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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

Vermicomposting: Letting worms do the dirty work

Anne Kolaczyk

Purdue University Master Gardener


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.

why do it
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
composting bins
Composting bins
  • Ready made
    • Layers
    • Drainage
  • Homemade
    • Depth
    • Surface area
getting started
Getting Started
  • Bin
    • Style
    • Moisture control
    • Aeration
  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Coconut fiber
  • Old leaves
  • Wood chips
  • 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.
  • Not all worms are equal!
    • Composters, not earthworkers
  • Redworms Eisenia foetida
  • Full density is 1 lb per sq ft of surface area
worms worms
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
and more worms
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.
food scraps
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
second course
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
yum yum week 1
Yum, yum: week 1
  • A shell of a watermelon added to the bin
yum yum week 2
Yum, yum: week 2
  • That same shell after 10 days
yum yum week 3
Yum, yum: week 3
  • Same shell after 20 days
  • Add food
  • Maintainmoisture
  • Harvest castings
harvesting methods
Harvesting Methods
  • For compost and restocking
    • Hand Sort
    • Halving
    • Bag trap
  • For compost only
    • Dumping
  • For fishing worms
    • Hand sort and remove largest
points to remember
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!
inside or outside
Inside or outside?
  • Inside:
    • Space limitations
    • Bugs
    • Smell
  • Outside
    • Weather
    • Animals
    • Size
outside for me
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.
  • Assembled bin
  • Placed on styrofoam insulation sheet
  • Drilled holes in sides for ventilation
  • Covered holes with screening using glue gun to keep out bees
  • 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.
winter feeding
Winter feeding
  • They should keep eating
  • Less amount perhaps
what makes worms thrive
What makes worms THRIVE?

T temperature


R recycle organics

I invertebrates

V ventilation

E environment and pH

what makes worms crawl
What makes worms CRAWL?

C change of habitat

R rain

A absence of air

W water

L lack of food

  • On house plants
  • In outdoor gardens
  • Very high in nutrients
  • Compost tea