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Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is the use of worms to turn food scraps into a nutrient-rich form of compost. Vermicomposting offers Baltimore County residents a beneficial and legal way to dispose of food scraps, help the environment and create a valuable byproduct for use in gardens and houseplants. The process may sound intimidating at first, but once you get your worm bin set up, the worms will do most of the work.

Six Easy Steps to Vermicompost

  1. Choose a Worm Bin
  2. Furnish the Bin With Bedding
  3. Introduce Worms to the Bin
  4. Provide Your Worms with a Proper Diet
  5. Harvest Your Compost
  6. Use Your Compost
Illustration of worm bin examples.

Step One: Choose a Worm Bin

Before you can begin to reap the benefits of being a successful worm "landlord," you must first choose an adequate piece of real estate to rent! When selecting a worm bin, the most important things to consider are the space you have for your bin, the volume of kitchen scraps you hope to compost and the volume of worms you wish to purchase.

A worm bin can be as simple as a wooden box or plastic storage bin, raised on bricks, with holes drilled into the bottom and a lid. More complex bins can be purchased online or through the mail, but the end result is similar no matter which type of bin you use.

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Step Two: Furnish the Bin With Bedding

Once you've found the perfect bin, it is important to make the space an enticing home for worms. The worms need a cool, moist environment in which to live and grow. The most commonly used bedding is shredded newspaper or cardboard that has been soaked in water. Bedding is important because it not only creates a comfortable climate for the worms, but it is also digested right along with the food scraps. Four pounds of evenly spread bedding is recommended for every two square feet of space in the bin.

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Step Three: Introduce Worms to the Bin

You've found your space, carefully furnished it and all you need are some eager tenants. Ideally, the worms using your space will be hard working, willing to accept change and very hungry.

Redworms, also called red wigglers, are the species most commonly used for vermicomposting. These tough little critters have been known to survive in a wide range of climates, making them perfect for life in a worm bin. Earthworms and other species tend to die off quickly in the confinement of a worm bin. Redworms can consume their own weight of material each day and live up to one year. One pound of red wigglers, about 1,000 worms, is recommended for every two square feet of bin space.

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Step Four: Provide Your Worms With a Proper Diet

Now that your tenants have moved into their new home, it is important to monitor what they eat. Generally, redworms are not very picky, but there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which food scraps to feed your wiggly little tenants. It is strongly recommended that only organic scraps and paper be fed to the worms. If placed in the bin, other materials could be harmful to the worms or increase the likelihood of odor from the byproduct being produced. Here are a few examples of what should and should not be placed in the worm bin:

Include

  • coffee filters and grinds
  • fruits and vegetables
  • tea bags and leaves
  • crushed egg shells
  • cereals and breads

Avoid

  • glass, plastic and metal
  • grease, fats and oils
  • meat and bones
  • all dairy products
  • pet waste and litter

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Step Five: Harvest Your Compost

In as few as two months, vermicompost will become visible in your worm bin – it appears as dark clumps of material that crumble easily.

The vermicompost, or "black gold," can be harvested by limiting the amount of food scraps for a few weeks and raking the vermicompost to one side of the bin. Add new bedding to the other side. After the worms have migrated to the new bedding, you will be able to remove the compost without taking any worms with it. After harvesting, more food scraps should be added to keep the process going.

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Step Six: Use Your Compost

Now that you know all about composting with worms and being a good "landlord," you should know some of the ways to put vermicompost to work for you! People of all ages will enjoy the many benefits of vermicomposting! The material you harvest can be used in gardens, flowerbeds, around trees and bushes and even in houseplants.

Some of the more complex worm bins have a spigot built into the side to harvest a liquid known as "compost tea." This is another nutrient-filled byproduct of the vermicomposting process that can be used in all types of gardening. Put your vermicompost to good use today!

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Revised August 15, 2014

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