Eisenia species in compostCommercial worm farming or “vermiculture” has existed as an industry for a long time. Different species of worms are raised for use as bait, pet food and composting. Red wigglers or Eisenia Fetida are used around the world for composting materials as varied as paper wastes, food scraps, animal manures, biosolids, and industrial wastes.
In North America, as interest in food composting and organic gardening increases, so does the popularity of composting with red wigglers. There are signs that worm composting is becoming more accepted, such as features on Oprah Winfrey’s website and Martha Stewart Living demonstrating worm composting.
Within Canada, “As alternatives to disposal in landfills become central to waste management, organics diversion, or composting, will become a growing part of the waste management equation.” (StatsCan). Many municipalities encourage home composting, and even worm composting.
Also in much of Canada, bans on pesticides for garden use are being implemented or considered by municipalities. As a result there should be increased interest in use of organic garden care products that produce pest resistance in plants such as earthworm castings and worm compost teas.
For more detailed information on the benefits of using worm compost see our page: Research supporting use of worm castings for growing plants. To return to the home page, click here: Red Wiggler Supply Home Page
Learn About Vermiculture
The Red Wiggler Supply aims to teach and inform the public about vermiculture and worm composting. This may seem interchangeable, and they are, but they do have their differences. To understand the process of composting using worms, you must first learn about vermiculture or worm farming.
Let’s dig deep to know how you can culture earthworms and use them for composting.
Why Do We Need to Learn About Worm Composting
You may be wondering why you need to delve into this topic. Worm composting is an easy thing to do, and you will find countless sources online to teach you how to do it. But, we want you to do it the right way so you’ll be able to make it a sustainable practice for a very long time.
Worm castings (vermicasts) are one of the benefits of worm composting. Most gardeners would like to have an organic and cheap alternative to costly chemical fertilizers – this is the answer. When you use this method to dispose of organic wastes, you are returning the nutrients to the environment properly and naturally.
Vermicast looks similar to hummus. It is great to keep the soil ecosystem balanced and healthy. Since it is nutrient-rich, the plants in your garden can also grow well. Learn all about how worms can naturally get rid of your organic wastes in this useful guide.
Vermiculture Vs. Worm Composting
Vermiculture is the term for the culture of earthworms or simply called worm farming. Experts on vermiculture would cultivate the population of the worms in a special container called wormery. Once they have increased in numbers, they are either used for worm composting or sold for other purposes.
Worm composting is the act or process of using worms to dispose and recycle organic wastes. There are specific worms used for this method. They are proven effective in turning these organic materials into fertile compost for your garden or farming soil.
Some experts use these two terms interchangeably, but to eliminate any confusion, we will generally use the word vermiculture in this article to take the place of both definitions.
Why Use Worms for Composting
Using worms for composting is an efficient way to break down organic wastes.
The vermiculture process
The composting starts with the use of Eisenia fetida or commonly known as the ‘red wiggler’, ‘manure worm’, ‘redworm’ or ‘compost worm’. You can find this adaptable and tough worm species in any part of the world.
When the worm eats through the food and other organic wastes, they aerate it. This process also helps with aerobic decomposition. Their digestive system is specially designed to transform them into nutrient-rich materials called vermicast or worm castings. These worms can rapidly reproduce in confined spaces and thrive in airy and damp conditions.
Vermiculture provides a great solution for disposing of food wastes
We cannot emphasize enough how vermiculture is great for the planet. Since using worms makes composting easier, it can be done anywhere. Whether it be outside or inside, you can set it up easily. Composting greatly reduces the waste we send to landfills, and the vermicasts produced from it are great additions to make abundant soils for plants to thrive and grow well.
Did you know that food wastes produce methane when it decomposes anaerobically? Methane gas can pollute the air, and it is a strong greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Disposing this food waste properly at home first can help decrease the effects of excess volume of wastes we have in our landfills.
Finding a Wormery
When you’ve finally decided on switching to vermiculture and using worms for composting, you should have the proper wormery or housing for your worms. This is a crucial first step because worms are living creatures. They need the right home to thrive and live.
