The Q&A Archives: Red Worm Composting

Question: I would like to know the procedure for red worm composting in plastic boxes or bins indoors in my garage or garden shed. Please tell me how this is accomplished, what to feed, what materials, how much soil, etc. I will use the composted soil in my flower and vegetable garden. (Regular composting procedures are not suitable in my restricted area.)

Answer: Red worms need basically the same things that humans do: shelter, water and food. Shredded newspaper is perfect for bedding. Tear it into thin strips: Dunk the newspaper strips in water and saturate them. Lift them out and let them drain. Don?t squeeze them because they?ll dry out in hard chunks. Generously fill most of the container with moistened newspaper. (It will settle fairly quickly.) Add a handful or two of any type of soil because worms need grit to digest their food. At this point, you can place the wigglers into their new home, gently covering them with the remaining moist newspaper strips. If you have kitchen scraps on hand, bury them in the bedding, put the worms in, then cover with more bedding.

What do worms eat? Everything?fruit and vegetable peels, pasta, rice, bread, coffee grounds, tea bags, trimmings from the garden. (Although just as in a regular compost pile, don?t add dairy products, oils or meats. Egg shells can be added, but they take a long time to disappear.)

Worm bodies are composed of mostly water and they?ll literally dry out without adequate moisture. Much of this they?ll obtain from their food, but it?s essential that their bedding remains moist. Use a mister to keep the newspaper moist or sprinkle small amounts of water in the bin.

What type of container do you put the worms and their bedding in? Like most hobbies, it can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. You can purchase a high-tech worm bin shaped like a small whiskey barrel that has several ?floors? and a siphon for draining off compost tea. A plastic dishpan or five-gallon bucket will also work, but you may need to create drainage holes if the bedding becomes too wet. Think about where you see worms in nature. They operate below ground where it?s cool and moist and dark, but close enough to the surface to have organic matter to digest.

Worm Digest?s website: Contains links to dozens of other sites about vermicomposting.

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