About Vermicomposting

Overview

Vermicomposting has become a convenient way to compost, a green way to dispose of your waste and even an educational tool to teach the cycles of nature. Vermicomposting systems can be found in homes, schools, zoos and prisons as they are used to enrich soil and enrich lives. All in all, vermicomposting is a fun and easy way to recycle.

Worms

The worms used in composting are the worms you can find under the litter of fall leaves or crawling in cow manure. They can be called red worms, angle worms or red wrigglers. They are smaller than a night crawler and sometimes have a striped appearance. Red worms are often used as bait and excel at composting your garbage. Keep your worms in a dark place--not too hot and not too cold. Their population will double every month as they devour your garbage and turn it into castings (worm poop).

Bins

You can make your own bin by taking a dark colored plastic bin (wider rather than deeper) and drilling holes in it. You need to drill holes in the side for ventilation. You can also drill holes in the bottom to let the liquid drain out, but you will need to make sure you have a tray underneath to catch this "tea," which can then be used on your houseplants and seedlings. You can also build a bin out of wood. One popular style of wooden worm bin is to build an outdoor bench which is filled with worms and compost. If you choose to buy a bin, you can purchase a layered worm bin designed for easy harvest of the castings and the tea.

Bedding

The bedding in the bin should mimic the bedding the worms prefer in nature. You can used shredded paper--newspaper or any nonglossy paper without colored ink. Simply take the shredded paper and mix it with a handful of dirt or sand and enough water to give it a damp mop feel. Other bedding materials include fall leaves, chopped straw, yard clippings and sawdust. You can also mix in some peat moss and manure. Sprinkle in some limestone with the sand and dirt to help the worms grind up their food.

Feeding

Collect all of your kitchen waste and yard waste to feed to your worms. If you have your bin in your kitchen, you can throw it in as you make it. However, it may be more convenient to keep your waste in a bucket (add a handful of sawdust to help control the smell) and add it to the bin once a week. Bury the waste in a different spot each time you add it. Any kitchen food waste, manure and yard waste will make good worm food. Do not put your pet's waste into the bin. Similarly, you may want to avoid adding dairy, meat, bones and fats to your worm bin. They may create an odor and be more difficult for your worms to compost. If you use meat and dairy, only use small amounts at a time.

Harvest

To harvest the castings, you have a few options. You can dump out your worm bin on a large piece of plastic and separate the castings from the worms as much as possible so you can put your worms back to work. The worms will burrow down away from the light, and you can remove the top castings for compost. Alternately, you can keep the castings in the bin but push them to one side and put fresh bedding in the other side. Most of the worms will move to the fresh bedding and fresh garbage, leaving the other side filled with castings. Similarly, put a screen on top of the compost you are ready to harvest and fresh bedding on top of the screen to lure the worms up and out. You can also start a second bin and slowly transfer the worms to the new bin as they finish up the original box.

Keywords: vermicomposting, vermiculture, composting worms

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for more than 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She is continuing her study of English and writing at the University of Wisconsin. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction and essays. McCarty's fiction has been published in "Hip Mama" magazine and "Danse Macabre."