Here at Villa Finale we have chosen to take the organic or “green” approach when caring for our landscape. One of the things we have taken on to help us accomplishing this goal is creating our own vermicompost bin to process our kitchen waste that in turn gives us nutrient rich vermicopost. To accomplish this task a special worm is needed, the Red worm ‘Eisenia Foetida’. Although they do look similar to the common earth worm you see in your garden this worm naturally thrives above the soil where it can get to all the decaying plant matter that falls to the ground. They feed on this and produce a natural fertilizer that is great for all your plants. These guys are not native to the US, they come from Europe and Asia; this species is the best to use when creating your own vermicoposting bin. One of the reasons these guys are the best is their giant appetite, a pound of worms can eat up to three and a half pounds of food a week! That’s half a pound a day and they can also lay eggs every seven days giving them the ability to multiply quickly.
So how do you go about making a vermicomposting bin? Well, here at Villa Finale, we have made a wooden box with a cover using untreated wood. We placed the box below ground only leaving the top exposed. This allows the temperature to stay relatively stable in this South Texas heat. Worms thrive and do best when their bedding temperature is between 55 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit, anything above 84 degrees can be harmful. When I say bedding this means the material in which the worms live and can move around freely. Bedding can be made up of anything from shredded paper and cardboard to dry leaves and manure. Here we us a mixture of finished sifted compost made on site and decayed shredded leaves. We wet this down pretty good so the material feels moist to the touch but not dripping wet. The worms need a moist environment to survive. We add the bedding about 12-16 inches deep in our worm box, our worms seem to love and thrive in this environment. This is just one of the ways to create your own bin, you can use anything from plastic tubs to store bought worm bins.
Feeding your worms is an important part of the process, like I said before one pound of worms can go through up to 3.5 pounds of food a week. Yes, the worms do also feed on the decaying leaves, shredded paper or compost you use for bedding but they love to devour your everyday kitchen scraps. Uncooked fruit or vegetables and coffee grounds can all be added to your bin to satisfy their appetite. It’s best if you collect your kitchen scraps and let them naturally start to brown and decay. This helps later when adding them to the bin, if the scraps are fresh and green they can create heat when naturally decomposing in the bin and this heat can harm the worms.
Depending on how small or large of a bin you have, regularly collect the worm castings and replacing the bedding is very important. Too much worm castings in the bin and not enough bedding can be toxic to the worms so judging how often to do this important. Here at Villa Finale we collect the castings about 2-3 times a month, this is one of the advantages to regular composting as vermicomposting can take up to 1/3 of the time traditional composting does. The worm compost or castings you collect should look like dark black coffee grounds. This is where all the nutrients are. Worm compost improves the soils ability to hold water, it increases the beneficial microbial activity in the soil, it helps to aerate your soil and prevent compaction, it decreases the chances of pests and disease attacking your plants and it can have up to 5-11 times the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) than regular soil. Applying this natural fertilizer to your garden or landscape can be as easy as sprinkling it around your plant or in your pots, mixing it into your soil or like we do here creating a “Compost Tea” and applying it as a soil drench or foliar feed. All these ways are very beneficial to your lawn or landscape and are environmentally friendly.