Earthworm Composting tips

THE EARTHWORM INSTITUTE
City of Grapevine
Grapevine, TX
Larry Wilhelm
(817) 410-3366

Earthworms are Mother Nature's manager of the soil.   They create the perfect conditions for plant life by overseeing moisture, aeration and bacterial activity.   Vermicomposting is a fun and easy way to recycle your organic kitchen wastes.   Reduce the organic materials going to your landfill by recycling and reusing them in a simple worm bin at home.   Only a few things are needed to make a good worm compost bin.

VERMICOMPOSTING AT HOME

Composting red worms, known as Eisenia fetida, have a big appetite, reproduce quickly and thrive in a comfortable home you make for them.   Start with a simple 1' x 2' x 1' deep plastic or wooden box, with holes drilled in the side for oxygen.   The easiest bedding material is black and white newspaper, torn into one inch wide strips and moisened like a wrung-out sponge.   A handfull of soil or well-crushed egg shells can be added every few months to provide grit and calcium.   A properly maintained worm bin produces and earthy smell, but no flies provided you place it in a cool place (55 in winter and 84 in summer) and remember to leave the lid on as the worms prefer darkness.

FEEDING YOUR WORMS

Each pound of worms in a worm bin will digest up to seven pounds of kitchen scraps per week.   Begin feeding a small quantity of chopped up scraps by burying them in one area of the bin, then rotating around the bin as you go.   If the contents become too moist, add shredded newspaper.   Feed organic scraps such as vegetable, fruit peelings, bread and grains, tea and coffee grounds and crushed eggshells.   Do not feed meat, bones, dairy products, fatty foods and dog/cat feces.

HARVESTING AND USING YOUR COMPOST

After about three months, you will notice the bedding has been eaten, leaving behind a rich deposit of rich castings - worm feces.   It is full of nitrogen, phosphorous and other minerals.   To begin harvesting the castings, move the contents of your worm bin to one side, place fresh bedding in the empty space and bury your food waste in the area.   Harvest the other side once the worms have migrated to the new bedding.   Or you can spread a sheet of plastic under a bright light and dump the contents by building a few cone piles.   Gently remove the top layer of each pile until you see worms.   The worms will dig deeper into the pile until you harvest the castings and all you have left is a pile of worms.   Then you are ready to begin the process again.   Vermicompost is 2 times richer than regular compost so a small amount is needed when adding to your plants.   For potting mix, add one part worm compost to three parts potting mix.   To mulch, apply a one inch layer to the soil around the plants, add a handful when transplanting plants to the garden and a small amount in furrows when planting seed.

THE EARTHWORM INSTITUTE

The Earthworm Institute is an educational entity promoting the culture of vermicomposting as an effective solid waste solution for individuals, institutions and municipalities.

We teach children how to compost with worms, design installations and consult for cities who are interested in vermicomposting on a large scale.

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