Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting With Worms

Share: 

Rate this Post: 

Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

Have you abandoned your compost pile because you’re tired of trudging outsideto dump your kitchen scraps onto a frozen pile? Do you feel guilty about adding biodegradable waste to the tons of trash already at the transfer station? How about using worms to turn your kitchen scraps into fertilizer.

Called vermicomposting, having earthworms eat your garbage is an easy way to recycle food waste indoors year round. It is great science project for the kids and if you don’t get too attached to the little critters, you can even sell your extra worms to other composters and fishermen (they make great bait!).

Aristotle nailed it when he called worms the “intestines of the earth.” Consisting of an alimentary tube surrounded by muscular rings, the earthworm was built for digestion and everything in its path is something to be devoured. Ingested materials undergo chemical changes during digestion, resulting in a humus of neutral pH that is rich in water-soluable plant food immediately available for plant nutrition.

Worms are one of the strongest “animals” for their size, characterized as being as flexible as silk but as strong as steel. Charles Darwin studied earthworms for 45 years and one German researcher claimed that worms could sing! (I have kept a wormbox for years and have gotten some awesome compost but I still haven’t heard any singing from them.)

A basic wormbox is easy to make from an 18 gallon plastic storage container or you can purchase a ready-made box.

worms_001_full_width.jpg

Fill the box with about 6 inches of damp, shredded newspaper mixed with a shovelful of dirt. I have killed worms by letting them get too dry and also letting them get too wet. Their bedding must be kept moist but not soggy; about as damp as a moist sponge. If it gets too wet you can always add more dry newspaper.

Red worms or red wrigglers (Lumbricus rubellus) are the best for home composting because they eat a lot, reproduce fast, don’t smell, and won’t try to escape. One pound of worms (about 1,000) will eat 1/2 pound of food scraps per day. Within a few months you will have four times the number of worms capable of eating four times as much. These worms are not cold hardy and need to be kept in a place that is between 50 to 80 degrees. Since they are nocturnal and sensitive to light, they come to the surface to feed at night and should be kept in a dark place.

Some of their favorite foods are coffee grounds, tea leaves, pasta, rice, bread, and cereal. Some commercial growers use cornmeal to fatten them up before shipping.

worms_004_full_width.jpg

Crushed eggshells, banana peels, melons, plant clippings, and vegetable & fruit scraps are also favored fare. Go easy on citrus peels and never feed them meat, bones, oils, fat, or vinegar. Food scraps are more quickly digested if cut up small. One worm farmer I know buzzes his kitchen scraps in the food processor before adding them to the worm box. Bury the scraps in the top 1 to 3 inches of bedding to prevent odors and fruit flies. In 4 to 6 months you’ll have a box full of finished compost high in calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and magnesium. Top dress your houseplants and garden plants with it, add it to potting soil when repotting plants, or make a compost tea from it to water your plants. You’ll be amazed at the results!

~ By  Robin Sweetser

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

What do you want to read next?

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Worms!

This reminds me about the 3 containers by the composter that I still have to dump in! Anyway, I didn't realize I could sell my worms. They moved in from the ground early on and; I noticed an explosion of them in October. Now I have hundreds more... loads of little baby worms. Putting old compost into my garden; I was picking them out left and right to toss back in the bin, just in case my bed get's too dry while Waiting on my seedlings... Now I think I have to let the bed dry out! I'll move on to see if I can find a post about an organic way to remove weeds. In a turn of serious irony; my yard is full of weeds and, my garden box is full of grass. If only it were large weeds I could just pull up. It's just clumps of grass and roots. ::Sigh:: Maybe I should just grow sod.

Free Almanac Newsletters

Weather, sky watch, gardening, recipes, good deals, and everyday advice!