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Vermiculture - Composting with Worms

By Eddie Tanner (Fall 2003)


Vermiculture is a composting method that uses worms to break down organic wastes into
the richest organic topsoil on earth (worm castings). The finished product can be used in the
garden or in house plants. It is, for anyone producing a constant stream of kitchen wastes, a
simple and practical composting method.
Vermicomposting bins are usually smaller than other compost bins, as worms don't need
much space to live. Depending on how much waste you need to compost, a bin can range in size
from 1 ft3 to 3 ft3 or larger. The small size of vermiculture bins makes them ideal for apartment
dweller. They do not smell when properly contained, so they can be kept inside.
Vermicomposting worms are small, red, and have a much faster lifecycle than their large
earthworm cousins. Red worms, often-called manure worms, flourish in a pure organic
environment and don't tend to migrate away from the worm bin. Red worms survive in
temperatures between 45 and 85°F, but prefer temperatures in the 60's. This usually means
keeping the bin in the shade in summer and inside in the winter (in cold winter areas). Worms
can be found in old compost or manure piles, or purchased at some garden stores.
Worm bins can be made with any sturdy rectangular container by punching many small
holes in the bottom and sides for aeration and fitting it with a tight lid. Follow the procedure
below to get started. A more user-friendly approach is to divide the bin into 2 or 3 sections, each
with at least one square foot of surface area. Add fresh waste to one section until it is full; then
begin filling the next. Castings are harvested by digging out the oldest section. The worms in
the finished compost can be returned to the bin. Castings can also be harvested by making the
bottom of the bin out of 1/2-inch wire mesh. When the bottom of the mesh is tapped, the
finished castings will fall out.
USING YOUR WORM BIN
1) Add a 6-inch layer of shredded paper mixed with a small amount of soil or finished compost.
2) Add compost worms (if not already present).
3) Add a thin layer of food scraps (1-2 inches).
4) Mix in an equal amount of shredded paper.
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 until bin is full.
6) Put un-composted material in a bucket.
7) Harvest finished compost from the bottom & retrieve any worms.
8) Add new bedding (shredded paper w/ some soil or compost)
9) Replace un-composted material into bin.
10) Repeat steps 3 through 5.
TIPS: Compost worms don’t like meat, dairy, or citrus peels
Bread should torn into small pieces and moistened

WORM BIN TROUBLESHOOTING GUIDE


What’s the probem? Why is it happening? What to do?
All the worms died bin is too hot add less food waste at a time
bin is too dry water the bin
material too dense add more shredded paper
Worms not eating fast enough population too small add less food/get bigger bin
Too many flies ------------------------------- add a thin layer of soil or ash
to surface
It smells putrid too wet don’t add liquids / add
shredded paper

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