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Worm Composting Dos and Don'ts

Keep it small. Keep it green. Keep it brown. And, keep it moist. If you want to maximize your composting results, there are clear do's and don'ts.

Many gardeners focus on a pile of garden and kitchen leftovers, layers of decomposing materials that form a nutritional soil amendment for the rest of the garden. But, composting with the help of hungry and efficient worms creates a nutrient-rich natural supplement your soil. 


Take Good Care of Your Worms

Worms, when added to the compost bin or pile, will feed on food scraps and organic material to produce worm compost. The worms eat the scraps, pass it through their digestive system, and produce vermicompost.

Worms need small pieces if they are to process it easily. Older food exposed to more air in a moist environment breaks down more quickly. 

Fresh manure will create a "hot" environment fatal to the worms.

Worms do not like food that is highly acidic, salty, or oily.

Seeds, onions, and garlic do not appeal to worms.

Red Wigglers are the most commonly used for composting. They are known to eat their body weight every day and reproduce quickly. You should have two pounds of wigglers for each pound of material, but you may want to start slowly as you build your scrap bin over time. 

For the worms' comfort, you need to place the compost bin in an environment between 55° and 77°, and while you may be tempted to place it out of sight, you should be able to reach the bin or pile with your hose. Worm waste or casings can be harvested every two weeks or allowed to accumulate.

Do Your Composting Right

Do compost most - but not all - of your kitchen wastes. Make sure to cut or break the scraps into small pieces to improve decomposition. 

  • Food scraps including fruit and vegetables with cores, pulp, and rinds
  • Leftovers like grains, rice, oats, wheat, pasta, bread, and flour products
  • Nuts, nutshells, herbs, and spices
  • Crushed egg shells, dirty paper napkins, and used paper towels
  • Used coffee grounds are a common composting ingredient due to the widespread popularity of the caffeinated beverage. However, if you use a pod coffee machine rather than a standard brewer, you should look into recycling programs for your used cups.
  • Broken corn cobs and apple cores create air pockets to speed decomposition

Do compost garden clippings and materials.

  • Shredded dry leaves, hay, and grass clippings 
  • Chips and sawdust from wood that has not been chemically treated
  • Dryer lint, hair, and animal fur in small amounts because it is slow to decompose
  • Shredded paper tubes, paper, and newspaper
  • Wood ash, garlic, and salt in small amounts 

Don't Waste the Waste

  • Do not add whole leaves because they will clump together and reduce water penetration.
  • Do not add leaves from holly bushes, oak trees, or rhododendron unless they are shredded as they decompose only slowly.
  • Do not add dairy or fatty products like meat, sauce, grease, gristle, oil, and the like.
  • Do not add bones, kitty litter, or animal waste.
  • Do not add clippings that include weeds, diseased, insect-infested plants, or pesticide treated materials. 
  • Do not add grass clippings unless you mix them with shredded dry leaves or paper.

Compost is a Living Thing

Your compost pile or bin is a living thing, so it needs to be watered and fed. It needs air and care to encourage decomposition and healthy worms. Green things are high in nitrogen and brown things are high in carbon, so you need to strike a 50-50 balance between the two.

Between you and the worms, you produce a vermicompost rich in nutrition, an effective fertilizer and soil amendment. It will improve the texture of your garden soil helping it to retain and distribute moisture.

You can do composting on any scale, big or small, indoors or out, a continuous process requiring minimal effort and producing a virtually cost-free aerobic fertilizer.