Vermicomposting: A Guide to Getting Started

Vermicomposting is a process in which organic matter is broken down using worms such as earthworms. The resulting material is called humus which is a nutrient rich soil conditioner and organic fertilizer. The organic materials consumed by the worms include food scraps, paper, yard trimmings, and other materials. Vermicomposting is a form of recycling that helps to reduce the amount of garbage produced in households. The resulting humus has also been shown to help boost plant growth and prevent possible diseases and pests. Getting started with vermicomposting is simple, and only a few ingredients are needed, including bedding, a proper container, worms, water, and kitchen scraps.

The Type of Worms

The type of worms most often used in vermicomposting are redworms. They can usually be easily found at bait stores, or ordered online. Redworms are perfectly suited for living in a worm bin, and prefer temperatures between fifty five and seventy seven degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the bedding in the worm bin should stay above freezing but below approximately eighty four degrees. The amount of worms needed for your compost bin will depend on the amount of waste generated each day. Approximately one pound of worms is able to take care of a half pound of garbage. Worms can be added to your worm bin by simply scattering them on top of the bedding and they will proceed to work themselves down into the bedding to avoid the light.

Choosing Bedding

The perfect bedding for a worm bin is something that can both retain air and retain moisture while providing a habitat for the worms. There are several different materials that would make proper bedding for vermicomposting. Shredded paper such as computer paper or newspaper is a good option however it has a tendency to dry out quickly. Shredded corrugated cardboard is perhaps the best option as it is good at retaining moisture. Commercial worm bedding is also available in some stores but will cost more than simply using corrugated cardboard or paper.

The amount of bedding that should be placed in your worm bin depends on its size. The worm bin should be about two thirds full of fluffed bedding; for a 2x2 foot box, you would require approximately four to six pounds of bedding. The bedding needs to be prepared by being moistened with water. The best way to do this is to lay the dry bedding in a large container and then cover the bedding with water. Allow the bedding enough time to absorb as much water as possible. Prior to placing the bedding in the worm bin, squeeze the excess water out and then fluff the bedding up. It is important for bedding to remain moist and if it begins to dry out it can be dampened with a spray bottle.

Choosing a Container

There are several different options when it comes to choosing a container for vermicomposting. As a general guide, you will need one square foot of surface area per pound of household waste produced each week. Worm bins can be purchased but can also be made from plastic storage containers. It is important that the lid of the container is never shut tight, as the worms need sufficient oxygen to do their job.

Types of Scraps

Worms can be fed scraps from a variety of sources. Yard trimmings such as grass and old flowers can be placed in the bin as well as vegetables, coffee grounds, leftover pasta, and tea bags. Items that should be avoided include meat and other fatty items. While some people advocate these items in moderation, they have the potential to attract pests such as rodents. When you add food to your worm bin, you will want to begin slowly. Adding too much food too quickly will result in a smelly worm bin. The worms will eat their bedding if hungry so you don't really have to worry about not adding enough scraps at first. Scraps can simply be spread over the top of the bedding or can be buried in about an inch of bedding. If your worm bin begins to emit an unpleasant odor, you may want to reduce the amount of scraps going in or consider building a larger worm bin. Harvesting the humus once it is ready is a simple process as it can simply be pulled out of the bin while being careful not to take any worms out with it.

Vermicomposting is a great, environmentally friendly method of getting rid of lots of different materials. Not only is it good for the environment, if there are kids in the house, worm bins can be the source of some lessons on worms, waste, and doing your part to be environmentally conscious.

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