Have you ever thought of worms in your laundry room?Wigglers in your office? Or heaven forbid- critters in your kitchen?!Pretty scary thought-right?Maybe not-listen to what I have to say and you might change your mind.
Let me introduce you to vermiculture.Vermiculture is a term used to describe worm composting.Worms eat organic waste and produce some of the best compost around, known as worm castings or vermicompost.During this process worms do an excellent job digesting food wastes, breaking them down into simple plant nutrients. These nutrients are immediately available to plants; something that every gardener (and plant)will love.Worm composting has other great advantages.It can be done indoors or outdoors and even provides apartment or condo dwellers a way of composting when outdoor space is limited.Basically, all you need is a container filled with moistened bedding and of course, worms.Add food waste to the mix and the worms and micro-organisms will convert the entire contents into wonderful compost.Pretty simple- huh?!
Ready to get started?Select a container.It can be either wood or plastic and should be between 8”-12” deep.Simply drill 8-112 holes (1/4”-1/2”) in the bottom of the container for aeration and ventilation (worms need air to survive).The bin also needsa cover to provide darkness for the wigglers and to conserve moisture.If the worm container will be kept indoors a sheet of dark plastic or cloth draped over the top will suffice.If the bin is placed outdoors a solid lid is preferable to discourage unwanted critters and to keep out the rain.Place the worm bin on wooden blocks or bricks and place a tray underneath to catch excess liquid which can then be used as a compost tea for plants.Worm bins can be placed indoors all year round with temperature between 40-80 degrees- ideal to keep worms happy.Any location will work; make it convenient for you.If you will be placing your bin outdoors it can be placed in shed and garages or on patios etc.Don’t place it in direct sunlight and keep in mind that it might need to be moved if temperatures drop below 40 degrees.
Now that you have prepared your bin and have selected a spot to put it, the next step is to provide bedding.Bedding can be shredded newspaper, chopped up straw, shredded fall leaves etc.Toss in a couple handfuls of sand or soil.This will provide grit to aid the worm’s digestive process.The next step is to moisten the bedding.Add water until the bedding feels like a wrung-out sponge and then fluff it up to create air spaces.Fill the bin about ¾ full with the moistened bedding.
Now you are ready for the worms!Don’t be tempted to add earthworms or night crawlers; these are very beneficial in other areas but not as vermiculture candidates.One of the best types of worms for vermiculture are red wigglers.I’ll include a local source for these at the end of this article.
Worms eat many of the foods that we eat.Some ideas on preferable foods for worms are vegetable scraps, fruit peels, tea bags, coffee grounds etc.Avoid meats, oily foods, dairy products or grains.
I have only provided basic vermiculture information here but hopefully it has been enough to peak your interest in starting a worm bin of your own.
Rhianna Simes, OSU Extension Land Steward Coordinator for Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District, is a source of additional information on vermicultureSchedule an appointment with her and she will share her knowledge on maintenance, harvesting, answer all questions and even give you a tour of her worm bins!She also has red wigglers available for purchase so you can get started!You might also consider reading Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.It is an informative book that offers useful and practical ideas about worm composting and vermiculture.
Now- red wigglers in a bin in the corner of your laundry room eating your kitchen scraps and producingthe best compost EVER, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all- does it?!Just think of them as “pets” that your plants will love!
Land Steward Program Coordinator
OSU Extension Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District firstname.lastname@example.org
Worms Eat My Garbage
by: Mary Appelhof