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Vermicomposting 101: The Benefits of Worm Bins and How to Get Started

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, involves worms breaking down food waste to create compost. Here's how to get started.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

Remember those slimy little earthworms you would see digging through the dirt in your backyard as a kid? Turns out worms—the red wiggler variety, to be exact—are pretty darn good at helping with composting.

Vermicomposting is a type of composting where worms work alongside other microorganisms to digest natural materials and create vermicompost—a rich, nutrient-dense soil that's great for your plants.

Here's everything you should know about vermicomposting before getting started.

The Benefits of Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is really good for both you and the environment. One of the main benefits of vermicomposting is that you're keeping organic materials out of landfills.

While most people assume things like food scraps will biodegrade in landfills, the lack of oxygen doesn't allow them to. Instead of breaking down, they're stuck in limbo, where they release methane—a gas that contributes to climate change.

Besides being a more eco-friendly way to dispose of food scraps, you may be surprised to hear that vermicompost is even more nutrient-dense than regular compost and is created more quickly. It's also known to be more low-maintenance, can be done indoors or out, and still yields the same (or even better) results.

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How to Begin Vermicomposting

If you're afraid of the complexities that come with composting with worms, don't be. Because the worms do a lot of the work for you, it's actually really simple.

The Compost Bin

The most important thing you'll need to get started is a worm composting bin, not to be mistaken with a regular composting bin. Worm composting bins have holes to let air in and are raised off the ground to allow for drainage. You can make one yourself at home, or purchase one that's ready for composting.

The Bedding

Once you have your vermicompost bin, you're going to need some bedding for your worms so they stay happy and comfortable. One of the more popular types of bedding is just shredded cardboard, but you can use a plethora of other materials that can probably be found in your home right now.

Some other easy options for bedding include straw, shredded unbleached paper, shredded newspaper, or leaves. When you have the bedding laid down, add some soil and water, making sure the mixture isn't too wet or too dry.

The Worms

Now that your worm bin is ready for action, you can add your worms. The most common type of worm used for vermicomposting is the red wiggler, as they ingest and digest waste materials at a fast pace.

The amount of worms you'll need depends on the amount of waste that's produced every day. A worm can eat its weight in scraps per day, so if you have a pound of worms, it's safe to assume you can feed them a pound of natural waste. Red wigglers can be purchased online pretty easily, or you can try a local bait shop.

Adding Your Waste

Start slow when adding in your waste. Gradually add more food scraps as time goes on, but not so much that your bin begins to smell. Worms will eat just about any kind of fruit or vegetable scrap, though they may have a more difficult time digesting onions and citrus.

You can't add any animal products to your bin (like meat or dairy), but feel free to add coffee grounds, shredded paper towels, and plastic-free tea bags.

Worm Compost Bin Options

You can make your own compost bin with plastic tubs you already have at home. With that being said, there are also options you can purchase that make composting easier than ever.

This simple worm composter makes vermicomposting easy. It even comes with two trays. That way when the bottom one fills up, you can easily move your worms to the top tray.

2. Living Composter, $199

This gorgeous composting bin allows you to make great worm compost in style. Not only is it beautiful, but it's also odorless. No smelly compost bin here!

This bin's innovative design lends itself to a great environment for your worms to work in. The continuous flow worm composter doesn't rely on mixing, turning, or stirring—it does all the work for you.

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