Getting Started In Vermicomposting

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Want to know the basics of getting started in vermicomposting? Many people may hear that they can compost in an apartment and at first they are skeptical. You may worry about an unsightly bin, gross smell, and how to store any food scraps to feed them.

I’m here to help calm your fears and give you the information you need to help you get started with vermicomposting.

Benefits of vermicomposting

First, let’s talk about some of the benefits of the composting with worms. Many people start considering at-home composting when they learn of all the benefits. Inviting a bin of red wigglers in your home can reduce your overall food waste, reduce your paper waste, and at the end you will be left with vermicompost.

Reducing food waste

overfeeding can cause worms to escape
Worms can eat most common household food scraps

According to The Guardian, “One-quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are created by food waste, and if food waste was a country, it would be ranked third after the USA and China in terms of greenhouse gas production.”

It is more important than ever to keep food waste from going into our garbage cans and landfills. Many towns and cities are offering curbside compost pick-up. Even though many cities now offer this service it still requires a vehicle to come pick up the compost. Often these vehicles expel greenhouse gasses as they travel their route to pick up the compost.

People who are getting started in vermicomposting often surprised on how much their worms can eat in a day. A typical red worm can eat somewhere between their 50-100% of their own body weight. As a bin matures, you will have more mouths to feed. Vermicomposting can help reduce your food waste and improve your environmental footprint.

Reducing paper waste

Paper waste is our number one waste product according to statistics from Green Student U. The estimate that 35 out of every 100 pounds of paper waste goes into the landfill. In many situations, landfills burn paper products to save space, but it causes a lot of air polution.

cardboard is getting started in vermicompost starter kit bedding
Shredded corrugated cardboard makes a great bedding material

When I was first getting started in vermicomposting I was amazed that my compost bin would eat up an entire Amazon box. Newspapers, non-glossy, and natural (unbleached/ non-dyed) corrugated cardboard all make excellent worm bedding. Your compost worms will eat the bedding along with the food scraps you put in the bin.

You will use paper waste both when you set up your bin, and during every feeding. I keep a bag of shredded newspaper and cardboard near my worm bin. When I feed my worms I place some of the paper scraps first, place the food on top, and place more scraps on top.

This method gets rid of a lot of paper waste, provides food and bedding, and absorbs any excess moisture. It’s a win-win-win!

Nutrient-rich fertilizer

There are dozens of benefits of vermicompost. Not only does it remove food and paper waste, reducing their environmental impact- it greatly improves the soil. According to Wikipedia some of the benefits include soil aeration, beneficial microbial life, soil water retention, and encouraging root and plant growth.

You can add vermicompost to your outdoor garden or to your houseplants for healthier soil and plants.

Where To Buy Compost Worms

Now that you know the benefits of vermicomposting, you may ask yourself where you’d even buy worms. It is possible to purchase worms over the internet. This is often the easiest way for many people to get started in red worm composting. However, some people want to avoid purchasing from big worm sellers, and would rather buy worms in their own state.

I’ve been working on a state-by-state guide in my blog to help people find worms in their own state and even their own neighborhood. You can check out some of my blog posts below.

Find worms in your state

You can buy worms by the pound or by the total number of worms. Worm populations can double within 90 days or so under good circumstances. Even if you just start out with only 100 worms, at the end of the year you could see your population grow to over 400 worms.

Some people want to start their bin with thousands of worms. The good news is- there are no wrong answers. Worms will regulate their own population within the bin to keep their community happy.

Worm Composting Container Basics

There are a lot of ways to get started, and many people use upcycled materials or items they have on hand. Over the years of vermicomposting, I have had the pleasure to witness dozens of different bin-set ups. Some people do not want to go the do-it-yourself route and decide to purchase bins designed for vermicomposting.

I personally choose to use recycled materials to create my bin to remove more items from the waste stream. Items such as Rubbermaid totes, plastic kitty litter buckets can all be used as a home for your worms. As long as you are able to make air holes (and possibly holes for leachate to drain) in the container, you can make it into a worm home.

Take a deep dive on common container topics

Because worms are so diverse I won’t go into too much description here. What you do need to know is that a lot of different items can be used for a compost bin. Youtube has some great how-to videos and eventually, we will have more deep dives into different bin styles, and their pro’s and con’s.

Food For Composting Worms

One of the greatest things about owning your own colony of compost worms is that it reducing your overall food waste. Worms eat a wide variety of foods that you probably eat every single day. You remove items like eggshells, carrots, watermelon, avocado, lettuce, peas, apples, and much more.

If you are just getting started, your worms may not eat a whole lot. That is okay, and it’s important to not over feed your worms. This can cause the temperature rise due to the decomposition process.

For some people getting started vermicomposting, it is a struggle to keep food on hand when they don’t eat a lot. For me personally, I’ve found it easiest to blend and freeze my worm food in items like cardboard egg containers, toilet paper tubes, and more.

Learn more about feeding your worms

It is important to note that worms, especially small space and apartment vermicompost bins, should eat. These are often acidic foods or those like garlic and onion. A single citrus peel or a stray tomato scrap will not kill your worm bin. However, if you feed them a diet heavy in these acidic items, it will ruin your bin, and kill your worms.

I do not share this information to deter you. Worms will often show warning signs before it is too late. Very rarely will a single mistake (minus leaving your bin in full sun all day) result in the total die off of your bin.

Harvesting Vermicompost

If everything goes well, in a matter of months or a year you will have compost to harvest. This is often a confusing task for many beginner vermicomposters. There are a lot of different methods, and often it depends on your bin, how it’s set up, and how you’ve been feeding.

Usually, before you harvest vermicompost you want to reduce your feedings of fresh scraps. Often this forces the worms to consume all the current food scraps as well as the bedding.

Some people use a method where they only feed on a certain side of the bin, focing the worms to congragate to one side. Others may have a stacking system, so they need to feed on the top layer, to encourage the worms to travel up.

No matter the method- your goal is to try to get your worms to consume all the bedding, and food in an area so you can collect the compost.

New light red wiggler egg
New, light worm egg

You will want to find an item to screen the compost. Your goal is to remove any cocoons or worms from the vermicompost. After you’ve harvested the compost, you can store it secure container like an old coffee can. Be sure that whatever container you choose does have a few small air vents to help the moisture escape and prevent mold.

Summary of Getting Started In Vermicomposting

So there you have the basics in getting started in vermicomposting. Now you have the basics covered and enough information to get started. I have longer, in-depth articles on each topic, and am constantly adding to the collection.

I encourage you to continue learning about the amazing benefits of vermicomposting. There are amazing groups on different social media apps that can answer your real-time questions. As always, if you are stumped and don’t know who to ask- shoot me a message!

Here are some other articles you may enjoy: