In The Garden

Vermicomposting 101

garden-1176406_640Worms!! You’ve heard they do something with compost but aren’t sure what or how. Worry not because we are about to give you the low down on what you need to know about vermicomposting.

It’s not a rocket science, in fact its a pretty easy process. All you need is a little bit of space, non- extreme temperature, worms, some containers or a wormery, then you are good to go. Instead of throwing away all of your food scraps, peels and degradable trash you’ll be able to use your squirmy worms to create a pure rich compost.

What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting also known as worm composting, is a process of transforming organic waste materials, using worms, to produce a rich, fine and nutrient filled compost. The process results in a rich nitrogenous & phosphorus content perfect for your garden. It’s an excellent all round organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.

There are 5 main components to this method:

1.The Container
 
You can make your own composter from a bin or large container; alternatively you can purchase a wormery that is ready made. Generally for each lb of food waste that your household produces each week you should allow 1sqft of area. On average a household of 4 produces 6lbs of food waste each week, therefore you would be looking at a bin 3ft by 2ft in size. Wider is better than taller as worms don’t really like to travel as much vertically.

Your container should have a tight lid to prevent the worms from escaping and also to keep the light out as they prefer to work in the dark. It is also recommended that you keep a tray underneath the bin to catch any moisture or spills. To ensure proper drainage and aeration your homemade wormery should have small holes drilled in the base and sides.

You can also use a bin for vermicomposting. These consist of 2 or 3 bins on top of each other that are separated by a screen.

 

 

2. The Worms

worm-1140767_640The vital component is making sure that you use the correct type of worms. Don’t think that you can go dig up the worms from your back yard and use those. To get the best result order red wiggler worms (Eisenia Fetida) from a reputable source such as your local bait shop. This type of worm will give you the highest value nutrient content to feed your plants.
 
3. Bedding

Shredded leaves or old newspapers provide perfect bedding for your worms. Newspaper should be shredded and cut into small pieces; it has the added bonus of absorbing odors and moisture. Please don’t use glossy magazine pages.
 
4. Food Supply

Worms prefer kitchen scraps over garden waste. You can use pretty much anything as long as it’s not animal based (worms are vegetarian) and isn’t oil or fatty. For example worms you can use vegetable scraps (raw or cooked), tea bags, coffee grinds but not meat, cheese or fish. They are a perfect way to get rid of pumpkin skin after Halloween as they will devour them.

compost-709020_640It’s best to collect your scraps in a small container throughout the day and then add into your worm bin in the evening. One pound of worms will munch their way through four pounds of food scraps each week so you don’t need to over feed them.

Foods Worms Love

 Lettuce     Tomato   Cucumber    Celery   Carrots   Radish   Beets   Greens   Crushed Egg Shells    Coffee Grounds   Squash   Pumpkins   Pea Pods    Potato peels   Peppers   Eggplant   Tea Bags    Cabbage  Coffee Filters   Apple Peel/Cores Avocado   Husks   Melon

 

Foods Worms Hate

Bones   Meat scraps   Citrus   Dairy   Salty Food   Plastics & Non Biodegradable Materials   Kitty Litter    Animal Waste   Vinegar   Banana Peels   Fish

5. Location

Your wormery can be kept inside or outside. A good location for a worm farm is in a basement, mud room or garage however many people prefer to keep their outdoors. Worms are happiest in temperatures of 55-77F in a shady location.

How to set up your vermicomposter

  • Fill the bin 1/2 way full with moistened bedding material
  • Place the worms on top
  • One the worms have settled in by working their way into the bedding material you can add your food scraps

When is my Compost Ready?

In around six weeks you should will begin to see worm castings. These are the waste that is excreted by your worms. It is fantastic on its own as a potting mixture as it provide humus and organic nutrients that will not burn your plants.

Within about 3 months your compost will be fully ready to use. Let your worms burrow away from the top before you harvest the compost and castings.

wheel-barrow-644583_640Tips for better compost

  • to avoid attracting fruit flies, limit the amount of fruit leftovers you add and always bury the new food into the bedding.
  • If the scrap accumulate in the bin, don’t add more, instead leave it alone for a few days to left the worms catch up
  • Make a compost tea to water your houseplants with by adding 2 tablespoons of the compost to one quart of water and leave to steep for a day or two.
  • Don’t worry if worm cocoons are left in your compost. The baby worms will help produce a rich soil in your garden.
  • Ensure there isn’t too much moisture in the bin as worms can drown in standing liquid. 
  • If you spot mold growing in the bin, it means there is too much moisture. Add dry bedding to the bin and leave the top off until the excess liquid is absorbed. 

So now you know how to use vermicomposting to create an endless supply of nutrient stuffed fertilizer for your garden!