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What is Worm Composting, Vermicomposting?

what is worm composting


Worm Composting

Worm Composting is the process of converting what we call waste into compost, but not just any compost, the best compost there is. Worm Composting is an aerobic process where worms process organic waste. The worms work with the micro-organisms and even feed on the micro-organisms. They help break down the organic waste and aerate the material. The worms and micro-organisms process the organic waste in this optimal environment. Material processed by worms does not generate heat like micro-organisms do in thermophilic composting(hot composting). Also, organic waste processed by composting worms takes less than half the time of hot composting. Furthermore, Worm Composting only needs small amounts of material unlike thermophilic composting. When worms eat the material the result is worm poop, aka Worm Castings.  Vermicompost contains a high percentage of these castings.


Hot Composting

Thermophilic Composting, known as hot composting is an aerobic process. This requires mixing the carbon rich and nitrogen rich materials, moisture and oxygen in the proper ratios. These conditions become a breeding ground for micro-organisms which begin to process the material. As they process this material they generate heat. As the temperature increases, a different group of micro-organisms takes over in this hotter environment. This processing of organic waste continues until the majority of the energy has been used. Organic waste is broken down into what is known as Humus. This Humus is a great soil amendment which basically works like an organic fertilizer for plants. It contains (NPK) Nitrogen, Potash, Potassium(K) as well as a host of other nutrients and micronutrients. It is basically a well-balanced diet for your plants.



In the book Vermiculture Technology, we are given a thorough definition of what Vermicompost is. “Vermicompost is a finely divided peat-like material with high porosity and water holding capacity. It is a low C: N ratio (carbon: nitrogen ratio) material. It contains many nutrients in forms that are readily taken up by plants. High rates of mineralization occur in the organic-matter-rich earthworm casts. This greatly enhances the availability of inorganic nutrients, particularly ammonium and nitrates but also phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium for plants. Vermicompost also contains plant growth hormones produced by the microorganisms, and plant growth regulators such as Humates. The production of which microorganisms also play a role” (Vermiculture Technology by Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, and Rhonda L. Sherman).

Basically, what this definition is telling us is that Vermicompost or more specifically, the Worm Castings in Vermicompost has everything in it that regular/hot compost has in it and has plant growth hormones and regulators in it also. These hormones and regulators also give plants an added boost in growth and production as well as equip them against plant diseases. They also work much like a natural, organic pesticide, causing pests to stay away.


How to Get Started Composting with Worms

4 things you need to have:

1. Composting Worms

Red Wigglers are the most popular Composting Worms in the World. They can tolerate temperatures from 35-90 degrees F.
European Nightcrawlers are a good Composting Worms also and are probably the best Fishing Worms that can be bought anywhere in the world. They can also tolerate temperatures from 35-90 degrees F.
African Nightcrawlers age amazing Composting Worms which can eat 2-3 times as fast as Red Wigglers or European Nightcrawlers. But they will start dying if the temperatures drop to 50-60 degrees so in many places they will need to be in a climate controlled environment.

2. A Container (Worm Bin)

There are many types of Containers, you can get a nice flow-thru bag style such as the Urban Worm Bag which makes life easy in many ways for a little over a hundred dollars, you can get a stackable style like the Worm Factory 360 which are also pretty easy to manage for over a hundred also, or you can go buy a plastic bin for 10 dollars and with a little bit extra work they work fine.

3. Bedding Material (Carbon-Rich Material)

Peat Moss (available at most gardening centers), Shredded Newspaper (which most of us have available), Shredded Cardboard ( which the worms love, but is a little more work), pre-composted horse or cow manure ( probably the best because it provides both bedding and some food value)

4. Worm Food (Food scraps, farm animal manure, etc.)

Kitchen/Food scraps - no meat, no dairy, no peppers, and go very easy on acidic foods like citrus fruit and their peels.


3 things you need to do:

1. Maintain the proper temperature:

All 3 worms mentioned above will thrive if temperatures are kept between 70-80 degrees F.

2. Maintain the proper moisture:

The proper moisture is determined by grabbing a handful of their bedding and giving it a firm squeeze, if a few drops come out it is just right. If 8-10 drops or mocome out it is too wet. If it crumbles out of your hand when opened than it is too dry.

3. Feed the proper amount:

Over-feeding is probably the most common mistake made by beginning worm composters. Best way to feed the worms is to pocket feed. Feed about 1/2 cup of food into a little hole that you dig in a corner of your bin, cover it up with some of the bedding. Check it in a few days, if it is gone, feed the same way in a new spot. if the food is not gone don't feed until it is.

It's Easy and Fun

Everyone has leftover food waste, newspaper, and leftover cardboard from those packages we get in the mail. You can start with only a simple container, a pound of composting worms and a little bit of knowledge. The container can be nothing more than a simple plastic storage bin. The composting worms, such as Red Wigglers or our Compost Worm Mix. If you are eager to start and see how easy it really is the compost with worms just order some composting worms today. The Worm Blog will give you the knowledge you need to be successful and we are always available at Midwest Worms to answer any questions you might have about composting with worms. Get started today and you can help decrease the waste going to the landfills and water processing facilities. And the vermicompost, you produce will be better than any man-made fertilizer you can buy. Worm Composting is easy to start and maintain, can be done indoors or outdoors without any bad odors, or mess. You will be surprised at how fun it is to watch your food waste turn into an amazing material that helps plants grow and thrive.

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