Worm Composting 101: All You Need to Know about this Recycling Method

Worm composting – or vermicomposting – is one of the fastest ways to recycle your kitchen scraps and reduce the waste produced by your household. It’s the proverbial win-win situation: you compost your food waste rapidly, and the worms produce high-quality compost soil that you can use as fertilizer for your garden.

Best of all, if done right, this recycling method is not just self-contained, but also nearly odorless. While worms help you dispose of your vegetable peels in a clean way, they also save you space in the county landfill, which is very eco-friendly. Do you have a garden or any potted plants? Homegrown compost will provide you with the best way to feed and nurture your plants.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get started with worm composting.

What You Need to Get Started

Container

You have multiple options: Purchase a plastic bin, create your own plastic storage, or build a worm bin out of wood or bricks. These are all low-cost solutions, so feel free to choose whichever you like better and is more convenient for you.

Bedding

Believe it or not, but the ideal bedding for worms is made up of leaves, shredded wet newspaper, and moist cardboard. While the bedding should not be dripping with water, you should know that worms thrive in an environment that is about 75 percent water.

Moisture

Not giving your worms enough of a moist environment and they will eventually shrivel up and die. Give them too much moisture, however, and your fertilizer production will be significantly slowed down.

Worms

How can you vermicompost without worms? Worm composting is best done with red worms (also known as red wiggler or manure worms). They thrive on food waste and other organic materials. About 500-2,000 red worms will be enough to begin with.

On the other hand, dew-worms – the kind you see on sidewalks after a rainfall – will do you no good. Their lifestyle usually involves your back yard, digging through the dark soil.

Food Scraps

Now that you have the compost bin, the bedding, the right moisture, and the worms, you need one more thing: kitchen scraps. Worms are crazy over your veggie and fruit peels. However, make sure you give them quality food scraps, while also avoiding anything fatty or meaty. Worms work only with the stuff that usually goes into the regular compost pile.

Step 1: Get a Container

Buy (or build) a wooden or plastic bin; make sure you have a tight-fitting lid for it. The bin should include some must-have features: drainage holes on bottom, air vents on top and sides, and a bottom catch tray. As far as location goes, you can place your worm bins in the basement, shed, garage, balcony, or even on your kitchen counter.

It’s important to keep your compost production out of the hot sun and heavy rain. Worms thrive in temperatures between 40°F/4.4°C and 80°F/27°C. Temperatures in the 70s(F) are perfect for them.

Step 2: Add the Bedding

The bedding of a worm bin must check two features: (1) provide a home for the worms and (2) retain both moisture and air properly. Vary the materials for bedding to provide the worms with more nutrients: shredded newspaper and cardboard (don’t worry about the ink), shredded fall leaves, dried grass clippings, and other dead plants.

You can also buy commercially prepared worm bedding, which can be purchased from sporting goods stores.

Bedding Tips:

  • Moisten any bedding with enough water. The best method is to put the materials in a large container, cover them with water and let the bedding material absorb as much water as possible.
  • The worm bin should be 2/3 full with bedding. Keep extra bedding on hand for further production.
  • Lifting the bedding is an important tip for odor control. At the same time, it creates air spaces to allow worms free movement inside the compost bin.
  • Add sand and soil to the bedding; it will provide grit for the worm’s digestion.

Step 3: Add Red Worms

The worms used in vermicomposting are scientifically called Eisenia foetida. While you need up to 2000 of the little wigglers to start a thriving compost production, keep in mind that they multiply quickly.

Provided they have adequate food and a good home, worms can double in numbers every 90 days. If you’re a beginner, start out with slightly fewer worms than you think you might need. Your worm population will soon increase to fill the demand for recycling organic waste.

Adding the worms to the bin is as simple as scattering them over the bedding. Because they like darkness, they will immediately work their way down into the bedding.

Step 4: Add Food Scraps

The simplest method is to spread the food scraps you want to turn into compost in a thin layer on top of the bedding. The red worms will soon surface to eat the scraps. However, if you want to be more meticulous and accelerate the production, alternate bedding layers with food scrape layers.

Useful tip: If you notice odors, you should consider reducing the amount of food or. You could also chop the food up into smaller pieces. Remember that citrus scrapes and peelings give off a noticeable odor and they take longer to be composted.

Step 5: Harvest

Vermicomposting is one of the fastest ways to turn your kitchen scraps into rich soil fertilizer. The organic material will pass through the worms and become worm castings in about 12-16 weeks.

Even though you have multiple options when it comes to harvesting the worm castings, the easiest method is dumping the contents of the worm bin onto a tarp. Sort through the pile and remove the worms and the undigested food scraps and bedding. Then return the worms and remaining material back into the bin, add fresh bedding and wait for the composting process to start all over again.


As you can see, worm composting is not a complicated business. You don’t need a lot of items to get started and it can help you reduce your household waste. Vermicomposting can also be a project you start with your kids, using it to teach them about the importance of leading a sustainable green lifestyle.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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