or worm composting, is the decomposing of organic waste with red
worms. It is a very convenient way of composting for apartment
dwellers, school staff and students, persons with disabilities,
office workers, elderly persons and anyone else who would have
difficulty maintaining an outdoor compost pile.
a fine black granular compost called "castings".
Worm castings are an excellent source of slow-release soil nutrients
for your plants or lawn. They also act as an excellent soil additive
that prevents the caking of soil in potted plants.
Creating a Home for Your Worms
Red worms can live in bins made from plastic or wood. These containers
are partially filled with bedding material, most
commonly peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded cardboard, straw
or a combination of these materials.
The worm bedding should be kept as moist as a well-wrung sponge.
Occasionally, the bedding can become too wet and needs
to be gently loosened with a hand cultivator or small garden
Redworms prefer a bedding that it slightly acidic. However,
if the bedding is all peat moss, or the materials added
acidic, add crushed and dried egg shells to reduce the
Red worms are very sensitive to light and need an opaque bin
that has a lid or a dark plastic bag
placed over the bedding
to keep out the light.
Most bins also have some means of ventilation, either through
holes drilled in the bin
itself or a system of
that runs through the bin from one side to another.
Additional dry bedding material can also be added to help keep
in the bedding.
Worm bins with holes in the bottom for drainage should be placed
on one by two inch blocks
a plastic tray. The tray
will collect any liquid which may drain from the
bin. A piece of sheer fabric should be laid over the drainage
holes to prevent
the worms from falling through.
Size of Your Bin
The following guide will help you decide what size of bin you
will need. You should keep in mind that red worms eat their own
weight in food every day. In other words, if you produce two pounds
of food waste everyday, then you should have two pounds of worms
in your bin. If you find that your red worms are being overfed,
simply get another bin and more worms.
|1 to 2
||2' x 2'
(60 x 60 x 30 cm)
|2 to 3
2' x 1'
( 75 x 60 x 30 cm)
|4 to 6
||3 to 4
lbs. (1.4 to 1.8 kg)
||3' x 2'
(90 x 60 x 30 cm)
Finding Your Worms
Redworms are available
for purchase from commercial growers, but can also be found for
free in your own backyard! They are small,
under four inches in length, and red, with alternating dark and
light brown stripes. Redworms live in organic matter which is in
contact with the ground. You will find them in decomposing leaves
and decaying plant waste, manure, and the cooler decomposed parts
of a compost pile. They generally live within the top four inches
of soil, thus they are called the "surface feeders" of
the earthworm family.
Note: Redworms are not
the worms that appear on roads and sidewalks after a rainfall.
Red worms, a.k.a. red wrigglers, trout worms, manure worms or
tiger worms, eat almost everything that humans eat. Worms should
be fed at least every few days. Simply bury the food scraps a minimum
of one inch below the surface of the bedding and leave for the
worms to eat. Fresh food waste decomposes in about a week or two.
Harvesting the Bin
Every three to six months the red worms will
have converted the food wastes and their bedding into a mass of
rich dark castings.
When the volume of the bedding has decreased, becomes noticeably
darker, and you begin to see individual castings, it is then time
to change or "harvest" the bedding. Worms do not survive
in their own waste and must have it removed.
Methods of Harvesting
Layering: Expose the contents of the bin to light. This will cause
the worms to work their way down towards the bottom of the bin,
as they will try to avoid the light. As they move downward, remove
one layer of compost at a time. The last layer will be mostly worms.
Add new bedding and the vermicomposting process will start again.
half the original quantity of fresh bedding. Pull the contents
of the bin to one side and add the new bedding to
the cleared side. Bury the food waste in the new bedding
and let the worms find their way to it. After one to two weeks,
make sure most of the worms have moved to the new bedding.
Pick out any remaining worms. Then remove the old bedding.
process, when necessary, alternating each half of the bin
for new bedding.
Removal for Gardening: Remove
about two-thirds of the contents of the bin, and use the compost,
complete with worms, directly
on your garden during the gardening season. Fresh bedding
can then be placed in the bin, as there should be enough
worms and cocoons
to populate the new bedding. Make sure that you do not
overfeed the worms at this time.
Pile and Sort: Dump
the contents of the bin onto a large plastic sheet and separate
into small cone-shaped piles.
Place a bright
light above the sheet. The worms will move down away from
the light and you can then remove the compost from the
top of each pile.
A small pile of worms will remain, which can then be weighed.
Add fresh bedding and replace the correct amount of worms.
can be used to start another bin for you or someone else.