Getting Started In Vermicomposting

Estimated reading time: 10 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 benefits of 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 and paper waste, and in the end, you will have vermicompost.

Reducing food waste

overfeeding can cause worms to escape
Worms can eat the 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 were 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 to pick up the compost. Often these vehicles expel greenhouse gasses as they travel their route to pick up the compost.

People getting started in vermicomposting are often surprised by how much their worms can eat in a day. A typical red worm can eat between 50-100% of its 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. They 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 pollution.

adding shredded paper is key to compost worm management
Shredded corrugated cardboard makes a great bedding material

When I first started 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 make excellent worm bedding. Your compost worms will eat the bedding and the food scraps you put in the bin.

You will use paper waste when setting up your bin and during 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 put more scraps on top.

This method removes 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 dramatically improves the soil. According to Wikipedia, some 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 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. Buying worms online 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 instead buy worms in their state.

I’ve been working on a state-by-state guide to help people find worms in their states and 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 reasonable circumstances. Even if you start with only 100 worms, you could see your population grow to over 400 worms at the end of the year.

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

Worm Composting Container Basics

There are many 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 setups. Some people do not want to go the do-it-yourself route and decide to purchase bins designed for vermicomposting.

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

Take a deep dive into 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 you can use a lot of different items 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 pros and cons.

Food For Composting Worms

One of the most incredible things about owning your colony of compost worms is reducing your overall food waste. Worms eat a wide variety of foods you probably eat daily. You remove items like eggshells, carrots, watermelon, avocado, lettuce, peas, apples, and more.

If you are just getting started, your worms may not eat much. That is okay, and it’s essential not to overfeed your worms. Feeding your worms too much can cause the temperature to rise due to the decomposition process.

For some people getting started with vermicomposting, it is a struggle to keep food on hand when they don’t eat a lot. 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 should eat in small spaces and apartment vermicompost bins. 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, feeding them a diet heavy on these acidic items 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, you will have compost to harvest in a matter of months or a year. Harvesting compost 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 and the bedding.

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

No matter the method- your goal is 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 constantly add to the collection.

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

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