Vermicomposting lets worms do the work

Published 9:11 am Monday, July 27, 2015

Turning kitchen waste into compost doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Sit back, relax and let worms do all the work.

Using worms in a compost bin, or vermicomposting, is a slower process than traditional hot composting but requires minimal effort, Mississippi State Extension associate Kandiace Gray said during a weekly Quick Bites teleconference hosted by the Warren County Extension Office.

“Vermicomposting recycles organic waste that might otherwise end up in landfills and it does not require frequent turning and management of complex material ratios like it does in hot composting where you have to keep your carbon and nitrogen ratios equal,” Gray said.

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Composting with worms — red wigglers are the best species — takes about six months, opposed to conventional host composting.

“This is usually a fast process and takes only six to eight weeks under optimal conditions to produce useable compost,” Gray said.

The quick turnaround time comes with the downside of regular turning the compost. Vermicomposting , on the other hand, produces a richer compost that can be applied directly to most plants.

“In the end if provides up to 4 percent more nitrogen in the final compost than your conventional hot compost and can be done in a small space with little effort,” Gray said.

Composting bins with worms are easy to set up, she said. They can be set up outside in a shaded area or indoors.

“You need to protect it from extreme temperatures,” Gray said. The bin will also need protection from wind and rain.

The bin must contain a cubic foot of space for each pound of kitchen waste that will be put in each week.

“You want to be sure to follow that to avoid an overloaded or undernourished system,” she said.

Commercial worm bins are available though they can be constructed easily from a plastic tote with added drainage holes. Containers should be well cleaned and have never held pesticides or other chemicals.

“Worms are very sensitive to light. Be sure the container is not clear. It should also have a lid,” she said.

Bedding for the worms can be made from newspaper, straw, shredded leaves, sawdust and printer paper. Just don’t use glossy paper.

Worms also need sand, egg shells or other types of grit.

“It’s important to remember that worms have a gizzard like birds and need grit to help break up their food particles,” Gray said.

For more information about vermicomposting, call the Warren County Extension office at 601-636-5442 or visit