Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tesia Galvan
Staff Writer 

Vermicomposting is black gold for gardeners and growers


February 24, 2016

WORLAND – A well-attended presentation at Saturday morning’s WESTI Ag Days was the session on vermicomposting.

Turning trash into treasure is what Mae Smith; Northwest Area Rangeland Resources Educator at University of Wyoming Extension calls it.

Vermicomposting is using worms to create a nutritious soil for planting and growing vegetables, Smith said, adding that the purpose of composting is to break matter down and use as soil.

Smith said “black gold” composting is easy and all you need is a container, newspaper bedding, water, worms and your kitchen scraps, as long as they’re not non-fatty like meats and eggs.

The Extension educator gave tips on how to have the most successful vermicomposting bin and what to feed your worms and how often.

Smith’s first tip was to choose a dark bin, “because worms don’t like the sun.” Hers was a plastic bin that could be found at any local hardware store.

While the bins don’t have to be plastic, Smith recommended plastic bins because they have a top to keep it dark for the worms and wooden bins tend to dry out. “If you use a wooden box have a spray bottle because the wood dries out and worms need moisture to survive,” Smith said.

Smith’s second tip was to drill holes on the sides and bottom of the bin to allow for air flow. Keep a second bin on the bottom to catch drainage so worms don’t drown, Smith said. Plus the liquid that drains down can be used for watering plants as Smith referred to it as “worm tea.”

Bedding is an important part of vermicomposting and Smith said a gardener “can use shredded newspaper for extra worm food, as long as it’s not bleached white office paper.” Smith also recommended dampening the newspaper bedding for easier break down, but not too much because the worms could drown.

Smith said you can use a little peat moss or soil, but watch out for commercial soil with pesticides in them. “Avoid using grass clipping … because they are high in nitrogen and might burn worms,” Smith said.

Once the bin is complete, worms can be added, and Smith recommending feeding them slowly at first to see what their eating cycles are then, and if they are underfed, they’ll eat the excess bedding.

Smith recommended using red worms for vermicomposting. They’re pretty easy to find because you can buy them online or at bait shops because they are used for fishing, Smith said.

Smith’s third tip was to bury the scraps the worms will be eating to avoid the smell and so fruit flies won’t detect the food and start hanging around.

“As you feed work your way around the bin so the feed is even,” Smith said. “Start in one spot and move around the bin.”

What to feed the worms was an important topic Smith addressed and gave tips on.

“Worms eat more vegetables,” Smith said. “Worms [also] love coffee grounds and tea bags.”

Just be careful not to over feed the worms, 12 ounces of coffee grounds from an office coffee maker will be too much for them, Smith said.

“Worms start doubling in handfuls every couple of months,” Smith said. “Watch out for worm stampeding because it means overpopulation or the conditions [of the bin] are not good.”

A harvesting tip was Smith’s last tip.

When you take off the top of your bin to get soil, Smith recommended “Gently scrap[ing] off from the top ... Worms don’t like sunlight … and will burrow … so it’s easy to get worm free soil that way.”

If a gardener’s bin gets too wet, Smith said, “add more dry bedding or drill more holes in the bin.”


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