Vermicomposting is the process of composting or processing organic waste using earthworms. The word vermin is Latin for worm; vermicomposting literally means "worm composting." Traditional composting often takes a long time to effectively break down all components of the waste products. However, worms have the ability to eat through a massive amount of waste in less time. When they process the waste, they leave behind nitrogen-rich, organic compost. This compost can be used in the garden or in flower pots as a soil supplement.
Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants
Worms produce castings that naturally contain high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the main nutrients all plants need to thrive. According to Journey to Forever, an interactive educational resource, worm castings can actually be used to improve soil quality. "The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil, have a perfect pH balance and contain plant growth factors similar to those found in seaweed," the website states. These nutrients are commonly found in synthetic fertilizers. However, utilizing worm compost offers an inexpensive and all-natural option for gardeners looking for a way to improve their soil. Vermicompost produces nutrient-rich soil additives that help plants thrive and condition the soil.
Forget the end product, worms can really chow down. According to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, organic materials make up approximately 2/3 of the waste stream. "The reason vermicomposting is becoming popular is because worms are very efficient eating machines. They eat over half their body weight in organic matter per day," CDRRR states. According to the CDRRR, worms can effectively process paper, manure, fruit and vegetable waste, grains, coffee grounds and ground yard waste. "While worms will eat meat and dairy products, it is best not to feed these materials or oily foods to worms, due to potential odor and pest problems," the website states. Utilizing vermicompsoting techniques will help keep these organic waste products out of the landfill.
Some gardeners rely on compost as a plant fertilizer. Utilizing worms will help to speed up the composting process because the worms will eat and process the organic waste much faster than allowing micro-organisms to do all the work. It takes approximately three months to transform organic wastes, which can be continually added to the compost heap, into vermicompost. However, traditional composting methods can take longer, depending on the temperature and turning methods. Vermicomposting requires little maintenance other that adding additional food for the worms.