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Vermicomposting: Easy and Efficient Composting with Worms

By dave
August 22, 2011

Whether you live on a self-sufficient homestead or in an apartment in the city, you should consider keeping a bin of worms to turn your kitchen scraps into the best compost available. Here's how to get started.

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Name: Mary
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fiwit
Aug 22, 2011 4:46 AM CST
A worm bin has been on my to-do list for a couple years, now. I just keep thinking that since I"m only one person, I don't have enough kitchen scraps to keep them happy, especially in winter. Any idea how much food they actually need?
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 6:46 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

In the beginning, it's amazing how little they eat. For the first couple months you won't want to give them much at all. And keep in mind that the cardboard is food for them, too, so it's not like they will starve if you don't have anything for a week. When I feed a bin I put about 2 pounds of food in, and I don't do that more than once a week.

I have one bin going that I haven't given food to in over a month. The worms are thriving and eating away at the cardboard.

fiwit said:A worm bin has been on my to-do list for a couple years, now.


I encourage you to go for it!
Name: Charlene Houseman
Lehigh Acres, Fl 33971 (Zone 9b)
Newly transplanted fr Cen TX
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charlenesplants
Aug 22, 2011 7:23 AM CST
Dave,
Do you keep the bins inside the garage, or do they stay inside the house?

The outside bins may be more to my liking. Do you leave them uncovered? Also, we get rain quite often here, will that be a problem? What about the effect of high and low temperature on the outside bins?

Charlene
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 7:29 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I have one outdoor bin in the shade under the edge of the woods, and the rest of them are indoors, in our laundry room. I have fashioned containers to put them on so that when the drippings fall out the bottom, they are caught in the containers below.

The outdoor bin is the 4' galvanized tub pictured in the article. It's not covered but it does have about 6 inches of mulch on the surface of it. I have heard of others using carpet to cover their outdoor bins.

The high temperatures can definitely be a concern! But if it is in the shade -all the time- then (based on my experience!) it will be fine.
Name: Vicki
North Carolina
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vic
Aug 22, 2011 7:33 AM CST
I have been composting for years but all our cardboard goes into a pile for the burn pile - Shame on me *Blush*

Just goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks - GREAT article Dave and I'll make sure the current cardboard pile does NOT get burned. Thumbs up

All the other stuff - YEAH - been doing that for a long time - helps when hubby is a carpenter for sawdust and you have lots of trees for the leaves Hurray! Hurray!

Thanks again - Big Grin

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hazelnut
Aug 22, 2011 7:35 AM CST
As you know, in some areas of the country there have been grave concerns about the introduction of invasive earthworms into local environments. Eisenia foetida can be one of those invasive worm species. There is a discussion here with further references about how to manage your worms so that they don't become an environmental hazard.

http://www.wormpost.com/worms/biology.html

Love the idea about soaking the cardboard in a large container (mine is an old bathtub).
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 7:36 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

We used to do the same thing with our cardboard.

Tip: Just select a trash can for cardboard. As you use it, break the cardboard down and stuff it into the can. Once the can is full to the top, it's time to start a new wormbin!!
Name: Vicki
North Carolina
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vic
Aug 22, 2011 7:37 AM CST
Got 'cha Thumbs up Thumbs up
Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC (Zone 7a)
And in the end...a happy beginning!
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Horseshoe
Aug 22, 2011 7:51 AM CST
Great article, Dave.
Nice pics and explanations like you've shown will certainly get some people making their own bins now, no doubt about it.

My worm bin, and old chest freezer, finally bit the dust after ten years. It went through a fire and everything (building it was in burnt down) but the worms survived! Unfortunately the enamel on the freezer burnt off, the freezer rusted out and I had to ditch it.

Speaking of ditches, my latest worm bin is a worm hole. I dug a hole in the ground, off in the shade, about 3 ft by 2 ft and 2 ft or so deep. I throw lots of worm food in there and keep it covered with an old piece of tin. So far, so good. I may throw a bale of straw over it this winter to keep it warm(er).

Shoe (encouraging all to vermicompost)
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Aug 22, 2011 7:55 AM CST
Anytime I have cardboard boxes, they get folded and stacked until I'm working on my next yard project. I use them as a weed barrier in new beds. Got the idea from the lasagna composting concept. As I continue to work on transforming my 50x150 front yard into a diverse eco-system rather than a zoysia lawn, I"m continually creating new bed areas, so I can't see giving up my box collection just yet. That said, I can see giving paper towel rolls and such to the as-yet-nonexistent worm bin rather than to the recycle bin.

