The 5-step apartment dweller's guide to vermicomposting

November 3, 2015

Vermicomposting is the process of making compost with worms. An increasingly popular trend for city dwellers, it generates more compost in small spaces – and at a faster rate – than bacterial composting alone can, which makes it perfect for people who live in apartments or condos. Curious about how to start? Here are five steps to do just that.

The 5-step apartment dweller's guide to vermicomposting

1. Select a container

Vermicomposting is pretty simple. All you need is a house for the worms to live in with plenty of air holes on the bottom and the sides.

  • A shallow plastic bin works great as a vermicomposting container. Just lay the lid loosely on top and don't drill any holes in it.

2. Add some bedding

Shred up some newspapers for the bin. They should fill up the bin a few inches or more, depending on its depth and length.

  • This bedding needs to be immersed in water and soaked until saturated, then wrung out like a sponge and set into the bin. The worms will begin eating the bedding immediately.

3. Add the worms

Add one pound of red worms for each half-pound of food scraps you anticipate producing.

  • Just set them in and they'll begin to wiggle down into the bedding.

4. Get worm food

Feed the worms fruit and veggie scraps, leaves, straw, crushed eggshells and some coffee grounds.

  • Avoid other animal products, onion skins and citrus. But before you start feeding them. . .

5. Prepare your worms' food

Chop up their food and feed it to them in small, slow doses at first. The smaller the pieces, the easier it is for them to break the food up.

  • Your worms use a gizzard to do this, just like a chicken does, which is why it's essential you feed them gritty materials such as coffee grounds and eggshells in moderation.

Advantages of vermicomposting in small spaces

So why does vermicomposting work so well in small spaces? Along with being able to choose how big you want the bin to be (which is also true of regular composting), there are several other advantages.

Increased speed and more batches
Each batch of vermicompost will take your worms just a few months to make. With bacterial composting, the speed at which compost is turned into usable soil varies considerably.

  • Smaller bins take longer to compost and need to be turned more often to speed up the process. But turning is work you may not have the time or inclination to do.
  • Vermicompost, however, is ready on a much more consistent basis so you can produce more batches per year with the space you have. You also won't need to turn it to help the process along.

Less work and healthier soil
Worms hate having the soil disturbed unless you're just gently moving it with your fingers to check on them. They'll do the aeration for which you'd normally need to turn your compost.

  • Worms will also produce nutrient-rich castings, a liquid that boosts the health of your soil and thus your plants.
  • You can also collect this liquid every so often and dilute it into a tea to spray onto your plant's roots.

If you're living in a small space such as an apartment or condo and raising plants, vermicomposting can provide you with the same sort of nutrient-rich soil that a backyard compost could. The difference? Your worms will make useful soil faster than bacteria alone, and you can also use their castings to make a helpful booster tea for your plants.

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