Vermicomposting: Creating Compost with Worms

1 of 4 in Series: The Essentials of Worm Composting

Vermicomposting, having worms break down table scraps and paper into nutrient-rich fertilizer, is an ideal way to deal with small amounts of household waste and is perfect for creating compost if you don't have much outside space. A worm farm is basically an aerated bin in which you combine worms, paper bedding, and compostable food and paper scraps. The worms munch the vegetable and fruit peelings, paper, and cardboard that you put in the top of the worm farm, and they process it through their digestive systems to come out the other end as worm castings — very effective compost.

Follow these steps to create your worm composting system:

  1. Buy a worm farm kit or box from your local municipality or garden center or from a supplier over the Internet.

    The farm often resembles a household plastic storage bin with holes punched in the top and a lid.

  2. Follow the kit's instructions to create a bed for the worms, usually from a mix of shredded newspaper, leaves, cardboard, dry grass, and straw.

    The bedding needs to be moist, but not wet. If it feels like a well-wrung sponge, it's right.

  3. Gather the necessary start-up material: red earthworms.

    Your kit probably comes with the worms; if not, buy them from a worm supplier, which you can find at garden centers and via the Internet. For a worm farm to work properly, you need the right type of worms; most experts recommend red earthworms.

  4. Every few days, or as your kit's instructions indicate, add food scraps to feed your worms.

    Compostable material such as vegetable and fruit scraps, tea leaves, and coffee grounds are great worm food. Chop up the larger scraps to make the worms' job easier. Add the material to the bins (you usually need to bury it slightly in the bedding).

  5. Harvest your compost after three to six months.

    When you notice that the food and bedding has become quite a bit darker, and you can see that it's being converted to compost, it's time to harvest. If you shine a light into the bin, the worms will move away from it, allowing you to scoop out the compost in the top layers.

Many kits also provide a way to collect the liquid produced in the composting process, which is known as tea and can be used as liquid fertilizer for plants. After the harvest, start your composting again by adding fresh bedding and food to the bin.

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The Essentials of Worm Composting

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