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I’ve Got Worms! January 4, 2011

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.

Looking for low maintenance pets?  Got more excess food scraps going into your composter than it can keep up with?  Well I’ve got the answer all in one… Red Wigglers!  For years now I’ve had a colony of Red Wiggler Worms to help build the richest compost faster than your compost pile can naturally process it alone.  These worms can even be kept indoors, or under your kitchen sink for that matter (because they’re odourless). 

I got into vermicomposting more than 10 years ago.  A friend had a worm bin and offered to help me get started.  He shared a few worms (12 – 15) and before long I had a drove of my own thriving in a large plastic tub in my garage.  They are said to be the most ravenous eaters, leaving nothing behind, making them the most efficient compost producers.

Here’s the ‘down and dirty details’ of how to start and maintain a worm bin to make your own compost – it’s simple and very low cost (the bin might be all you need to purchase).  And it’s a great time of year to start a worm bin as dried leaves can be used for bedding.  First you need a large bin with a lid (worms don’t like the light).  I like my plastic bin; it holds the moisture and is easy to move.  It’s approximately 18 inches x 24 inches and 24 inches deep.  Here’s a great website on how to set up your worm bin; http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormcomp61.html

The temperature at which you keep your worm bin is important.  Some food wastees or too much waste will increase the heat of the bin so be careful not to mix too much in during hot weather, especially if your compost is shallow and the worms don’t have the depths to retreat to.  Laying the compost just on top will help to keep your worm bed  cooler during the warmest days of the summer.   At the other extreme you can’t let the wee things get below freezing either – I did that once and had to start my farm all over again.

Benefits of Vermicomposting?  Worm castings will enrich your soil with rich plant nutrients and will help the soil to retain moisture.  Worm castings also help to balance the pH levels in the soil and will not burn your plants, so you can never use too much. 

To read more about the benefits of using worm castings; http://www.tastefulgarden.com/wormcastings.htm

In addition to the plant food scraps I would normally throw into a compost bin I also add used coffee grounds every day.  The worms need some sand in their bin and the coffee grounds work great as well to keep their digestive system working at its best.  Worm food;  http://www.suite101.com/content/feeding-red-wiggler-worms-a145775

Additional websites to learn more about composting worms; 

Submitted by: Ronda Reach, Fort Macleod, AB



1. susan roberts - January 4, 2011

Wow that is great Ronda…I have a couple of questions 1) Do you move the worms in and out of doors with winter and summer seasons? 2) Where can we get them locally or should we have a worm swapping party? 3) Do the worms go with the composts when you put it in your garden so do you have to get more? Susan

Ronda - January 4, 2011

Happy New Year Susan!!
I do move the worm bin indoors during the winter months to keep it from freezing.
To get a quick start you can pick Red Wigglers up from fishing bait suppliers. I didn’t start out with many and found they mulitiplied quickly. I would love to share a few starter bunches of the wiggly guys when we get together. I think worms should be part of a Seedy Sat. event.
When taking compost from your bin there will be wee worms and their eggs that go into the garden for sure – but that’s all good. Not to deplete the colony too quickly I do sift through the compost and try to avoid setting too many free. One method to try is they will cluster around the food so when feeding drop it in the same corner for a week before scooping out some of the casting mix.

2. Holly Cependa - January 4, 2011

Thank you for sharing your worm story. We have a ‘worm factory’ in a corner of our kitchen. I started with a rubbermaid tote but have now graduated to a worm factory that we purchased from Vesseys. Not only are we able to compost our veggie scraps, but also able to supply our son-in-law with fishing worms!

Ronda - January 4, 2011

Hi Holly,
That is a slick looking set up, I checked it out on the web. We’ve shared a lot of little starter buckets with friends and family and even then find that every spring we have to dump the lot, worms and compost, into the yard (retrieving a few dozen worms) then start all over again as the little guys have out grown their abode. I’ve checked out the price of them at the bait shops and your son-in-law must be extremely happy.

Holly Cependa - March 17, 2011

Rhonda- we are really enjoying the worm factory . . . I will be trying my hand at switching the bottom bin around as I will be needing good soil to start my garden seeds. The best part is – the flies have disappeared and there is absolutely no smell!

3. Maureen Abram - January 4, 2011

Hi Susan,
I do worm composting too, I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and I’m getting my first bunch of Belizean worms next week! In Edmonton you can get worms at Earths General Store, or at least you could before I moved. The city runs the excellent Master Composter/Recycler program each year and they could also give you resources about vermi-composting. The John Janzen Nature Centre used to have a program as well.

I am also going to be launching an online course on Worm Composting 101 next month. I can give you details about that if you like.

Take care,

Mark S-A - January 6, 2011

The City of Edmonton’s website details Worm Composting Workshops (3 coming up!) and keep an updated list of Where to Buy Worms (4 locations). http://www.edmonton.ca/waste
Master Composter/Recycler Volunteers will be sharing worms and advice at the Renovation Show, Home & Garden Show, Women’s Show, Bloomin’ Garden Show, Seedy Sunday, Biodiversity Day, Earth Day, and many Community Events.
Read about worms at City Hall at http://www.transformingedmonton.ca/index.php/2009/12/02/composting-at-city-hall/

Personally, I discourage vermiculture outside; you will find spiders and centipedes moving in, and in autumn you will bring fungus gnats inside to infest the houseplants. I have dumped the whole bin into my outdoor compost bin in spring, and recovered many healthy worms in October, and then I rinsed them off and started fresh. Last year many worms overwintered in my outside Earth Machine.

SherryGreens - March 3, 2011

Hi Mark – so you only worm compost in the winter then, indoors? Do you find that it smells, or that it attracts fruit flies? I cannot seem to convince my husband to give it a try.

Mark S-A - March 3, 2011

Hi Sherry. I take my worms into grade 4 classrooms so I often have a few bins on the go year round. If something goes wrong in one bin I have no trouble pitching it and starting over.
Rotting organics always have the potential to cause odours, the trick is knowing how high that potential is (and limit the input) and how to keep your bin fresh (by ensuring lots of fresh air).
If your compost smells terrible, it is not composting, it is rotting. Composting is a process, while storing rotting food is… well, just that.
The quality of the compost bin depends on those who maintain it. Like they say – “If you’ve seen one composter, you’ve seen one composter!”
Vermiculture does not attract flies, but can breed them if fruit is not covered with bedding.
If you are near Edmonton I would be happy to loan you a bin for a trial period. Cheers,

Ronda - January 12, 2011

Hi Maureen,
I’d be very interested in more details about your online course. As well to hear more about Belizean worms.

Maureen - March 5, 2011

Hi everyone, the online course is finally live. You can find out more info at https://learnable.com/courses/worm-composting-101-151.

4. susan roberts - January 7, 2011

thanks everyone for all your help adn insights and to you Ronda for getting this started! Watch out worms here I come! Susan

5. Linda - March 21, 2011

I live in Alberta near Drumheller and I am looking to buy some big healthy red wigglers for composting. Can you advise of any suppliers in my area?

Ronda - March 25, 2011

Hi Linda,
There are a number of places across the province to buy red wigglers from. I’m astounded by the costs and think maybe I should start selling mine. You can start a great little colony from just a dozen or so. I’m not sure what they would cost from a bait supplier, likely even more but I would just Google red wigglers , here’s one option that lists some AB suppliers
Happy Composting!

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