Under the ground, earthworms are hard at work decomposing organic material and producing castings (excrement) full of nutrients, often known as vermicompost. Worms continuously create more soil and maintain its fertility over time.
You can harness the power of these squirmy soil superheroes with a homemade vermicomposting system.
Building Your Vermicompost System
Composting with worms is simple, but it is recommended that you keep the system indoors if possible so the worms will not overheat in summer. A well-insulated garage, shed, or shady area will work nicely. You will need:
- Two plastic bins: The first should be tall with a lid, about 18-gallons. Here, your worms and compost will be stored. The second bin should be shallow, and wide enough so that the first bin sits inside it. This bin catches the “worm tea” (an excellent liquid fertilizer) that drains from the system.
- Drill: Make 4-5 drainage holes in the bottom of the first bin for the “worm tea”. Additionally, drill two ventilation holes about 2” below the top of the bin on opposite sides.
- Screening: Secure non-metal screening over the holes to prevent ambitious worms from crawling out.
- Soil: To give your worms a medium to crawl through and a jump-start, add about one pound of soil to the tall bin.
- Shredded Paper: Add a 3” layer of shredded paper to the tall bin. Thin strips of newspaper or computer paper work best, as they contain no harmful colors. Wet the strips with a spray bottle until they are moist, but not dripping. The paper maintains constant moisture for the worms.
- Food scraps: Collect scraps and feed them to the worms once a week. Never add dairy, oil, meat, or seasoned vegetables, and avoid acidic foods. These can spoil, burn, or dry out the worms. Immediately cover scraps with soil and extra shredded paper; uncovered food attracts unwanted insects.
- Worms: Red wigglers are the best composters. But how many worms should you get? This depends on how much food scraps your family produces. Before buying worms, collect your food scraps daily for one week. At the end of each day, weigh the scraps, and determine the average amount you produce each day. Red wigglers eat about half their weight in food scraps every day, so if your family produced 1lb of food scraps each day, you will need 2lbs of red wigglers in your system.
Harvesting Your Compost
Every few months, your bin will get full. This means it is time to harvest your compost. To do so, feed your worms only on one half of the bin for a couple of weeks. This will cause the worms to migrate to that side, leaving you free to remove the compost on the other side without removing many worms with it. If you desire, you can sort out your compost to gather any stray worms and return them to the bin. However, most of your worms will already be on the side with the food, so losing a few worms when you harvest the compost will not harm your system.
Don’t feel like dedicating the time and space for home composting? Not to worry! Big Earth Landscape Supply offers a variety of quality composts – including earthworm castings, manure, peat moss, and vermiculite. Visit our Big Earth Supply online shop to browse our full selection.