Vermiculture: Worm Composting

                 “Wiggly, squiggly, jiggly, do,
                Be careful with your shovel or you’ll cut him in two!
                He’s your backyard buddy and he lives in the ground.
                He’s long, and slimy and he’s always around...
                ‘cause he’s an EARTHWORM! EARTHWORM!”

That, my dear readers, is the chorus to one of our absolute favourite “Earth Day” songs at school! (from an old David Suzuki “Rainforest” cassette!)  As anyone who gardens with children knows, it’s always exciting to find a worm!  Did you realize that there are over 2,500 kinds of worms?  In an acre of favourable land, there might be a million earthworms. The longest worm ever found was in South Africa and was 6.7 meters (22 ft)!  One type of Australian worm is 3.7 meters (12 ft) long and weighs 680 grams (1.5 lbs)!

Worms don’t have eyes, but they are sensitive to light.  They have a mouth at the anterior (front), and when they are fully grown, have about 150 rings (segments). Each segment has little bristles (setae) that help them move. Worms have five hearts! The whitish band near the anterior is the reproductive organ (clitellum). Worms are hermaphrodites (have both male and female parts). A tiny cocoon is formed after mating, which is shed. About 3-5 babies will hatch.  Worms don’t have teeth, but they do have a gizzard.  Tiny particles of sand and soil help them grind their food. Bacteria must break down the larger pieces before worms can eat them.

Worms are a very important part of our ecosystem! They eat organic matter, like plants, and decaying animals. They help bring air and water into the soil.  The castings they leave behind are a valuable fertilizer.

You can buy commercial worm composters or you can make one yourself out of a big plastic bin. I bought my three layered plastic bin many years ago at the “West Coast Women’s Show”. (Yes, I did buy some “ladies’ stuff too!).  We kept it right in the classroom (no bad odours at all!) and loved to check under the apple cores for “worm parties”!  It still functions perfectly after over 10 years of use!

Red Wiggler worms (as opposed to garden nightcrawlers) are the best to use in an indoor worm composter because they don’t mind an enclosed space or warmer indoor temperatures. They reproduce quickly and eat their body weight in food each day. They are purchased by the box or bag from a worm farm.

You can also dilute and use the drained off liquid (sometimes called “worm tea”, although that’s not exactly the correct name)  to feed your plants!   

Just “google” worm composting and you will find LOTS of videos on how to construct your own worm bin!

                “He likes to eat dead leaves, he likes to take them out of sight,
                He takes them in his tunnel, that’s his dinner tonight.
                “cause he’s an Earthworm! Earthworm!”

 


My excellent worm compost bin came from "Compost Culture", but I don't think they actually manufactured the bin itself. Unfortunately their website is only available on the "Wayback Machine".
https://web.archive.org/web/20110907024723/http://www.compostculture.com/products.php
Here is some information from this website.

Worm Compost Bin
What size worm bin do I need?
A three tray unit is adequate for two or three people. A family of four will fit a four tray bin. A five tray compost will accommodate five or more people.
Red Wiggler Worms
How many worms do I need?
Start with a pound of worms. Your worm population will build up, after time, matching the amount of waste offered to them. If you want to accelerate this process, you may buy more. Worms eat their body weight in food each day. A family of four generally produce two pounds of food waste each day.
Worms
These amazing creatures reach sexual maturity at 60 to 90 days, at which point they begin to lay an egg capsule per week. A worm lifespan is ten years. The eggs can survive in adverse conditions up to 30 years. Red wigglers consume their body weight in food each day. Worms need sandy particles that rub together in order to digest their food in their gullet. Worms digest their food more than once. The longer they are left to compost their food the better castings will be produced.
Bedding
Worms enjoy a variety of bedding materials: Peat moss (although not recommended because it is not an environmentally sustainable product), shredded paper, shredded corrugated cardboard, paper egg cartons, hair, fur, or a worm habitat product, coir. Coir fibres are found between the husk and outer shell of a coconut. Coir is quickly gaining popularity as the new peat moss. The bedding material should be moistened to the level of a wrung out sponge.
Food
Food for worms is decomposing organic matter. Although small amounts of grain products can be digested by worms, we recommend not using this as a food source because of the smell it creates during decomposition. Feed your worms all your fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, ground egg shells, and small amounts of leaves and plants clippings.



My all-time favourite worm website has to be:
The Autobiography of Squirmin’ Herman the Worm
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/worms/index.html

How to make your own worm bin.
https://web.extension.illinois.edu/worms/neighborhood/index.html




City Farmer "Worm Words Glossary for teachers" (really!!!)
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture U.B.C.
http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormgloss82.html

http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormcomp61.html

Vancouver City Farmers Information on Composting
http://cityfarmer.info/wormcomposting/




Worm Composting Canada
http://www.wormcomposting.ca/

 

Mother Earth News: Step-by-Step Guide to vermicomposting
https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/guide-to-vermicomposting-zmaz83jazshe

 

Worm Composting Headquarters (lots of good information)
https://www.wormcompostinghq.com/start-here/

This company also sells worm "factories" but I'm not sure about prices shipping to Canada.

They have a great video on how the worm bins (like mine) actually work!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sxWOCWEpsg



My own worm bin looks like this one, but only has 3 trays.
(This model seems rather pricey!)

https://www.wayfair.ca/outdoor/pdp/homestead-essentials-5-tray-13-gal-worm-bin-c001687445.html


"Worms Eat My Garbage" Book
How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System: Compost Food Waste, Produce Fertilizer for Houseplants and Garden, and Educate Your Kids and Family

http://www.wormwoman.com/

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This page created March 2020.