Composting with Worms

by V. Ribich

If you do not have the space or do not like the look of a compost bin in your yard, worm composting may be an alternative to consider. I have been composting with worms for roughly five years. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to reduce the amount of garbage wheeled to the curb each week and to create the best natural fertilizer for your plants and shrubs.

It is easy to get started.   Read more after the break to find out how

You will need a bin, bedding, worms and food.

The bin – You can make your own, purchase one locally (Recycling Association of Minnesota sells the bins and the worms) or purchase on-line (I got mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm). If making your own, your bin should be plastic, have a lid and a few small holes on the sides and bottom for ventilation and drainage. Also, worms do not like the light so choose a solid color.

The bedding – I use prepackaged worm bedding (fishing section of Fleet Farm). It’s made of finely-shredded newspaper. I’ve also used brown leaves mixed with grass clippings, but only do this if your yard is not chemically treated. If you opt to shred your own newspaper, make sure there is nothing glossy or colored. Add a little water until the bedding feels like a damp sponge.

The worms –Red wigglers are the only type of worm that will work. Earthworms and night-crawlers will die and smell. If you want to start small, purchase 50-100 worms.

English: Composting-worms just added to a fres...

The food – They love fruit,vegetables, teabags, coffee grounds/filters, crushed egg shells, napkins and paper towels. They cannot eat meat, dairy or anything greasy. Also, worms have gizzards so add a handful of dirt, sand or crushed egg shells to the bedding so they can digest their food. Tips: If time allows, cut up the food before you bury it in the bin. Decomposition will speed up and so will the worms’ appetites and breeding. My worms love anything with a rind – watermelon is their favorite, avocado halves are a close second – they love to hide inside.

Now just place the worms in the bin, cover them with about four inches of bedding and add a small amount of food (start with about a cup of food per week for every group of 50 worms). Whenever you add food, make sure you bury it so you avoid a fruit fly invasion. The worms will do the rest. I keep my worm bin in the basement year round and there is never a smell. When the bin is open for feeding or harvesting, it just smells like dirt.

I harvest the castings, or worm poop, for my garden twice a year (late spring and early fall). The easiest way I’ve found is to empty the bins onto a plastic sheet outside on a sunny day or inside using a bright light. I make a few hills of the compost and the worms naturally gravitate to the bottom to escape the light. Every five minutes or so, I grab a few handfuls from the hill until I’m left with only worms. The worms go back into the bin to start the process over again and the castings go into the garden.

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