Vermicomposting is the art and science of using compost worms to recycle organic wastes. Gaining in popularity, vermicomposting is an important method of waste recycling used throughout the world, with 4 very important results:

  •  Creation of high value organic fertiliser/soil conditioner/biostimulants;
  •  Safe & efficient disposal of organic wastes;
  •  Reduced need for landfill space;
  •  Reduction of greenhouse gases and long-term carbons storage (carbon sequestration).

The Right Worms

Starting with the right worm is essential. Bedrock D Worms are a combination of two varieties of Compost "tiger" Worms (Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei), so named for their stripes. Compost Worms are special creatures that live only above the ground in mucky organic matter (not soil). They have lots of babies, often, and at a very early age, making Compost Worms the speedy-breeders of the worm world! Their numbers can double every 2-3 months if the conditions are right.

Compost Worms are different than the worms found in garden soil or paddocks.

If conditions are good, Compost Worms can eat their weight in waste everyday, making them the perfect workers to process organic waste. The population of worms in your recycling unit will grow to meet their food supply - Your kitchen wastes. The more you feed them, the more worms you will have, the more waste you can recycle into a soil-like material called vermicast.

The Right Worm Farm

Worm farms are essentially a container used to house the Compost Worms, the food scraps, and the bacteria responsible for converting organic waste back to soil. Worm Farms can be purchased or homemade.

Purchased worm farms are great inventions! Tidy, often mobile, and great for kids to view the action. Some farms can even be used indoors. Most purchased systems use trays that stack on top each other. Remember, you don't have to collect the liquids; in fact, it's easier if you don't. Choose a system that suits your home environment and recycling goals - A good place to start is to measure your weekly kitchen wastes.

Stacking systems work by moving trays around every few weeks – You add food scrapes to the top tray while the worms work in the lower trays that hold older waste. Every month or two a finished tray of vermicast can be added to the soil, and the tray returned to the stack. Some systems use the bottom container to collect liquids that leach from the waste. A tap will make this easy to empty.

Purchased farms often come with bedding material (peat, heat-treated “compost”, or coconut fiber block). It is important to thoroughly wet this material before adding it to the container. This bedding lacks the bacteria the worms need to thrive, so adding a few handfuls of healthy soil, active compost, or even better – moist vermicast – will help to kick start the system. Bedrock D Worms are packed with rich active vermicast, abundant with young worms and egg capsules, ready to recycle.

The Right Stuff to feed Compost Worms

Anything that was once alive can be recycled with Compost Worms - no kidding. The limitations on what to feed your worms are based on the size of your Worm Farm. When space is limited, you don't want to fill up the Worm Farm with stuff worms will not readily eat (e.g. citrus skins, onion skins). Worms eat food that is bacterially-activated, and not too keen on fresh food scraps.

Items on the menu - Kitchen scraps (all fruit & veggies), crushed egg shells, manures (not wormed, not chicken), tea bags, coffee and filters, potato skins, aged grass clippings (in thin layers), leaves, cardboard, newsprint, dryer lint, vacuum bags, paper cups/plates. Tough stalks and leaves like raw cabbage or broccoli can be blanched first or cut up to speed recycling. Microwaving potato skins will discourage sprouting from the eyes. Pet waste is fine, but could contain disease that could transfer to humans - so apply the vermicast on non-edible plants.

Soak the following items first in water (unless bedding is really moist): toilet rolls, paper towels, newsprint, corrugated cardboard, vacuum cleaner bags; clothes dryer fluff, garden leaves.

Items off the menu – Citrus skins, onion-skins, dairy products, spicy foods, bread/pasta, and meat (in stacking tray-systems). In a larger system, worms can cope with these foods. But in smaller Worm Farms, these foods should be limited because they decompose slowly, taking up precious space. Meat could invite unwanted visitors, smells and maggots; large amounts of bread or pasta can cause an imbalance in the worm bed.

How much, How often and How long

Feed your worms little and often; once a week is ideal – More often may begin to feel like work. The more worms you have, the more waste you can recycle. Compost Worms breed quickly, doubling in numbers every two - three months when conditions are good.

Most purchased recycling units recommend starting with at least 250 grams of Compost Worms (about 1000). This amount of worms should process 1 litre of food scraps every week for the first month. Increase this by 1 litre every month until you reach your unit's capacity. Pre-rotted food will disappear faster than fresh food scraps.

Any worm-based recycling unit will take some time to mature, up to one year. During this time you are growing the worm population and establishing a bacterial environment capable of decomposing organic matter. Be sure to keep feeding the worms even if last week’s feeding is still present; mixing the food scraps with the bedding will help.

Your worm population will stabilize at some point, once they get a sense of how much food is available. If you plan to be away for more than 3 weeks give them a bit extra such as a cut-up cooked pumpkin.

The Rules of Maintaining a Worm Farm

1. Keep it moist – Spongy but not dripping wet. Systems in contact with the earth can handle more watering than a closed container system because the moisture can seep down to the soil beneath naturally. Add dry strips of paper to bedding that is too moist to blot-up excess moisture.

2. Add a handful of garden lime (calcium carbonate) monthly to help keep the pH neutral. Lime "sweetens" the mix by changing the pH and speeds-up decomposition of food scraps. Avoid dolomite (which contains magnesium) and builder’s lime (which will burn the worms).

3. Fluff the contents to add air to the Worm Bed once a month. If the unit becomes smelly then it's likely the system is overwhelmed with food and/or needs air: Add lime flour, give it a stir, and stop feeding for a week or two.

4. Locate the Worm Farm in a shady convenient spot. Compost Worms prefer temperatures between 10-25 degrees C, so keep out of direct sunlight in summer months. During severe frosts cover with extra layers of carpet or underlay, or move the system indoors. Tiger worms can tolerate 5-30 degrees C, but their breeding and eating will slow. Reduce watering over these colder months.

From Waste to Wonderful Soil Conditioners

Compost Worms produce a soil-like black substance called Vermicast, a fantastic soil conditioner that acts like a fertiliser. Vermicast adds nutrients readily available to plants, improves germination and water retention, and feeds the soil essential humus. To remove worms, tip the harvested material onto a large section of newspaper or black plastic, and pile into a pyramid shape. Slowly remove top layers of the vermicast; the worms do not like light and will dive deep while you sort to top bits.

Use the vermicast as a top dressing, in seed raising mix (20-30% with sand or peat), as an ingredient in potting mix (50:50 with peat or compost), or under any new planting. To make it go even further, you can convert the solid to a liquid by adding 3-4 handfuls to a 10-litre bucket of water, stirring occasionally, and leaving to soak for 24 hours. This “worm juice” can be diluted 1:10 (until it looks like weak tea) and applied to the soil or as a foliar spray. Vermicast will not burn delicate plants, but remember - a little goes a long way.

A word of warning: Seeds will not be killed in a worm-based recycling unit, and may sprout later. So keep out the weeds, and wherever you add vermicast, you could be planting a garden (of all your favorite foods). If you see seeds sprouting in the worm farm itself, just pull them out - it's easier later than to omit the seeds from the worm diet.

We hope you enjoy recycling with Compost Worms from Earthly Delights.