* What is Worm Composting?
Vermiculture or vermicomposting is the use of worms to compost waste. Usually fruit, veggie and paper scraps. This can be done in a bin, pile or windrow. The finished product called castings (worm poop) can then be used as organic fertilizer Read More Worm farming is the ultimate way to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, all in one process. The worms reduce waste, you reuse materials when you make the bin or provide them with bedding and the recycling is done by the worms turning waste into usable organic fertilzer. How do you get started? STEP 1: Learn a bit about worm composting from different sources (You tube / Google articles etc.) Next read and learn about the worms. Red Wiggler worms are the preferred worm for bin composting. Some people do use nightcrawlers for composting but they are not used like the reds. STEP 2: The next item of business is building your worm bin. You can choose between a simple plastic tote bin, a wood bin, a retail unit or use a worm windrow. The choice is yours. STEP 3: Next you must think about worm food, bedding, maintaining a bin then harvesting the worms. More info we have put in below article (Just learn everything needed). Still confused about deciding between Worm bin or a traditional compost pile? (We have put an article on pro’s and Con’s to help you decide).
The Right Temperature
The RIGHT TEMP for red wiggler worms (eisenia foetida)are between 40-90 degrees , optimal is 70-80 degrees. Some protection from cold and heat will be necessary to keep worms alive and in working order.All that being said, worms will survive in temps below freezing and temps above 90. Heck, I live in Texas and we see weeks of 100 degree weather. BUT you must keep the bin temps between 40-90 and it is doable.
The Right Moisture
The RIGHT MOISTURE is around 80%. Some describe it as moist, some say like a wrung out sponge. I describe it as wet but not dripping. When you reach in and touch the bedding you should have moisture and debris on your hand. And if you pick up a handful of bedding and squeeze a few drops of water should drip out.
The Right Food
The third right is the RIGHT FOOD. Along with the right food is the right WAY to feed. Remember not only the proper food stock but only feed when all food is gone. Always ere on the side of underfeeding rather than overfeeding.
OVERWATERING. If you will be feeding fruit and veggie scraps to your worms, you will RARELY need to add water for moisture. The scraps will provide all the moisture necessary in most cases. Water your bin with a toiletry sprayer, not a garden watering can. Remember worms like it moist but they cannot swim.
OVERFEEDING is simple to understand – giving the worms too much food. I recommend two basic feeding principles.
1. When starting a new bin, start feeding 1/4 of worms weight. Most people suggest feeding their weight. Yes, maybe later but not at the beginning. Let them get used to their new home. So if you have a pound of worms start with 1/4 pound of feed.
2. Feed again ONLY when all food is gone. I say this over and over because it is a very common newbie mistake.
If the bin stinks, or smells sour, you have overfed. What do you do? Add more bedding and do not feed until all food is gone, this can take weeks sometimes.
OVERSTIMULATING. We the people are the worms worst nightmare. We just cannot seem to leave them alone. The oils on your hands can suffocate them, your frequent peeks and disturbing the bedding will do two major things: reduce breeding (yes even worms like privacy, lol) and reduce feeding. They simply like to be left alone. So resist the urge to mess with them too much. Try to keep feeds/checks to once per week or less.
Worm farming is the ultimate way to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, all in one process. The worms reduce waste, you reuse materials when you make the bin or provide them with bedding and the recycling is done by the worms turning waste into usable organic fertilzer.
How do you get started?
STEP 1: Learn a bit about worm composting from different sources (You tube / Google articles etc.) Next read and learn about the worms. Red Wiggler worms are the preferred worm for bin composting. Some people do use nightcrawlers for composting but they are not used like the reds.
STEP 2: The next item of business is building your worm bin. You can choose between a simple plastic tote bin, a wood bin, a retail unit or use a worm windrow. The choice is yours.
STEP 3: Next you must think about worm food, bedding, maintaining a bin then harvesting the worms. More info we have put in below article (Just learn everything needed).
Still confused about deciding between Worm bin or a traditional compost pile? (We have put an article on pro’s and Con’s to help you decide).
Step 1Prepare for the task. How do you prepare for vermicomposting? Read up, watch videos, take a class. You can do all of the above right here on this website. We have over 150 pages of wormy content, videos, an online class too. Or you can take a local class and read one or both of these books:
Step 2Order your worms – Find a local supplier if possible, that way your worms are adjusted to your local climate. Red Wiggler worms are the worm of choice for bin composting. A good starter amount is 1 pound or many suppliers. One pound will compost the scraps for a family of 2.While you are waiting on your worms to arrive: complete the next two steps (before the worms get to you)
Step 3Make a bin. In the spirit of reducing- it is preferable to make a bin out of materials you are not using: maybe a 5 gallon bucket or an 18 gallon tote. Even a wooden crate or old fridge will work. It just needs to be opaque (not transluscent) AND have air holesOr buy one that is ready to go:
Step 4Prepare you bedding. A good starter mix is 1/2 peat moss or cococoir and 1/2 other material like newspaper/cardboard. A big mistake of new worm composters is starting with a bin of all newspaper in a new bin. Next wet down the bedding and wait 24 hours before adding your worms. Why? allow the moisture to even out AND the chlorine from your water to get out. The moisture should feel damp. If you grab a handful and squeeze you should get 1-2 drops of water out.
