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Vermicompost- Composting With Worms

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.


Vermicomposting is a long word that merely means using your table scraps and organic materials to raise worms and their castings.

Castings are worm poop. They are invaluable to the organic gardener for the thousands of beneficial microorganisms that are found in them. The castings contain five times more nitrogen, at least seven times the phosphorus and over ten times the potassium than ordinary garden soil. Not only that but the castings have a perfect ph as well as containing plant growth factors. It seems that "worm manure" is the way to an abundant crop of lush vegetables.

Worms for vermicomposting are grown in special containers that you can buy or make yourself. They are not the earth worms that you may find in your garden but smaller varieties. The two breeds that are used in vermicomposting are Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellas, but you may know them as tiger worms, angle worms, or wigglers.

They generally live nearer the surface of the earth than most worms, under decaying leaves, in compost piles, or decaying manure in pastures. The habitat that you create for them must be kept close to their ideal conditions.

A vermicompost bin from
A vermicompost bin from

How to Grow Worms

Vermicomposting does not take up much space. For every two people that will produce table scraps you will need a 2'x2'x8" box and 2,000 worms. Expect this population to double, under good conditions, each month.

Once you have your habitat, either homemade or bought, you will fill it with bedding material. You will need approximately six pounds of bedding material per box. Bedding can be made of many things, a combination of peat moss, shredded paper and/or leaves, well rotted manure (do not use fresh), sawdust from non treated wood (not aromatic wood like cedar or pine though), dried grass clippings, and coconut fiber. The bedding needs to be loose and moist, with the ability to allow air to circulate. Add some sand and a very small amount of lime. Mix it up well, moisten and put in the box. Now add the worms. Do not add compost materials for 2 days.

After two days you can start adding table scraps. Never feed worms the following substances:

  • eggs
  • metal
  • foil
  • plastic
  • citrus
  • onion
  • garlic
  • oil and oily foods
  • meat
  • dairy

Trimmings from vegetables, fruits, and garden plants, egg shells, and coffee grounds are all great. Tea bags, as long as the staple is removed, coffee filters, leftover oatmeal and breads can all be used with great success. 1,000 worms will eat about 1/2 cup of scraps per day.

Bury the food in the bedding for best results. The worm box will need to be cleared every 3-4 months.

Harvesting the Castings

Harvesting the castings is a relatively simple procedure. You will want to complete the process outside on a sunny day. Working with one box at a time dump it out onto a large piece of plastic. Mound the contents into several mounds.

Since the worms will want to avoid light they will burrow into the piles and you will then gently brush the dirt off and set it aside until you begin to see the worms again. Wait a few minutes for them to burrow deeper and repeat the process until you have only worms. Return the worms to the newly filled boxes and store the casting for a week or so before using needed in your garden.

You can also collect the liquid that is produced when you dampen the soil of the boxes. To do this place a tray under the habitat to collect the liquid. Pour it off regularly into a container to be used when watering your plants.


The ideal temperature for growing worms is 50-80 degrees. It is important that they not heat up above 90 degrees or they can literally cook. Because of this you also need to be careful about putting in too much "hot " compost, like grass clippings, fresh manures, and that type of thing. They cannot survive in normal garden soil so they should be kept in the environments you have created for them.

Vermicomposting can be an excellent family project as well as a way to grow better plants and make a little extra money by selling both the worms and the castings to others for their organic gardens.


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    • u-turn profile image

      Arthur George Rettell jr. ( 

      6 years ago from AZ. STATE

      Worms are for fishing and fishing can be for any person & a worm bed is long forgotten it seems, as when a young teen, Miller Bait&Tackle was one shop whom had live worms and there own bed ...

      So this is great you wrote this up and i can share in a link, as i hope old school Tackle shops will never be forgotten or go under due to the big league wall world and others. Thnku

    • jetta17 profile image


      7 years ago

      Already being an active composter, this article really will help me make the push towards Vermicomposting a reality. Thanks so much!

    • hypnodude profile image


      8 years ago from Italy

      Very good article rated up and awesome. Being an amateur gardener myself then I have no other choice than follow you. Clear, concise yet with all the information needed. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a great hub! It's perfect for beginners to learn a bit about using worms for composting.

    • mikethegardener profile image


      9 years ago from New Jersey

      I like to utilize my vermicompost bin (worm box) during the times when the ground is frozen or when my plants are in the ground....otherwise I just bury my food waste about a foot deep. Worms will find the food that is buried and do all the work for you. Then before you plant your veggies, fruits, flowers etc., use a tiller or pitchfork to turn the soil over and mix in the vermicompost.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      im js starting up with my worm farm and i find it helpful. tnx

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      10 years ago from Texas

      One of the cool things about composting with worms is that it can be done indoors with relative ease. I've seen pictures of worm bins like the Can o Worms set up in people's kitchens, so not only works quickly but year round if you like.

    • zannr profile image


      10 years ago from Portland

      Great article! I have been fascinated by worms and what they can help people do. I started doing research on them years ago and continue to read up on them from time to time. I'm hoping to start composting when I have a garden area of my own!

    • moonlake profile image


      10 years ago from America

      We live on an old pig farm and have excellent soil. I would still like to compost we did at our other house but we haven't started doing it here. Enjoyed your hub. Stop by mine if you get a chance and see the wild animals in our yard.

    • leahcallis profile image


      10 years ago from Littleton, CO

      I would love to start doing this. Right now I am in an apartment, but I want to get into a house soon so I can do things like this. Thank you!

    • Whitney05 profile image


      10 years ago from Georgia

      I tried a compost when I was little... It didn't work to well for me... I didn't give it enough time, and got bored after a week. I know people who have mini compost things in their kitchens. It freaks me out a little to have a container in your kitchen, where you cook and eat, with compost minus the worms.

      That video looks so gross! ha.

    • firefly07 profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      very interesting hub, as always. This method of making compost is becoming very popular.

    • Jennifer profile image


      10 years ago

      We just got into composting this past summer. This is very interesting, thanks!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Marye you must be a mind reader I was hunting around for info on these worm composters. Thanks for the super how to info.

      great HUB regards Zsuzsy

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have done composting with the wet kitchen wastes.And lo and behold !I had seven beautiful roses on a single stalk one day.My son was threatening to uproot the plant if it didn't give flowers.Wormcomposting I am going to try next time.Thanks for the info.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      my niece suddenly decide to become worm farmers and they mad a considerable amount of money from for a long time. Then they wandered away from it


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