How to Make Vermicompost – The Power of Worms for a Healthier Garden

Written By Jenn

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Vermicompost is a mixture of decomposing food and vegetable scraps, bedding materials, and worm castings, a nice way to describe worm manure.

Vermicomposting needs red composting worms, also called red wigglers. They work as a team along with microorganisms to produce worm castings, a type of organic compost that is highly prized by gardeners.

The end result is an extremely rich and valuable compost.

The convenience factor is high as once the bin is set up correctly the maintenance is minimal.

How To Make Vermicompost

To make vermicompost, you will need a few basic supplies, including a worm bin, bedding material, food for the worms and red wiggler worms.

how to make vermicompost - visual representation
A simple illustration to visually show how to make vermicompost!

Setting up the worm bin correctly is crucial to the success of making vermicomposting, so it’s important to choose the right location and bedding material.

Once you have your bin set up and your worms in place, you can start adding kitchen scraps and other organic waste to the bin.

Over time, the worms will break down the waste and turn it into vermicompost that can be used to nourish your plants.

Cold climates are fine for worm bins providing the worms are kept fed. A worm farm can quite happily sit inside if conditions are too cold.

A worm bin or worm farm not only produces vermicompost (worm castings) but also a liquid fertilizer or worm tea. It is easy to collect as the bin has a spigot at the bottom for collecting the liquid fertilizer.

The worm tea is diluted with water in a 1:10 ratio approximately.  There are no hard and fast rules about this.

Did you know that you can buy worm tea? This could be useful while you are waiting for yours to brew!

Liquid Concentrate Worm Tea - Liquid Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer - Organic Compost Tea for Plants & Bokashi, Quart (32 oz)

Feeding The Worms to Make Vermicompost

Feeding your worms is a crucial part of vermicomposting success. Worms eat a variety of organic materials, including food scraps, vegetable waste, and other easily throw food.

In this section, we will discuss the best food scraps to feed your worms and how to prepare them.

I have also written another article about what to feed your worms that gives more detail.

Kitchen leftovers and scraps are suitable for adding to your worm bin for the worms to eat and produce worm manure.

Things To Include When Feeding Composting Worms

Some of the best food scraps to feed your worms include banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, crushed eggshells, vegetable scraps and fruit peels.

These materials are rich in nutrients and provide a good balance of carbon and nitrogen, which is essential for the growth of composting worms.

You can also add some shredded paper or cardboard to your vermicomposting bin to help balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio.

Things To Avoid When Feeding Composting Worms

When feeding your composting worms, it’s important to avoid certain types of food scraps, such as meat, dairy, and oils. Meat, dairy and oils can attract pests and cause unpleasant odors in your vermicomposting bin.

It’s also important to avoid feeding your worms any food scraps that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.

Some gardeners say grains are fine to add, while others disagree.

All agree that greasy foods, dairy products, and meats should not be used in a worm bin. Place your food offerings beneath the bedding, preferably in a corner of the worm bin.

Avoid acidic fruit and vegetables for  such as oranges and use onions sparingly

Chop The Food Scraps Into Small Pieces

To prepare your food scraps for your worms, chop them into small pieces or blend them in a food processor. This will make it easier for your worms to digest the material.

Worm food below is also available as a supplement to ensure your worms get the nutrition and energy they need to thrive.

Protogro NightCrawlers, Superworms, Red Wigglers, Compost & Bait Worm Food, 2 Lbs (2 Lbs)

Understanding Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a process of composting using worms to break down organic waste into nutrient organic compost. It is an easy and effective way to turn your kitchen waste and scraps into a beneficial soil additive.

Worm composting is a natural process that mimics the way worms naturally live in the soil.

The worms consume organic waste and excrete castings, which are rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These castings can be used as a soil amendment to improve plant growth and health.

An indoor vermicomposting system is an ideal way to produce vermicompost year round. It requires minimal space and can be done in a small apartment or even a closet.

A worm bin can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic totes, wooden boxes, or even old dresser drawers.

To make vermicompost, you will need worms.

Red wigglers are the most common type of worm used for vermicomposting. They are easy to care for and can consume up to half their weight in organic waste each day.

When setting up your worm bin, it is important to provide a suitable environment for the worms. The worm bedding material should be moist but not too wet, and the temperature should be between 55-77°F.

