Worm composting is using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into a valuable soil amendment called vermicompost, or worm compost. Worms eat food scraps, which become compost as they pass through the worm's body. Compost exits the worm through it’s' tail end. This compost can then be used to grow plants. To understand why vermicompost is good for plants, remember that the worms are eating nutrient-rich fruit and vegetable scraps, and turning them into nutrient-rich compost.
Materials to use (and avoid) in a worm bin
Worms have been hard at work breaking down organic materials and returning nutrients to the soil. By bringing a worm bin into the classroom, you are simulating the worm's role in nature. Though worms could eat any organic material, certain foods are better for the classroom worm bin.
We recommend using only raw fruit and vegetable scraps. Stay away from meats, oils and dairy products, which are more complex materials than fruits and vegetables. Thus, they take longer to break down and can attract pests. Cooked foods are often oily or buttery, which can also attract pests.
Avoid orange rinds and other citrus fruits, which are too acidic, and can attract fruit flies. Try to use a variety of materials. We have found the more vegetable matter, the better the worm bin. Stay away from onions and broccoli which tend to have a strong odor.
Setting up a worm bin
Setting up a worm bin is easy. All you need is a box, moist newspaper strips, and worms. To figure out how to set up a worm bin, first consider what worms need to live. If your bin provides what worms need, then it will be successful. Worms need moisture, air, food, darkness, and warm (but not hot) temperatures. Bedding made of newspaper strips or leaves will hold moisture and contain air spaces essential to worms.
You should use red worms or red wigglers in the worm bin, which can be ordered from a worm farm and mailed to your field.
If you take care of your worms and create a favorable environment for them, they will work tirelessly to eat your "garbage" and produce compost. As time progresses, you will notice less and less bedding and more and more compost in your bin. After 3-5 months, when your bin is filled with compost (and very little bedding), it is time to harvest the bin. Harvesting means removing the finished compost from the bin. After several months, worms need to be separated from their castings which, at high concentrations, create an unhealthy environment for them.
To prepare for harvesting, do not add new food to the bin for two weeks. Then try one of two methods for harvesting:
Push all of the worm bin contents to one half of the bin, removing any large pieces of unrecompensed food or newspaper. Put fresh bedding and food scraps in empty side of bin. Continue burying food scraps only in freshly bedded half.
Over the next 2-3 weeks, the worms will move over to the new side (where the food is), conveniently leaving their compost behind in one section. When this has happened, remove the compost and replace it with fresh bedding. To facilitate worm migration, cover only the new side of the bin, causing the old side to dry out and encouraging the worms to leave the old side.