Why we should compost with red wigglers
Landfills are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and other pollution to our atmosphere. The majority of trash is composed of food scraps. How much garbage would you be left with if you composted?
The trash in landfills decomposes over time creating methane, a global-warming gas more potent than carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. Composting can significantly reduce the amount of solid waste that would otherwise find its way into a landfill.
Feeding your lawns and gardens with compost allows them to thrive in a soil that is rich in nutrients without depending on chemical rich fertilizers. It also helps to suppress plant diseases and pests.
Worm composting indoors/outdoors
As you all know, my red wiggler worm experiment ended in tragedy. And I definitely learned a lot from my experience. Mostly, what not to do.
So I thought I would share how to compost indoors and not kill your worms in the process. Sound good?
Did you know that one red wiggler can eat half of its own weight in food scraps every single day? The worms convert the food scraps and plant matter in the bins into an amazing all-natural plant fertilizer which is known as “worm casting,” aka worm poop.
That is a lot of waste that we can keep out of the landfills.
Composting with worms is not always worry-free, and does require some work and attention. However, please do not let this discourage you- roll up your sleeves and be prepared to reap the rewards!
You will need a plastic or wooden bin approximately 20″ long, 12″ deep and 16″ wide or bigger, depending on your composting needs. You can also purchase a worm bin such as the Worm Factory® 360, which is a great alternative to making one yourself.
Some people prefer wood due to the fact that it is more absorbent and a good insulator for the worms. Wood breathes better than plastic and it absorbs moisture. Air flow is important when composting with worms.
Cedar is the best option because it will not rot and does not need to be treated. Reclaimed cedar or sustainable cedar (FSC) are great ways to use wood in a sustainable manner.
However, a plastic bin will do the job just fine, especially if it is either a used bin or one made of recycled plastic – the planet will thank you tremendously.
Place your bin in an area where it will not overheat or freeze, such as the garage, under your sink, or cupboard or even outside on the patio or in your shed. Ideal temperatures are from 50-85F. Do not make the same mistake as yours truly by keeping your worms outside in Kansas in the middle of the summer, where the temperature goes well above 85F. This leads to dead, yucky worms!
How to make your worm bin
You will need two bins that are a solid color (worms are sensitive to light) and one lid. One bin will be the worms home and the other to catch the excess water.
A tight-fitting lid is key. Drill ten 1/4″ holes in the lid for air circulation.
Drill holes (1/4”) around the sides of the bin, preferably on the upper half as well as 1-2 holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage.
Take the second bin, and place a small block in each corner.
- Place the worm home on top of the blocks. Now you have a double decker worm home!
- For the bedding, take shredded paper and soak it in water. Wring out the paper so it is just slightly damp.
- Place the damp paper on the bottom of the worm bin.
- Add your worms, but keep the lid off for about an hour. They will disappear into the bedding, due to their sensitivity to light. It’s lunchtime!
- Once the worms are settled you can add some food scraps. Try to place the food under the bedding to help keep everything moist.
- Voila. You are now worm composting!
You do not want to overfeed your worms like I did. Another lesson learned! You can slowly add your kitchen scraps daily. The worms will eat the food much faster if it is cut up into small pieces.
Once the scrap paper (bedding) has disappeared add more.
You can purchase your red wiggler worms, also known as, Eisenia Foetida worms online or from a worm farm.
Feed your worms
- Fruit and veggies, but do not add too much citrus
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Crushed eggshells
- Used paper towels/tissue paper
- Lint from your dryer
- Soft green plant trimmings
Do not feed your worms
- Meat, poultry, fish, dairy and grease
- Kitty litter
- Non-biodegradable items such as plastic
- Animal feces
Harvesting your worms:
You will need to harvest your worms every two to three months. Move all the compost to one side of the bin. Now, put down fresh bedding on the other side and begin to feed the worms on that side.
The worms will begin to wiggle over to the other side within weeks. Once they have migrated you can remove the “worm casting” from the bin.
Another method is to dump and sort. Dump the bin upside down outside or on some sort of tarp in your garage. Take out the scraps that have not been eaten and place them back in the bin. Make small piles with the casting and watch as the worms wiggle away deep into the casting to get away from the light. Separate the worms from the casting and return the worms to the bin.
So now, go out and get some slimy worms and let the good times roll in the kitchen!
Here’s to your worm composting experience being much more pleasant than mine was.
- 5 ways to conserve water while gardening
- How to plant a tomato
- How to grow the best dinosaur kale
- Composting 101
- 10 things you never thought to compost
- How to Grow an Organic Sunflower
Eisenia Foetida, food scraps, frugal gardening, kitchen waste, red wiggler worms, vermicomposting