large tract of land, in a suburban neighborhood, on an apartment patio, or indoors.

Main reasons for composting with worms are:

  1. Composting creates free fertilizer. Use it on your indoor plants or garden. Or give it away.
  2. Composting helps the environment because it reduces trash. Compostable organic matter makes up around 24% of household garbage (EPA).
  3. Worms speed up the composting process versus composting without worms. There is less likelihood of odor and pests. For this reason, vermicomposting can be done indoors or out.

How to Start a Composting Bin

Starting a Vermicomposting bin is easier than it sounds. In just six steps, you will be composting. Many millions of households have succeeded at vermicomposting, and you can too!

  1. Choose a location. If you have space outdoors, pick a shady spot. The best place is under shelter, such as a covered porch or awning.
  2. Get a composter. A small, portable composting bin can be moved indoors in the winter. Larger bins can handle more scraps at once. You could make your own bin from a tote or scrap lumber. Pick one up at your garden store. Or purchase a specially-designed bin such as the Worm Factory 360, Worm Cafe, or Hot Frog Living Composter. If your composter comes with instructions, follow them.
  3. Prepare bedding. This is where your worms will live. You can choose from coconut coir, shredded non-colored newspaper, pure peat moss without chemicals, untreated wood chips, straw, hay, fall leaves, and/or aged horse or cow manure. Moisten with water. The bedding should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
  4. Check the pH (optional). Purchase a pH meter from the hardware store. Bedding should have a neutral pH between 5 and 7. The bedding and food will affect the pH. If the pH is wrong, your worms could get sick.
  5. Order worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. Red Wigglers are champion composting worms. Super Red (European Night Crawlers) are great for digging deep in large outdoor bins; they can also be released into the lawn and garden.
  6. Place the worms on top of the bedding. Let them dig their way down into the bedding. Leaving the lid off for a few minutes, or shining a light on the top of the bin will encourage them to dig. Now they are ready to start eating your garbage.

How to Feed the Worms

To feed the worms, use vegetable, fruit, and grain scraps from your kitchen. Avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods. Avoid acidic foods like pineapple, large amounts of tomato, and citrus fruits.

Dig a hole in one corner of the bin. Bury a cup or so of food there. After a few days, the worms will have started on this feeding. Dig a hole next to it and add the next feeding. Work your way around the outer edge of the bin. By the time you get back to the starting point, the original feeding will gone. You can cut up the food or use a food processor to speed up the composting process.

Trash stinks because left-over food breaks down in an airless trash bag or bin. Without enough oxygen, malodorous bacteria grow. On the other hand, the composting bin has plenty of air flow. Put scrap food into organic bedding and the worms eat it quickly.

Keeping Your Bin Healthy

Your bin may run into trouble. Odor and pests can create a nuisance. The worms sometimes get sick or die. Sometimes they try to escape.

After some months, you can harvest finished compost from your bin. Use the fertilizer on your starts, plants and garden.

Vermicomposting is fun and easy. Once you try it, you will be delighted with the results! You will cut down on household waste. And you will get free organic fertilizer for the garden. Start your worm bin today!