Vermicompost can bring a host of benefits to your garden, however, unlike a conventional compost heap, it requires a little more structure and organization in order to be effective. To start using vermicompost, you will need to set up a worm bin to contain your worms and the organic waste that they digest. By following a few steps, you can start a successful worm bin and start enjoying the benefits of vermicompost in your garden.
A good worm bin is a crucial part of the vermicomposting process. It contains the worms as well as all the organic matter that they digest, and will eventually store the worm castings or worm compost itself. A worm bin can be bought pre-made from a garden centre or a variety of websites, or you can use a small storage bin or even a wooden crate. If making your own bin, remember to drill approximately 4 holes near the top of the bin to allow airflow into the worm’s environment, and about 6 holes on the bottom for drainage. This number can vary depending on the overall size of the bin.
When choosing the size of the bin to use, it is often best to consider how much organic waste your home generates. A family of 2 generates, on average, half a pound of organic waste a day. For this amount of waste, a 2ft x 2ft bin is normally ideal, and will accommodate 1 pound of worms. If your household generates around a pound of waste a day (the average for a family of 4) you can either use 2 2ft x 2ft bins containing a pound of worms each, or one larger bin, usually 3ft x 3ft and holding 2 pounds of worms.
Remember that the bin itself doesn’t need to be deep as worms usually live and eat in the top 6 to 8 inches of organic matter.
Once you have the right size bin, its time to start getting hold of some worms! The most effective worms to use are redworms or red wigglers, also known as eisenia fetida and lumbricus rubellus. If you order your worms online, these are likely to be the breeds of worm you receive, as they are quickest at digesting organic matter and producing worm castings. There’s no harm in adding in any earthworms you might find in your garden too, but these are generally better at digesting compost and other matter once it has already started to decompose.
Before you add your worms to your worm bin, you’ll need to prepare some bedding for them to start digesting. Don’t worry if you don’t have any organic matter ready to add yet, the best bedding to add when starting a new worm bin is in fact paper. Newspaper is a readily available material which makes a great first bedding to use in your bin, but you can also use thinly torn up card or any other waste paper you may have.
Before you start shredding the paper you’ll need for bedding, fill a couple of jugs with tap water and leave for a few days. This allows the water to dechlorinate before you use it to dampen the bedding.
Shred your paper into thin strips and place in a bucket or plastic container. When you have a good amount, start adding the water, bit by bit, allowing it to be absorbed into the paper. Wear gloves and knead the paper and water until they start to become a damp pulp. It will eventually gain a damp, fluffy consistency which your worms will be able to bury their way into. Finally, add a good shovel of soil or compost. This will make the bedding more suitable for the worms, whilst introducing a range of microorganisms to the bin. The bedding is now ready to add to the worm bin.
Adding worms to your vermicompost
Once the bin itself is prepared, you can start adding your worms. Scatter them onto the bedding and cover the bin with its lid. It is important to leave them undisturbed at this point to settle in and start to digest the initial bedding. After a couple of days, you can start adding any suitable organic matter, including kitchen peelings, garden cuttings, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells- anything you would add to a conventional compost heap!
Vermicompost bin location
Your bin’s location is important in giving your worms the optimal conditions to digest your organic waste. Worm bins can be stored indoors or outdoors, and because they are so self contained and often smaller, can safely be kept in a cupboard, dark corner or basement. If locating the bin outside, keep it out of direct sunlight which can dramatically alter the temperature inside the bin. Ideally, the bin should be kept between 12 and 26 degrees Celsius for the worms to perform at their best. They also prefer quiet conditions and are very sensitive to vibrations, so locate away from busy roadsides or loud white goods such as washing machines or dishwashers.tagscompostmicroorganismsorganic gardeningvermicompostworms