What is worm composting?
Worm composting, also known as vermiculture is a process wherein worms are used to recycle kitchen or food scraps and other organic materials into vermicompost, a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.
In general, this process is done through creating a compost bin or even the best worm composter, which will serve as a home to a specie of worm. Usually, the worms used for worm composting are red wigglers, white worms, and other types of earthworms. These worms are fed food scraps such as leftover vegetables, then breaks it down by reducing levels of contaminants and enriching the nutrients in the organic matter. This, in the end, comes out of the worm as a concentrated organic body waste that can be used as compost for plants and greeneries.
What are the benefits of worm composting?
Worm composting has several benefits that easily makes it one of the best natural composting processes in the industry. However, contrary to popular belief, this process harbors more benefits than simply just enriching the soil for planting.
- Trash Volume Reduction
Since the process mainly utilizes kitchen scraps, the volume of your household trash is more likely to be reduced. According to statistics, most homeowners who are involved in worm composting are able to experience cutting down about one-third of their entire trash volume every month.
- Trash Odor Elimination
Worm composting is a great way to get rid and recycle most of the kitchen leftovers in your household. And because there is a lower volume of decaying matters in your trash, your trash bin is less likely to have a bad odor.
- Nutrient-rich Compost
The end product from worm composting mostly consists of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen; all of which are essential for plant growth. Vermicompost also bare traces of micronutrients and minerals that cannot usually be found in most commercial fertilizers in the market.
- Soil pH Regulation
Compost is a good means to regulate the soil’s pH level. They mostly buffer the soil by absorbing salt ions, reducing the risk of it being washed away. In return, the soil stays on a pH level of 2, which is essential for plants to thrive.
What makes worm composting better?
- It yields faster results.
Compared to other types of household composting processes, worm composting is the fastest method to yield results. If the ratio of the worms to kitchen scraps is correctly applied, your compost can be as good as ready after two weeks.
- It emits less odor than regular composting methods.
One of the usual problems encountered in many household composting processes is the uncontrollable bad odor. This cannot be avoided because, after all, composting utilizes organic and decaying materials. Fortunately, worm composting relatively breaks down these components faster, reducing the odor that accompanies the procedure.
- It can be done indoors or outdoors.
Most individuals living in apartments or condominiums are not allowed to compost. This is due to many reasons such as foul odor, unsanitary factors, and incompatible environment. Luckily, worm composting is a lot more manageable than regular composting. Because it has a quick development and low maintenance requirements, doing it indoors will not be posing any problem.
How do I start worm composting?
There are 4 essential things that you have to prepare in order for worm composting or vermicomposting to be successful. Below is a quick guide about each and every component that you have to prepare before setting up your worm bin for composting.
- Worm Bin
The very first thing that you need to do is to obtain a worm bin, especially if it’s your first time to try vermicomposting. You can purchase a pre-made one from various compost stores or online. But if you prefer to make your own to save money, you can make use of plastic storage bins or wooden crates. However, you have to keep in mind that no the size should be sufficient enough to cover the food waste volume that your household generates, no matter which type of bin you choose to use.
In general, a half a pound of food waste per day will require a worm bin with at least 4 feet of surface area. That means that you will need a worm bin that is approximately 2’ x 2’ in measurement.
Nevertheless, your worm bin does not necessarily need to have a depth in it. Most compost worms can live and eat even with just six to eight inches of organic material. So as long as the size of your crate correlates to the amount of food waste, it should be fine.
- Compost Worms
The species of worms mostly used in worm composting are red wigglers and European night crawlers. These species are insatiable eaters with long digestive tracts, making them the best candidate for fast and efficient worm composting. However, remember that the worms will expand to fit the size of its home. So if you’re adding trays or layers on your worm bin, you have to make sure that your food waste will be enough to feed the expanded community of worms.
In relation to this, the ratio of food waste to compost worms is ideally half a pound a day of food waste is to a pound of worms. This ensures that you’re giving an ample amount of feeds that your worms can handle.
- Bedding Materials
The most commonly used bedding material for vermicomposting by homeowners is a newspaper. Mostly, it is used because it’s a readily available material with an abundant source in a lot of households. However, materials like cardboard, coir, and peat are also good candidates as bedding materials.
No matter which material you use, remember that you will have to regulate the moisture level of the bedding to ensure that your worms live in an ideal environment for them.
- Food Waste
Despite the idea of compost worms being able to break down food waste, this does not mean that you can simply give them all leftovers from your kitchen. Ideally, you should stick to feeding them organic leftovers such as fruits or vegetable peels, cooked pasta or rice, grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, beans, and bread. It’s also important to remember that your worms do not have teeth, so chopping these materials into smaller chunks will make the entire process faster.
Never feed your worms meat, oil, bones, and dairy products. And while your worms can tolerate a wide range of PH levels, it’s also not a good idea to introduce them to acidic food such as vinegar and citrus all at once.
Setting Up Your Worm Bin
Once you’ve had all the materials ready, it’s high time that you finally set up your worm bin. Follow the steps below for properly setting up your worm bin.
Step 1: Prepare your crate or bin.
Make sure that the container you will be using for worm composting is clean. Give it a good rinse to get rid of residues that may be harmful to worms. If you’re using a wooden container, line its bottom and sides with plastic; an old shower curtain or a clean plastic garbage bag will do the trick.
Step 2: Prepare the bedding materials.
If you’re using newspaper, tear them into 1-inch strips. If you can, avoid using colored print as bedding materials for they may be toxic and harmful to the worms. However, if you’re using materials like cardboard, tear them up in fairly small pieces.
Step 3: Moisten the bedding.
Wet your bedding materials before adding them in your worm bin. Add water until the materials feel like a damp sponge. Remember that it should be moist, not wet. Make sure that it’s adequately watered without the materials having to drip water.
Step 4: Put the bedding in the bin.
Place the moist bedding material of your choice in the bin. Add a few strips or pieces of dry material to get the moisture level right. Fill the bin with bedding materials until it’s ¾ full. Sprinkle 2 to 4 cups of soil in the bin. Feel free to ass gritty soil particles to mimic the normal environment that the worms live in. Potting soil will do the trick. However, you can also add a few materials such as crushed eggshells or limestone.
Remember that you should pack the bin with bedding materials loosely. Avoid clamping everything together. Worms thrive in a well-ventilated area. Having a cramped environment will suffocate your worms.
Step 5: Add the worms in the bin.
Scatter the worms gently on the bedding, then cover up your bin. It’s best to leave them alone for a few days. This will allow them to cozy up to the new environment they are exposed in.
Step 6: Find a convenient place to store the worm bin in.
Your worm bin should be kept in cool, dark places. In general, worms can live and thrive in areas with temperatures of 5° C to 30° C. Temperature outside this range can gravely affect the production rate and mortality rate of your worms, so make sure to find a convenient place with regulated temperature. Avoid placing your bin in areas near the washing machine, dishwashers, and clothes dryers. Worms can be sensitive to vibration, so exposure to such may result in your worms trying to escape from your bin. Ideal places to store your worm bin will be kitchen cabinets, mudrooms, and even basements.