Beginner's Guide to Worm Composting-Begin with a Pet Worm

To have a pet worm, you need a small worm house.

The best way to design a house for an animal is to think of the house as your own. To build a worm house, you could pretend that you are a worm. Turn the lights low, bring out the humidifier...

Be a worm. Stay silent, and eat your way through life. Visualize eating your way out of a room full of popcorn.

You need moisture and air among the dry popped corn, so you can move. Worms breathe and sense light through their skin, so it is especially important for their food to stay moist and aerated.

Now that you are pretending to be a worm, you eat a worm's diet. Worms eat mostly vegetation that has started to decay. The nutrients are not wasted on you! You turn that green and brown mulch into black gold (rich compost.) Read more details about worm care.

Moist dirt and dead organic matter give you a nice full feeling, which is good. You have a gizzard instead of a human stomach. Birds have gizzards too. This is why you eat a bit of sand, dirt, egg shell or coffee grounds to allow food to process inside your gizzard.

You are slippery and wiggly and moving through dirt constantly. As you move, you eat to create tunnels of air. Aerating the soil, the way you do, gives life to the soil's other inhabitants and speeds up the composting process.

This guide is for beginners to start worming, with a couple of pet worms. A mini model worm house will show what it takes to care for worms. Once, you are confident about taking care of a couple of pet worms, then worm composting on a larger scale will be easy.

Red wrigglers are the best composting worms because they reproduce and eat kitchen waste faster than ordinary earthworms found in most gardens. Local red-wrigglers are available to purchase. If you locate a local supplier, they may let you have a couple of worms.

A disposable water bottle, if covered and shaded will support two worms to multiply in a couple of weeks, then you can transfer them to a bigger home (like a laundry detergent container), garden, or compost pile.

Designing the two worm family apartment.
1. Empty the small water bottle and remove the label.
2. Cut the top portion of the bottle with a sharp knife, almost completely around the top, leaving a piece uncut. Now the top will hang off, but it will not fall off. You may want to tape the top portion of the bottle in place, once you are finished. This is an extra precaution, to avoid gnats and fruit flies.

3. Punch holes in the sides all the way around the bottle. This staple remover punches holes easily. Cut to puncture not to slice the holes too big. These are air holes, not worm holes.

Now you are ready to layer the bedding and food.
Start with a moist layer of bedding (mostly (pre-soaked) brown waste: shredded newspaper, pieces of cardboard, dead leaves, hair and/or dryer lint. Add a pinch of sand, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, or dirt to allow worms to easily move and eat through the bedding.) Worms turn low nutrient material, like paper, into rich vitamin packed compost.

Add a kitchen scraps layer around the edges inside of the bottle, to be visible from the outside. Almost any fruit or vegetable can be washed, cut into small pieces (even processed in a blender and micro-waved) to be worm food. Well prepped kitchen scraps will not be digestible for worms unless you add a pinch of sand, coffee grounds, egg shells, or dirt. Add the two red-wriggler worms into this green waste (fresh, wet) layer.

Cover the food and worms with a 2nd moist layer of bedding. Now, add a dry layer of bedding, and a small piece of moist newspaper to cover. In one week, these worms should have moved through most of the green (kitchen waste) layer, which is now brown and mixed well with the top and bottom layers. Use a spoon, lift the top dry and moist bedding layers, and insert a few spoons of fresh greens (kitchen waste.)

After two to four weeks, worms should have multiplied. A patch of ready to use compost will be ready for harvesting. To harvest compost, simply lure the worms with fresh green waste. This is easy with a sifter or any plastic fruit container. I use the container in which my peaches come home from the store. These containers have worm sized holes for ventilation. Dump the entire composted material worms and all into the sifter, or plastic fruit container with holes. Be sure a bag or dirt filled container is below. The worms will take cover. They will wiggle to the bag or dirt filled container below. Once the worms are concentrated, then you can take away the compost. The "black gold" will be ready to mix and use.

These worms will be ready for a new house with fresh bedding, or else, they will become ill. You can always release them into a compost pile, which is their dream home.

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