Vermiculture - Providing a Healthy Home For Worm Composting
Vermiculture - You've got your worm bin all ready for its' new occupants, with lots of moist, humid bedding material.
You've got your little bundle of worms ready to move in. Now what?
Once you've got the worms situated in their new home by placing them on top of the moist bedding material, they're going to want to start eating.
Vermiculture - What Worms Eat
You can add any organic material to a worm composter that would go into a regular compost pile: kitchen scraps, lawn trimmings, garden plants, even paper. Most people simply use their worm composter to take care of kitchen scraps.
Worms love a variety of different things, and the more different types of things you feed them, the more nutritious your finished compost will be. Here are some of worms' favorite foods:
- mushy fruits (melon, pumpkin, etc.)
- any vegetables, raw or cooked
- coffee grounds (including the filter!)
- Tea (including tea bags)
- old bread
- ground up eggshells
- fruit rinds and cores (not too much citrus, though)
- fruit and vegetable skins (these can attract fruit flies)
- food scraps with lots of salt (too much salt can dry worms out)
- meat, fish, or dairy (these can smell as they rot and attract fruit flies and houseflies)
- grease and oil (these coat the worms' skin, which affects their breathing)
- Human or pet waste (yuck.)
There are some things that worms don't much care for, including:
Worm Composting - The Worm Factory 360
You can help worms get their composting job done quicker by chopping up food scraps before placing them in the bin. Chopping things up into 2 to 4 inch pieces helps the worms eat faster, but it's not necessary. Your hungry worms will do just fine on larger pieces of scraps, it just might take them a bit longer to get the job done.
Vermiculture - A Happy Worm is a Hungry Worm
Now that your worms are comfy in their new bedding with lots of delicious food scraps to eat, it's important to keep the worm bin environment as close to the natural worm world as possible to keep the worms healthy and eating. A worm bin that's working efficient should be sweet-smelling if it smells at all. Here are some important tips to keep the conditions optimal:
- Temperature: The best temperature for red wigglers is between about 55 and 77 degrees. They will be ok in temperatures a bit lower (and higher) than this, but they will probably slow down and not eat as much.
- Moisture: The importance of keeping the bedding material moist can't be overemphasized. Worm bedding needs to be 60 to 85 percent moisture. Adding food scraps will help keep it moist, but you'll probably need to add moisture with a spray mister or sprinkling water into the bedding occasionally. Remember, a dry worm is a dead worm.
- Light: Worms like the dark, pure and simple. They don't have eyes, but they are very sensitive to light. Worms exposed to light for an hour will become paralyzed, dry out, and die. Make sure your worm bin is made out of material that doesn't let light pass into it, and keep the bin in a dark location.
- Air: Worms also need oxygen to keep the worm bin functioning properly. Bedding that is too wet, or adding too much food at once, can lower the oxygen levels in the bin. Depleted oxygen levels can result in a smelly situation. It's helpful to aerate the bedding once a week by gently fluffing it. You can use a spoon or spatula, or gloved hands, to give the bedding a lift.
Too much moisture is not a good thing, though. Bedding that is too wet will start to smell, your cue that things need to dry out a bit.
It isn't easy to keep a worm bin functioning properly and efficiently, but with any composting system, there are occasional issues that may arise. Read about troubleshooting your worm bin problems in our next article....
Interested In More On Composting?
We offer a lot of information on composting and some great composting product reviews. If you really want to get your feet wet in the composting business, be sure to read these additional articles of interest:
Vermiculture - A Worms Healthy Home
Vermicomposting - Troubleshooting Tips
Soil Saver Classic Composter Product Review
GeoBin Composting Container Product Review Worm Factory 360 Product Review
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