Selecting the Right Worms

When it comes to vermicomposting, selecting the right worms is crucial for a successful composting system.

We need to choose worms for composting, also known as red worms or red wiggler worms.

Composting worms are different from the earthworms you see in your garden, and they are specifically adapted for breaking down organic matter in a compost bin.

Red worms are the most commonly used worms for vermicomposting. They are easy to find, reproduce quickly, and can consume large amounts of organic matter.

When selecting worms, we should look for healthy, active worms with a shiny, moist appearance.

The ideal number of worms depends on the amount of organic matter we want to compost, but we can start with fewer worms and gradually add in more worms as the population grows.

Choosing The Right Location for Vermicomposting

making vermicompost

When vermicomposting, choosing the right location is crucial to the success of your composting efforts.

Setting up our vermicomposting system, we need to consider several factors.

First, we need to ensure that we have sufficient outdoor space to set up our composting bin.

This space should be away from direct sunlight and protected from extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or strong winds. We should also ensure that the bin is placed on a level surface to prevent tipping over.

If we don’t have enough outdoor space, we can consider using other storage rooms such as a laundry room or a storage room or a balcony.

We need to ensure that these other storage room locations have adequate ventilation.

A consistent temperature is also essential for vermicomposting. The ideal temperature range for the composting bin is between 55°F and 77°F.

Avoid placing the bin in areas that experience extreme temperature fluctuations such as near air conditioners or heaters.

Preparing the Bedding For The Worms

When it comes to preparing the bedding for vermicomposting, we need to keep a few things in mind. Bedding is the material that composting worms live in, and it plays a crucial role in the success of vermicomposting.

The bedding provides a habitat for the worms, helps to retain moisture, and provides a source of food for the worms.

To prepare the bedding, we need to start with organic materials such as shredded newspaper, cardboard, or leaves. We can also use other organic materials such as coconut coir, peat moss, or straw.

shredded paper

Avoid using glossy or colored paper as worm bedding, as it can contain harmful chemicals that can harm the worms.

Maintenance Of The Vermicomposting System

Once you have set up your vermicomposting system, it is important to maintain it properly to ensure a steady supply of nutrient rich compost for your plants.

Here are some tips for maintaining your vermicomposting system:

Watch The Moisture Level Of The Worm Bin

Maintaining the right moisture level is crucial for the success of your vermicomposting system. Make sure that the bedding material is moist, but not too wet, as this can lead to anaerobic conditions and bad odors.

On the other hand, if the bedding is too dry, the worms can become dehydrated and die.

To maintain the right level of moisture, we can add water to the bedding material as needed. We can also add moist scraps of food , such as fruits and vegetables, to the system to help keep the bedding moist.

In hot climates it may sometimes be necessary to mist with water.  Don’t let the farm become soggy.

Speed Up The Process of Breaking Down

The breakdown process is what turns our food waste and bedding into nutrient-rich compost. We need to make sure that this process is happening efficiently and effectively.

To help speed up the process of breaking down, we can chop our scraps of food into smaller pieces before adding them to the system.

We can also mix the bedding and the food waste regularly to ensure that the worms have access to fresh food and to help aerate the system.

Adding Worms To The Worm Bin

Adding worms to our vermicomposting system is an important step in maintaining it.

We need to make sure that we have enough worms to process the amount of organic material we are adding to the system.

To add worms, we can simply place them on top of the bedding material and let them burrow in.

We can also add more worms as needed if we find that our system is not processing food quickly enough.

Adding More Waste To The Worm Bin

As our vermicomposting system becomes more established, we can start adding more food matter to it.

We need to make sure that we are not adding too much food to the worm bin all at once, as this can overwhelm the system and lead to bad odors.

To add more waste, we can gradually increase the amount of food scraps we add to the system over time. We can also monitor the breakdown process to make sure that the system is keeping up with the amount of waste we are adding.

Fruit Flies In The Worm Bin

Fruit flies can be a common problem in worm bins, especially if we are adding too much fruit to the system.

To prevent fruit flies, we can make sure to bury our fruit scraps deep in the bedding material.  

To avoid attracting fruit flies cover the food scraps with bedding material or a piece of hessian or old carpet

We can also cover the top of the bedding material with a layer of newspaper or cardboard to help keep flies out.

