Do not use coir by itself for bedding material. Its rough texture seems to irritate worms and may cause them to flee the bin. Mix coir 33% each with peat moss or basic, fertilizer-free potting soil, and shredded newspaper.
Worms have a crop similar to that of chickens and need to ingest grit to digest their food. Be sure to add 2 tablespoons of sand, greensand or azomite to your bin. Mix evenly throughout the bedding material.
Add fresh, chlorine-free water to the bedding until it is evenly moist. The moisture content of the bedding is just right when a handful produces one or two drops of water when firmly squeezed.
Place your worm composter in a lighted, dry location. Putting it in a damp, dark basement may encourage worms to exit the bin.
Careful with eggshells. Rinse them or allow them to dry thoroughly before adding to the bin to prevent salmonella bacteria from entering the bedding.
Despite the claims in operating instructions that comes with store-bought, multi-tiered composters, not all worms will easily make the transition from one level to the next. To aid them in their journey, place the working tray full of worms on top of the destination tray with fresh bedding and fresh food. Place a light above the tray and leave the cover off for 24-48 hours. All worms will migrate downward into the new tray to escape the bright light and dessicating bedding. This will also help dry castings for storage.
Worms need good nutrition, too! They can become thin, weak and sickly-looking if fed only fruits and vegetables. Add oat meal, corn meal, cooked rice, stale bread or cereal, and alfalfa pellets to fatten ‘em up. Remember, composting worms by nature are detritus feeders, so adding a 1 cup of composted cow manure once in a while is a real treat for them!
For highly potent, fertile castings, add 1 tablesoon of kelp meal once a week.
To easily remove worms from a home-made, single-compartment composter, stop adding food for 10 days, then slice an apple in half and place the halves face down on top of the castings. In 48 hours you will find almost all worms from the bin congregated under the apples. Simply scoop them up and place in another container while you harvest the castings and replace the bedding.
Interesting Note: During the last period of glaciation, 58,000 to 12,000 ybp., earthworms in the Canada and the northern half of the U.S. were scoured away with the soil. Native Peoples there were not accustomed to finding earthworms in their soil until after the arrival of the European colonists. As European earthworms began invading the New World, whenever they were found by “Indians,” they were removed or killed, as First Peoples believed them detrimental to their gardens.
All photos are copyrighted and may only be used with permission.
Thank you to everyone who attended "Harnessing the Power of the Earthworm," through the Vermont Master Composter Program at UVM in November 2016!
I sincerely appreciate your engaged participation and enthusiasm.
If you have any additional questions, comments or suggestions please email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org - Mike
A Few Tips and Tricks for Successful Worm Composting
Nutrient rich worm castings can produce spectacular results when added to potting soil, or when applied as a top dressing in containers with houseplants. Click below for more info...