Vermicomposting is a sustainable and eco-friendly solution right in your own home garden. This centuries-old practice involves using earthworms to transform kitchen scraps and organic matter into nutrient-rich worm manure, also known as vermicompost or "black gold."
In this comprehensive guide, we will talk about its benefits, methods, and best practices to help you create a thriving vermicomposting system in your home or garden.
Vermicomposting is the process of earthworms breaking down organic waste materials into manure. The star players in this process are red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and redworms (Lumbricus rubellus), which are the two most commonly used species for vermicomposting.
Reducing food waste
Vermicomposting reduces food waste by transforming kitchen scraps like fruit peels, vegetable scraps, and even dairy products into valuable worm manure.
Nutrient-rich soil amendment
Enhances soil structure, fertility, and water retention, making it an ideal amendment for your garden beds.
Diverts organic waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping to combat climate change.
Faster composting process
Vermicomposting is faster than traditional composting, yielding usable compost in a matter of weeks rather than months.
1. Choose the Right Worms
As mentioned earlier, red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and redworms (Lumbricus rubellus) are the best choices for vermicomposting due to their efficient decomposition abilities.
2. Select a Vermicomposting Bin
You'll need a container to house your worms. A plastic bin with a lid is a popular choice for its affordability and ease of maintenance. Make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom to prevent excess moisture buildup. But there are other options.
The Vego Garden In-Ground Worm Composter is a worm composting bin that you can fill with organic waste and worms, bury it at garden bed level, and let your worms do their job.
3. Prepare Bedding Material
Worms need a moist and comfortable environment to thrive. Create a bedding layer of brown organic material and ensure it is damp but not soggy, similar to a wrung-out sponge.
4. Add Your Worms
Begin with about one pound of worms for a small bin and adjust the quantity depending on the size of your vermicomposting system. Place the worms on top of the bedding material.
5. Feed Your Worms
Start slowly by adding small amounts of kitchen scraps, such as fruit peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, and vegetable scraps, to the surface of the bedding. Avoid adding citrus fruits and excessive amounts of dairy products, as they can be acidic or attract fruit flies.
6. Maintain Moisture Levels
Regularly check the moisture content in your bin. If it becomes too dry, mist it with water. If it becomes too wet, add more dry bedding material.
7. Provide Proper Ventilation
Red worms need oxygen to thrive, so make sure your bin has adequate ventilation. You can drill holes in the lid and sides or leave the lid slightly ajar. With a proper vermicompost bin this is something you won’t have to worry about.
8. Avoid Direct Sunlight
Keep your vermicomposting bin in a shaded or sheltered location, as worms are sensitive to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
As your worms do their work, the vermicomposting process unfolds. The organic material you feed them gradually turns into nutrient-rich worm droppings. Here's how:
Red worms feed on the kitchen scraps and bedding materials you provide them, breaking them down into simpler substances. After digestion, the worms excrete nutrient-rich worm manure, also known as worm castings or vermicompost. When you add kitchen scraps, excess moisture seeps through the bin's drainage holes and collects at the bottom. This nutrient-rich liquid is called vermicompost tea and can be used as a strong organic fertilizer for your plants.
Another type of fertilizer is OMRI-Certified fertlizer from organic worm castings, created by Vego Garden and The Magic Worm Ranch. These castings are packed with potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus and is perfect for improving aeration, drainage and moisture retention in your raised bed. After a few weeks, you can start harvesting vermicompost from the bottom of the bin. The finished compost will be dark, crumbly and odorless. This is how you know your vermicomposting process has been successful.
1. Maintain the right temperature
Exposure to extreme heat or cold can be fatal to the worms. Keep your vermicomposting bin in a room temperature range of 55-77°F (13-25°C). Cooler temperatures slow down the composting process.
2. Monitor the worm population
Leaving vermicompost untouched for too long can lead to overcrowding, resource depletion, and reduced worm health. As your worms reproduce, the population will increase. Ensure you don't overpopulate your bin, as it may lead to food scarcity and stress for the worms.
3. Add fresh bedding
Neglecting to maintain a comfortable bedding layer can stress the worms and affect their ability to process food waste. Periodically add fresh bedding material to provide a comfortable environment for your worms and to balance excess moisture.
4. Rotate the contents of the bin
Failing to address issues like foul odors, excessive moisture, or a declining worm population promptly can lead to a deteriorating vermicomposting system. Mix the contents of your bin occasionally to distribute the worms evenly and promote efficient decomposition.
5. Adjust NPK ratio
Maintain a balanced NPK ratio. Vego Garden fertilizer has an NPK ratio of 6-2-4. It's filled with 100+ vitamins, minerals, natural plant hormones, essential sugars, amino acids, carbon, and proteins, all of which are the key to your garden's success. Additionally, it's packed with billions of helpful microorganisms, including endo and ecto mycorrhizal fungi. Plus, it has just 2% iron, so it won't harm your plants and is safe for all living things.
6. Keep fruit flies at bay
Fruit flies, ants, and other pests can invade the bin and disrupt the vermicomposting process. Cover your kitchen scraps with a layer of bedding material to deter fruit flies from laying eggs in your bin.
7. Harvest worm castings
When the vermicompost reaches the bottom of the bin, remove it and replenish the bin with fresh bedding material.
8. Avoid adding excess moisture
Allowing the vermicompost bin to become too wet can create anaerobic conditions, making it difficult for the worms to breathe and thrive. Ensure your bin doesn't become too wet, as it can lead to anaerobic conditions and unpleasant odors.
9. Monitor the PH of the soil
Citrus fruits and excessive amounts of acidic foods can harm the worms or disrupt the pH balance in the bin. Also, avoid adding materials that may be harmful to the worms, such as pesticides, soaps, chemicals, or non-organic materials. Be careful of what you add to your as organic matter to your vermicompost bin.
Vermicomposting is an easy and efficient way to reduce food waste, create nutrient-rich soil amendments, and contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly future. Harness the power of red worms to turn your kitchen scraps into "black gold" for your home garden!