Composting is the process of producing a rich soil amendment from decomposing organic matter such as vegetable peels, spoiled fruit, dead leaves and grass clippings. You can produce this soil conditioner by using traditional composting methods, such as piles or rotating bins, or by using worm composting, also called vermicomposting. Both composting styles have avid supporters but you'll need to consider your own needs and style of living in order to determine which method is best for you.
Traditional methods of composting require that you collect organic materials in a pile or bin and provide oxygen and water to help microorganisms decompose the materials. You need to provide the correct balance of carbon-rich materials and nitrogen-rich materials, as well, to allow these organisms to flourish. Worm composting requires you to collect kitchen food scraps and place them in a small bin for red worms to consume them, thus producing worm compost. Your worms need a thick bedding constructed from materials such as shredded newspapers and cardboard.
The composting time frame often has a significant impact in determining which method is better. According to Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture, properly managed red worms can produce finished compost in as little as 10 weeks. The amount of compost varies, depending upon how large your bin is and how many worms you have. Traditional methods of composting typically require more time before they'll give you your soil enricher. In fact, the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension states that compost holding units and heaps can take up to 2 or 3 years before the entire contents are fully composted.
When determining which composting method is better, you should think about the amount of space you have available for composting. Traditional methods of composting need more space than worm composting. For instance, heaps typically have to be about 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall in order for your compost pile to reach the correct temperatures to compost successfully, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. Compost bins for worms, on the other hand, can be small enough for you to keep them under your kitchen sink, depending upon how much food waste you need to dispose of.
The amount and type of materials you have available for composting can affect whether you'll choose traditional or worm composting as your preferred method. Foods you can provide to your compost worms include certain types of kitchen waste only, such as vegetable scraps, old fruit, non-greasy food scraps and tea bags. If you're using a traditional composting method, you can also include yard waste such as dead leaves, sawdust, lawn clippings and straw, as well as animal manure and bedding.
Think about the role aesthetics play in your life when deciding which composting style is better. For instance, if you live in a subdivision with a small yard and close neighbors, worm composting might be a better option for you since you can keep your bin indoors and out of your neighbors' line of sight. Similarly, if you just can't stand the idea of having worms in your house--even if they are contained in a bin--and you have no close neighbors who might be bothered by an unsightly heap of decomposing matter, then you'll probably find that traditional composting methods will work best for you.