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Vermiculture

The art of composting with worms

INDOOR COMPOSTING

The Components of an indoor system are: the BIN, the BEDDING, the WORMS, the FOOD, and the END PRODUCT- VERMICOMPOST

THE BIN

Worm composting takes place in a bin that you can either buy or make yourself. A worm-composting bin should be shallow, yet wide enough to allow you to:

  • bury your food in many places
  • ensure worms get enough oxygen.
Ideally, the bin should be between 8 to 18 inches deep with the dimensions wider rather than deeper. The size of your bin depends on how much food waste your household produces. A general rule of thumb is that you will need one square foot of surface area for each pound of waste produced per week. A household of two will need about 4 square feet of area.

Composting bins can be made from plastic storage bins, built from wood, or recycled from an old wooden drawer, wash tub, etc. Since worms need air to breathe, plastic or metal bins must have holes drilled in the cover and sides. Holes should be drilled in the bottom of the bin to allow for drainage; ¼” holes at 15 holes per square foot. The bin can be placed in a waterproof container or on a tray to catch the excess drainage called “worm tea”. An under-the-bed storage bin, with casters, works very well. Also, worm bins are manufactured and sold commercially. If using plastic, wash the inside first, rinse very thoroughly, and allow it to air for a few days.

THE BEDDING

Initially, the bin is lined with a layer of bedding. This is where the worms live. It gives the worms a place to get away from the food. The food waste is buried in the bedding.

Shredded newspaper (black and white only) is a most convenient and popular bedding material.

Other bedding materials include:

  • shredded cardboard or computer paper
  • yard waste i.e. - mulched leaves ond grass clippings
  • cut up straw, cut up hay,
  • sawdust

The worms like the bedding to be light, fluffy, and mast of all, MOIST.

A handful or two of soil should be added to the bedding to supply 'grit' to aid in the worms' digestive processes and to introduce helpful digesting microorganisms into the bin.

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THE WORMS

worms
For worm composting to succeed, it is necessary to use redworms, also known as red wigglers.

Redworms reproduce quickly, eat large amounts of food, and stay in the bin. These worms will move through the compost bin as they eat the food and bedding, creating compost and worm tea.

Redworms are sold by the pound, (about 1,000 worms). They eat their weight in food every two days - @ pounds of worms eat 1 pound of food a day. The worms multyply every few months, eating more, making more vermicompost.

THE FOOD

Worms like a vegetarian diet. They will eat any vegetable or fruit waste. Do not include any meat, egg or dairy products (slow decomposition, odor problems) or foods high in oils, fats, salts, or vinegar. Citrus rinds can be added but with equal portions of green leafy scraps in order to keep the pH level balanced in the bin.

Suggested diet:
  • fruit & vegetable scraps & peels
  • coffee grounds (filter paper included)
  • tea bags
  • crushed egg shells
  • pasta & rice
  • bread & cereal
  • house plant clippings & dead flowers
  • shredded paper - paper towels, napkins

Cutting up food wastes will speed decomposition, making it edible for the worms. (Pureeing is ideal.) When the worms have completed converting all the bedding and food wastes, they leave behind their worm casting compost (vermicompost) which is a mixture of worm castings, organic material and bedding. This is a rich and valuable soil additive that is high in plant nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur. and phosphorus. When added to soil, it stimulates plant growth, decreases soil acidicy and helps hold moisture in the soil.

    Vermicompost uses
  • Top Dressing for houseplants, gardens or lawns: Sprinkle vermicompost around the base of plants or grass to provide organic matter and additional nutrients.
  • Potting Mix: Add 1/3 vermicompost to 2/3 potting soil when repotting plants indoors or out.
  • Seeds and transplants: Sprinkle vermicompost into seed row before planting seeds or place a handful in the bottom of halesdug for transplants.
  • Worm tea:Place vermicompost in an old nylon stocking in a bucket of water for a few days. Use to water and fertilize the plants all in one.

    THE END PRODUCT - VERMICOMPOST

    When the worms have completed converting all the bedding and food wastes, they leave behind their worm casting compost (vermicompost) which is a mixture of worm castings, organic material and bedding. This is a rich and valuable soil additive that is high in plant nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, sulfur. and phosphorus. When added to soil, it stimulates plant growth, decreases soil acidicy and helps hold moisture in the soil.
      Vermicompost uses
  • Top Dressing for houseplants, gardens or lawns: Sprinkle vermicompost around the base of plants or grass to provide organic matter and additional nutrients.
  • Potting Mix: Add 1/3 vermicompost to 2/3 potting soil when repotting plants indoors or out.
  • Seeds and transplants: Sprinkle vermicompost into seed row before planting seeds or place a handful in the bottom of holes dug for transplants.
  • Worm tea:Place vermicompost in an old nylon stocking in a bucket of water for a few days. Use to water and fertilize the plants all in one.

    GETTING STARTED

    Step 1
    Obtain bin and order worms.

    step 2
    Fill the bin with bedding. The worms need a home that contains about 75% moisture: add 3 pints of water to every 1 pound of bedding. Continue to add bedding and water until you have about 5 to 7 inches of wet, but fluffed up, bedding. The bedding should be as damp as a moist sponge that if squeezed very hard would give a drop or two of water. Let the prepared bedding sit for 1 to 2 hours before adding the worms so that the water will reach room temperature.

    step 3
    Spread the worms over the top of the bedding. The worms don't like light, so they will move down into the bedding. Leave the lid off and a light on overnight so the worms can become accustomed to their new home.

    step 4
    Place your worm bin in a convenient, but somewhat out of the way spot, such as a basement, a mudroom, or under the kitchen sink. Redworms do well in temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit Garages, unheated out-buildings, and the outdoors can be used seasonally in New England locations.

    step 5
    A day or two after the worms have been in their bedding, begin feeding them by burying food waste that decays relatively quickly, e.g. banana peels spaghetti noodles. Bury the food in the bedding every few days but at least once a week. Dig a hole in the bedding, place the food, and cover it with bedding. Pick a new spot each time you feed them. If the bedding dries out, mist it with water from a spray bottle.

    step 6
    Within four to six months, most of the bedding and the food wastes will have been converted into a finished compost product (vermicompost), which is uniformly dark and soil like. At this point, harvest the vermicompost and provide the worms with fresh bedding. To separate the worms from the compost you can Move all of the finished compost to one side of the bin, and then add fresh bedding to the empty side. Begin feeding the worms in the fresh bedding, and within a month most of them will have moved over to the clean side. Now you can remove the finished compost and replace it with fresh bedding. or Dump your finished compost into a pile, shaped like a pyramid, and place a bright light over it. The worms, repelled by light, will move down into the compost leaving the top layer worm-free. You can remove the compost from the top of the pile and repeat the process until you have nothing but worms and a little compost left in your original pile. Place the worms in fresh bedding.