Vermiculture, vermicomposting, or worm composting - no matter what you want to call it - it's easy, inexpensive, and requires only a minimal time commitment. It is seven times more nutrient dense than even the best-made compost, and it will reward you richly.
Here's how to get started:
1 - Give Them Air Find a plastic container with a lid, and drill small (1/16 inch) holes near the top for ventilation - about 1/2 inch apart.
2 - Let It Drain Then drill slightly larger holes (1/4 inch) in the bottom for drainage, and place some sort of tray underneath, with adequate room to collect the worm juice (technically called, worm leachate) - ten holes for a small box, and twenty for a large one. Plastic shoe boxes work well, as well as larger, rectangle plastic tubs. Note: You may use the worm juice as a diluted foliar spray (1 part worm juice to 10 parts water), or add directly to the soil around your plants at the same dilution (1:10).
3 - Get Some Worms Obtain a species of worms used for vermicomposting, as not all worms are suitable. Some worms actually consume soil, and those types of worms are not suited for vermicomposting. Eisenia fetida and Eisenia hortensis are the most common, but there are other lesser-known species that will work just as well. Worms that are used for composting do not actually consume soil - they slurp up the bacterial-packed liquid created by the rotting plant material. Getting worms from a friend who is vermicomposting is the easiest way to begin.
4 - Feed Them Well Make "Worm Lasagna" to feed your worms. Layer your bin, starting with moist leaves or wet newspaper, and add a one-half-inch layer of vegetable scraps from your kitchen, fruit peels, old flowers, grains, cereal, coffee grounds, or old bread. Pieces less than 1 inch in diameter for small bins, and 2 inches in diameter for large bins are ideal, with the more edges the better. Then sprinkle with a little native soil - this will aid the worms in digestion. Now begin another layer, always starting and ending with dry leaves or wet newspaper. The worms do not like, oil, meat, fat, dairy products, or feathers.
5 - Keep Them Safe Place your worm bin in a dark, cool, and protected place. Check your bins every few weeks and re-feed if necessary. Keep the worms moving in one direction by always feeding on one end, and retrieve the vermicompost (worm poop) from the other. No worms should remain present in the finished vermicompost, as the worms will have migrated toward the fresh food. Always inspect your finished product for worms, so that none of your workers are allowed to escape. If they do, it doesn't really matter, though, as the worms are self-regulating. The worm castings will appear dark brown, will not stick to your hand, and will hold no odor. When your bin is filling up with worms, give some to a friend, or make another bin.
Feel free to contact me if any questions or problems arise - send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Vermicomposting!
Eisenia fetida AKA: Redworm, Brandling Worm, Panfish Worm, Trout Worm, Tiger worm, Red Wiggler Worm, or Red Californian Earth Worm
Eisenia hortensis AKA: Dendrobaena veneta or European Nightcrawler