What is Worm Composting?

A Different Way of Composting

Worm composting is done in a wormery (worm compost bin) and is an alternative method of making compost that utilizes live worms to “eat” kitchen and garden refuse and turn it into castings. A worm can process half of its body weight each day, effectively reducing the materials by as much as 80%.

worm composting

Watering your houseplants with worm compost tea

Worm compost bins make compost much quicker than regular compost bins or compost tumblers. After the worms eat the materials you feed them and produce the castings, which are richer in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium than normal compost, you benefit from the results in two ways. First, you can collect the liquid, a form of compost tea, that drips out of the bottom of the wormery, mix it with water, and use it to spray on your plants leaves. Second, when the castings are finished, you collect them and use them as you would compost in your garden.

How a Compost Using a Worm Compost Bin

Wormeries are very simple. One example is a vertical wormery that is composed of three trays with holes in the bottom of each tray allowing the worms to move from tray to tray. To begin, you put bedding in the bottom tray and then add the worms. The bedding can consist of shredded newspapers, mature compost, sawdust, hay, dried leaves, burlap bags, etc. The goal is to have the bedding as similar to the worm’s natural habitat as possible, which would be like the moist, dried leaves found in a garden or forest floor. The worms will then migrate towards the food.

The top tray holds the food – fresh kitchen and garden scraps that can be put in every day or so and covered with damp newspapers or other bedding. The second tray is the work-in-progress tray where most of the composting takes place. This compost is not finished yet. The third tray is where the finished product ends up.

You can keep a compost crock or compost pail in your kitchen to collect the scraps, but be careful not to provide the worms with too much at one time or it will just rot in the wormery.

When the third tray becomes full, you take the finished compost out and rotate the trays, putting the now empty bottom tray on the top and moving the other two trays down a notch. These particular wormeries are on legs and also include another container at the bottom, with a spigot, where the liquid collects. This is the liquid that, when mixed with water, is great for your plants.

There are other types of wormeries as well. The one mentioned above is vertical. You can also find divided horizontal wormeries that work much the same way. There are also wormeries that aren’t divided, but they are a lot less convenient to use as you have to empty them out from time to time to remove the compost and aerate them by hand.

The Types of Materials You Can Put Into a Wormery

The types of material you can put into a wormery are somewhat different than what you would put in conventional compost bins or compost tumblers. First, you need to chop up the materials and give it to the worms often and in small batches. You can add a lot of the same things, such as plant and vegetable refuse, that you would normally use in a compost bin or compost tumbler, but you should avoid heavily acidic fruits, onions and garlic, and some people say not to use potato peelings. Also, worms don’t do well with anything oily.

Temperature Considerations

The temperature for a wormery is important. Worms won’t survive long in high temperatures. It’s best to keep the wormery in a shady spot between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (12-21 degrees Celsius). The temperature of the bedding should not drop below freezing or above 89.6 °F (32 °C).

Yes!  A Wormery is Great for Dog Feces and Cat Litter!

A separate wormery can be used to process dog feces and cat litter. Worms will eat this and turn it into castings that can be used in the ornamental part of your garden. This is especially useful if you have a dog or cat and disposing of the their feces and litter is a continuing problem. If handled correctly, there will be no odor.

A Wormery is Great in a Small Space

Wormeries are great if you don’t have a lot of space. They can be tucked into the laundry room, in a shady corner of your patio or courtyard or, when the weather permits, under a shady tree. They have no odor and they turn your garden and kitchen refuse into usable compost quickly and benefit your garden and indoor plants.

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