How to Increase Compost Worms

Overview

Worm composting, also called vermiculture, is a fast way to turn your kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings to feed your garden. A worm compost bin can be created in a small space, and care is minimal once you get started. All the worms need is adequate moisture, protection from temperature extremes and a steady supply of food waste to eat. Worms reproduce in relation to the available food. After about 60 days, you can begin harvesting black humus to fertilize your plants.

Step 1

Make sure you use red wriggler worms in your compost bin. You can buy these from a garden store or get some from a fellow worm composter. Don't use worms you find in your garden such as earthworms, because these have other requirements like deeper burrowing spaces. Red wrigglers reproduce well, so as long as you feed them enough you will have lots of worms.

Step 2

Provide the worms with a bin large enough for them to feed and reproduce. You can buy a plastic worm bin from a garden store, or use another container like an old bureau drawer. The bin should have at least a square foot per pound of worms, and it shouldn't be deeper than 12 inches because the worms feed at the surface.

Step 3

Put holes in the bottom of the bin to allow for good drainage. The worm bin needs to be kept moist at all times, but standing water in the bottom will drown the worms and attract undesirable bacteria that will make the bin stink.

Step 4

Store the bin indoors or outdoors, but make sure it's in a dark place and protected from wind and extreme temperatures. Compost worms do best at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The bin should be covered to retain moisture, but not sealed or you will suffocate the worms.

Step 5

Give the worms a layer of bedding. You can buy worm bedding at garden stores, or use organic bedding like peat moss, garden compost or aged manure. Shredded newspaper or cardboard can also be used. Make sure the bedding is fluffed up and fills the container about two-thirds of the way.

Step 6

Feed your worms daily because they eat a lot. You should give your worms about 1/4 lb. of kitchen scraps per pound of worms, but reduce this amount if food is starting to rot.

Step 7

Give your worms vegetable trimmings, bread and pasta leftovers, and coffee grounds in the filters. Don't give the worms fatty foods like meat, cheese or fish, and avoid very acidic peelings like citrus fruits. Worms will also have a hard time eating garlic and onion skins. Bury the food just under the surface of the bedding and the worms will come up to eat it. Feed the worms dried, crushed eggshells or other nondairy calcium sources to encourage reproduction.

Step 8

Harvest the compost every few months by exposing the surface of the worm bin to light to make the worms burrow down, and then scoop out the compost. Pick any worms or worm eggs out of the compost and return them to the bin. Replace the bedding to two-thirds full after harvesting.

Things You'll Need

  • Red wriggler worms
  • Worm bin
  • Warm, dark storage place
  • Worm bedding
  • Non-fatty kitchen scraps

References

  • Vermicomposting
  • Worm Composting
  • Worm Composting Tips

Who Can Help

  • Worm Composting Quick Facts
Keywords: worm composting, vermiculture, make worm castings

About this Author

Sarah Metzker Erdemir is an expat writer and ESL teacher living in Istanbul since 2002. A fiction writer for more than 25 years, she began freelance writing and editing in 2000. Ms. Metzker Erdemir holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Romance languages and linguistics as well as a TESOL Master of Arts degree. She has written articles for eHow, Garden Guides, and ConnectEd.