Vermicomposting: Composting with Worms

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What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting, or worm composting, is different than traditional composting.



Worm composting is a process that uses red earthworms, also commonly called redworms, to consume organic waste, producing castings (an odor-free compost product for use as mulch), soil conditioner, and topsoil additive. Naturally occurring organisms, such as bacteria and millipedes, also assist in the aerobic degradation of the organic material. Commercially available worm composting bins make it fairly simple to do your own vermicomposting indoors.

Vermicomposting is especially useful for processing food scraps, since the worms consume the material quickly and there are fewer problems with odor. Worm composting does not generate temperatures high enough to kill pathogens. For this reason, vermicomposting is more appropriate for food, paper, and yard waste.



Food scraps should be chopped or shredded for faster degradation. Unprocessed materials can be used in vermicomposting, but the time required for complete degradation of the organic waste is generally six months or longer. Vermicomposting does not require a specific carbon-to-nitrogen ratio like traditional aerobic composting methods.

Links to more worm composting information

University of Nebraska Guide to Composting with Worms

New Mexico State University Guide to Composting with Worms (PDF File)

Gardenweb Vermicomposting Forum

Worm World – a great place to buy redworms and worm castings.

Worms Eat My Garbage, the best book on worm composting from Amazon.com.

Browse composting and vermicomposting equipment.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Roch September 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Thinking of getting a kit for vermicomposting. I might just end up putting it on my list. Would you suggest going to the multi tray installations or just a simple box?

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steve September 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

@Roch, Go with the multi tray, they’re not much more then a single tray and if you never use the extra trays your only out a few dollars, however it will cost you more if you buy a single tray and decide later you want more trays.
Here are a few units to consider:
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/wormcomposter.html
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/vermicomposting-bin.html (I use this unit)

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Chloe July 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

hello! thanx so much for your efforts here! you…& your site is fantastic!! i have a composter using leaves, veggie scraps in a hot humid climate. should i add red wrigglers to it?
thank you!

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steve July 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Chloe, Adding red wiggler worms is not necessary unless you have a fully enclosed bin. When you compost with worms it’s a little different than composting without. It’s called vermicomposting and you typically just add food scraps and not leaves and grass. If you add worms to a regular bin you will have a hard time keeping them from escaping. You may want to consider vermicomposting, I do both regular composting and vermicomposting and enjoy them both equally. Here is a little more info http://compostguide.com/vermicomposting-composting-with-worms/

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mc August 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I’ve been reading up to start my own compost (already have the bin), but am concerned that I will have primarily kitchen scraps. I do have a yard and can easily scrounge up some brown material, but probably won’t be able to keep a 2:1 ratio (between brown and green). Should I consider doing vermicomposting instead?

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steve August 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm

@mc, Yes, I would go with vermicomposting. Worms are great for your situation.

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Lani October 6, 2011 at 3:29 am

you could chuck in some shredded paper and cardboard.

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ivanna August 16, 2011 at 2:02 am

Hello! Thanks for your site. I just stared composting with worms and without them, I have my red worms inside and they are doing fine, but it seems they take too long to eat the few kitchen scraps that I give them. And the bin outside stinks too much. What am I doing wrong?

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steve August 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm

@ivanna, You are likely doing nothing wrong. Remember the worms eat the food as it breaks down, not the actual food. Make sure it fairly well chopped up to start the breaking down process and don’t over feed them. Vermicomposting takes longer than standard composting. As for the smell outdoors, you may have too much food or something rotten that should not be in there. Make sure the majority of the items in the bin are browns, and bury the greens deep in the mix to help with the smell.

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Sherri August 25, 2011 at 2:29 am

I would like to share a lesson on Vermicomposting with my Cub Scouts. I would possibly like to set up an example of a bin with worms. What is a low cost/effective method or bin I could use? Would a rubber bin work? Thanks in advance.

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steve August 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Sherri, Yes, get two bins and one lid. Drill holes in the bottom of the top bin so it can drain into the bottom bin. Punch holes in the top bin lid and around the sides for venting. If you want to get fancy you can put a spout in the bottom bin to drain the liquids. Sounds like a great project for scouts. Good luck!

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Sheri September 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Hi. I live in a flat. I have some potted plants. I would like to make compost as a way of putting organic waste to good use. What is the best method? Thanks

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steve September 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm

@Sheri, I suggest vermicomposting, i.e. using worms to break down your kitchen scraps. For regular composting, you need lots of browns, i.e. carbons (browns), which you would likely not have a source of living in a flat or apartment. With vermicomposting, you get the benefit not needing to add leaves and other browns, so you have a place to add your kitchen scraps. The liquids produced from the worms is a great fertilizer as well as the worm castings. here is more info on vermicomposting http://compostguide.com/vermicomposting-composting-with-worms/

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Michele May 1, 2012 at 3:18 am

Hi,
I am making my compost outdoors, in a regular black plastic compost bin.
I must not do it right as my compost doesn’t warm up but I get nice compost anyway.
I wonder if I could put some worms in it. The heat would have been the only problem I think.
Thank you very much,
Michele

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steve May 1, 2012 at 2:16 pm

@Michele, If it’s working and your getting finished compost then you are doing it right. No, worms are not going to help much. Worms are for vermicomposting and take a different type of bin.

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Shelly Russell August 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

We have tried so many different ways to keep our soil fertile. We used fertilizers and manure, we tried doing our own compost, and we tried bringing in new soil, all because the soil where we live is awful and I want to plant a small garden. So far worm castings mixed with finished compost has been our greatest solution. Good luck to all you gardeners out there trying to improve your soil and be eco friendly!

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