Vermicomposting: Letting worms do the dirty work Anne Kolaczyk Purdue University Master Gardener
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.
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 • Ready made • Layers • Drainage • Homemade • Depth • Surface area
Getting Started • Bin • Style • Moisture control • Aeration
Bedding • Cardboard • Newspaper • Coconut fiber • Old leaves • Wood chips
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.
Worms • 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 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • A shell of a watermelon added to the bin
Yum, yum: week 2 • That same shell after 10 days
Yum, yum: week 3 • Same shell after 20 days
Care • Add food • Maintainmoisture • Harvest castings
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 • 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: • Space limitations • Bugs • Smell • Outside • Weather • Animals • Size
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.
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
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.
Winter feeding • They should keep eating • Less amount perhaps
What makes worms THRIVE? T temperature H H2O R recycle organics I invertebrates V ventilation E environment and pH
What makes worms CRAWL? C change of habitat R rain A absence of air W water L lack of food
Uses • On house plants • In outdoor gardens • Very high in nutrients • Compost tea