Worm Composting – A Quick Tour

Welcome to Larry’s Place.

We call our worm box Larry’s Place. Larry is our friend who has a brilliant eye for antiques and home design – he even owns a shop called Larry’s Place that specializes in unique home decor items. But Larry did not have the attention span to keep a worm box going… He was given a couple of pounds of worms to set up a worm home, and well let’s just say he is the reason we got the worms.

We use worms for composting our kitchen scraps because we are limited on space plus the finished product makes a great fertilizer when added to potted plants or directly into garden beds. The process of using earth worms to convert organic waste into nutrient rich humus is called vermicomposting.

Our worm composting system

Worm box with faucet and top air vent.

Our system lives in a plastic tote bin we modified by installing a drain faucet, drilling holes, and adding screen material to the top lid. However you can purchase a complete system if that is easier for you. If you do use what you have handy, make sure these conditions are met:

  • Proper Type of Worms
  • Temperature
  • Moisture
  • Ventilation
  • Bedding
Proper Type of Worms
Meet some of the residents of Larry’s Place.

Eisenia foetida or redworms are the best to use in a worm composting system. They can process large amounts of organic materials and they reproduce quickly even in confinement. Check here for places to order your redworms.

Temperature
Vegetable scraps, eggs shells, and coffee grinds served once a week or more.

Redworms can tolerate a wide range of temperatures except for freezing. The conversion of waste to compost occurs between the temperatures of 55-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid locations that get too hot like an attic, under direct sun, or in a greenhouse. Larry’s Place is located on our breezy and shady back porch.

Need an idea of what to feed your worms? Check out my recommendations here.

Moisture
Drip spout with a catch pan for excess water.

Worms “breathe” through their skin. So it’s very important that their skin stay moist for the exchange of air to occur. You can always add water when necessary if it looks dry in the system. The drip spout on our box helps to regulate the water content in the bin by ensuring it does not fill with water. I’ve noticed that after a good feeding, the box drips out excess water for a few days. We throw this “compost tea” water in any nearby potted plant.

Ventilation
Our ventilation system also protects from cats. The torn screen is proof of this battle.

Worms use oxygen in their bodily processes and produce carbon dioxide just like we do. Make sure to locate your worm composting system in an area with good air circulation. To be certain we get optimal ventilation, we added mosquito netting to the lid of the bin and drilled small holes along the sides. We could drill bigger holes, but so far so good…For our next box I will.

Bedding

The composting box is filled with lots of dirt collected from around our yard, stuff sitting in old planter pots, or even from bags of soil we purchased (without vermiculite or perlite). In addition to soil we mix in shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg cartons, and leaf along with our kitchen scraps.

Dry leaf matter. Fresh green leaves are also good to use.
Shredded cardboard, egg cartons or newspaper works too.
Combining all components in sections.
Dry leaf, shredded cardboard and veggie scrapes.

Observing for improvements

Larry’s Place has turned out to be a great addition to our home! The volume of our trash is drastically reduced and we get to create an inexpensive source of fertilizer for our plants. With careful observation you can remedy any problems you encounter. If one thing does not work, try something else! Time and patience are great teachers.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is known to get dirt on her hands, tee-shirts, jeans, and shoes. She shares her home with a rescued pride of curious cats and a pack of singing dogs.