You have two options for this special container. It’s either you buy it or build it yourself. With a little bit of searching, you can find many options for ready-made wormeries to choose from. It is important to thoroughly review if it is the right one because you might end up with dead worms.
Things you should consider when buying one are:
- Worms should be able to breathe in it. Make sure that it is not airtight with adequate airflow.
- It should have a constant temperature wherever it is placed. The container mustn’t get too hot or too cold.
- It should be both damp and dark. You must always keep this in mind.
Materials to Make a Wormery
If you’re going to build one, finding the right materials is vital. Large wormeries are usually placed outdoors or in large spaces and commonly made of old bins and barrels. You can sometimes see people use wooden pallets or scrap woods to make their wormeries. Reusing old materials that are thrown out is one way to lessen trash.
Wormeries can come in all shapes and sizes. Indoor spaces require smaller containers so if you have unused food storage or plastic bins lying around in your home, you can use it. Online video tutorials are the most useful guide to teach you how to do it. You can also check out our starter’s guide on how to make your compost bin the right way.
How to Design Your Wormery
The basic needs of your worms should be the top priority when you start designing and building your wormery. One thing to keep in mind is that your wormery should have an easy-to-remove lid. These will help you easily feed the worms with food scraps and add other materials needed for their bedding.
You need to be able to comfortably use the bin, maintain and empty the contents with ease without removing worms. Some say that adding a faucet at the bottom of the container is a great idea to remove excess water or fluid inside the wormery. This excess fluid can be used as a plant feed because it is filled with nutrients that aid in plant growth.
Creating sections in your wormery stacked on top each other will help easily retrieve compost and add upper sections filled with new scraps for worms to eat. This design separates the already composted materials from the new ones.
Bedding materials to choose from:
- Oat straw
- Wheat straw
- Horse Manure
- Peat Moss
- Corn fodder, stalks or cobs
- Shredded paper with non-toxic ink
- Hardwood bark and chips
- Softwood bark and chips
- Grooved cardboard
- Shrub trimmings
- Leaves (dry, loose)
Where to Place Your Wormery
After you’ve built or bought your wormery, the next step is to find the best place to set it. One thing you’ll have to consider is the amount of space where it will be placed. So, your space sets the limit. On top of that, the climate and general conditions of the area you live in may pose restrictions on where your wormery should go. Also, think about how you can easily access the wormery.
Worms thrive in temperatures between 10°C and 25°C. Extreme conditions are fatal to worms, so make sure that the containers are positioned in places that don’t get too hot or too cold. Manure worms can only tolerate temperatures up to zero degrees.
For example, small wormeries can be placed in storage areas or cupboards, while large ones can be placed in a garage or shed when you want it indoors. If you prefer the outdoors, covered or shaded areas with proper insulation would suffice.
Feeding Your Worms
The best thing to feed your worms is fresh food scraps like:
- Fruit peels
- Food prep wastes
- Recent and unspoilt leftovers
The right ratio of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials are needed to create a balanced mixture in your wormery. For best results, place them alternately in thin layers. Food scraps must also be added in small amounts which are not exceeding 3 to 4 cm. in depth. Adding too much will cause the food to rot on its own and, in turn, will produce heat that is not good for worms.
Mistakes to avoid when feeding worms
- Giving the wrong food
The ideal food to give worms is vegetable scraps or non-acidic fruit. You can also toss in pasta, tea bags and coffee grounds. Avoid at all cost the following items:
- Processed food
- Whole vegetables
- Watermelon rinds
- Meat scraps
- Oily sauces
- Spicy foods
- Salty snacks
- Large amount of tomatoes
As we’ve said before, only put food scraps in small amounts. It’s also best to feed them every 2 to 3 days. Worms can only eat their weight in food scraps daily. Uneaten organic wastes will rot on their own and is the culprit for producing foul odours.
The Red Wiggler Supply is here to help you out on your journey to worm composting. It is fun and easy to do as long as you do it the right way. Check out the rest of our site to learn more about vermiculture.