Vermicomposting uses worms to reduce kitchen and yard waste into a compost which provides organic materials to gardening soil. Vermicomposting produces less odor than traditional composting, making composting indoors possible. The process requires little work, only a small amount of space, and is inexpensive. You usually only need to buy worms once because they breed quickly.
Red wrigglers or brandling worms are the common worms used in vermicomposting. Around 2 lbs. of worms are required to decompose 1 lb. of waste in 24 hours, notes New Mexico State University. Brandling worms and red wrigglers are available through mail order or from most good gardening centers.
Worms eat the waste material that is placed into the composting bin. As they eat through the material, they leave behind their manure, called castings. Castings is a nutrient-rich form of organic matter. Earthworm castings contain five to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium than common garden soil, according to New Mexico State University. Vermicompost is usually richer in nutrients than traditional compost.
Food waste is put into a bin approximately 2 feet long by 2 feet wide and 8 inches tall. A bedding is placed at the bottom of the bin. Cardboard, shredded newspaper or leaf compost, once dampened is suitable for the bedding. Worms are added and a lid placed on the box until the worms disappear into the bedding. Once the worms are hidden, kitchen waste is added to the box.
Food wastes such as eggs, vegetables, tea bags, coffee filters and fruits are suitable for vermicomposting. Any non-meat organic waste will do, says North Carolina State University. Avoid animal manures due to the odor. Food scraps should be covered by the bedding to prevent molding and attracting flies. The whole mixture is watered and allowed to decompose. The decomposition process takes between 3 and 4 months to complete.
After six weeks worm castings will appear in the compost. After three or four months, almost the entire mixture will be castings. This is the right time to harvest. To harvest, move the decomposed material to one side of the bin and begin adding new food waste to the other side. In a few weeks, the worms will move to the new material, allowing you to harvest the castings without injuring too many worms.