Homemade Vermicomposting

Overview

Vermicomposting is the cultivation of earthworms and using their excretion as a soil amendment. Loaded with more nutrients than cow manure, vermicompost can be created at home simply and inexpensively. Possessing a voracious appetite, earthworms (in particular red wigglers or European nightcralwers) will consume virtually any organic material, converting it into vermicompost, also known as worm castings. Interestingly, the worms excretion tends to exceed the ingested food in plant nutrients. A well-maintained vermicompost bin can be stored indoors without unpleasant odor.

Preparing a Vermicompost Bin

Step 1

Drill 12 holes of 1/2 inch each around the upper perimeter of a large plastic bin as well as a few in the bottom to keep air flowing through the bin. Place the bin on four bricks atop a drip tray.

Step 2

Cut a section of window screen to fit in the bottom of the bin and put it in place. The screen will keep the developing compost from dropping through the bottom air holes while allowing excess water to drain.

Step 3

Shred newspapers and cardboard in long narrow strips. Fluff it apart, avoiding color pages and glossy magazines. Place 2 feet of the shredded paper and cardboard in the bin. Add straw as well, if desired.

Step 4

Add 2 to 3 cups of sand and an equal amount of soil to the bin. Shake the bin slightly to settle the dirt.

Step 5

Soak the bin with water, allowing the moisture to absorb into the materials for at least 24 hours.

Introducing the worms

Step 1

Place 1 lb. of worms per square foot of surface area on top of the shredded fibers. Do not feed the worms for 24 hours.

Step 2

Place the bin in a cool environment with ample airflow.

Step 3

Chop up organic kitchen scraps such as eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable leftovers and place them in a corner of the bin. Add more materials to the bin each week in different locations. Feedings should be around 1 to 2 cups.

Harvesting the compost

Step 1

Continue to feed and water your worms for three to four months while monitoring the growth of the castings.

Step 2

Carefully push the worm castings to one side of the bin and add fresh food, bedding and soil to the cleared side.

Step 3

Wait 24 hours as the worms will slowly migrate to the food and leave the castings pile. Scoop up the material with a gloved hand.

Step 4

Apply the vermicompost to directly to plants or mix it with other barnyard manure to extend the product.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not add more food to the bin than your worms can consume. While this won't harm the worms, it will lead to food rot and an unpleasant odor.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon plastic bin
  • 4 bricks
  • Newspaper
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Straw
  • 2 cups sand
  • 2 cups soil
  • Red wiggler worms
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Window screen

References

  • NYC Worms: Worms Can Recycle Your Garbage!
  • Journey to Forever: Vermicomposting
  • FAO: Vermicomposting

Who Can Help

  • National Sustainable Agriculture: Worms for Composting
Keywords: red wiggler worms, homemade organic fertilizer, pathogen free fertilizer

About this Author

Tom Nari teaches screenwriting and journalism in Southern California. With a degree in creative writing from Loyola University, Nari has worked as a consultant to the motion picture industry as well as several non-profit organizations dedicated to the betterment of children through aquatics. Nari has written extensively for GolfLink, Trails and eHow.