Does the idea of keeping worms in your house sound crazy? Stay with me, after you learn how easy it is to create nutritionally dense compost out of kitchen scraps, you might give the little critters a try.
Vermicomposting utilizes Red Wiggler worms to eat your kitchen scraps and paper. Their castings are then used as a soil amendment. Pretty straightforward.
Highlights of Worm Composting
Space Needed: Very minimal. You can set up worm composting bins indoors or outdoors. This method is ideal for apartment dwellers and those who don’t have a ton of space to commit to composting.
Cost: $30 – $135. You’ll need to create a home for your worms. You can make one out of a Rubbermaid tote for relatively cheap or you can purchase one. The smaller versions start at around $30 but the nicer ones are close to $100. You will also have to pay $30-$40 for a pound of Red Wigglers worms.
Maintenance: Pretty low. Aside from checking on the bin and adding new food scraps, worm composting takes minimal effort. Need to go on vacation for a week? No problem, feed your worms before leaving and you’ll be fine.
Compost Rate: Relatively quick compost rate at 2-6 months
Pros: Worm composting takes up minimal space, has a potentially low cost (if you make your own habitat), requires little maintenance and yields a somewhat quick composting rate.
Cons: Having to touch and work with worms might not be appealing to some. Others might have reservations of keeping worms inside your house.
Setting Up A Worm Bin
- Select a Location: Worms need a dark, well aerated environment with temperatures kept between 60-80* Fahrenheit.
- Select a Container: Prepare your container a few weeks before you order worms. You can purchase a worm composting container, or you can make your own. When making your own, select a container that’s opaque, lightweight and water tight. Red Wiggler worms like to hang out near the top of the soil, so select a container that’s somewhat shallow but has a large surface area. Drill quite a few holes around the bin and on the lid to allow airflow.
- Add Materials: Add a thick layer of bedding (about ½ of the bin should be filled with cardboard, paper, peat moss, commercial worm bedding or a little handful of old compost). Then layer food waste and cardboard a few more times and end with a brown or cardboard layer. Spray the top layer so that it becomes saturated with water.
- Let Your Habitat Sit: Allow the food to decompose for a week or so while you order worms. If you don’t want to wait, you can skip this step by soaking, wringing out and then fluffing the cardboard / paper bedding.
- Order Worms: Not any worm will do; Red Wigglers or Eisenia Fetida is what you want.
You can order worms based on the amount of kitchen scraps your household makes or by the size of your container.
- Add Worms to Your Habitat: Add worms, cover with a damp burlap sack and loosely put on the container’s lid.
Maintain Your Worm Habitat for Vermicomposting
Feeding Your Worms: Worms can eat up to half of their weight in food every day. When you feed your worms, you can clear a hole and bury the food scraps OR you could layer the food scraps on top and cover them with bedding. Start slowly and remember that your worms will also be eating their bedding. Overfeeding is one of the main causes for worm bin problems and can lead to a stinky bin. Start off by checking the bin weekly to see how much food is left before adding more.
Harvest: In 2-6 months, you’ll notice the presence of what looks like dark brown coffee grounds. When you have an accumulation of the castings, it’s time to harvest the compost. Here are a few ways to get out that amazing worm poop.
Migrate Down Method – Worms are light sensitive, so this method involves shining lights on the top of your open worm bin to get the worms to burrow down. Give them a little bit of time to move lower in the bin. You can then remove the top layer of castings using your hands and a sieve. You’ll want to put any worms or worm eggs aside to add back to your bin. Repeat until you’ve removed almost all of the worm castings.
Side-by-Side Harvest – Go into your bin and push all of the castings to one side of the bin. Then fill the empty side of your bin with new bedding and food scraps. By the next day most of the worms will be on the food side and you’ll be able to scoop out the castings left on the opposite side.
Additional Resources on Vermicomposting:
- Cathy’s Crawly Composters | Frequently Asked Questions
- Red Worm Composting | Getting Started: Red Worm Composting
- Mother Earth News | A Step-By-Step Guide to Vermicomposting
LET ME KNOW!
What do you think? Why would you or wouldn’t you give worm composting a try?