If you want to take an ecological approach with your garden and growing, then building a worm composter could be the answer.
With just a little bit of effort and a few small changes in your household routine, you could have an endless supply of worm compost to give back to the land.
Let’s dig in and learn how to make a wormery so you have an organic composting factory in your own backyard.
- Worm Composting Vermiculture
- How To Make A Wormery At Home
- 2 Best Worms For Composting
- Buying Composting Worms
- Rearing Worms for Composting
- How Many Worms Do You Need?
- Compost Problems
- Harvest Great Organic Compost
Worm Composting Vermiculture
Worm composting is also referred to by its more technical term, Vermiculture or Vermicompost. Both describe the same process of turning household food waste into organic compost by using composting worms. It’s not a new system of home composting, but it’s enjoying a massive rise in popularity.
With the growing green movement, people are very much aware of environmental issues. Recycling and how we manage our waste are of huge importance and as people try to adjust their lifestyles to be more eco-friendly, home composting methods have become almost fashionable.
The other reason is, of course, that home compost and in particular worm compost is fantastic for the garden so you get the best of both worlds, save the planet and get a useful free fertilizer. So how do you get started?
How To Make A Wormery At Home
- A Container, preferably two and ideally even three for extra convenience
- Bedding material
- Waste (worm food)
Wormery Container Stack
The ideal container should be fairly shallow; it is good to have a large surface area as this helps with the oxygen supply to the tiny worms. You can use a plastic storage tray or build a wooden box similar to that of a draw.
It needs to be well aerated and have drainage holes to remove any excess water. Finally, the container needs to be dark as worms don’t like too much light.
If you make your own container consider using wood as it breathes and drains well. However, it will need to be treated wood for prolonged life. Check out our video demonstration How To Make A Wormery.
Buying a Worm Compost Bin
You can buy a purpose-made worm compost bin or you can go the DIY route and make your own. The compost bins available today make life so much easier – they are clean and easy to use – ideal for getting started without any fuss.
Many people today are going for the ready-made compost bins they just make home composting so easy.
Try to think of it this way, you may be making compost but with this method, you are also raising and breeding pets – worms! You really should try to remember that you are caring for worms and try to create the correct conditions for them to thrive. They’re your workforce so treat them well and they will repay you.
Bedding plays an important role in providing a good environment for your worms. The tiny worms will need soil, food, and moisture to thrive in the container. Shredded cardboard makes a great bedding material, as do newspapers as well as straw or leaves. For the best results try a mixture of leaves and shredded newspaper or cardboard.
Moisture is crucial and it is a good idea to wet the bedding well before introducing the worms. Aim for the moisture to be similar to a damp sponge, not too wet.
What Waste to Use for Compost Making
Again, the waste you use is going to be food for your worms and will be the source of your compost so apply lashings of common sense here.
Quite a lot of our kitchen food waste can be used and can be supplemented with green waste such as leaves and prunings from the garden but be sure to avoid weeds and in particular perennial weeds with taproots.
Good Compost Material
Fruit and vegetables, peelings, most vegetation scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, uncoated cards, or paper products such as egg boxes, eggshells, grass clippings. Stick to organic items that will break down easily.
Materials to Avoid
Meat and dairy products, oils grease and fat, and pet waste. We would also recommend against adding any cooked or processed foods.
Remember to be sensible here and avoid anything inorganic and chemicals etc. If possible, it is best to keep food waste out of the bin for a few days before giving it to the worms.
This is because the food needs to have begun to break down before the worms can digest it. If you can’t, just try and tuck it deep into the center of the composting material already within the bin.
2 Best Worms For Composting
Most people do not realize before they start that not just any old worm can be used in vermiculture like this. The common earthworms we see in the garden would not survive this sort of treatment. When considering how to make a wormery that will process the kitchen waste fast, the 2 best worms for composting are red worms and European nightcrawlers.
