Composting with worms is not a new idea, but I think it is a practice that many people overlook or find too uninviting due to the nature of a slimy, wiggling worm. The fact of the matter is that worm composting is one of the most ideal forms of composting for one sole reason: you are producing pure worm castings. What’s the big deal about that? Worm castings are a highly active and beneficial mixture of bacteria, enzymes, organic plant matter and animal manure, and earthworm cocoons. They are rich in nutrients and contain over 50% more humus than topsoil or compost.


You may be asking, what is humus? It’s not the yummy bean dip, I can assure you! Humus is a component of soil, the part made up of decaying plant matter that is absolutely necessary for a healthy, rich, and fertile habitat for your plants. This includes nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and nitrogen. While you can get these things in the form of commercial fertilizer from the garden center, they often have to be diluted or broken down before you can use them. At my farm, we are interested in gardening in a natural and organic way; there is no more natural way to apply a healthy dose of nutrients to your soil than by using worm castings! With them, you do not have to dilute at all. Worm castings are perfectly safe to apply in the hole before transplanting or as a side dressing to your plants. They will not burn the roots.

Each year, when we begin transplanting crops, I fill the dug holes and rows for plants with a handful of worm castings. You can often find these bagged and for sale at the garden center, usually in the organic section. They can also be purchased online. My favorite way to get my hands on worm castings? Create your own! Raise worms in a bin. It’s really simple. 

Worms prefer a comfortable living environment, just like all living things. You’ll want to purchase a rubber bin of some sort - a storage bin works great. You will need a lid and will want to poke holes in the top to allow oxygen to enter as well as for ventilation. There are several different types of worm bins on the market as well that are more commercialized, if you do not feel like creating the DIY version. Once you have a bin ready, you’ll create a bedding for them to live in. I usually create this with coconut coir, a bit of soil from my garden, some grass clippings, dried leaves, and newspaper. Drop in the worms and give them a little bit of food!

What can worms eat? The downside to raising worms in a bin is that they do not eat through compostable materials very quickly. In fact, it can take them over a month to eat through carrot peelings! The process of getting a bin started takes a while, but you receive the castings rather quickly. When you first start out, you’ll want to wait a period of at least 3-4 weeks between feedings before dumping all of your kitchen scraps on them. In a few months, that might be more of what you can expect! Worms can eat most kitchen scraps except for citrus, oils, meat, and dairy. They enjoy fruits the most, I have noticed at least. Banana peels always go quickly around here! 

4/26/2018 7:06:59 AM

Excellent article. I am considering starting my own colony. It breaks my heart to discard healthy vegetable clippings and garden thinnings. I do compost directly in my raised beds but think this is so much better. Thanks for the insight.

Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube