Vermicomposting is the domestication of worms for agricultural use. (Good thing cause I heard they used to bite!). While taming those ferocious worms may seem like a daunting task, it’s really pretty easy, if you follow some simple rules. Is it right for you?
There are several things to look at when deciding to use worms to divert waste. Do you have small children running around? (kids LOVE worms) Are you in a confined space, for instance an apartment or condo? (worm bins can be very small and kept under the kitchen sink) Are you really bad when it comes to remembering to feed your pets? (Perhaps a single lady, on the go) Are you not much for gardening but would like to do what you can to divert your waste away from a landfill? Are cats no longer enough and you really could use a few thousand more pets? Then I have news for you…..You are the ideal worm composter.
Vermicomposting is a fairly low maintenance way to compost on a small or large scale. Remember, Beach Bums composts hundreds of diapers using this method. Although it is important to set up a nice environment for your worms, they are the ones doing all the work. Worms are incredibly forgiving and accommodating. They can go months without a lot of supervision and also enjoy some human interaction. We sing to ours on a regular basis. You do not need to take your worms for a walk each evening or hire a pet sitter when vacationing. They are not very picky and eat just about everything (including diapers). In fact, if I were going to be a decomposer, I’d want to be a worm. They eat their body weight every day. Just saying. I think that’s a gig I could handle.
Many home composters will have a worm bin and a traditional compost pile. The two work well together. Without getting too complicated, let’s set out the basics for vermicomposting and what you need to get started.
What do you need?
Your worms need a house. They like to entertain, throw crazy parties, and have worm orgies. They sell multilevel condo high-rises for your upscale worms or there is the mid-level multifamily worm bin, and the bare bones worm trailer. You can buy all kinds of vermicomposting bins. Google it. Make your own, or have nature take over and move some scoundrels in for you. Since you can look at all the different types of worm bins on your own time and there are a gazillion DIY tutorials on the subject I won’t bore you the details. I will help you furnish you worm house once you have one picked out.
Worms need a bed, a food source, and a place to make babies. Newspapers, egg cartons, coconut coir, shredded paper, (ahem) Broody Chick fully compostable diapers, all make excellent housing materials. Spread these down on the bottom of your worm bin. You want about 5 inches of bedding. Then dampen the bedding. A spray bottle works best.
Now put in some food. Worms eat almost anything. Kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, coffee grounds, left over pizza crust, old moldy pumpkins. There are a few things to stay away from. Pine needles, eucalyptus, Chili peppers, oleander, lots of grass clippings, meat, and dairy. Like I said, the worms will eat their bodyweight in food each day. Beware of overfeeding. The bin will get super stinky from rotting garbage and the worms will die. If you have a pound of worms then they can eat a pound of food. You can’t have too many worms but you can have too few. When in doubt, get some more worms.
Although worms are very low maintenance, there are a few things that will kill off your worm population.
The conditions are too dry- Worms need moisture in the bin in order to breathe.
You are over feeding the worms- a buildup of organic material may cause the bin to overheat or chase the worms away.
The bin is in the sun- worms are like vampires. They hate the sun and the heat. Warm sandy beaches in a tropical paradise is not a nice vacation spot for worms. Think decaying forest floor. They like between 40 and 80 degrees and will die at 90 degrees. So if your bin is outside consider a shaded spot or perhaps the garage.
Once you have created this great environment for decomposition, don’t be alarmed if all the neighbors want to get in on this action. It is perfectly normal to have other worm species, slugs, pill bugs, beetles,
millipedes, mites, or other creatures in your worm bin if your bin is outside. They are welcome to join in on the feast. If you have an indoor bin this should not be an issue and your red wrigglers will flourish all on their own.
Worm bins can be both fun and rewarding for your family and a fantastic alternative to traditional active composting. Do you have a worm bin? I’d love to see a picture of it.
When adding food to your worm bin make sure your cover it to decrease flies, vermin, and other pests from attacking your compost bin. Also,
remember that worms do not like the sun, if the worms are exposed to light they will crawl away deeper into the soil and at times leave your worm