Worm composting is also referred to by its more technical term – Vermiculture but both describe the same process of turning household food waste into an organic compost using composting worms. It is not a new system of home composting, but it is enjoying a massive rise in popularity.
With the growing green movement, people are very much aware of environmental issues. Recycling and how we manage our waste is of huge importance and as people try to adjust their lifestyles to be more eco-friendly, home composting methods have become almost fashionable.
The other reason is of course that home compost and in particular worm compost is fantastic for the garden so you get the best of both worlds – save the planet and get a useful free fertilizer. So how do we get started?
1. A Container
3. Waste(worm food)
You can buy a purpose made worm compost bin or you can go the DIY route and make your own. The compost bins and worm composting kits available today make life so much easier – they are clean and easy to use – ideal for getting started without any fuss. Worm composting kits also make great gift ideas for gardeners – a good way to get a friend or loved one started!
The ideal container should be fairly shallow; it is good to have a large surface area as this helps with the oxygen supply to the worms. It needs to be well aerated and have drainage holes to remove any excess water. Finally the container needs to be dark – worms do not like the light. If you make your own container consider using wood as it breathes and drains well.
Many people today are going for the ready made compost bins – they just make home composting so easy.
Try to think of it this way, you may be making compost but with this method you are also raising and breeding pets – worms! You really should try to remember that you are caring for worms and try to create the correct conditions for them to thrive. Bedding plays an important role in providing a good environment for your worms. The worms will need bedding, food and moisture to thrive in the container. Shredded cardboard makes a great bedding material, as does newspaper and even straw and leaves. For the best results try a mixture of leaves and shredded newspaper or cardboard. Moisture is crucial and it is a good idea to wet the bedding well before introducing the worms. Aim for the moisture to be similar to a damp sponge, not too wet.
What Waste to Use for Compost Making
Again, the waste you use is going to be food for your worms and will be the source of your compost so apply lashings of common sense here. Quite a lot of our kitchen food waste can be used and can be supplemented with green waste such as leaves and prunings from the garden but be sure to avoid weeds.
Some Good Food – fruit and vegetables, peelings, most scraps, bread, pasta, rice, coffee grounds and tea bags. Stick to organic items that will break down easily.
Some NO NO’s – meat and dairy products, oils grease and fat and pet waste.
Remember to be sensible here and avoid anything inorganic and chemicals etc. If possible, it is best to keep food waste out of the bin for a few days before giving it to the worms. This is because the food needs to have begun to break down before the worms can digest it. But do not worry, if you cannot keep it safely and easily just tuck it into the mixture of the bin, placing it just under the surface, the worms will soon get to it.
Worms For Composting
Most people do not realize before they start that not just any old worm can be used in vermiculture like this. The common earthworms we see in the garden would not survive this sort of treatment. There are several suitable types of worm for composting but the most common is the Red Worm, or Red Wiggler (Eisenia Fetida). These are a great little worm for the compost bin. They are quite tolerant of different temperatures – the ideal range is between 15c and 30c, and it is important to give some protection from the frost. If you get conditions in the compost container just right these Red worms will reproduce very quickly and increase your compost production.
To get started you are most likely going to need to buy some Red worms. They can be found in older manure piles, but this will not help unless you know what to look for. Another way may be to borrow some from a friend who already has a worm compost bin – as if! Bite the bullet and buy some top quality Red worms HERE. Remember start small with just a pound of worms and they will soon multiply and you can increase the amount you compost.
Rearing Worms for Composting
Once you get setup the system will soon become pretty low maintenance. Soon you will find a routine for adding the waste and maintaining the temperature and moisture levels. At the beginning this can seem difficult but it will soon become second nature. The beauty of this system for composting is that it is low maintenance and can be expanded. For efficient use of all your waste it can be a good idea to have two composting bins at a time. This ensures a constant supply of fresh compost and can use up more waste.
You should not have many major problems, but the most common problems would be bad smells and fruit flies. A healthy worm compost system should not have a bad smell, any smells would indicate a problem such as too much food waste put in at once or if the mix is too wet. If you are getting a bad smell, check the drainage holes and ease off on the food for a few days. If there is too much liquid in the mix try to pour some off and remeber to keep it for your plants – it is known as compost tea. Fruit flies can be a nuisance more than an actual problem. Keep the surface of the compost well covered and make sure to dig the food a little under the surface of the compost pile.
Harvest Great Organic Compost
There are many ways to actually harvest your compost for use, the way you choose will depend on how much compost you need and how dirty you want to get! A common method is to pile the finished compost to one side and put in fresh bedding and some food waste to the other side of the bin. In a few days most of the worms will have moved into the fresh area, leaving it easy to scoop out the compost you require. On a larger scale, tip the contents of the bin onto a sheet of plastic and manually separate the worms from the compost. This can be made easier by arranging it into piles on a bright sunny day. The worms don’t like the light and will go to the bottom leaving it easy to separate them from the compost. Always remember to leave some of the old compost to help get the next batch off to a good start.
There is much more to learn about worm composting and you will find many people have different techniques they swear by. You can get started by buying a ready to go worm composting kit – with everything included – so easy for beginners. Whether you decide to go the DIY route or with a kit, the principles you learn are the same. The best way to learn is by having a go – its fun, eco friendly and the kids will love it.
Composting organic waste beyond ordinary compost in a medium-sized vermicomposting system.