So, you are interested in worm composting. That’s awesome! There are many great reasons why worm composting is a worthwhile undertaking for those of us wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition to reducing the amount of food waste in landfills, the end product is an all-natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden and houseplants. As you can probably guess by our name, we love Composting with Red Worms. Let’s learn more about worm composting, why it’s useful, and how to get started.
What is Worm Composting?
You probably know that compost is decayed organic material that is used as a plant fertilizer. The source material for bagged compost you buy at home improvement stores varies widely and may include dead leaves, grass clippings, animal manure, food waste, and even human waste. While these different sources may have some benefits for your garden, how do you know that your bagged compost is free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or unwanted seeds? Basically, you don’t.
Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is the process of using worms to help break down your household food scraps into a valuable, home-made compost that provides the food (nutrients) required for your garden and potted plants to thrive. One of the greatest aspects of worm composting at home is knowing where your compost comes from and that it is free of the scary stuff that may be found in commercial compost.
Why use worms? you ask. Great question! Worms serve to accelerate the decomposition process and improve the quality of the compost. Harvesting of worm castings (a.k.a. worm poop or vermicompost) is the end goal of worm composting. These castings are rich in nutrients and make the perfect soil amendment and fertilizer. Worms are essentially a natural compost factory; they take your food scraps, do all the work, and produce a great product. Pretty sweet! Not to mention, the cost savings that come with never buying bagged compost again.
The Benefits of Composting with Red Worms
- Reduces Landfill Waste – did you know that in the US approximately 31% of the overall food supply is wasted, with much of that ending up in landfills? That’s a lot. In addition to taking up space, the anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more detrimental than carbon dioxide. Worm composting reduces, and can even eliminate, your food waste sent to the landfill, which is a win all around.
- Excellent for any Garden- worm composting benefits any gardener. It helps enrich the soil and ultimately helps get great results for vegetable and flower gardens, lawns, and trees. It is far friendlier to the environment than chemical fertilizers.
- Requires Minimal Space-a simple worm farm does not require a huge space to establish. It creates quality compost year round in most climates and works done both indoors and outdoors. It also requires little knowledge to get started and does not take much effort once you begin.
- Great for Kids-If you have kids then they will love your worm farm. Worms are fascinating to watch (and hold) and will help impart kids with environmental stewardship lessons. Many schools include worm composting in their science or environmental studies.
- Saves you Money- once you establish your worm bin and get composting, you can spend far less buying compost or fertilizer. Also, there are no more expenses on outsourcing organic waste disposal, and some money saved by using fewer garbage bags.
- Perfect for Container Growing- your compost works just as great in potted plants and container gardens as it does outside. Anything that grows will love you for it!
- Improves Soil Fertility- worm compost provides an affordable and effective way to enrich and maintain soil fertility.
Those are some of the many benefits of composting with red worms. And hopefully you are far less grossed-out by worm composting than what you get in bagged compost. If not, here is another article about the dangers of sewage sludge in commercial composts.
One of the (not so bad) dangers of composting with red worms is that your 4 year old daughter may grow a worm mustache like mine did. I’ll take that risk.
Red Worms/Red Wrigglers
Red worms, red wrigglers, compost worms, manure worms, Eisenia foetida. Whatever you call these little guys, they sure do a great job composting. Red worms are the most widely used in composting because of their ability to decompose organic material quickly and effectively. In fact, red worms rarely live in soil. Instead they prefer decaying vegetation, manure piles, and compost heaps. Perfect!
Our detailed articles on composting red worms provides more information, including how and where to buy bulk red worms.
How do you Compost with Red Worms at Home?
There are 4 basic items you need to compost with red wrigglers at home.
- Worm bin – the worm bin houses your worms and provides the environment worms need to do their work. Options for worm bins range from building your own to a variety of worm bins that are for sale. You should select a worm bin that fits your space, climate, the quantity of food waste you plan on composting, and aesthetic standards. Read more about worm bins here.
- Bedding – the worm bedding is the material that creates the structure of the worm habitat. Bedding is a critical component to a health worm bin. In addition to helping retain proper moisture levels and improve air circulation, bedding makes up a large portion of a worm’s diet. Specific materials commonly used for bedding consist of shredded cardboard, newspaper, aged manures and composts, and other carbon-rich organic material. Bedding is hugely important for the health of your worm bin but is often overlooked by beginners, so make sure you pay close attention to your worm bedding. Details of proper bedding materials are described here.
- Composting Worms – these are the stars of your worm bin. There are many options to buy red worms for composting. Learn how to buy red wrigglers here.
- Food – this is where the real fun begins! The food scraps you feed your composting worms is the material that gets eaten and turned into worm castings. The compost you make is only as good as the food you put in. You also need to be aware of foods that can harm your worms or that worms cannot easily breakdown into compost. Read our worm feeding guide.
Getting Started with Worm Composting
If you are ready to get started in composting with red worms, check out our product reviews of worm bins and other worm farming equipment.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions. We’re here to help to get up and composting with red worms.