Everything You Need to Know About Worm Composting
All The Facts You Need to Know About Worm Composting
Recycling your food scraps is no longer a niche preference for California residents; the law requires it! As an environmentally conscious business, we are on board with the change. If you’re looking for an alternative to green waste recycling, we highly recommend worm composting for your kitchen food wastes, which is also called vermicomposting. It’s great for the environment and you can use it in your garden for healthy soil enrichment.
What is Worm Composting?
Whether you are well-versed in composting your kitchen scraps or just getting started, worm composting is worth trying! Vermicompost improves soil structure, improves aeration in heavy clay soils, and makes it easier for sandy soils to hold moisture.
Under ideal conditions, worms eat their weight in vegetation per day, so worm composting is an efficient way to compost your kitchen scraps and other organic matter. Since worms tend to break down vegetation faster than the traditional composting process, there is essentially no odor, and you can do it indoors or out.
Worm composting also creates a far higher quality finished compost. Worm castings contain a worm’s mucus and gut bacteria, which sounds a little gross, but they contain microbes and substances that are very organic, extremely beneficial to plants and completely safe for your vegetable gardens. Added benefits include an increase in nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the ability to make minerals in the surrounding soil available to plants more quickly.
How to Vermicompost at Home
Worm composting is quite easy once you have the setup! There are many different commercial versions, which will come pretty much ready to go, but you can also save some money by creating a DIY worm composting bin at home out of Rubbermaid-type bins.
The basic concept of a worm composting bin is two bins stacked inside each other with some space between them. The inside bin will have holes in the bottom and contain your worms and compost, and the outer bin will catch any draining water. To make this, you will need:
- Two Rubbermaid bins of the same size, at least 10 gallons, and one lid to fit
- A drill
- A spacer to elevate the inside bin (scrap 2x4s are perfect)
- Landscaping fabric
Set up your inside bin by drilling several holes in the base for water to drain out of, and then drill holes in the lid to let oxygen in for your worms. Line this bin and the lid with landscaping fabric to keep your worms inside the bin and let water pass through. Put your spacers in the bottom of your base bin (with no holes) and set the holey one inside.
The next step is to get some starter material! Aged horse manure works beautifully as a starter medium for a worm composting bin, but you can also start with yard waste, shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard, and some topsoil. The idea is to create bedding that will hold moisture. Fill the first 8-10 inches of the bottom of the bin with your starter material, then add a layer of topsoil and wet it sufficiently before adding your worms. You will need 1-2 pounds of worms for this container; be sure to use red worms for composting as regular earthworms will not work! Add a layer of food scraps on the top, close your bin, and leave it for a week or two!
Maintaining Your Worm Composting Bin
Your worms will be happiest in a warm (but not hot), dark environment with oxygen and moisture. If you keep your worm composting bin under ideal conditions, your worms should be able to eat their weight in kitchen scraps per day. However, it is best to air on the side of caution and feed them their weight in scraps 1-2 times per week until you can better gauge how quickly they are eating. Be sure to empty the bottom bin for any water that has drained out.
Ensure that you balance your green items, such as kitchen scraps, old produce, and grass clippings, with brown items, such as dried leaves, shredded non-colored newspaper, uncoated cardboard, and decomposing mulch. Worms will eat just about anything you would put in a traditional compost bin, but there are some exceptions: citrus will kill your hard-working worms, and meat, dairy, onions, and garlic will smell!
If you are interested in learning more about vermicomposting, have questions about organic compost in your garden, want to shop for a vermicomposting kit and red worms, or need gardening supplies, stop by Roger’s Gardens for a visit!