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Vermicomposting: Worms, Bins and How To Get Started

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Vermicomposting: Worms, Bins and How To Get Started

By Collin Dunn, TreeHugger

What is vermicomposting? Why use worms?

Known also as worm compost, vermicast, worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, vermicompost is similar to plain compost, except that it uses worms in addition to microbes and bacteria to turn organic waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Vermicompost, or vermiculture, most often uses two species of worms: Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Red Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus), which are rarely found in soil and are adapted to the special conditions in rotting vegetation, compost and manure piles.

How does vermicomposting work?
It works like this: after procuring a container and setting it up (more on that in a moment), feed your worms the same organic waste you’d toss in a compost pile — which includes just about all of your food waste (but hold the animal leftovers). They chew on it for awhile, and when they’re all done eating, they excrete nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Benefits of vermicomposting
In addition to increased nutrient levels, worm castings contain millions of microbes which help break down nutrients already present in the soil into available plant forms. As the worms deposit their castings, their mucous is a beneficial component absent from compost produced by hot or cold composting. The mucous component slows the release of nutrients preventing them from washing away with the first watering. Worm compost is usually too rich for use alone as a seed starter. It is useful as a top dressing and as an addition to potting mixes at a rate of one part castings to four parts mix. Your plants will love it.

Using vermicomposting bins
Unlike compost, which can work its magic in a pile in your backyard, vermicompost requires a bit more structure to work, usually in the form of a bin. Bins can be made out of just about anything, but they require drainage and air flow to be built in, so things like styrofoam (very insulating, and may release toxins into the worms’ environment) and metal (too conductive of heat and cold) are generally less desirable, and plastic requires more drainage than wood be it can’t absorb moisture. The design of a bin usually depends on where you want to store the bin and how you wish to feed the worms.

Most small bins can be grouped into three different groups; keep reading to learn more about the three categories of vermicomposting bins, and how to get started with vermicomposting.

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17 comments

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6:25PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

I have bend vermicomposting an composting for over 20 years now an have zero organic waste junk mail, newspaper, cardboard an all other organic waste all can go into my worm bins the only think made of paper that can't go into the worm bin is shiny paper I have three 3'X3' worm bins an I use all of the worm poop in my garden an house plants. If you want to get started in vermicomposting here is a great site to get you started lots of good people here that can help vermicomposters.ning.com I can help all who want to get started in vermicomposting just email me here at care2 at ps_750417790@care2.com or happyhippie@i-love-cats.com an feel free to pick my brain. NO SPAM PLEASE =^..^=

5:45AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

interesting

1:14PM PDT on May 2, 2012

I think I want to do this when I grow up. Thanks!

11:56AM PST on Feb 24, 2012

I found a great how-to resource...the Best Place for Garbage by Sandra Wiese. It is not only an excellent source of information, it is also a fun and entertaining read. Check it out.

9:39AM PDT on Jul 5, 2010

We all need to get on this bandwagon. Can you think of the amount of garbage that will not be sent to the dump and how much less methane gas will be produced. This article should be sent to all senators and government agencies to open their eyes.

5:51PM PDT on Jun 24, 2010

Wow! This is great information for a beginner (that will be me soon, I hope.) I'm worried tho' that I'll kill the worms by doing it wrong.

The article refers to using sawdust. We use equine pine in our kitty boxes. Once it turns to powder we sift out the "gifts" and put the pine dust in the garden. Is this kitty-used dust appropriate for the worm composter???

12:47PM PDT on Jun 24, 2010

thanks a bunch for this info...it's been half a year since i stumble across the idea of vermicomposting, yet find hard time locating for the nearest supplier of vermi worm to start with...

any help? i live in Limassol, Cyprus...
with many thanks...

12:45PM PDT on Jun 24, 2010

thanks a bunch for this info...it's been half a year since i stumble across the idea of vermicomposting, yet find hard time locating for the nearest supplier of vermi worm to start with...

any help? i live in Limassol, Cyprus...
with many thanks...

7:15PM PDT on Mar 15, 2010

Thanks.

8:17PM PST on Mar 7, 2010

I started my own vermicompost.

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