The Benefits Of Worm Composting
Worm composting is a way of transforming our food scraps and organic waste into a nutrient rich fertilizer and concentrated soil conditioner. It goes by many names such as; vermiculture, vermicompost, vermicast, worm hummus, worm manure and worm castings. Worm composting is a rewarding method of composting that benefits plants, lawns, gardens, our environment and US (even the worms reap the benefits)!!
There are specific worms that are used for worm composting. The most effective worms are scientifically known as Eisenia foetidaie and Lumbricus rubellus, commonly called Red Wigglers or Red Earthworms. Another type of worm that can be used but doesn’t come as highly recommended, is the European Night Crawler (Eisenia hortensis). This worm isn’t as effective as the Red Wiggler. It’s good at recycling coarse fibrous material like cardboard, but is much slower than the Wiggler. Night Crawlers are better suited for use as fishing bait. Not just any old worm will do.
Worms naturally convert food waste into simple plant nutrients. This organic fertilizer, rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, is produced much faster than most traditional composting methods. When time is of the essence, the worm’s ability to convert food scraps into compost is a very valuable feature. This compost is also super concentrated, so it should be used sparingly. A little will go a long way which makes storage for a later date quite convenient.
Worm composting can be done inside or outside, which gives you more options than any other traditional composting methods do. Since worm composting can be done indoors, it’s possible to produce compost all year round. Being limited to the outdoors forces this process to take place within the boundaries of the seasons. Also, composting is no longer limited to people with property or backyards. Apartment dwellers can use this method of composting too. Well, why would an apartment dweller even think about composting? They obviously don’t have a yard or a garden and, generally speaking, apartments aren’t necessarily spacious enough to engage in an extra curricular activity such as composting.
There is no requirement to have a lawn or a garden to have an interest in composting. People living in apartments may have houseplants that would benefit from being fertilized. Even those without houseplants may be environmentally conscious and recognize the benefits of composting for the sheer purpose of recycling. As far as having the space for composting, this method is self-contained and compact. It doesn’t require much space at all; 8”-16” deep and 1-2 sq. ft. surface area.
The concept of composting indoors raises the concern of odor. Worm composting is virtually odorless if done properly. To prevent odor, the compost bin should be maintained weekly, which is pretty low maintenance. Maintenance for odor control is simply not overloading the bin with food, not allowing food to sit too long, making sure there is proper ventilation and keeping the drain holes in the bottom open and unclogged so the bin’s environment doesn’t get too wet.
Worm composting is very affordable. It is entirely possible to use this composting method and not spend a penny, however, purchasing worms is probably worth eliminating the hassle of actually finding enough of them to get your compost started. The only other purchase you may decide to make would be the bin used to house your worms, bedding and compost, however, it is not necessary to purchase a bin. In fact, besides being economical, it’s earth friendly to use a container you already have and recycle it. Essentially, worm composting is recycling.
There also is no need for any heavy lifting, even when moving indoor compost bins outside. The weight of the bin will vary depending on its size and the amount of food, compost, bedding and worms it contains. This can easily be controlled by the amount of waste deposited in the bin, and consistent awareness of its contents. Awareness of its contents will allow you to know when the bin has reached its weight capacity in accordance with the amount you’re limited to lifting.
Many of these benefits are what make it feasible for the elderly and disabled to successfully maintain a compost bin. It’s not only safe for children to participate in worm composting, but it should be encouraged. It would make for an excellent science project as well instill values and teach lessons about recycling, caring for our planet and nurturing plant life.
Worm composting can help our planet heal by reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Sadly, too many of us have been conditioned to ‘throw away’ whatever we don’t use without even giving it a second thought. It’s become acceptable. In fact, we’re considered to be a ‘pack rat’ if we don’t get rid of things we aren’t using. This mentality has led to the predicament we’re in now-running out of room for our garbage. The truth is that so much of our ‘garbage’ isn’t even garbage! The old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is true…even for table scraps. If the average household has 3 lbs. of food waste a week, and it’s getting thrown in the trash, that household is adding 156 lbs. a year to a landfill. Not to mention 156 lbs. being dragged to the curb, 156 lbs. being lifted and tossed by the garbage man, and 156 lbs being hauled to the dump by a gas guzzling truck. Any way you slice it, it’s just a huge waste of energy.
One of the largest benefactors in worm composting are the recipients of the fertilizer…the plants, the lawns and the gardens! Houseplants will give back. Being a natural air filter and bringing a room or a window to life, they are a joy to care for. It isn’t uncommon to kill a houseplant when using a liquid fertilizer. Chances are that the fertilizer isn’t diluted properly, delivering unknown amounts of concentrated fertilizer to the soil which in turn can easily shock and/or burn the roots. When using worm compost, it’s applied by sparingly sprinkling it in a thin layer on the top of the soil, not touching the plant stems. Every time you water your plants, they get a treat. The nutrients from the compost are evenly distributed throughout the soil and the difference is that the roots of the plant don’t get burned or shocked.
The compost is used as a soil conditioner for lawns. For lawn application you simply scatter the compost over the lawn. Remember that it is concentrated and a little goes a long way. Your lawn will thank you by showing off for the neighbors. Unless your neighbor is doing the same thing, the grass won’t be greener on the other side.
The garden will most definitely be thanking you in its own way, depending on what kind of garden it is. Your flower garden will be showing off right along with your lawn. Blooms will be vibrant, casting a spell on your eyes and your nose. Nature’s magic. Sunflowers will develop an ego, believing they can touch the sun. Morning glories will know they are the glory of the morning. Tulips may even believe they have two lips and try to kiss you. But seriously, your flowers will thrive. Your veggie garden will be making you salads. Don’t be surprised if your veggies are bigger, if their pigment is deeper or if they just can’t stop producing edibles! Little do they know that they are contributing to the next batch of compost.
The Red Wigglers reap some benefits too. It’s important to remember that in order to perform the task at hand, they’ve been ripped from their natural environment. Yeah, they’re just worms, but they are performing a valuable service and should be treated respectfully. Their bennies are pretty simple. In exchange for their lives, they get food and shelter. They’re obviously well fed since food is the main ingredient for this kind of composting. Their housing is sufficient meaning proper ventilation, protection from the weather, livable temperatures and the moisture they need to survive. In order to achieve our desired results these conditions must be maintained.
The other largest benefactor is US. We experience the rewards on many different levels. The most obvious are the tangible rewards such as delicious salads, sweet strawberries, whatever edibles you grow in your garden. Let’s not forget herbs that can be used to flavor many dishes and we’ll surely enjoy the lovely bouquet of flowers on the dinner table that are freshly cut from the garden. We can delight in our accomplishment and feel good about the pounds of garbage we didn’t contribute to the landfill. We may even experience some peace of mind from setting a good example for our children and our neighbors. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your efforts have paid off. You’ve accomplished something constructive that enhanced your life and likely enhanced the lives of others as well. There’s no such thing as too small of a contribution when it comes to preserving the environment that we still have. When we enlist the Red Wigglers to break down our food waste for us, we all win!