Vermicomposting with Compost Worms – Definitive Guide

Your organic waste may be turned into fertile compost much more quickly with the help of composting worms. We’ll go through what kinds of worms you may use and how to grow them.

By their wandering and sparkling bodies, worms have always inspired people of all ages. These worms are great for composting heaps, huge composting facilities, and even in your own backyard if you have one. Here, you’ll learn about the best worm species, what they do in the compost, how to set up a compost bin or worm farm, and how to get your own worms and propagate them.

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Compost Worms

Composted worms are those discovered in compost piles or worm bins that have been purposefully placed there. Thousands of worms are propagated in so-called worm farms, and large, professional composting facilities use them as well.

Compost worm species

However, the phrase “compost worms” encompasses a wide range of worm species.  Composting can be aided by a wide variety of worms, albeit some are more efficient than others.

Let’s take a closer look at these diminutive yet helpful friends.

Eisenia fetida (compost worm/dung worm/stink worm): This worm is quite common in most of western countries. It prefers compost waste, although it will also live beneath natural meadow turf. For this reason, it prefers to be found near where new organic matter can be found in the upper soil layer. It can eat up to half its body weight in compost each day and produce a substance that is a precursor to worm humus as a result. Since Eisenia fetida is such a hard worker, it’s little wonder it’s commonly incorporated into composting to help it go faster. The dung worms’ “ringlets” are often lighter and darker.

Eisenia andrei: Eisenia fetida, a closely related earthworm, is frequently mistaken for this one. Both species are identical in terms of size and lifestyle, with the exception of coloration, which is predominantly dark red throughout the Eisenia andrei. Although these disparities exist, it is possible that people will be misled by them.

Eisenia hortensis (earthworm): This earthworm is also indigenous to most western countries. A blue-grayish coloration with pink ringing and yellowish tips characterizes this plant. Originally, it was exclusively used as fishing bait, but it’s now valued as a compost helper as well. It has a distinct preference for coarse, woody materials, which sets it apart from other snakes. Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei both reject it, hence the two species work well together. Field studies indicate that it reproduces at a slower rate and also expands to a greater extent than the other two species.

How to Collect and Propagate Earthworms yourself

You can gather and propagate your own worms since they’re abundant in healthy soil and, best of all, they’re free. There’s no denying that this is a possibility. However, if you want to identify worm genera and species that like a loose, nutrient-rich substrate, look in a well-worn compost pile.

Earthworms come in a wide variety of species, each of which is specialized for a certain habitat. In a composter or even in a much smaller worm bin, not every earthworm will feel at ease. Worms that burrow deep in the earth typically die in worm bins that are too tiny for them.

What do Compost Worms do in Composting Process

Composter worms lack all four limbs, eyes, and tentacles, except for their voracious eating. They eat and digest food differently than we do as humans, which is why they’re called compost worms. Their top lip entirely encircles their maw, which faces forward.

The worm’s intestines run in a single direction from the mouth hole to the worm’s tail. Only other organs supported in a muscular sheath surround it; no skeleton or cartilage surrounds it. The skin muscle tube serves as both a protective barrier and a uniting force within the body.

The pharynx, which is quite muscular, is where the intestine begins. When the worm eats, it pushes against some soft compost material with its mouth open to fill its pharynx. The process also swallows small stones and sand. There, the pebbles mix everything together and grind it down to powder.

Everything goes through the esophagus together into the gizzard. As a result, nutrients are now absorbed into the body through the large intestine, which has invaginations to increase the surface area available for absorption. The anus is where the digested compost exits the worm.

It does this by excreting calcium, which neutralizes acidic substances and cements the worm excrement together. This is how worm piles form, and it’s easy to spot them with the naked eye just about anywhere worms live.

Consider worms to be your best soil mixer because they combine both mineral and organic soil components extremely well. They knead soil particles like clay, pebbles, and other small stones in their stomachs as they eat. Stable bridges are formed between organic and mineral components thanks to calcium excretion. A thin layer of mucus keeps the feces together throughout transit. Bacteria and fungus continue to break down the humus, resulting in porous, stable crumbs.

Compost Worms in the Worm-Bin

The worms in the compost pile or composter don’t just go about their business as previously stated. Keeping worms in a box provides a number of advantages for the homeowner.

  • Wriggling compost worms speed up the composting process and stabilize the humus crumbs that are produced.
  • Worm farms, i.e. worm propagation boxes, produce so much worm offspring that composting facilities and private compost owners can successfully sell it.
  • For this reason, many anglers maintain their own worm farms on hand.
  • There are composters who raise their own worms and use them to seed new compost piles with a big number of helpful critters. This gets the composting process started quickly.
  • In-home composting using worm bins is a convenient way to compost organic waste that would otherwise wind up in the organic garbage disposal.

When it comes to worm bins, think of them as enormous, multi-chambered containers made of plastic or wood. Subdivision is seldom a problem for worms, as perforated boards or grids are used to create it. Even while the untreated-wood box is the most basic option, it also places the greatest burden on the user.

