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How to Use Nightcrawlers to Compost

By Lisa Russell ; Updated September 21, 2017

Composting with nightcrawlers can be faster than traditional worm composting. Red wigglers are the most common composting worm, but you can also use either African, Canadian or European nightcrawlers to compost. Nightcrawlers eat more than red wigglers and have specific bedding needs. Composting with nightcrawlers can provide gardeners with organic self-fertilizing soil all year long.

Prepare the compost bin by layering the bottom with bedding material. Coconut fiber sheeting makes a suitable bedding substrate. Place 3-4 layers at the bottom of the bin and spray them with water from the garden hose to dampen.

Cover the bedding with organic garden soil 8-10 inches deep. Compost is fine to use as soil, as long as it isn't terribly wet or dry. Nightcrawlers aerate the soil by digging long tunnels, so be sure that the bin is only halfway full because the volume will nearly double by the time you're ready to harvest.

Check the pH level of your soil before you add your nightcrawlers. They're sensitive to acidic soil and you don't want to kill them. Ideally, the pH level should be 6.0 to 7.0 at all times. Powdered limestone can be sprinkled on the soil every time you feed to ensure that the pH levels never get too low or too high.

Dig a small hole in the soil to place the nightcrawlers, then cover them with soil. You can order nightcrawlers online from Internet worm vendors or your local plant nursery may also sell nightcrawlers. Nightcrawlers that are sold as fishing bait are generally past their reproductive prime and don't often make good composting worms.

Place the kitchen waste on top of the soil. Unlike red wigglers, nightcrawlers prefer that their food is placed on top of the soil. They come up to the surface to eat, then burrow back down again. Make sure that the food isn't covering the entire top surface and leave the corners and edges clear so worms can head back down when they've had their fill.

Keep your bin cool--it shouldn't be in direct sunlight, nor should the bedding be allowed to dry out completely, as it regulates the temperature a bit. Keep your bin on rolling casters until you find the perfect place. Avoid storing your compost above ground in the winter. You can insulate it by pressing black plastic lawn bags around the outside of the bin. If your compost freezes in the winter, the egg capsules will hatch when the ground warms up again, allowing you to start over with a new generation of nightcrawlers.

Harvest compost by scooping it up and sifting with a wire mesh screen to separate the nightcrawlers and undigested food scraps from the black soil.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Nightcrawlers
  • Compost bin
  • Bedding material (coconut fiber sheets or peat moss)
  • Kitchen waste (no bones)

Tip

  • Nightcrawlers reproduce quickly. If you find that they're overcrowding your bin, you can release some into your garden, give them to a friend or take them fishing.

About the Author

 

Lisa Russell has been a writer since 1998. She's been published in Rethinking Everything Magazine, Playdate, AERO and Home Educator's Family Times. She has a Bachelor of Science in business marketing management and a professional background in marketing, education, cosmetology and hospitality.