Ants And Flies In The Worm Bin

If your worm composter is outside and ants are a problem, stand the legs in small pots of water. 

Make sure the lid is always on to avoid flies deciding the worm farm is a good place to live.

how to make vermicompost

It’s Time To Harvest The Vermicompost

After about two and a half months, you will start to see more dark colored soil than you do bedding. This is a sign that the worms have eaten their way through the compost.

It is time to harvest the worm castings. The worms will die without bedding.

Harvesting the vermicompost is a simple process that can be done every few months, depending on the size of your worm bin and the amount of organic material you add.

To harvest the worm castings, you will need to separate the worms from the finished compost. There are a few different methods to do this, but we’ll outline the most common way below.

1. Stop Feeding The Worms

About two weeks before you plan to harvest the vermicompost, stop feeding the worms. This will encourage them to migrate to the bottom of the bin where the completed compost is located.

2. Move The Finished Compost To One Side Of The Bin

Once the worms have migrated to the bottom of the bin, move the finished compost to one side of the bin, leaving a space on the other side.

3. Add New Bedding And Scraps To one Side Of The Bin

Add fresh bedding and kitchen scraps to the empty side of the bin. This will encourage the worms to migrate to the new food source, leaving the usable compost behind.

4. Wait For The Worms To Migrate

Over the next few days, the worms will migrate to the new food source. Once the completed compost is debris-free and the worms have migrated to the new food source, it’s time to harvest the vermicompost

5. Collect The Vermicompost

You can use a small hand trowel or your hands to collect the vermicompost from the finished compost pile. Be sure to wear gloves if you’re using your hands.

6. Store The Vermicompost

Store the vermicompost in a container with a lid. It’s now ready to use as a rich, nutrient dense organic compost for your plants.

Using vermicompost has many benefits, including improved plant uptake, debris-free soil, and increased soil fertility.

It’s a great alternative to regular potting soil and can be used in a variety of gardening applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days does it take to make vermicompost?

The time it takes to make vermicompost depends on various factors such as the type of worms, the amount and type of organic matter, and the environmental conditions.

Typically, it takes between 2 to 6 months for the worms to convert the organic matter into vermicompost.

What is the difference between vermicompost and compost?

The main difference between vermicompost and compost is the presence of worms in vermicompost.

Compost is made by the natural breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, while vermicompost is made by the combined action of worms and microorganisms.

Vermicompost also has a higher nutrient content and better water retention capacity than regular compost.

What are the benefits of vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting has several benefits, such as reducing waste, producing nutrient-rich fertilizer, improving soil health, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing waste is a pretty powerful argument these days.

It also saves money and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

Using a worm bin is also great for homes where space is limited and having a traditional compost heap or bin may not be practical.

Some compost worm bins are very small making then ideal for apartment living or even tiny homes.

Maze Worm Farm

Which type of worms are best for vermicomposting?

Red wigglers or Eisenia fetida are the most commonly used worms for vermicomposting.

They are efficient at processing organic matter, reproduce quickly, and are easy to maintain.

Nightcrawlers are not recommended for vermicomposting as they prefer cooler temperatures and may not survive in a worm bin.

Uncle Jim's Worm Farm Red Wiggler Live Composting Mix for Fishing | Starter Pack of Compost Improves Soil Structure and Quality for Healthier Gardens | 100 Count

I’m new to vermicomposting? Is it hard?

If you’re new to vermicomposting, don’t worry – it’s easier than you think to get started!

By following a few simple steps to make vermicompost, you can create nutrient rich compost that will benefit your garden and the environment.

First, choose a suitable container and bedding for your worms or buy a commercial worm farm.

Basic Worm Composting Farm. Four Stacking Tray Farm with Simple Set up Instructions. Product is Made in Oregon.

Then, add food scraps and other organic materials, making sure to avoid certain items like meat and dairy. Finally, maintain the proper moisture level and temperature, and your worms will do the rest!

To make the process foolproof, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

First, start with a small container and a small number of worms, and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.

Second, be mindful of the moisture level – too much or too little can be harmful to your worms.

Third, chop up your food scraps into small pieces to make it easier for the worms to digest.

And finally, be patient – it may take a few weeks or even months for your vermicompost to be ready, but the end result will be well worth the wait. Happy composting!

vector - composting worm
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