The Art of Vermicomposting

We all know how beneficial composting can be for the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency even tells us so. But who knew worms could help out so much in the process?

Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, is full of benefits. For starters, it speeds up the composting process, as worms eat up to 50 percent of their body weight in food daily. Vermicompost also serves as a nutrient-rich fertilizer and, as demonstrated by South Africa’s Mount Nelson Hotel, vermicomposting can even play a part in the fight against climate change.

The first step to vermicomposting is having a proper compost bin. For optimal temperature and moisture levels, it’s best to start with a wooden bin. You can also take a plastic tub, however, and poke holes in it. Once you find a bin, the next step is adding good bedding, which can consist of leaves and shredded paper. The bedding should be moist, but not too damp, because the worms can drown if the bin gets too wet.

Once you’ve prepared your bin you should figure out the best place to keep it. It should be a place that’s safe from other animals as well as extreme temperatures. A sufficient temperature for the bin is anywhere between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Bathrooms, patios, and even kitchens make for good storage areas.

After your bin is set up, though, the real fun begins: adding the worms! When preparing your compost bin you’ll want to employ the help of red wigglers. These worms live well together in close, dense areas, and they don’t burrow underground. It’s best to get your worms from a reputable worm farm online since they sell worms by the pound. And knowing the weight of your worms is important for knowing how much compost you can add to the bin. On average, you can get a pound of red wigglers for $20 plus shipping.

One important thing to remember is that your worm population will probably double around every three months. Be ready to build more compost bins and transfer some of the worms if they get too crowded in one bin. But there’s no need to make sure you have an equal number of male and female worms in order to have maximum reproduction. Worms are hermaphroditic, meaning they have both male and female sex organs, so any two worms can reproduce together.

Finally, it’s essential to know what to put in your bin for composting. If you’re not sure, HowStuffWorks explains what makes for good “worm food.” And if you think you’re an expert on what to feed your worms, take our own composting quiz and see just how compost-savvy you are.

This is a Center for American Progress repost. Image via yelmworms.com.

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