Growing Worms for Composting

Growing worms is a fun way of getting rid of your garbage and to create black gold compost. Worm compost may be called other names, such as castings or worm poop. It sounds gross, but garbage is filtered through a worm’s body to produce high quality, nutrient-filled dirt or compost. To grow worms and their excrement at home can be done with inexpensive products. Commercial worm bins are not necessary.


The first task is to order one pound of red wigglers. That would be about 1,000 worms. While you are waiting for your delivery, get their “house” ready for occupancy. Two large tubs, about 30 gallons, are needed. Drill 1/4-inch holes in the sides and front and back of both tubs. This is to have air flow within the tubs. Remove the lid from one tub. This will be the bottom tub. The top tub will fit inside the first tub. The second tub should have 1/8-inch holes drilled in the bottom.


Happy healthy worms need airflow and a damp — not wet — dark environment. The temperature should be a moderate range of 55 to 75 degrees. Placing your bins in a garage, basement or a half bath makes an excellent home for the little critters.


The new worm bed can be made of wet strips of newspapers, a small amount of potting soil or ground up brown leaves. All the bedding should be damp, not watery wet. Have a spray bottle of water to spray down the bedding and the food ingredients. Worms hate to be jostled or vibrated. When they arrive, put them in the pre-pared bedding and let them settle down. Feed them the next day.


Do feed worms: Coffee grounds and the filters, rinsed crumbled eggs shells, pasta, rice, unsweeted cereal, fruit pulp and peelings, vegetable trimmings, chemical free grass clippings and brown leaves. Bury all the food within the bedding. Also to help the worms eat fast, cut up the garbage in small pieces or run it in the blender. This will prevent any foul smell or fruit flies.


Don’t feed worms: Meat, fish, bones, cheese, highly seasoned or salted material. They eat almost entirely vegan. When the bottom bin seems full of compost and worms, put the next feed material in the second tub. The worms will travel up through the drilled holes. The worm excrement can top dress potted plants. It can be worked into the top half inch of outside shrubs and plants. After awhile, the worms’ home will become a crowded hotel. Release some worms into the outside bed and mulch to prevent them from washing away in a heavy rain. Another tub can be added on the bottom to catch the water from the worm bed. This is called compost tea. It can be used to water indoor plants or give a lawn a little boost of nutrients.


Linda Claire Snyder is a certified horticulturist and a master gardener through the University of Georgia Extension Service.

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