Worm composting uses worms to turn organic wastes into high quality compost. This is probably the best way of composting kitchen wastes. Adding small amounts of wet kitchen scraps to a large compost pile in the garden day by day can disrupt the decomposition process so that the compost is never really done. But it works just fine with Worm composting.
Many gardeners use worm composting systems for all their garden and kitchen wastes, many more use both types of composting, and a lot of households without gardens use neat and worm boxes indoors to compost their kitchen scraps (as well as newspapers and cardboard boxes), reducing their garbage by up to a third and providing their own organic soil for pot plants and container gardens on balconies and roofs to grow their own healthy food.
The best soil there is worm compost consists mostly of worm casts (poop) some decayed organic matter. In ideal conditions worms can eat at least their own weight of organic matter in a day. It seems they don't actually eat it -- they consume it but what they derive their nourishment from is all the micro-organisms that are really eating it. Their casts contain eight times as many micro-organisms as their feed! These are the micro-organisms that best favour healthy plant growth. The casts don't contain any disease pathogens -- pathogenic bacteria are reliably killed in the worms' gut. This is one of the great benefits of vermicomposting.
Worm casts also contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil, the main minerals needed for plant growth, but the large numbers of beneficial soil micro-organisms in worm casts have at least as much to do with it. The casts are also rich in humic acids, which condition the soil, have a perfect pH balance. There's nothing better to put in your garden!
What Do I Need To Get Started?
Some people use wood and plastic containers. Either builds or buys, or uses their own imagination and recycle something like an old dresser drawer, trunk, or discarded barrel. Some prefer wood because it is more absorbent and a better insulator for the worms. Plastic containers some people find that the compost tends to get quite wet. Experiment and find out what works for you and your worms.
Guide To Size Of Container
Weighing your household food waste for one week , then provide one square foot of surface area per pound. The container depth should be between eight and twelve inches. Options to one large box are a number of smaller containers for easier lifting and moving and more choice of location.
Depending on the size of the container, drill 8 to 12 holes (1/4 - l/2 inches) in the bottom for aeration and drainage. A plastic bin may need more drainage - if contents get too wet, drill more holes. Raise the bin on bricks or wooden blocks, and place a tray underneath to capture excess liquid which can be used as liquid plant fertilizer.
The bin needs a cover to conserve moisture and provide darkness for the worms. If the bin is indoors, a sheet of dark plastic or burlap sacking placed loosely on top of the bedding is sufficient as a cover. For outdoor bins, a solid lid is preferable, to keep out unwanted scavengers and rain. Worms need air to live, so be sure to have your bin ventilated.
It is necessary to provide damp bedding for the worms to live in, and to bury food waste in.
Suitable bedding materials are shredded newspaper and cardboard, shredded fall leaves, chopped up straw and other dead plants, seaweed, sawdust, compost and aged manure. Try to vary the bedding in the bin as much as possible, to provide more nutrients for the worms, and to create richer compost. Add a couple of handfuls of sand or soil to provide necessary grit for the worm's digestion of food.
It is very important to moisten the dry bedding materials before putting worms in the bin, so that the overall moisture level is like a wrung-out sponge. The bin should be about three-quarters full of moistened bedding. Lift the bedding gently to create air spaces which help to control odours, and give free movement for the worms.
The best types of earthworm suited to worm composting are the red worms: red wiggler. They are often found in aged manure and compost heaps. Please do not use dew-worms (large size worms found in soil and compost) as they are not likely to survive.
What Do I Feed My Worms?
You can compost food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. It is advisable not to compost meats, dairy products, oily foods, and grains because of problems with smells, flies, and rodents.
To avoid fly and smell problems, always bury the food waste by pulling aside some of the bedding, dumping the waste, and then cover it up with the bedding again.
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