Vermiculture, aka worm composting.

Many years ago, I set up several garbage pails in the basement to collect all of our family’s kitchen waste and with 4 young children in the home, that can add up to a lot of waste.

red wigglers

red wigglers

We would regularly check on the worms, red wigglers, to see their progress. For the kids there was a big fascination to see the process and look for worm egg sacks that might have just been shed, full of tiny little wigglers ready to grow on all the new waste just added to the pail.

But the big pay off was all that rich black soil conditioner, in the form of worm castings, that could be collected and used in the garden, potting mix, house plants and anywhere we want to see lush healthy plant growth.

For those interested in getting started, it’s a pretty basic system… you need worms, a container and bedding. That’s about it.

The Worms ~ you need red worms, no others kinds will do the job… Eisenia foetida (also known as red wigglers, brandling or manure worms) or Lumbricus rubellus (manure worm). It is recommended to have two pounds of worms for every pound of garbage but remember that if you give them adequate food and a good home they can double their populations every 90 days. That’s a lot of worms in a short time!

The Container ~ there are special worm bins you can buy, but you can also make do with a “Rubbermaid” type tub or I used a rubber garbage pail and built my own. You just need to circle the bin with several ‘air’ holes, one about every 2 inches around the circumference near the top of the bin, preferably not at the level where you will be putting in the worms and the waste materials.

The Bedding ~ a third of a bin loosely filled with damp shredded news paper (75% moisture is good, dripping wet is not) and ground egg shells is what I started out with….shredded cardboard works well, too.

Location is important too, as you don’t want the worms getting over heated and maybe die off or too cold to want to eat. The ideal environment is where the temperatures are between 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 to 26 degrees Celsius. Anything else and they should be moved someplace where they will have some protection. In the summer they were under the eaves of our garden shed, in the shade and kept out of the sun at all times. During the cold winter months I kept ours in the basement but there are lots of possibilities.

Dig down to about the middle of the bedding and place the worms in there, making sure to cover them up …then leave them alone for a few days to get comfortable. Don’t forget to put the lid on or the bedding will dry out.

Feed them fruit scraps, vegetable peels, tea bags and coffee grounds. Definitely avoid meat or meat by-products as well as dairy products or oily foods. All those will do is attract pests like flies or rodents.
Feed small amounts about once or twice a week, depending on how fast they eat it up. We soon found ourselves wanting more worm bins due to the large amount of scraps our family was producing and adding more food then the worms can eat, left us with a stinky bin once in a while. So it was either throw away that good compost material, make more bins or add more worms. Another thing that helps is to cut up the scraps into smaller pieces making it easier for them to eat up faster.

The best part is when the contents of the bin has mostly turned to worm castings, brown, earth-looking stuff, in about 4 or 5 months time. If you live in a colder climate it’s great winter project. By then it’s time to take the castings out and give your worms new bedding.

To do this move everything to one side of the bin, then push any partially composed food to the middle and add a bit more fresh food scraps. The worms will head for the food and once they’ve relocated to the new food pile there won’t be many, if any, left in the castings, so you can remove the worm castings without diminishing your worm count. Once you’ve removed all the castings you can then add new replacement bedding and your ready to start all over again. Of course this is also an ideal time to split your worms up and make more new bins.

Happy Living!

Messy Shepherdess

 

re-blogged from Land Share Canada: http://landsharecanada.com/users/messy-shepherdess/blog/vermiculture-or-worm-composting/

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