Vermicomposting: Composting and Free Worms

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  • Topic: Composting, Compost, Vermicompost
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VERMICOMPOSTING

Vermicomposting is the practice of using worms to break down food scraps. The resulting material is a mix of worm castings and decomposed food scraps. The word "vermi" is Latin for worm. Worms like to feed on slowly decomposing organic materials like fruit and vegetable scraps. The worms produce castings that are full of beneficial microbes and nutrients, which makes a great plant fertilizer. Worms are very efficient at breaking down food scraps and can eat over half their body weight in organic matter every day. There are vermicomposting businesses in California making compost from the food waste they receive from restaurants and other industries. You can also vermicompost at home, school, and even the office on a smaller scale.

WHAT IS VERICOMPOSTING?
Vermicompost contains not only worm castings,
but also bedding materials and organic wastes at various stages of decomposition. It also contains worms at various stages of development and other microorganisms associated with the composting processing. Earthworm castings in the home garden often contain 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium as the surrounding soil. Secretions in the

intestinal tracts of earthworms, along with soil passing through the earthworms, make nutrients more concentrated and available for plant uptake, including
micronutrients.
Redworms in vermicompost act in a similar fashion, breaking down food wastes and other organic residues into nutrient-rich compost. Nutrients in
vermicompost are often much higher than traditional
garden compost.

Millions of tons of food waste are buried or burned each year at considerable financial and environmental cost. Instead of discarding your food scraps, you can recycle them with the help of worms. Vermicomposting (worm composting) turns many types of kitchen waste into a nutritious soil for plants. When worm compost is added to soil, it boosts the nutrients available to plants and enhances soil structure and drainage. • | Vermicomposting food waste offers several advantages:| • | It reduces household garbage disposal costs;|

• | It produces less odor and attracts fewer pests than putting food wastes into a garbage container;| • | It saves the water and electricity that kitchen sink garbage disposal units consume;| • | It produces a free, high-quality soil amendment (compost);| • | It requires little space, labor, or maintenance;|

• | It spawns free worms for fishing.|

Equipment and Supplies
The materials needed to start a vermicomposting system are simple and inexpensive. All you will need are a worm bin, bedding, water, worms and your food scraps. • Worm Bin. A suitable bin can be constructed of untreated, non aromatic wood, or plastic container to be purchased. A wooden box is better if you will keep the worms outdoors, because it will keep the worms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. An outdoor wooden bin can even serve double-duty as a bench. If a plastic container is used, it should be thoroughly washed and rinsed before the worms and bedding are added. The bin size depends on the amount of food produced by your household. The general rule of thumb is one square foot of surface area for each pound of garbage generated per week. For two people (producing approximately 31/2 pounds of food scraps per week), a box 2 feet wide, 2 feet long, and 8 inches deep should be adequate. A 2-foot-by-3- foot box is suitable for four to six people (about 6 pounds of waste per week). Redworms (the type used for vermicomposting) thrive in moist bedding in a bin with air holes on all sides. For aeration and drainage, drill nine l/2-inch holes in the bottom of the 2-foot-by-2- foot bin or 12 holes in the 2-foot-by-3-foot bin. Place a plastic tray under the worm bin to collect any moisture that may seep out. Drilling holes on the upper sides of your bin will also help your worms get needed oxygen and prevent odors in your worm bin. Keep a lid on the...
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