Vermicomposting Red Wiggler Worms

Why vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting (composting with worms) is a great way to not only reduce your waste but also turn that waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. This fertilizer, full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, is amazing for house plants or gardens!

What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to recycle food waste into a valuable soil amendment called vermicompost, or worm compost. Worms are fed food scraps including raw fruits and vegetables, which become compost as they pass through the worm’s body. Compost exits the worm through its tail end. Red wiggler worms are best for this as they are rapid multipliers and break down compost quickly. Under ideal conditions, they can eat their body weight in food scraps each day.

How Do You Vermicompost?

The key components of vermicomposting are: worms, potting soil, bedding (made of shredded paper), and a worm bin to hold it all. 

 

You can make your own worm bin from 2 plastic totes. Here’s the process:

  1. Purchase or repurpose two 10 gallon (38L) plastic totes with lids. Scrub your bins free of chemical residue. Using a ¼ inch drill bit, drill 15 small holes in the bottom of the first bin for drainage. Next, drill 15 holes all around the top third of this bin and another 15 holes all around the lid for ventilation. 
  2. Take the bin with the holes and place it inside the bin with no holes. They should fit snugly together. The bottom bin catches any water that may drain out and the top bin will hold all your worms. 
  3. Once the bins are set up, add 1L of pesticide-free and fertilizer-free potting soil or a sterile seed starting mix to the top bin, along with 2Tbsp finely crushed eggshells. This prevents the soil from becoming too acidic. 
  4. Once these materials are in the bin, use water that has been de-chlorinated (left to sit out overnight) to wet the soil until it has the consistency of a damp sponge. 
  5. Use chemical free wood shavings or shredded newspaper/computer paper (NOT glossy or construction paper), referred to as dry/brown carbon material, to the dampened soil. This layer is called bedding. Your worms will live in this, and eventually eat the bedding and turn it into compost. Your bedding should be damp to the touch but not dripping water.
  6. Your worms are now ready to be added to the bin. For optimal conditions, the bin should contain 0.45-0.9kgs of worms. Evenly spread your worms over top of the bedding. 
  7. Let your worms settle into their bedding overnight, and the next day, begin feeding them by digging a small hole in the bedding, adding food scraps, and covering again.  
  8. Your stacked worm bin should be kept at a room temperature year-round and out of direct sunlight (eg. in the bottom of a closet). 
  9. Feed your worms weekly, by placing finely chopped veggie and fruit scraps and peelings into varied parts of the bin. Bury the food scraps into the soil and cover with more bedding.

How Do I Remove My Compost When it's Ready?

There are a few methods for harvesting your compost.

Method #1: Under bright lighting, empty composter contents onto a plastic sheet. Separate into pyramid shaped piles. Wait 10-15 minutes. Worms are very photosensitive, so to avoid the light, the worms will crawl to the bottom of the pile. Remove the top portion of each pile. Repeat until there are only worms in the pile.

Method #2: Take the lid off the bin and turn on a bright light. Worms will start moving to the bottom of the bin to avoid the light. As this is happening, remove the castings one layer at a time until you are left with a shallow layer of worms. Add fresh bedding and start your bin again.

Method #3 (for those who don’t want to touch your worms): Feed the worms on one side of the bin for a number of weeks. This will force the worms to migrate to that side of the bin. Once the worms have moved over to the food source, remove the castings from the vacated quadrant. Replace the castings with fresh bedding. Wait a week or two, then repeat the process in the opposite direction, herding the worms into the new bedding. 

 

You are now ready to go! It will take 3-6 months for your worms to adjust to their home and begin making fertilizer so just keep feeding them until then.

What's Available at Green Venture:

Red Wigglers (Just Worms)

$40.00 +HST

We sell our red wigglers ready to be added to your vermicomposting bin in reusable plastic or metal containers (think Maxwell coffee container). The volume is approximately 2 L, about 1/2 pound of worms by weight, which includes: worms, bedding, and some castings. Also known as worm manure, castings contain microorganisms that help accelerate the composting process. It takes a new bin a fairly long time to establish these microorganisms if castings are not added. Please bring your own container if possible.

Worm Shack (Worm Composting Starter Kit)

$70.00 + HST 

Green Venture pre-builds these economical vermicomposting bin systems for clients. The two-bin system allows for good air circulation and less maintenance than a one-bin system and is the perfect size for apartments, basements, and laundry rooms. Vermicomposting offers people with little or no backyard space, or those that have had difficulties with backyard composting, a way to reduce waste and make valuable compost. This system is complete and ready to operate when you receive it. It comes with worms, finished compost, loaded with microorganisms to help with the composting process, and shredded paper bedding — just take home or to the office and add food!

