worm compost

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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2 thoughts on “Nine Practical Tips for Making Worm Compost”

  1. I have made a worm compost outside and I live in the pacific south west. we had a bit of freezing not much usually a lot of rain.
    so I made a box like a small garden bed 4×4 I put cardboard soaked with water first and filled it with dirt and some compost and some food scraps. i covered it with chicken wire and then cardboard then put some lose 2×4’s across the top and then black plastic draped over to keep the rain out. I put a bunch of worms that I gathered from the yard and every 2 or 3 weeks I put in some food scraps. i will add the egg shells you talked about. I will see what I get for worm castings this spring. I
    In the spring or summer what would you suggest I do with this box maybe use the worms in my garden beds and plant some veg in the box than start again next year.
    thank you Doni

  2. I’d dig out 1/2 to 2/3 of the bed – spread it on the garden. Fill the empty half with cardboard and food scraps etc again. The remaining worms will colonize that. In the fall, I’d start at the other end (the original worms) and take out 1/2 to 2/3 of the bed. Fill the bin again. Always leave a colony of worm in one section and use the other section. Keep reversing the side on each harvest.

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