The most popular composting worms used today are Red Worms a.k.a. Red Wigglers or to give them their proper title – Eisenia Foetida. Red wigglers are perfect for vermicomposting, they thrive in rotting vegetation and can be found in manure. They can also survive a wide range of temperatures, compared to other worm types.
Red worms are quite tolerant of different temperatures – the ideal range is between 15c and 30c, and it is important to give some protection from the frost.
If you get the conditions in the compost container just right these Red worms will reproduce very quickly and increase your compost production.
To get started you are most likely going to need to buy some Redworms. They can be found in older manure piles, but this will not help unless you know what to look for. Another way may be to borrow some from a friend who already has a worm compost bin – as if!
European Night Crawler Worms
A close relative of the red worm is Eisenia Hortensis or the European Nightcrawler sometimes called simply the Euro. This species also make great composting worms and are commercially available. The Euros tend to be larger than Red worms but reproduce and grow more slowly.
Both these worms are well suited because they are prolific in their production of compost from organic waste. They can be found in well-rotted manure piles but to get started with worm composting most people will buy in their first batch and they will soon multiply and you become self-sufficient.
Remember start small with just a pound of worms and they will soon multiply and you can increase the amount you compost.
Buying Composting Worms
To the layperson, it seems quite strange that people would want to buy worms, but they are quite a valuable commodity. Worms for composting are sold by weight and can be shipped quite easily over long distances. There are several good sources online to buy composting worms.
Plenty of small businesses has sprung up with the upsurge in the popularity of worm composting, selling just about everything you will need for vermiculture. Now you have people selling worms for composting, worm bedding, worm compost itself, and any number of different types of worm composting bins and worm farms.
Rearing Worms for Composting
Once you get set up the system will soon become pretty low maintenance. Soon you will find a routine for adding the waste and maintaining the temperature and moisture levels. In the beginning, this can seem difficult but it will soon become second nature.
The beauty of this system for composting is that it is low maintenance and can be expanded. For efficient use of all your waste, it can be a good idea to have two composting bins at a time. This ensures a constant supply of fresh compost and can use up more waste.
How Many Worms Do You Need?
It is difficult to say exactly but remember they will reproduce quite quickly in good conditions. As a general guide it is recommended that for every pound of food waste per day, you will need about two pounds of worms. They can be quite expensive so it may be a good idea to start with just a couple of pounds and build up your capacity naturally over a short period of time. But also remember that the more worms the quicker you will produce great, rich organic compost.
Always remember that you are looking after living creatures. Composting worms are easy to look after and you should always try to do so to the best of your ability – they pay you back after all!
You should not have any major problems, but the most common problems would be bad smells and fruit flies. A healthy worm compost system should not have a bad smell. Any smell would indicate a problem such as too much food waste put in at once or if the mix is too wet. If you are getting a bad smell, check the drainage holes, and ease off on the food for a few days.
If there is too much liquid in the mix try to pour some off and remember to keep it for your plants – it is known as compost tea. Fruit flies can be a nuisance more than an actual problem. Keep the surface of the compost well covered and make sure to dig the food a little under the surface of the compost pile. vermiculture
Harvest Great Organic Compost
There are many ways to actually harvest your compost for use, the way you choose will depend on how much compost you need and how dirty you want to get! A common method is to pile the finished compost to one side and put fresh bedding and some food waste to the other side of the bin.
In a few days, most of the worms will have moved into the fresh area, leaving it easy to scoop out the compost you require.
On a larger scale, tip the contents of the bin onto a sheet of plastic and manually separate the worms from the compost. This can be made easier by arranging it into piles on a bright sunny day. The worms don’t like the light and will go to the bottom leaving it easy to separate them from the compost.
Always remember to leave some of the old compost to help get the next batch off to a good start.
There is much more to learn about worm composting and you will find many people have different techniques they swear by. The best way to find out is by having a go – it’s fun, eco friendly and the kids will love it.