Urban Worm Composting 101 [CC]

Vermicomposting, or composting with worms is a great option for people living in urban areas. It’s low maintenance, can be done in practically any indoor space, and also reduces your carbon footprint. I keep my worm bin in my bedroom, and I promise you it won’t smell like your kitchen compost as long as the conditions are right. Worms produce what gardeners call “black gold”. In not-so-glamorous terms, worm castings or worm poop, is used as a natural fertilizer or soil ammendment. Plants benefit from the variety of nutrients without the harsh side effects of chemical fertilizers. Just a head’s up: this video will be a very, very basic overview of vermicomposting. I might make more explainers in the future that delve into specific topics but for now, I just wanted to provide a quick idea of what it is and why you should start. You’ll want to find a special for your bin called “red wigglers”. Some people choose other types of worms, but the red wiggler is the most common option. These worms are on the smaller side and have a dark pink color with a yellow tail. Even though people tend to think of worms as solitary animals, they huddle up in groups called “herds”. There are a couple of places that sell worms online but the fluctuating temperatures and general stress of the shipping process can be risky. I got my first batch of red wigglers for free after I asked for some in my local neighborhood Facebook group. Local gardening centers and bait shops are great places to look too. [ ♪ ♪ ♪ ] Red wigglers need five elements of their environment in balance in order to thrive: moisture, warmth, darkness, quiet, and oxygen. You’ll want to use something opaque, like this plastic tote. I used a drill to make quarter-inch holes in the lid and bottom. and one-eighth-inch holes along the perimeter of the bin. Some excellent materials for worm bedding are coco coir and shredded, non-glossy paper products such as cardboard, paper towel rolls, and newspaper. Just make sure that the newspaper only has black, vegetable-based ink. You’ll want to keep these materials moist but not too damp– kind of like how a sponge feels after you wring out most of the water. I also have four plastic PVC pipes holding up my bin. This way, any excess liquid can just drain down into the extra lid below. You can also use things like old plant pots or cement blocks. I actually haven’t had any liquid drain out so far but either way, it helps aerate the bin from the bottom too. Some people like to start their bedding a couple weeks before they get their worms, just to get the microorganisms started and in this case, you might notice something that looks like fine, white hair on your bedding. After you start feeding your worms your food scraps, you might even see a couple of sprouts growing in your bin. These are both totally normal and if you mix them back into the bedding, the worms will take of them. [ ♪ ♪ ♪ ] Think of your worms as special vegans. Things like coffee grounds, vegetables, and fruits are great. However, things like meat, dairy, oils, spices, and other processed foods aren’t. Some people prefer to put their food scraps in whole but I like to grind mine up and freeze them just so that they’ll break down faster. One of the key things to do in order to avoid a bin that’s smelly and gross is to remember to bury your food scraps a couple of inches below the surface. I also lay a couple of paper grocery bags on top but burlap would be great too. Red wigglers can ingest up to half of their weight in food per day. Feed in proportion to your herd size and adding an adequate amount of bedding with each feeding will help keep your bin healthy. These worms will typically stay put unless they’re not comfortable so if you do notice any worms trying to sneak out, you might want to check the conditions of your bin. [ ♪ ♪ ♪ ] Pot worms, pill bugs, mites, and millipedes are just some of the little friends that might appear in your bin. They can help break down material for your red wigglers but an infestation can be a sign that your bin is either too moist or too acidic. In the off-chance you find a centipede in your bin, kill it on-site! Millipedes are chill, slow-moving guys but centipedes are fast-moving predators and they’re NOT welcome in your bin. It’s not common to find them in indoor-only bins but just be careful if you bring in bedding from outside such as dried leaves or grass clippings. You don’t want to disturb your worms too often but I Iike to keep an eye on the environment of my bin. With my gardening gloves, I use my fingers to gently loosen, turn, and fluff up the bedding. Things like humidity, using indoor heat, and the water content of the food you add can affect seemingly stable environments. So I just like to check for signs of imbalance or unwanted guests. [ ♪ ♪ ♪ ] You might peek inside your bin one day and be like “ohh my goodness, WHAT is that??” Surprise! This thing that looks like an alien exploded is actually what mating worms look like. Once the worms are done “doing their business”, they’ll part ways. Each worm has both male and female reproductive organs. After this process, each worm will form and lay their own cocoons. Soon you’ll find tiny, little, lemon-shaped cocoons everywhere! These will turn a reddish-orange color as they mature. You’ll notice that a cocoon is about to hatch or is hatching when there is a jelly-like substance coming out of one end. Each cocoon will typically have around four to six baby worms. Worms will only populate in the space that they have but you can always donate extra worms to a friend or a local community garden. [ ♪ ♪ ♪ ] Don’t forget to check your local library for free resources on worm bins. “Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof in particular has been a go-to guide for many aspiring vermiculturists. That’s it for this whirlwind intro to vermicomposting. It’s a ton of information and we’ve barely touched the surface, so if you want to learn more about a specific area of vermiculture or if you want to see a video on a specific topic, leave a comment below.

20 thoughts on “Urban Worm Composting 101 [CC]

  1. Great video! Any tips on encouraging the worms to breed? My population does seem to be on the rise but I can't find any cocoons, whereas your bin seems full of them!

  2. Your photography for this is just wonderful. Good video for someone who may want to be considering worm composting. Have a great today. Catherine

  3. Perhaps the best worm photography on the Internet. Could have lived without the music. What a healthy bin.

  4. Just watched your video, you did an awesome job with it. I spotted 55 cocoons, your bin is super healthy. Mine isn't there yet, but I'm working on it. ☺

  5. Good video! I would use caution when it comes to mixing in your worm food though. If you overfeed, your bedding can become heated and possibly acidic. If this happens your worms WILL crawl away. I only feed on the top of my bedding, and replace it once the worms have eaten what I put out. The worms will come up and eat it.

  6. Great video.
    Best presentation that I have seen.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I subscribed.
    Looking forward to more videos.

  7. Wow, this is amazing worm video footage! Best I’ve seen actually. You also covered all the basics. Thank you for the time and effort you put into it.

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