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.
The guy who does all the work in my worm compost bin
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.