Compost 911: What are the right worms for vermicomposting success?

Compost myth: I can just dig up some worms for my vermicomposting bin right?

Compost Answer: No. The worms in your yard or garden are earthworms. You cannot just dig up some worms from the soil outside for your worm bin unless you live on a working ranch or dairy farm and have a large manure pile several months old to dig in. Earth worms are for your garden, not your vermicomposting bin. The correct worms for vermicomposting are manure worms which are know as red wigglers in the fishing trade.

If you are purchasing worms for an indoor bin, ideally you want worms at all stages of the lifecycle: adults, juveniles as well as worm castings which contain the eggs. The best source is an active worm bin which is at the far end of the cycle and is almost completely castings and worms. Buying adults only from a bait shop will work, but will put you weeks or even months behind while waiting for the next generation to come along. You also have no idea what the bait shop worms have been exposed to in the way of pesticides and chemicals and in most cases the owner of the shop doesn’t know either.

The worm supplier you buy from should offer a worm starter kit that includes bedding and castings. Buying from suppliers who are selling adults only by the pound will result in a slower start to your bin.

Indoor vermicomposting bins will turn out great fertilizer for house plants or limited outdoor areas that need a boost. They work great in small homes/apartments/dorm rooms or as a supplement to outdoor composting if you have the luxury of an outdoor pile.

For most urban dwellers, the vermicomposting bin is the only compost method they have the materials for. Kitchen scraps are almost purely greens and would be a disaster if they were the only ingredient for an outdoor pile. Vermicomposting or worm bins run perfectly on pure kitchen scraps plus bedding. The easiest bedding is coconut coir fiber bricks. The cheapest bedding is 50/50 dead leaves and torn up strips of newspaper with about ten percent cardboard and ten percent shredded office paper mixed in. The whole mix is wet down until damp as a wet sponge – damp to touch but you should not be able to wring water out of it.

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Backyard Ecosystem began as an expression of my determination to make a difference in our own backyard. Literally and metaphorically making a difference at the micro level of my yard and to operate at macro level of treating the entire planet as something I am an integral part of and whose destiny is shaped everyday by what I do in my corner of the world.

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