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How to Vermicompost: The Scoop on Worm Poop

Save money and make your own vermicompost.

| November/December 2012

  • Worms-Vermicomposting
    Worm castings are considered "black gold" for soil.
    Photo By
  • Organic-Kitchen-Scraps-Vermicomposting
    Earthworms can eat up to their own body weight in organic material every day.
    Photo By Kevin Fogle

  • Worms-Vermicomposting
  • Organic-Kitchen-Scraps-Vermicomposting

Charles Darwin estimated that an acre of garden space might hold 50,000 earthworms, and it’s easy to believe. After a good soaking rain, I hesitate to walk outside for fear of stepping on one of the soft, slimy invertebrates, and it’s difficult for me to consider how they can benefit us.

Since the classification system for earthworms has been in a state of flux since the early 1900s, it isn’t easy to get a fix on the number of earthworm species, but experts estimate more than 6,000 species of earthworms exist.

When it comes to vermicomposting — the process of using worms to convert organic kitchen waste into nutrient-rich organic compost — there’s one species that’s the odds-on favorite: Eisenia fetida, the red wiggler. There are three classifications of earthworms: litter, topsoil and subsoil. E. fetida thrives in the topmost layer of the earth’s decaying material, such as leaf litter. It doesn’t burrow through the matter, it actually eats its way through, consuming up to its own body weight per day. As organic material passes through the worm’s digestive system, it becomes laden with minerals and microorganisms. Voilà! Worm poop — known in scientific circles as vermicast, or worm castings.

Felicia McKee of Johnson City, Tennessee, is capitalizing on these lowly red wigglers. As a Certified Naturally Grown producer, a grassroots alternative to Certified Organic, she needs plenty of compost for her gardens. Fortunately, she has an abundance of vegetable peels, fruit rinds, egg shells, coffee grounds and more to feed the worms’ voracious appetite. Her payoff? Black gold — rich, environmentally friendly fertilizer that isn’t likely to damage water supplies.

Worm composting produces no foul odor. In fact, since the worms quickly dispose of kitchen waste, your trash containers might actually smell better. Minimal space is required, and as for time, the worms do most of the work. With a small initial investment, you could be harvesting your own worm poop.

How to Vermicompost

Less than $50 should get you started. Sources for worms can be found online, in gardening magazines and elsewhere. But first you’ll need an aerated shallow bin with a large surface area. (McKee purchases plastic bins from discount stores, then drills holes into them.) Next, and this is extremely important, moistened bedding material like shredded newspaper or corrugated cardboard is added to the bin with a small amount of soil, sand or leaves to encourage digestion. With a spray bottle to keep the composting medium moist, and your “free” kitchen waste — no meat, oils, dairy or non-biodegradable products — you’ll be ready to start vermicomposting.

1/23/2014 12:09:32 PM

Recycling and vermicomposting , almost like two sides of a coin ! Did happen to view an interesting site, , wanted to share !

Herron Farms
12/7/2012 2:38:16 PM

This is a great way to self sustainment, lots of fun and constant learning, lots of people dont realize they can be adictive.

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