With the last decade’s surge in green living, folks are looking for more and more ways to minimize their footprint on the Earth and maintain a healthy ecosystem both at home and in the wider world. Worm composting, or vermicomposting, has risen magnificently to the occasion, offering a no-fuss method for producing beautiful black soil using nothing more than a plastic bin, kitchen scraps and nature’s garbage disposal, the red wriggler. We’re here to answer all your questions so you can get started right away.
Why Should I Compost?
Composting reduces your impact on the environment, keeping organic scraps out of landfill and instead turning them into rich, nutritious, valuable “black gold” that you can use in the garden or in houseplants. However, you don’t need a yard for this form of composting … you can do it even inside apartments or condos that lack outdoor spaces. Plus, it’s a great activity to do with kids!
How Much Waste Do I Produce Per Week?
It’s important to figure out how much compostable waste you produce each week so that you’ll know how many worms you need. You can give worms almost any fruit or vegetable, with a few exceptions including citrus, potatoes, onions, garlic and ginger. Stay away from meat, dairy and bread, which can attract rodents to the bin. You can also feed your worms paper and cardboard scraps.
In order to measure the compostable waste that you produce in a week, you are going to need a scale of some sort. This is easiest to do with a simple kitchen scale, but if you do not have a kitchen scale, a bucket and a bathroom scale can be used as well. If you are using a kitchen scale, simply weigh an empty container at the beginning of the week, and then fill that container with the week’s waste. Subtract the smaller number from the larger number and you are left with the weight of compostable waste produced per week. Congratulations!
Bucket + Bathroom Scale Method
If you need to use the bucket + bathroom scale method, you are going to have a couple more steps:
- Start by measuring a large bucket using a regular bathroom scale. Stand on the scale first with the bucket, then without, then subtract the second, smaller number from the first to find the weight of the bucket.
- Collect any compostable scraps in the bucket for a week.
- Stand on the scale holding the full bucket, and again without it. Subtract the second number from the first to find the weight of the full bucket. Make sure you reweigh yourself rather than using the weight you were a week ago. You want to be as accurate as possible with your measurements.
- Lastly subtract the weight of the bucket to find the total weight in scraps that you produce in a week.
If possible, do this for three weeks and average the numbers to get a more accurate average. If you can’t spare the time, once is enough. Remember to only weigh worm-friendly foods so that you get a correct idea of how much you’ll be giving them. Don’t take shortcuts with the math either; it’s important to subtract your current weight rather than the weight you measured a week before to get an accurate reading.
How Much Do Red Wigglers Eat?
Red wigglers eat half their body weight every day. That means that you should order twice the weight in worms that you produce in compostable scraps on a daily basis. So let’s say you produce 7 pounds of scraps per week, which translates to a pound of scraps per day. To dispose of that amount, you’ll need two pounds of red wriggler worms. The general equation is:
How Many Worms Are in a Pound?
The amount of worms in a pound varies. As Washington State University explains, the number of worms depends on their size. While 150,000 new hatchlings might comprise a pound, a pound of mature breeder worms might only contain 1,000. Don’t worry so much about how many are in a pound as you do about getting the correct ratio of worms to compostable scraps.
Besides, red wrigglers will happily multiply in a food rich environment. If you want to boost their reproduction rate even more, you can offer them worm aphrodisiacs such as watermelon and cantaloupe, pumpkin, ground up corn cobs, and the peels from mango, avocado and bananas.
Where Can I Find Red Wiggler Worms?
Red wiggler worms are easy to order from online retailers. Simply choose how many you need, pay online and they’ll be shipped to your door, or local post office. It may be tempting to dig up worms in your garden for use in your worm farm, but resist the urge. They might not be the right kind, and will be unhappy living in a shallower environment than they’re used to. Plus, if you use a bunch of different worms, they won’t be able to mate as effectively.
What Else Will I Need?
Vermicomposting is a relatively low-maintenance process requiring few materials. You will need a worm bin such as these in which to place the worms and scraps. You may also wish to purchase accessories such as pH or moisture meters, thermometers, handling tongs or compost harvesting scrapers. To tend your worm bin, fill each tray about ¾ of the way full with damp bedding, which you can make from newspaper strips, corrugated cardboard, coconut coir or leaves and straw. Top it off whenever the level falls and with each feeding. Other than that, all you need are the red wriggler worms and the kitchen waste you already produce. In 3-6 months, you’ll be the proud owner of fresh, lovely compost!
So now that you know more about the benefits of worm composting as well as how to figure out how many worms you need, do you think you’ll start your own worm farm? If so, what benefits are you most looking forward to? If not, what information would you still need in order to be inspired?
Article by Donny B