Soil depletion is a major problem in the United States. At the same time, methane leaked from food waste in landfills has 21 times the potency than carbon dioxide. For both of these problems, composting offers a unique solution: help develop healthy soil and help divert and reduce food waste in landfills.
There are lots of great ways to compost. In the past, we’ve talked about the simple process behind starting a compost garden, Bokashi composting, and the top reasons to start composting. In this article, we’ll talk about another form of composting: worm composting!
What is Worm Composting?
Worm composting is also known as vermicomposting. Vermicomposting specifically refers to the use of various species of worms (usually earth worms, white worms, or red wigglers) to create a mixture of soil. Worms eat their way through the compost and produce vermicast, or worm manure. This is, in essence, soil.
As stated, you have a few different options when it comes to your worm choices. Earth worms are generally not the best choice for indoor worm bins. They will, however, work with outdoor bins open to other soil. A common alternative worm is the night crawler, Eisenia fetida or Eisenia hortensis (the European night crawler). Additionally, there are red wigglers or E. fetida.
Whatever your choice of worm, you can rest assured you’ll earn in money back in healthy soil, curbed methane emissions, and higher yields in your garden!
How do you start?
If you’re thinking about starting a compost heap, there are a couple of different approaches, depending on how involved/how much time you have.
One simple method is to just set up an area in the yard to dump food waste. Choose something with enough room to stir the compost around as well as access to sunlight. You won’t need a container for the outside set up, and the worms will just burrow into the ground. Because of the liberty in space, worms may migrate around and into the soil. That said, this is probably the least promising method if you’re investing in worms. (This is, however, a good option for earthworms, who enjoy living in the soil better than in a bin)
Another outdoor method is an outdoor bin. First, purchase a worm bin or try your hand at making your own. A good worm bin will have holes for drainage, but will also be completely rodent proof. After you’ve got your bin, get a nice bedding down. Worms love moist newspaper, cardboard, and leaves. Whatever it is, make sure there’s enough moisture! Next, get your worms. For the bin, you’ll want to use the redworms discussed earlier.
Periodically, throw your food waste into the container. Just be sure you keep it vegetarian! Egg shells, or other sources of protein, help stimulate worm reproduction, but no meat, dairy, or oils!
This same approach can also be brought indoors if you have the space. There are a number of great guides for indoor worm bins that only slightly vary from the outdoor method!
Get your Compost on!
In a few weeks, your waste will slowly become the desire vermicast. Scoop it offer the top or push all the soil to the side, while filling the other half with new bedding and compost. The worms will migrate on their own, allowing you to get your vermicast without having to sort through the worms.
From there, it’s application in the garden! The new soil will have more nitrogen, more phosphorus, and more potassium than garden soil, meaning bigger, healthier yields in your organic garden!
Have any tips or suggestions of your own? Share them below!