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Vermicomposting: Letting worms do the dirty work. Anne Kolaczyk Purdue University Master Gardener. Vermicomposting.

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Vermicomposting letting worms do the dirty work l.jpg

Vermicomposting: Letting worms do the dirty work

Anne Kolaczyk

Purdue University Master Gardener


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Vermicomposting

Composting worms eat decaying organic matter and turn it into worm castings (worm feces). The result is vermicompost, a mixture of worm castings and composted material such as the bedding in bin.


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Why do it

  • Ecologically responsible

    • Reduce waste in landfills and sewage treatment plants

    • Provides valuable additives for your plants

  • Saves you money

  • Worms for fishing


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Composting bins

  • Ready made

    • Layers

    • Drainage

  • Homemade

    • Depth

    • Surface area


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Getting Started

  • Bin

    • Style

    • Moisture control

    • Aeration


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Bedding

  • Cardboard

  • Newspaper

  • Coconut fiber

  • Old leaves

  • Wood chips


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Seeding

  • Need a microbial rich substance to start the bin off.

    • Compost

    • Vermicompost

    • Manure

    • Dirt

  • Nothing too fresh though! You don’t want to generate heat from the seeding substance.


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Worms

  • Not all worms are equal!

    • Composters, not earthworkers

  • Redworms Eisenia foetida

  • Full density is 1 lb per sq ft of surface area


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Worms, worms

  • Worms become mature at 10 weeks

  • Will produce 2 to 3 cocoons a week

    • Each cocoon holds 2-5 babies

    • Cocoons take 3 weeks to hatch


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And more worms

  • In 6 months, 8 worms will multiply into 1500 if conditions are right

  • They will stop breeding if there is not enough food or space.


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Food scraps

  • 1/2 lb of food per sq ft of surface area (assuming full worm density) per day

  • kind

    • Vegetable scraps

    • Egg shells

    • Coffee grounds

    • Bread

    • Plant waste

    • No meat or bones

    • No pet waste


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Second course

  • Worms eat the microbes that feed on the decaying food, not the food itself.

  • Food won’t attract them until it starts to spoil.

  • Consider pre-composting food


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Yum, yum: week 1

  • A shell of a watermelon added to the bin


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Yum, yum: week 2

  • That same shell after 10 days


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Yum, yum: week 3

  • Same shell after 20 days


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Care

  • Add food

  • Maintainmoisture

  • Harvest castings


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Harvesting Methods

  • For compost and restocking

    • Hand Sort

    • Halving

    • Bag trap

  • For compost only

    • Dumping

  • For fishing worms

    • Hand sort and remove largest


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Points to remember

  • Composting worms don’t do well out in your garden unless your soil is rich in humus. They need compost for food!


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Inside or outside?

  • Inside:

    • Space limitations

    • Bugs

    • Smell

  • Outside

    • Weather

    • Animals

    • Size


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Outside for me

  • I bought a Rubbermaid deck bin. Holds 10 cubic feet.

  • Placed on north side of house where it got very little sun.

  • Positioned near electrical outlet.


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Preparation

  • Assembled bin

  • Placed on styrofoam insulation sheet

  • Drilled holes in sides for ventilation

  • Covered holes with screening using glue gun to keep out bees


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Winterizing

  • Place large covered bucket or container in middle of bin. Fill 2/3 with water.

  • Put birdbath heater into water. Cut hole in cover for the cord. If extension cord is needed to reach outlet, wrap joint securely with plastic.

  • Fill worm bin with bedding so it almost reaches top.

  • Wrap sides with sheets of styrofoam insulation.

  • Cut piece of foam insulation to lay on top of bedding.

  • When temperature falls below freezing, plug in heater. It should create a core that is not frozen where the worms will gather.


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Winter feeding

  • They should keep eating

  • Less amount perhaps


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What makes worms THRIVE?

T temperature

H H2O

R recycle organics

I invertebrates

V ventilation

E environment and pH


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What makes worms CRAWL?

C change of habitat

R rain

A absence of air

W water

L lack of food


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Let’s get real



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Uses

  • On house plants

  • In outdoor gardens

  • Very high in nutrients

  • Compost tea