What Is Vermicomposting?

Organic gardening is very popular, as is composting. But multiple, large compost bins are not an option for apartment dwellers or people who live in communities with strict HOA rules. Vermicomposting, which is indoor fertilization with insects, is a good option. It's not as hard as it sounds, and you may never have to touch a bug!

What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is a method of converting plant material into fertilizer using worms. Insects, bedding materials, and plant materials are placed in shallow containers that are covered because insects avoid light. Worms produce compost by digesting bedding material and plant material that is regularly added to the bin and expelling it as worm casts. After a few months, the resulting compost is removed and new bedding material and plant waste are added to work on the insects. The byproduct of this process is a dark liquid that can be used in place of compost tea.

What Kind of Worms are Used in Vermicomposting?

The most common worms used in vermicompost are red wiggler worms, which are sold in toilet stores. Redworms are also sold through online retailers and nursery suppliers.

European nightcrawlers are rarely used. In warmer climates, blue worms are used. Any type of worms that live near the soil surface is suitable for vermicompost.

Why You Can't Use Earthworms You Find in Your Yard

Common earthworms in your garden and yard are hard workers. They also make compost by digesting plant material found in your garden. They move this fertilizer from the surface by burying it deep in the soil where they release their castings. The nutrients in the castings become available to the plant roots. But this is why they cannot be used for vermicomposting. Slush needs deep soil. Vermicomposts are very shallow, so soil-moving worms work best.

How to Make a Vermicomposter

Vermicomposters are available from local nurseries as well as Amazon and other internet merchants. If you're a DIY fan, it's easy to make.

You can use almost any material to make a cake. Just keep in mind that the metal will eventually rust and the wood will rot. Some types of wood, such as cedar and redwood, contain resins that are harmful to insects. Most people choose plastic. An old rubber-type trash can works well.

The size of your trash can is determined based on the amount of vegetable waste your household produces in a week. The best way to find out how much is to collect a week's worth of food scraps and then weigh them. You should provide one square foot of surface area for every pound of waste. A household of one or two people produces an average of 4 pounds of food waste each week. The 8 x 2 x 2 inch box is the perfect size for a small family. As for larger families, the 1" x 2" x 3" bin will hold up to 6 pounds of waste.

When building your box, it is important to provide adequate ventilation to keep insects out. You will need ventilation holes in the top and sides of the box. You should also have drainage holes in the bottom of your container to catch all the important “tea” that will accumulate at the bottom of the container. If the liquid is left in the bin, the compost and bedding will decompose. Leave it to drain into the drip tray you place at the bottom of the box specifically to collect the liquid.

What to Use For Bedding Material

You will need to provide bedding materials for your insects. It is provided in nature by leaves and leaf mold. You can take some inside if you like. Most people replace shredded cardboard or newspaper. You can use anything as long as it can be rehydrated and remains somewhat intact. Peat moss can be added to the bedding material to help retain water and prevent the bedding from wilting. Humidity is very important because insects are 75% to 90% water. They will dry out and die in a dry environment. After you wet your bed, add a few handfuls of soil and mix well. Soil provides the fats that insects need for digestion.

How Many Worms do You Need?

No one wants to account for errors! Fortunately, they are sold by the pound. Remember that trash you weighed to determine the size of the trash can? One pound of worms can consume 3.5 pounds of food waste per week.

Once you've finished placing your bin, dump your worms over the bed, distributing them evenly over the top. Insects don't like light, so they burrow into the bed to get away from it. Once all the bugs are gone from the top of the bed, it's time to add food scraps.

What Can You Put in a Vermicomposter?

Basically, anything biodegradable can go in the trash. Most people avoid meat, fat, and bones because they are difficult for insects to digest and can produce odors as insects work on them. Kitchen vegetable scraps such as peels and pits are good. Egg shells are fine. Bread and crackers can be added. Even coffee can be used.

Just make a hole in the bed and add your waste. Cover him with bedding and then cover your crate. The errors will start running immediately. You don't have to do anything but resist the urge to check on them or rock their bed. These things work best if left alone except for weekly additions to the food waste.

How do You Harvest Your Compost?

After about a month or 6 weeks, you will notice that the bedding is brown and that the insects are not converting waste into compost as quickly. It's time to collect your compost!

This is where it can get a little tricky. There is a hard way to do this and an easy way to do it.

The Hard Way

Spread a large piece of plastic (6 x 6 inches) on the floor and shine a bright light on it. Remove the contents of your trash and make nine piles. All piles will have errors but don't worry. They hate light and will quickly hide in the middle of piles. When you can't see any insects, carefully remove the surface of each pile, re-exposing the insects. Place the newly collected compost in a plastic bag and wait until the insects disappear again. Remove a second layer from each pile to reopen the corms. Continue doing this until all the droppings are gone and only the worms remain. Collect all the insects and weigh them. If you are concerned, you may want to wear gloves. When the insects die and turn into compost, you may have less and need to get more. In some cases, worms can multiply so you may end up with more worms than you started with. Place new bedding in your box. Mix some into the soil. Change the bug. Add food scraps. Continue adding waste weekly for another month to six weeks until you have to do it again.

The Easy Way

Instead of taking the used bedding and compost out of the bin, push it to the side of the bin. On the other side, place bedding and fresh litter and cover your box. In about a month, all of the worms will have moved into the new bed and you can easily remove the finished compost from the bin. Convenient and you don't have to touch any bugs!

Indoor vermicomposting is a good alternative to outdoor composting. Using a small box, some newspaper or cardboard, red wiggler worms and a little patience, you can create a nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

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