Vermicomposting 101

Hey guys, I’m currently making an attempt at beginning an urban garden. I live in a rather conservative Californian suburb– where the population is both extremely wealthy and extremely Asian. Let me explain what that means: first, wealthy means that people are used to just buying and throwing things away and Asian, means we’re both very cheap but also generally don’t care about their environmental impact on society– other things come first.

Anyways, this means people don’t actually know about the impacts of maintaining their huge backyards. I’m not a real expert on soil degradation policy (I’m focusing on agricultural and food policy) but I will explain why I compost.

Vermicomposting is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. 25% of landfills is food waste and the average American Family disposes of 200 lbs of just food scrap a year that is treated with other waste contributing to urban sludge mostly because we throw away food with other non-biodegradable stuff. Likewise, it’s amazing to me that 14 – 15% of edible food is thrown to waste– an amount equaling $43 billion (Univ of Arizona). This scrap goes to land fills but why not right back into your garden?


Composting requires essentially little money. A little investment is needed to buy the worms (if you’re using worms) but otherwise, it’s pretty darn cheap. I would love to buy a $200 vermicompost bin but that’s just ridiculous.

I use a large plastic box with a lid, and opaque– drilled about 10 small holes on the bottom and like, 4 along the sides and that’s it! It was like $8 from target (probably less).

Dump in some soggy newspaper, some dirt to get it started, and food scrap. I put like 3:1:1 ratio of (soggy, wrung out, shredded) newspaper to food material to soil. Then a ton of wormies.

Worms are usually about $25/lb, if you’re buying online. I think Lowe’s may have some at the same price (not Home Depot) but I just bought like 4 little cups of $5 red wrigglers that are super-cute at Petsmart (and one cup of 12 nightcrawlers which are the hugest worms I have ever seen in my life but are probably more efficient– Liz below says that mixing varieties is a no-no so I think red wrigglers are just as efficient). Just dump them in there and watch them dig themselves back under all that crap because they are pissed at you for exposing them to the light.

You’ll want to turn the pile every few days or so– just mix it up.

I’m pretty sure vermicomposting is so much more easier than just composting. I’m impatient and bother my poor worms nearly everyday, mixing them up, and have them wriggle back inside. It’s really nice to actually be able to see results. I like having had put mango skins in the pile and a week later, it be gone but that’s mostly because I’m as easily amused as a toddler.

Better yet, you can actually keep them inside! Yeah, these babies won’t escape. So if you’re living in a cramped, NY apartment, no worries because it doesn’t smell — that belief is a STINKING lie (get it?). The only issue you might get is those tiny little flies that somehow make their way into the bin and if you’re an outdoor composting like me, a couple pincher bugs/earwigs. I think the flies can be avoided by covering the food with a bit of soil.

After a while, there will be little food-waste– then you’re ready to harvest BLACK GOLD aka worm poop. You should harvest every few months because too much poop is poisonous to your little friends. There are a few methods:
1. dump them on a shower curtain and use your hands to sift out the worms (uh, if it was just red wrigglers, I’m fine but those night crawlers are so freaking scary).
2. dump them on a shower curtain and make little mounds. wait 10 minutes. scoop the tops off the mounds. worms will have wriggled to the bottom all sad because it’s too bright.
3. move everything to one side of the bin. start a new ‘compost’– newspaper, food scraps, etc.– on the other side. wait a day or two. all the worms will be like, “hey food, ok” and leave the useless side.

There are No-Nos to Composting:
– meat
– poop, in general (except, perhaps, cow dung)
– citrus skins
– too much banana
– chemically treated things
– colored newspaper (try to stay away)
– greasy things


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4 thoughts on “Vermicomposting 101

  1. Liz says:

    Another NO NO. Mixing worm varieties in the same bin.
    Also newspaper should be damp, not soggy. Newspaper and soil are an OK choice for starter bedding but expect your worms to be very slow eaters of your scraps with the coarse bedding.
    Lastly, most “cups” of worms contain around 75-100 worms, which works out to be 10 cups to make a pound. So 3 cups would be less than 1/4 pound worms roughly, so you can expect to feed about 1/4 pound of food every other day. (about 1/4 cup chopped).
    I give free worm composting advice on my website and have many helpful videos for beginners.
    BigTex Worms

  2. Karen says:

    Thanks Liz! — I usually squeeze out most of the water and rip it up more before dumping it in bin.

    aw snap, so far the 10 nightcrawlers and 70 red wrigglers are doing okay but I suppose not. I’ll just be using red wrigglers from now on, thanks for the heads up.

  3. sui says:

    dude, super helpful. I like composting regularly.. vermicomposting is a step that requires someone who doesn’t have issues with worms O_O!

  4. those plastic shower curtains are very cheap and you can install it easily without sweat `~;

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