Red Wigglers are sold at the EcoHouse only and cannot be shipped by mail or courier, due to prohibitions on shipping live worms. If you wish to have live worms shipped to you, we recommend www.cathyscomposters.com.

For more information or to reserve your worms, fill out our form found here. We are currently experiencing higher rates of interest so it may take longer to hear back from us.

Worm Composting in the Classroom

Interested in a having a worm bin in your classroom? You can purchase our vermicomposting kit and have a Green Venture staff build it with your students. Our Wiggly Worms presentation allows students to observe a vermicomposting habitat and see how worms produce compost. Contact our Education Manager for more information: education@greenventure.ca

Vermicomposting Resources

FAQ:

Q: Does it smell?

  • When kept correctly, the worms should eat through your compost before it starts to smell. If there is a strong, bad smell coming from your bin it is possible there is an issue – you can find solutions for this in the ‘troubleshooting’ tab. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be any kind of odour from the bin.

Q: Will the worms escape?

  • Your worms should be able to live happily in their bin if the moisture levels and food levels are right. If your worms are escaping you can shine a light onto the box, which will encourage them to burrow into the bedding. To figure out the issue, check the troubleshooting’ tab.

Q: Where should I keep them?

  • Worms do best in a room temperature, dark space in your home. Many people choose to have them in a cupboard in the kitchen but they also do well in closets or in the basement.

Q: Do I have to touch them?

  • It is unlikely you will ever have to touch your worms, especially if you use Method #3 (found in the main ‘vermicomposting’ page) for harvesting your compost where you shift feeding to one side of your bin to move worms to that side while harvesting the alternate side. When feeding, you can use a trowel to gently move bedding out of the way and to cover the food back up.

A big part of having a worm compost bin is observing them, so when you go to feed them take a look around the bin and see how they’ve doing.This details some potential issues you might encounter while setting up your worm composter and some potential ways to troubleshoot them. 

 

Fruit flies: make sure you’re burying food under bedding completely. Add fresh bedding if there is not enough. Try to get this under control ASAP as flies can multiply rapidly in a short time frame. If you do have fruit flies, you can make a simple trap for them:

  • Pour cider vinegar into a small glass jar.
  • Pour a drop of soap into the jar.
  • Cover the top with plastic wrap and poke a few small holes in the top.
  • Leave out on the counter – the fruit flies won’t be able to resist the cider vinegar but will be unable to make their way back out through the holes.

 

Overly moist: if the bin has a high moisture content (the ideal consistency is of a damp sponge) then you should avoid adding in high moisture content foods, i.e. fruits and vegetables, and add in more bedding to soak up the excess water.

 

Strong, bad smell:

  • Not enough air circulation – if the bedding is really matted down or you notice the air holes are blocked you might need to add or fluff bedding and make sure the holes on your bin aren’t clogged
  • Too much food – if the worms aren’t able to eat the food you leave, hold off on feeding them for a week and feed them less moving forward
  • Improper food – make sure you’re not including food that worms can’t eat, i.e. meat, dairy, oily foods, bread products, processed foods
  • Food exposed – having your food uncovered makes it harder for your worms to eat so make sure it’s fully covered by bedding
  • Too acidic – try adding in crushed up eggshells to your bin to balance the ph level

 

Worms dying/escaping

  • Too much food – same as above, feed less is you see that there is still food left over from the last feeding you did
  • Too acidic – same as above, try adding in crushed up eggshells to balance the ph of your bin
  • Not enough air circulation – same as above, check the air holes and fluff bedding if needed
  • Acclimatisation – make sure you are waiting a minimum of 24-48 hours for worms to settle

 

Food not being eaten/too few worms

  • Too dry – check the feel of the bedding (should be a damp sponge consistency) and add more bedding and water if it is too dry
  • Too cold – check the temperature of the room you keep your worms in, it should be room temperature and have no drafts
  • Too acidic – if it gets to the point where worms aren’t eating at all, harvest the compost and replace with new bedding (essentially starting over)

Further resources:

Care instructions: http://rethinkwastenl.ca/foodwaste/vermicomposting/  

About your bin and care instructions: https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/Worms/WormFact/ 

Additional troubleshooting: http://cathyscomposters.com/faq.htm