Step 5Place your worms on top of the bedding materials and shine a light on the bin for 8-12 hours. A simple lamp next to the bin will do, NO direct sun. Do NOT mess with them. Overstimulation is one of the 3 biggest mistakes of new worm farmers.
Step 6Step 5 Place your lid on the bin after the 8-12 hours with a light, and walk away from the bin for 2-3 days. NO FOOD YET. Let them chill out for a while.
Step 7Step 6Feed the worms 1/2 their weight. For a pound of worms feed 1/2 pound of food scraps or other acceptable worm food. Do NOT feed again until that food is gone.It will likely take a week the first feeding. Feed in one corner or area at a time, do not spread the food out over the whole bin.
Step 8Place 1″ of paper shreds on top of the food, to reduce fruit flies
Step 9Check the bin every 60-90 days to see if you need to harvest yet.
Step 10Use the finished castings (worm poop) in your garden.Once you have completed the above steps, you will have a healthy worm bin and you are ready to start all over again. hope this article on starting a worm farm was helpful.
Here is how it all works: We give our fruit/vegetable scraps to our worms The worms turn it into castingsWe use the castings as a natural fertilizer on our gardenand the cycle starts over again. Castings are often compared to expensive slow release fertilizers. Because they stay alive in the soil, they release nurtients long term. They contain beneficial nutrients but also contain live organisms that will not only nourish your plants but also serve as a pesticide and antifungal. In our opinion, worm castings are a win/win. Natural fertilizer and pesticide all in one. NO nasty chemicals that nobody would not want to expose their family to. YUCK. So how can you use it? Several options:
- As a top dressing : just scratch or hand mix it into the surface of the ground around your plant and water it in.
- As part of a starter mix for seedlings or new plants. We recommend 50% castings with 50% peat moss or coconut coir.
- As Worm Compost Tea to use as a root drench or folier spray. This is by far the most recommended method among gardeners for its fast results.
Rule #1 MaterialsThe right materials: if doing traditional composting the general rule is 60% brown materials to 40% green materials. These are often referred to as Carbons/Nitrogens. Colors make it simpler for me: Browns are fibers: newspaper, grass clippings, leaves, cardboard, straw. Greens are your fruit/veggie scraps. If you get this ratio OFF you can end up with a stinky mess. I start and end each layer of scraps with Browns. If you still cannot figure out the difference between green and brown, here is a simple test. Wet it down and wait 2-3 days, if it stinks, its green. If you are using a worm bin you can feed scraps and provide some bedding with each feed.
Rule #2 WaterProvide moisture: a traditional pile requires weekly watering to keep the decomposition process going. Dry= no processing but TOO wet= stinky mess. Should be moist but not dripping.
Rule #3 AirProviding oxygen to your pile is a critical step that many overlook. It is labor intensive: requires you to turn the materials in your pile. This should be performed at least monthly. Compost is living and all living things need air.
Rule #4 TemperatureGetting the internal temp to around 130-160 degrees will speed up decomposition AND help to kill off unwanted bacterias. Adding a compost activator can help to speed up this process. After this heating phase it will cool down to continue breaking down. Do all of the above right and you will have some beautiful black gold to use on your lawn in 8-12 weeks.
- Coconut coir (a renewable resource made from coconut husks, it is expensive due to shipping costs) OR
- Peat Moss (non renewable but cheap and easily accessible) OR
- Aged Manure (has to be aged for at least 8 weeks to go through the heating process and aged for 6+ months if the animals have been dewormed)
What do worms eat?Feeding scraps can have challenges. The main challenges are odor and fruit flies. We put my scraps in the our regular compost pile to allow them to decompose some, then give to the worms when partial composted. This method reduces pests and odor. Not to mention it speeds up the worms composting process. What can worms eat? Anything EXCEPT: Dairy, Meat, LOTs of citrus, LOTs of onions and dog/cat feces (they contain parasites and bacteria that this cold composting method will not eradicate) Just about everything else is ok but our recommendation is to MIX IT UP. Do not offer a lot of one thing until you know that the worms will tolerate it well. Below is a photo of what was under the watermelon from the above photo.
- Do NOT use chemically treated lumber
- Do NOT use stained wood
- Wax seal is ok
- Need to be fully enclosed with lid and bottom
Then you dilute this concentrate with 1 part WT concetrate and 3-4 parts (NON chlorinated water, pond water or rainwater). Use within 12 hours as a root drench or folier spray. ***vermicompost tea does NOT keep. If it begins to stink then that is a sign of it being anerobic (without oxygen) and it is not good to put on the plants at this point. Yuck. The whole idea of making worm tea is so that it is LIVE. So buying it prebottled at the store will not have these live properties. How much do you need to make? We usually brew 3 gallons at a time in a 5 gallon bucket. This makes enough to water my entire garden and flower beds. We have 3 4’x4′ raised veggie beds, approximately 10 containers with flowers, and 4 large (3’x10) flower beds. We do both folier spraying and root drenching once every 4 -6 weeks. If made properly, your plants will thank you by growing and producing beautifully. It will nourish them and help, work as an anti-fungal AND will help attract beneficial bugs to your garden. ITs a win/win/win. You should apply it every 6 weeks just like you would with a chemical fertilizer.
