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Indoor worm composting or what is generally know has vermicomposting, is a practice that I have been doing for years. When the weather is terrible outside or you just don’t have the space for an outdoor compost, indoor composting is the best option. Now I had my doubts when I started to look into years ago, wouldn’t it smell, attract vermin inside or just be down right disgusting! Well I was quickly proved wrong and here I share with you some tips on how to set up your own vermicompost inside.
How it works
For vermicomposting you need worms but just not any old worm. Red wigglers or red earthworms are the best choice and keeping them healthy is the number one tip. An indoor composter needs to house these worms and the conditions need to be kept just right so they thrive.
What are the benefits
It helps to reduce waste made by a household and we all know how quickly that can add up. My favourite benefit though is that I can use less chemical fertilizers in my garden. This is such a win win situation especially when I have the grandkids running around. By adding in to the soil around the plants it helps to aerate the soil, reduce the plants water needs and give structure to different types of soils.
Tips to get started
The first thing you need will be worms. Don’t just go get a few worms from the garden as these ones need to tunnel through dirt to survive and won’t survive on your vegetable waste. Instead you need to invest in the redworms. There are a few places that sell them online so do a google search for redworms for sale. In general you need 2 pounds of worms for every pound per day of food waste so track it for a few days to see how much food waste your household generates. If that seems a bit daunting to buy so many, start off with a smaller amount of worms as they double their population every 90 days if they are well looked after.
You will also need a container to form your worm bin. This will depend on the amount of space you have inside but you will want a container that at least has a depth of 8 inches. You can build one from scratch and wood is a great product to do this with. If you are after a DIY option check out this article from Ana White where she has instructions on building your own wooden compost bin. The other option is a plastic container. There are many online options that you can buy that are pre ready to go or you can get a couple of plastic containers and make your own. The book “Worms Eat My Garbage” has a great step by step guide.
Conditions for the bin
You can locate the bin in a few different spots like under your kitchen sink or in your laundry or garage. The one thing that is quite important is the temperature, between 50 to 80 degrees F so if you have harsh winters the garage may be too cool during this time of year. High traffic areas are not great either so try to keep the bin away from noise and vibrations.
How to set up the worm bin
Building the right home for your worms is important to make the worms happy and to do the best job in your bin. Bedding is the first thing to place in your bin and should nearly fill it half way. To create the bedding use either shredded newspaper or cardboard and soak in water. This is best to do overnight, especially for cardboard, as worms want an environment that is approximately 75 percent water. One tip that I will give and from experience that I tried, is not to mix garden soil or fresh manure into the bedding. This only ends up cooking your worms to death as they emit gases and raise the temperature too much of the worm bin. Once you have soaked the bedding wring it out until it is no longer dripping and place it in the bin with something gritty like a small amount of soil, sawdust, leaves, fine sand or ground up eggs shells.
Putting the worms into the bin
When you go to place the worms in dig down to the middle of the bedding and place your worms there. It’s best not to just put them on the top. You then place the lid on the bin with it being kept at a moderate temperature. The worms will feed of the bedding and leave them to be for the first week before introducing food scraps.
Starting to introduce food scraps
After a week you can start feeding your worms different food waste like fruit/vegetable peels, tea bags, coffee grounds and broken up eggs shells. Its best to avoid meat scraps and leftover dairy products as these will make the compost smell and attract unwanted vermin. You can experiment with different things like pasta etc. to see what the worms will eat and of course don’t feed the worms things like plastic, glass or aluminium foil.
Feeding your worms
Feed your worms small amounts once a week otherwise if you feed them too much the compost will start to stink. This is how you avoid your compost from smelling rotten. You can try chopping up the scraps to smaller amounts so the worms can eat them better.
Checking on your worms
Each week that you feed your worms you need to check to see how wet the bedding is. If it is too wet put in some extra paper bedding and if it is too dry use a spray bottle of water to moisten it. The worms require little maintenance until it comes time to harvest the worm castings which you can tell when there is little or no bedding left and the compost is mainly brown looking.
Harvesting the worm castings
Earthworm castings can be harvested 3 – 6months depending on the amount of worms and how much food they have had. I love harvesting the worms with my grandkids and we dump all the worm farms contents onto a large plastic sheet and pull out the worms castings from the compost. So much fun! If you don’t have this much time what you can do is move all the contents to one side of the bin and create on the other side an area of partially decomposted food stuffs with new food and put the lid back on. The live worms should head over to the food so after leaving it for a couple of weeks open the lid and with a pair of gloves remove the castings from the other side. You then make a new bedding mixture with some of the compost.
Using the compost
Your plants will love you for the beautiful compost you will give them and it also makes great mulch. You are helping the environment and such a great activity to involve the kids in.
I hope this guide has helped you to want to start your own worm farm. Have a go, it’s a lot of fun!