Vermicomposting for Everyone!

By Katie Costantini 

Did you know that you don’t need a yard, or even a space outside, to compost your food waste? You can compost inside your home using worms! Vermicomposting uses worms and naturally present microorganisms to transform your kitchen and yard waste into nutrient rich humus, or compost, that you can use to help plants grow.

Vermicomposting not only creates a quality product that you can use on your garden, house plants, or lawn, but it can also save you money by reducing trash hauling costs. It also has a positive impact on the environment! Keeping food and yard waste out of the trash reduces both carbon emissions associated with garbage transportation and methane emissions produced when organic waste decomposes anaerobically in a landfill.

To get started, you first need a compost bin. You can purchase vermicompost bins, such as the Can O’ Worms, or you can easily make one yourself by following these steps!

  1. You will need 2 or more plastic bins or buckets. One will be for drainage and the rest will be used to make your compost!
  2. Use a drill to make air holes (¼ inch) on the sides of the bin(s) that will contain the compost and worms. On the same bin(s) drill holes (⅛ inch) on the bottom to allow for drainage. If you have more than one bin for compost, the drainage holes will also allow worms to travel between bins.
  3. Insert the bin(s) with holes into the drainage bin. You can collect this water (“compost tea”) and use it to water your plants!

The next step is to create a habitat for your worms! Your habitat should have a ratio of 3 parts “brown” to one part “green.” “Browns” are rich in carbon and “greens” are rich in nitrogen. See the chart below for examples of each.

Brown (carbon-rich) Green (nitrogen-rich)
dry leaves

straw and hay

shrub prunings

pine needles/cones

chopped twigs/branches

wood ash

newspaper

shredded paper

cardboard (shredded)

corn cobs/stalks

dryer lint

sawdust

eggshells

brown paper bags

fruit scraps

vegetable scraps

fresh grass clippings

lawn and garden weeds

flowers

chicken manure

coffee grounds/filters

tea leaves and bags

hedge clippings

garden waste

fresh leaves

seaweed and kelp

 

Do not add: Meat and bones, dairy, onion, oils, citrus, spices, plastic or chemicals.

Once you have created your habitat, the final step is to add the worms! You should use red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida), which can be purchased online. There should be 1lb of worms for each square foot of compost. Worms can eat about ½ their weight per day, so the more worms you have, the more food and yard waste you can compost at a time.

Store your compost in a cool, shaded space, such as under the counter or in the basement. The materials should be about as moist as a wrung out sponge.  If your compost starts to smell, it is either due to lack of aeration, too much organic waste for the worms to handle, or the compost may be too dry. Use a spray bottle to add water if it is too dry or turn the compost if it is too wet.

When you are ready to finish your compost, you will need to set up a new habitat for your worms. If you are using a layered method, you can simply start feeding a new layer and stop feeding the original layer, and the worms will follow the food. If you only have one bin, move all the material to one side, stop feeding this half, and start a new habitat on the other side. The worms will move to the new habitat. The compost will be ready to harvest and use on your plants anywhere from 6-12 weeks after you stop feeding it!

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