- Remove scraps from the house by freezing them or storing them outside until you feed to the worms
- Bury scraps in the bedding or place at least 2 inches of dry newspaper atop the bedding.
- Cover your entire bin with a peice of fabric (not plastic, bin must be able to areate/breathe.
- Consider using a fruit fly trap or fly tape
- Buy a compost thermometer to monitor temps. and conditions frequently
- Insulate bins (this can be as simple as wrapping with an old blanket or as fancy as foam insulation)
- Feed scraps that heat like lettuce and corn, but do not broadcast feed, feed in sections in case it heats too much so they have a cool area to move to if needed.
- Consider providing a heat source if you have outdoor bins with a constant temp below 40 degrees in the winter (this can be done with tube lighting, warm water currents or overhead lighting)
- Buy a compost thermometer and check bin temps and conditions frequently
- Pick seeds/help with planning
- Preparing the beds
- Planting the seedlings
- Weeding the garden
- Daily watering of the garden
- Applying compost tea
- HARVESTING and EATING!
- Rinse the poop to remove as much urine as possible before adding to pile/bin (most of the time horse manure is mixed with straw or shavings which will absorb the urine) worms dont like urine
- Make sure the horses have not be DEWORMED with a chemical dewormer, if they have then you need to let the manure sit for at least 8 weeks before adding to bin.
- fresh manure will heat, so let it sit for 3-4 weeks before adding to bin (I always let mine sit for 2 months before adding)
- Do not broadcast feed the poop in a worm bin, just in case it is “bad” or the worms dont like it, just feed in 1/4-1/2 of the bin so they have somewhere to go if they dont like it.
Bin BasicsIt needs to be opaque (not clear) It needs air holes It needs to be size appropriate for your order (1 square foot of space per pound of worms).
Bedding Basics:Use a starter bedding of EITHER coconut coir or peatmoss with some crushed eggs shells. NO paper/cardboard/leaves as starter bedding unless you plan on NOT feeding your bin scraps for 6-8 weeks while they work through the coarse materials.
Rule #1The bin should be opaque, not transulscent. Although I have heard of people using a clear container with descent results, worms prefer a dark environment
Rule #2Must have air holes. The container needs aeration for the red wriggler worms to survive. Otherwise it will become anaerobic and not a good thing. As food decomposes, there will be gasses needed to be released. The size of the holes is not important.
Rule #3The container needs to be the right size for the amount of worms it will house. Worms eat and breed better when they have room. They will self regulate if they get cramped (die off). They need about one square foot of space per pound. Roughly: 1/2 pound worms to a 5/10 gallon bin 1 pound to a 18/20 gallon bin 3-5 pounds to a 45/55 gallon drum/barrelNow you are ready to build the bin. When you have that completed, you should read up on worm environment: bedding, moisture, temp, food, etc. Also, our article- “the 3 wrongs of worm composting” is a helpful read.
SpaceA compost heap will require space. Your pile can be as small as 2’x2′ or as large as a football field. Many choose to have 2-3 heaps side by side so that when one becomes full, you can start another heap while waiting on heap #1 to finish decomposing.
MaterialsThis is an area that you will hear different advice. Suggestions will vary but generally a combination of 60% brown to 40% green is used. Some say carbon/nitrogen and some say brown/green. Browns refer to fiberous materials: leaves, cardboard, straw, paper, ect. Greens refer to food scraps, manure, ect. Basically, you can start and end each layer with browns.
AirAeration is VERY important for healthy compost. A pile without air is a stinky disgusting mucky mess. The simple way to add air to your pile is to turn it every week or two. It is labor intensive and some people opt to simple poke holes in the pile by turning a shovel upside down and driving it down into the pile in several spots.
MoistureA dry mound is a dead mound that will not decompose. Keeping a pile damp is key. A weekly rain shower will do the trick but if you dont get a rain, then you should water your pile yourself. A good practice is to keep a layer of straw atop your heap to keep moisture in. In summary, having the right space, the right materials, and providing air/water will set you on the right track to having successful pile composting. And you will likely reap the nutritious benefits within 2-3 months. You know it is ready for use when it looks like and smells like dirt.
- kitchen waste is placed in an airtight container
- Add a mother culture (micro-organisms)
- continue to layer scraps and culture until the container is full
- bury the contents of the container in the yard OR add to a regular compost pile
- Use alfalfa meal : just mulch a couple cups into the center of the pile, water and watch it heat.
- Mix in manure: horse, cow, chicken, goat, rabbit or other
- less space required
- speeds up the decomposing processRead More