Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System
Consider vermicomposting during the winter to provide container plants with nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Composting outdoors is wonderful, but it requires space and, in most climates, the warmer temperatures of spring, summer and fall. Just because it’s winter or you don’t have much outdoor space doesn’t mean you have to send your kitchen scraps to the landfill. You can easily compost indoors with helpful wiggly worms.
For help on starting your worm bin read 7 Tips for Setting Up a Worm Bin.
Using earthworms and microorganisms to convert organic waste into black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus is known as “vermicomposting.” The whole vermicomposting process is simple, and it results in wonderful fertilizer for your container plants and compost for your garden.
Vermicompost is the compost you get from a worm bin system, which includes both castings and decomposed matter. Castings are the nutrient-rich waste worms create. They are excellent as a topdressing fertilizer for container and garden plants. Along with worms, a vermicomposting system has naturally occurring microorganisms that help decompose kitchen scraps and, over time, the worms’ organic bedding material.
What Do Worms Need?
Many kinds of worms break down garbage, but for vermicomposting, red worms (Eisenia fetida, or “red wigglers”) are best. They can be shipped easily. Order them through Worm’s Way or Green Greg’s Garden and Worm Farm. To make your worms happy, consider these conditions.
Temperature: Red worms convert waste best at temperatures between 59 and 77 degrees, but they can also plow through garbage in a basement bin with temperatures as low as 50 degrees.
Moisture: Worms need moisture to live. Add water to bedding as necessary to maintain uniform dampness—no standing water.
Acidity: Slightly acid conditions are best. Though worms can tolerate a wide range of pHs, too much acidic food—such as citrus and vinegar—introduced all at once can kill them.
Ventilation: Air circulation is vital. Worms need oxygen, and aerated compost smells earthy; lack of air can lead to odors.
What kind of Worm Bin Do I Need?
A variety of containers, including commercially made vermicomposting units, homemade wood or plastic boxes, and galvanized garbage cans, make satisfactory bins. The secret to an odor-free bin is plenty of oxygen. To let air in, the container must have holes in the top, sides or bottom. To keep flies out, cover the air holes with mesh. The ideal worm bin is shallow, usually no more than 12 to 18 inches deep—the more surface area, the better. The size of your bin depends on how much kitchen waste you produce: Assume a few pounds per week per person. It is not at all an exact science, but plan on about 1 square foot of surface area for each pound of garbage per week. For a family of four, we can guess around 10 pounds of kitchen waste per week, requiring a bin with a surface area of 10 square feet. I recommend a worm to daily garbage ratio of 2:1. The family producing 10 pounds of food waste a week, or about 1.4 pounds a day, will want just under 3 pounds of worms to start.
Read more via Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System.