Nine Practical Tips for Making Worm Compost

Worm compost or vermiculture is one of the most interesting ways of creating compost that I’ve played with. I particularly like it because compost made this way has a higher nitrogen value than regular compost and is a more balanced source of both beneficial bacteria and fungi than regular compost. By using this material in compost tea you’ll get a much better tea with a lot less work.

Vermiculture or worm compost is ideal for improving a garden without the bother of turning and working on compost piles. Let the worms do it for you.

The advantages to vermiculture are considerable

Food scraps are disposed of without having to go to landfills. They are disposed of in a way that does not encourage rodents or other pests.
Your houseplants can be fed worm castings directly or you can make small batches of worm compost tea to keep all your plants (indoors and out) happy.

If you’re an apartment dweller or balcony gardener, then vermiculture or worm composting is the way to go. You’ll get all the benefits of regular compost and you can create a mini-paradise on the 29th floor.

Vermiculture is also ideal for starting to repopulate your gardens with worms. If you’ve been using synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, you’ve knocked your worm populations down; replace them with the extra worms you’ll produce. (well fed worms lay lots of eggs and you’ll have a bumper crop of baby worms to release into the wild!)

And finally, if you fish or keep fish or other pets that eat worms, you’ll be saving some money by producing your own.

Rules of Thumb

  • A pound of worms will eat 1/2 pound of food scraps a day.
  • Worms do not like high temperatures like when I put them next to the electric heating coil in my office last year. I killed a whole bunch of worms. They survive between 40F and 80F.
  • The addition of pet feces to worm bins is NOT recommended.
  • Red worms (the ones you want in your bin) produce an egg capsule every 14-21 days and each capsule contains 12 or so baby worms. I note that red worms are hermaphroditic.
  • A handful of dolomitic lime or pulverized eggshells will help keep the worm bin neutral to alkaline rather than acidic as the food and paper decomposes.

Instructions for operating your vermiculture operation or worm compost bin

  • I use a regular plastic tote bin for my worm farm (although it is a little small for riding around and checking on the stock) 🙂
  • I use old newspapers for my bedding and rip them into strips for using in the bin. I soak them for five minutes or so in a pail and the put them in the bin. I mix dry and damp strips to try to get a mix that feels damp to my hand but doesn’t have any excessive moisture sitting on the bottom of the bin.
  • If the bin starts to get a little wet. I rip up a few more strips and push them down the side of the bin into the damp area on the bottom. These dry newspapers soak up excess moisture.
  • Food scraps go into the bin whenever I go upstairs from the kitchen and think about it. I pull the paper away from a different area each day and drop the food into the bin. I then cover the area back up and walk away. Easy!
  • Every few months when the paper is all eaten and the bin is getting full, I empty the bin. Generally, I’m a lazy gardener and put a bunch of new food in one side of the bin – feeding the one side for a week or more while ignoring the other side. This lures most of the worms over to the feeding side. I can then dig out the non-feeding side and harvest those worm castings. I then refill this half with clean bedding and start feeding over on the clean side. A few weeks later, the worms will have moved again and I’ll remove the other completed side.

Doug’s Summmary Notes

I know some folks don’t like the idea of having a worm bin anywhere in the house. I didn’t mind it because it was odour free and sat in the corner of my office. It was only when we started going South for the winter, I stopped. The worms didn’t appreciate being in a very cold house all winter and not being fed. It wasn’t good. I still have the bins and some day I’ll set them back up.

After all, I love easy gardening and this is the easiest way I know to make compost.

Update: January 2019. I no longer have a worm bin. The reality of living in the north and travelling during the winter means I come home to dead worms. The data is good folks, but it’s like anything else – if you’re around to take care of them – fine. If not…

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Three Real Uses For Coffee Grounds And Gardening

Coffee grounds and gardening might not seem like a match made in heaven as there’s some evidence to show that we should be using this very abundant waste product in our gardening efforts.

And most of us have lots of this product so here’s how to work both ends against the middle and use this product.

The first thing to be aware of is there’s a lot of misinformation and unproven data out there about coffee grounds in the garden.

The Research on Coffee Grounds & Slugs

The research on slugs and caffeine shows that concentrations of caffeine as low as .01 % reduces feeding by slugs (they avoid caffeine treated leaves) but that it doesn’t kill them at that rate.

A 1% solution can be expected to kill 60% of slugs while a 2% caffeine solution will knock out 95% of all slugs. This 2% solution is more effective than the chemical normally used in slug control. (metaldehyde)

The 2% solution also damaged some foliage on the tropical plants being used to feed the slugs. This calls into caution the use of caffeine on more tender leaved plants.

So where does this leave you with your morning coffee grounds – and your garden uses?

Fresh coffee contains approximately .05% caffeine. Which is a heck of a long way from the 1% solution you need.

This means that coffee grounds and fresh coffee will not kill slugs.

Coffee Grounds In The Garden Mulch?


Used coffee grounds make an excellent mulch. Note that they are acidic with a pH of between 3.0 and 5.0.

BUT when they finish decomposing, they will be neutral (finished compost tends to be neutral) So they do not turn the soil acidic.

They can be used thinly all over the regular garden as organic matter so you can simply toss your used coffee grounds onto the garden if you like. Unless you’re adding inches of this stuff (in truckload quantities) to the garden, you’re not going to see a difference in your soil pH.

If you do add a massive quantity in one spot, you may want to dig them into the garden as there are reports that they will develop a fungal layer if left exposed to the air.

Coffee Grounds and Worms

Coffee grounds are beloved by worms. I used to have a worm bin and you could almost hear the cheer when I toss in the morning’s makings of used coffee grounds.

So if you have a vermiculture setup, use the grounds as a food source. If not, simply toss them onto the garden and the worms will find them.

Toss them out daily into the garden or into the compost bin to avoid fly buildups.

Composting Coffee Grounds

And they should go into your regular compost bin because they compost very well in the compost bin. They have a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 20:1, roughly the same as grass clippings. After making the morning wakeup, coffee grounds contain up to 2% nitrogen. So for composting purposes, consider coffee grounds “green” material similar to grass clippings.

And one of the interesting things about composting coffee grounds is that the microbes that do the composting will turn the coffee from acidic to a neutral pH.

So coffee does not make compost acidic.

So that’s all the real news about coffee grounds and gardening.

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Doug’s Summary Notes

I hope this clears up some of the worst of the coffee ground garden rumours.

The one I hear the most is that the grounds will kill slugs or deter insects. If you get lucky, they “may” deter (and I wouldn’t even count on that) but they surely don’t kill.

But they are excellent organic matter to add to the garden.

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