Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Worm Composting for My Garden & the Environment

By: Kim Stemshorn

Vermiculture or indoor worm composting, is a great activity that reduces your environmental footprint, while creating useful fertilizer for your garden.

Kim Stemshorn with several children surrounding a small indoor worm composting bin.

Two plastic bins used as indoor worm composters stacked on top of each other in a kitchen.
Photo Credit: Kim Stemshorn

My two-bin indoor worm composter set up. I alternate adding my food scraps between the two bins. Resting one bin gives some time for the worms to process the food.

Why I Love Indoor Worm Composting 

Here are my top reasons why I love indoor worm composting:

  1. It's cheap, easy, and customizable! You can customize the size of your bin, where you want store it, and how often you feed it. If you find you are producing more food scraps for the size of your bin, upgrade the size of your bin or container or consider managing multiple bins that you can cycle through based on how much you feed them and how quickly your worms are processing your food scraps
  2. Red wiggler worms are the easiest pets you'll ever own! Red wiggler worms are shallow dwellers and can eat half their body weight in one day
  3. They don't smell! Sure, you're producing worm castings, which is worm poop, but your indoor worm composter will smell like soil on a wet day 
  4. Red wiggler worms eat the parts of fruit and vegetables that we tend to not eat. Red wiggler worms will eat banana peels, apple cores, spent tea leaves and coffee grounds, and the rough exterior of watermelons, cantaloupe, and avocados. More on what red wiggler worms can eat
  5. Once your worm composter has matured, you can share worms with your friends! You can easily split worm populations and within optimal conditions the worms will replenish their population to the size of your container 

Worm Castings 

Fertilizer and soil often look the same, but fertilizer improves the supply of nutrients in the soil. Worm castings, or worm manure, can be used with all types of plants, including vegetable and flowerbeds that might be in containers or in the ground. Worm castings is a gentle, effective, natural fertilizer that provides essential nutrients and beneficial bacteria to plants. By adding one part worm casting to every four parts of soil, worm castings can help liven up your soil.

Soaking your castings in water creates a liquid fertilizer or worm tea. When sprayed on your garden can help your plants thrive. More information on how to make liquid fertilizer from worm castings.

Starting Your Own Worm Composter 

There are many high-end indoor worm composting units on the market, which have been designed to make both the feeding and harvesting processes easier. I prefer the simple, do-it-yourself methods to indoor worm composting, here's everything you need to get started:

  1. A plastic opaque container that has more surface area than depth
  2. A power drill or something you can create air holes with, I've even used a pair of scissors in the past
  3. Shredded paper to create the bedding. I prefer egg cartons for their ability to absorb water and ease when tearing them apart, you can also use newspaper and cardboard as well. Interestingly, to thrive, red wiggler worms eat as much paper as they do food scraps. Paper absorbs moisture and helps keep moisture levels balanced in your bin
  4. Approximately 50 – 100 red wiggler worms, which can be purchased online or sourced from other Toronto-area indoor worm composting enthusiasts. Note: red wiggler worms are not the same as earth worms!
  5. Your indoor worm composter should be stored indoors year-round. Worms thrive in 12° to 24° Celsius – in temperatures outside of this range, the worms will eat slower and will not be as productive
Picture of the inside of an indoor worm composting bin with soil and ripped up cardboard.
Photo Credit: Kim Stemshorn

Indoor composter with lid on showing several holes for aeration.
Photo Credit: Kim Stemshorn

Kim Stemshorn holding a large stack of beverage cup holders.
Photo Credit: Kim Stemshorn

Reusing beverage cup holders for the bedding in my indoor worm composter.

TransformTO has set out the goal that by 2050, 95% of waste to be diverted from landfill (TransformTO, 2021). About 30% of garbage collected by the City of Toronto is actually organic waste (Solid Waste Management Services, 2021).

Additionally, indoor worm composting reduces the waste sent to landfill and helps Toronto work towards a circular economy by quickly transforming your fruit and vegetable food scraps into worm castings or fertilizer (check out this video which shows how fast red wiggler worms can consume a pumpkin).

Do you want to start an indoor worm composter? Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below & share with us on social media by tagging @LiveGreenTO and using the hashtag #GetGrowing.

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