I've often thought of an outdoor worm bin as well... not so much in the concept of Dave's old stock tank, although I love the re-purposing of it. The gardenweb.com worm forums had some ideas on how to convert a section of your yard to a worm bin. I think the intent there was to use native worms, not the EFs, although I don't remember anyone ever mentioning an issue with invasive worms. It's been over a year since I read it, so it might not even have been on gardenweb. Hilarious!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
[Last edited by fiwit - Aug 22, 2011 3:53 AM (+)]
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Name: Dahlianut
Calgary, AB Zone 3a
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dahlianut
Aug 22, 2011 8:49 AM CST
Fabby article dave! Shoe I too have an ole fashioned hole in the ground worm hole. It is full of giant heebiejeebie worms and they break down my compost lickety split Smiling
Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC (Zone 7a)
And in the end...a happy beginning!
Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Garden Sages I sent a postcard to Randy! I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
For our friend, Shoe. Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Birds Permaculture Container Gardener
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Horseshoe
Aug 22, 2011 8:51 AM CST
Awww, I'd love some heebiejeebie worms. Mine are normal red worms and here and there I come across a night crawler, maybe the latter is a heebiejeebie?

How does your hole handle your winters up there ? Do you cover the top with straw and such?

Shoe
Name: Dahlianut
Calgary, AB Zone 3a
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dahlianut
Aug 22, 2011 9:03 AM CST
Shoe yupper the giant heebiejeebie worms in my compost are night crawlers or dew worms as we call them. I dig out and rebuild the compost every fall so it cooks for most of the winter. I assume the worms just migrate down as the compost cools and the top freezes?
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Aug 22, 2011 10:20 AM CST
I read this article last night and found it very interesting. I'm still wondering about the odor when keeping the box inside. Can you keep it in the garage instead? Does it draw bugs? Is it like an aquarium where you have to have someone come to feed 'em while you're away for a week? I love the idea of trying this.
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Aug 22, 2011 10:26 AM CST
Bubbles, what I've read in the past is that if you have an odor, the bin is out of balance. Some do keep their bins in the garage -- the only advantage my garage has over being outside is that it's out of direct sunlight. Here in the south, garages get stoopid hawt.
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 10:39 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Hi Bubbles,

I'm still wondering about the odor when keeping the box inside.


There is no odor, if you do it right. Make sure when you put the slop in that you pull the bedding back, place the scraps, and then cover it completely. If some of the scraps are exposed, then it can smell and also attract insects, especially fruit flies.

I love the smell of worm castings. The bins smell like fresh gardening soil.

Can you keep it in the garage instead?


I worry about heat, so I've never tried this. My garage always feels like an oven. Trish would love it if I would put these outdoors but I just haven't built up the courage to try it yet.

Does it draw bugs?


Not in my experience. But I am always very careful to make sure that the scraps are properly buried in the bedding.

Is it like an aquarium where you have to have someone come to feed 'em while you're away for a week?


Not at all. In fact, I don't think I ever feed more than once a week. I had one bin that I ignored for several months and it seems like the worms thrived more than ever. They eat the cardboard and seem very happy and content with it.
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Aug 22, 2011 10:42 AM CST
Ya know, Dave... once it gets cool enough to ship worms again, I might have to move this off my to-do list and onto my it's-done list...you make it sound WAY easier than some of the other places I've read about it.
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 10:43 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Thanks Mary for the compliment. I have read several tutorials on vermicomposting and they all make it out to be so complicated. It's not at all, you just gotta dive in! Do it - you won't regret it! Smiling
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
Texas Gardening
Forum moderator Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Master Gardener: Texas
Region: Texas Tropicals Plumerias Ferns Greenhouse Garden Art
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Bubbles
Aug 22, 2011 11:30 AM CST
Appreciate the information. I'm not quite sold on having my kitchen smell like fresh soil, though. I'll keep reading the posts, and possibly try this outside instead. You make it sound so easy. Thanks!
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Aug 22, 2011 11:41 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I tip my hat to you. I look forward to hearing what you do!

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