Vermicomposting is a composting process that uses earthworms, usually red wrigglers, and a mixture of decomposing food waste and paper bedding materials to produce vermicast—a fancy word for worm poop—and one of a plant’s favorite foods! It’s an amazing form of organic fertilizer that will produce wonderful results in your garden.
Why Vermicomposting Is Right for Your Garden
Vermicompost is a water-soluble, nutrient-filled, bacteria-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner for your garden. I like to think of it as “black gold” because it’s extremely valuable in promoting healthy plant growth. The process is all-natural and works in tandem with Mother Nature, only in a controlled environment. Controlled, as in you control the critters. Earthworms run wild in nature and tend to come and go as they please. Wouldn’t it be great if you could maintain them as a captive audience, producing continuous and copious amounts of organic fertilizer free of charge? Sign me up!
Worm Bins Are a Super Way to Help the Environment
Think of this as the ultimate in recycling for those fruits and vegetables you’re growing and consuming but can’t quite finish. Flowers and leaves can be included in the mix, even newspaper and similar materials you might be using around your home. Most anything you throw into a compost pile you can instead, feed to your earthworms. They’ll gobble it up and poop up a storm, leaving you piles of luscious vermicast.
As nature intended, this poop will be returned to the earth, infusing your plants with amazing energy and superb nutrients. You can purchase a specially-made worm bin from a supplier or build your own by recycling a couple of old plastic storage tubs.
Now I’ll confess, I’ve had my issues with vermicomposting. While I’d love to be “up to my elbows” in fabulous vermicast, scooping piles of the black gold for my garden use, I ended up cleaning out my bin due to failure.
Where did I go wrong? I mean, I purchased a specially-made worm bin from my local seed store. I read the directions, set up the bin, added shredded newspaper for the bedding material, a scoop of dirt, and leftover scraps from the kitchen. Finally, I plopped in a healthy heaping of red wrigglers. The concept was simple. Continually add scraps to the bin whereby the worms would migrate up leaving a trail of poop below them as they climbed in search of fresh food. My job was to harvest the poop by scooping it out, and into the garden.
As a dutiful caregiver, I fed my worms, watered their bedding, and generally fussed over the gorgeous creatures all the while knowing that if I treated them well, they'd treat me well and poop up a storm!
Tips for Successful Vermicomposting
Problem number one. After a few weeks, I found my worms swimming in the bottom bin full of their own "you-know-what" rather than migrating upward as they were supposed to. And my bin was stinky. Definitely not “as advertised” when I bought it.
Reason? Too much moisture. As I was busily adding food scraps, I wasn’t keeping up a proper ratio with shredded paper. Not good. Translated: Worms are like Goldilocks. They need conditions that are not too wet and not too dry, but just right. Adequate ventilation and drainage are also key.
Problem number two. My bin lived in the garage and too often, I found my little wrigglers scattered across the garage floor to the point where my son shrieked in dismay. “Mom, the worms are escaping!” Staring at the mess of stick-dry carcasses strewn about, it seems they didn’t get far. And there was definitely no trail of poop to scoop. Not good.
Reason? The temperature where I live in Florida can grow very warm and earthworms don’t like it too hot or too cold. Remember Goldilocks? They like it “just right” which means a temperature range of 50-80 degrees F. Go figure.
Problem number three. Flies were circling my bin depositing unspeakable things in my vermicompost. Scratching my head, I peered over the jumble of waste and thought, flies were not part of the bargain.
Reason? We were tossing in whole pieces of food scraps that were too large for the earthworms to consume, giving them time to rot and attract pesky flies. Gnats became a problem, too. Seems for a successful worm bin, you should cut your scraps into smaller pieces before adding them to the bin.
While I had my trials and tribulations during my vermicomposting adventure, I’d still recommend giving it a try. Earthworm castings are amazing for your garden soil and worth any obstacles you run into along the way. We plan to give it another go this fall. How about you? Up for some fun?
Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.