How It Works
Vermiculture, or vermicomposting, is the process by which organic waste is ingested, enriched and excreted by earthworms. The excretions (worm castings) exit as dark, nutrient-rich compost, which is then used to enrich garden soil. Unlike regular composting, vermicomposting is faster, odorless and can be done indoors. It also contains a higher percentage of necessary nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The earthworm also secretes substances in the intestinal tract that make the nutrients more easily absorbed by plants.
How It Is Done
To start the worm farm, gardeners drill ¼ inch holes into a wooden bin, usually an old dresser drawer, and fill it with bedding. Bedding consists of straw, paper, and/or dead leaves and lawn clippings. The bin is placed on blocks and a small tray is placed under the bin so catch any fluid or worms that may escape. The bedding is thoroughly moistened but not saturated with water.
The gardener then adds 1 pound of worms to the pile. Red worms are the most popular type of worm to use, as they are able to quickly process waste in castings. Garden worms will not work in the worm farm, as they will not work fast enough and will die in the process. The top of the bedding is thinly layered with organic waste, such as rotten fruits and vegetables, and the worms begin eating. For one pound of worms, ½ a pound of waste is added to the pile daily.
A second bin is drilled and filled with organic waste. This bin is placed over the first. The gardener adds all organic waste to the upper bin. As the worms consume all waste in the bottom bin, they will slowly make their way to the upper bin in search of more food. The gardener can then harvest the castings in the bottom bin without accidentally removing any worms.
The second bin is then placed on the bottom and the first bin is moved to the top once all castings have been removed. The gardener starts the process over by adding more organic waste to the new bin on top. Whenever full, the gardener pulls the tray that was placed beneath the bins and uses the fluid inside as a natural, liquid fertilizer.
The bins are kept under shade if placed outside and are kept moist at all times. As winter approaches and the temperatures drop, the gardener will move the bins indoors, either to the garage or garden shed. However, some gardeners are able to keep their bins in their homes, as vermicomposting is virtually odorless.