Vermicomposting: A Foolproof Guide to Harnessing Worm Poop in 6 Steps

Garden 12

Slender, slimy, wiggly worms. We all know they are good for the garden, and a fisherman’s best buddy. What you might not know is that they are also the ideal secret weapon for the compost bin. Those little wrigglers are constantly eating and pooping, recycling organic waste and bringing oxygen into even the densest material. With vermicomposting, you can easily – and affordably – harness all that worm energy to make terrific fertilizer.

This article will show you how.

What Is Vermicomposting?

A blue glove with a worm from a Vermicompost pileA blue glove with a worm from a Vermicompost pile

Worms are not just good for catching fish or aerating dense soil, and there’s a growing trend to raise worms. Why you may ask? Because the end product of worms is delightful!

Vermiculture is the science of raising worms – vermi means worm in Latin. Vermiculture is the practice of keeping worms with the purpose of making dark rich castings (that’s worm poop)! This nutrient-rich humus is an excellent source of nutrients for your garden.

You might not think about worm poop when you think about composting, but trust me, you’ll want to start.  Cultivating worms for compost is an easy process, and the results are hard to beat for the price. Plus, there’s the added benefit of not having to use chemicals or pricey additives to make your compost exceptional.

Why Raise Worms?

Vermicomposting wormsVermicomposting worms

Worms are surprisingly easy to raise and the resulting vermicompost is a wonderful mix of worm castings, humus, and decaying organic matter. It’s nutrient-rich and makes a great organic fertilizer or soil conditioner.

Worm castings help the earth retain moisture and adds microbes to the soil, improving the texture and composition of your soil.

How to Get Started What Type of Housing Do Your Worms Need?

You can buy a fancy vermicomposting bin or you can make your own. Some important things to keep in mind: you want your housing to meet the needs of the number of worms and amount of garbage you have to feed them.

For example, a 2-foot square plastic bin that is 8-inches tall can house enough worms and handle about four pounds of leftovers each week. A shallow container is best for worms. Worms are surface eaters and they will hang out in the top layers where the food is.

Worms need lots of air flow, which makes a wider shallow box better than a tall, layered box. Additionally, red wigglers prefer a shallow bin whereas an earthworm wants to dig deep into the earth.

Stay away from metal boxes, which can get too hot, and Styrofoam bins, which can release chemicals. Some woods, like cedarwood, contain oils that are harmful to the little wrigglers, so keep an eye out. Don’t use anything that has been treated with pesticides as this can kill your worms.

During the summer, you can keep your worms outdoors. In the cooler seasons, a heated area is best since warm temperatures are what keeps them working hard. During winter, you can raise worms in your kitchen, a garage or basement. They are most likely to feed in temps 60 – 80ºF.

Step One: Make A Simple Worm Bin

Vermicomposting set up with blue plastic bins and a drillVermicomposting set up with blue plastic bins and a drill

Step one is to give your worms a place to live. To get started with an easy vermiculture composting unit purchase a plastic bin roughly 2-foot by 2-foot by 8-inch in diameter. If you use a plastic bin be sure to drill numerous holes in the top as well as some in the sides.

You can buy a deeper bin if you want, but be sure to put in even more holes in the sides to keep air circulating. You also need holes in the bottom for drainage. When placing your worm bin raise it up on pieces of scrap wood or blocks and add a tray underneath.

You will want to place your worm bin in a warm area but away from sunlight. A shady area in a garden, below the kitchen sink, or a shelf in the back of the basement are all workable options.

Make sure to place your worm bin where the family cat can’t reach it. You don’t want cat urine in your worm box!

Students leaning over a vermicomposting binStudents leaning over a vermicomposting bin

If you have young children in your life then vermicomposting is a perfect learning experience for them. It is fun to use a clear plastic bin so that you can observe your worms at work over time. With a clear bin, you can see the layers of the earth and how the worms eat and mix the food and castings into the soil.



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