Using sophisticated plastic crates with a tap for draining the “worm tea” solution makes it much easier for the operator. Inside the box, things are the same. Worms are placed in a chamber along with a mixture of various compost ingredients. The chamber is gradually filled with the material until there is no more room for it to be filled. The operator now fills a new chamber in multi-chamber systems.

Single-chamber systems use periodic “piles” of decaying material to segregate new material from old. They will shift to fresh compost in another region of the worm bin once they’ve worked their way through the old material in one location and found less appealing food there. Afterward, the completed worm compost can be removed from the bin.

Buying Compost Worms

Vermicompost worms differ greatly from earthworms that live in shallow soil like meadow or garden beds, as described in the compost worms section. Caught worms can be identified and propagated into an informative and exciting long-term endeavor.

  • Purchasing compost worms saves a significant amount of time.
  • Pick a diverse range of worms to eat.
  • In extreme cold or heat, delivery must be postponed.
  • Using compost worms isn’t necessary to get started with a compost pile, although worm bins aren’t.
  • Collecting worms is most effective when done in an area where the food availability correlates to what the worms will be eating.
  • Starting with less than 50 worms is not recommended.

However, the purchase is well worth it due to the significant time and labor savings. Typically, a large number of worms are made available all at once. It’s best to buy a variety of worms when you’re out shopping. Because each species has a preferred food source, over time, the one that’s best for you will take over.

Live worm vendors are reliant on their worms making it to their customers alive. Consequently, a winter or mid-summer order may not be instantly successful: as the worms are sent in the shipping package, the distribution must be delayed until a suitable period.

If worms from the outside can migrate into your compost, you don’t need to buy any additional worms to keep it running smoothly. However, if you’re using an indoor worm bin, you shouldn’t start using it until the worms come.

Here are some tips to collect compost worms,

  • Investigate areas where worms can find food that is similar to what you plan to put in your worm bin in the future, such as compost piles.
  • Alternatively, you might use kitchen waste as bait. You’ll quickly find worms and other helpful critters in them if you check regularly.
  • Start the propagation with as many worms as feasible to avoid composting being halted by severe inbreeding due to low activity and viability. Have at least 50 worms to get started.
  • Also, if you have friends who also keep worm bins, they may be able to provide you with some.

How to Propagate and Multiply Vermicomposting Compost Worms

To begin multiplying worms, make sure there are enough healthy ones accessible. Make use of your worm bin or some other container to do this. The following conditions, however, must be fulfilled.

  1. Ventilation is critical for a successful multiplication process. Worm food that receives insufficient oxygen will ferment and become useless. Suffocation is another possibility for the worms.
  2. In order to keep worms active and reproduce easily, keep the temperature of the multiplication location at approximately 20°C at all times. Temperatures in the box should never drop below 0°C or rise beyond 30°C, as this will kill all bacteria and worms in the long run.
  3. Everything within should be maintained damp but not completely submerged in water. If the worm feeding box does not receive enough water, it may be essential to mist it with a spray bottle or water it carefully on a regular basis. When moistened, a pad of cardboard, felt, or hemp fiber can help reduce evaporative loss by trapping the moisture in the pad itself. If it does get too moist, you should use a spigot on the worm box to drain off the extra water. You can make up for the lack of one by adding absorbent paper or cardboard pieces to the mixture.
  4. Acidification of the box’s contents, including food and the worms’ habitat, is not acceptable. Citrus or rhubarb remnants should be avoided in this recipe. If the pH value is near to 6.5, you should add lime to neutralize the acidity – even the shells of boiled eggs are sufficient for this purpose. Adding wood chips on a regular basis can also help: Alkaline chemicals are created as a result of their conversion, which reduces acidification.
  5. Worms prefer a gloomy environment because that’s where they generally live: in the dirt. A proper cover will keep predators and the sun out while still allowing adequate ventilation.
  6. A good rule of thumb is that the serving size should fall somewhere in the middle. A worm’s daily caloric intake is limited to one-half its body weight in food. You can figure out how much food to add by weighing the worms at the beginning of the process. A surplus of unsalted food might encourage the growth of pathogens that lead to decay and foul odors. Concentrate the addition of food to a single day of the week to reduce stress on the worms.
  7. If you want to keep the worm farm going for a long time, you’ll need to supplement it with trace elements like rock meal or worm-mineral blends. It’s important to consider the source of rock when using rock flour. Examples of acidic rock flour include granites and diorites. A light misting once a month will suffice.

Like all worms, vermicomposting worms are also hermaphrodites. They are endowed with both male and female genitalia. The clitellum, or broad girdle, on each sexually mature worm houses the spermathecae. When two worms mate, their sex organs come into touch, ensuring that both worms are fertilized to the fullest. Only half of all mating efforts result in a successful pregnancy. After fertilization, the clitellum slowly slides backward along the worm’s body until it is completely removed. Once it’s done protecting the worm eggs, they will hatch into little worms.

Food for Compost Worms

Which foods do these worms prefer? The bait you used or where you got your worms should serve as a guide if you’re using your own collection of the creatures. Worms from a manure pile prefer the manure, while those from a compost pile full of kitchen scraps prefer the scraps themselves. You may even be able to order them this way: After a few days of being placed in separate compartments containing various compost wastes, the collected worms will naturally sort themselves according to their tastes.