Vermicomposting:
Getting Started

What is vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is the process of using composting worms to transform organic waste into vermicompost/vermicast, one of the best fertilizers known to man.

What kind of worms are used?

In the Philippines, the African Nightcrawler is the best species to use. These worms are NOT found in your garden. Rather, they are a specialized breed of earthworms, native to Africa. Earthworms from your garden live deep beneath the soil, and will not survive in a worm bin. The African Nightcrawlers naturally live in decomposing organic matter, and thus adapt well to crowded and shallow worm bins.

We do not use Red Wigglers (eisenia fetida) as they aren’t suitable for our climate. Also, they aren’t readily available in the Philippines either.

Where do I buy the worms?

When buying composting worms, make sure they come with enough original bedding to make sure they stay alive during delivery. As much as possible, you want to order from the nearest supplier to you. If you are located in NCR, you can check out our worm starter kits for sale here. We deliver to Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, and other parts of Luzon. Our worms come in a complete set-up, and are guaranteed to be alive and healthy upon arrival.

How do I start vermicomposting?

We recommend that you get a starter kit that includes the worms, the bedding, and the container, all in one package. After receiving your starter kit, you may add a light above the uncovered bin for a few days,  to discourage them from venturing out of your worm bin. You can start feeding them about 5 days after receiving them.

Alternatively, you may choose to go DIY. To do this, you must find the right bedding, container, and the correct amount of worms. However, for beginners, we recommend sticking to pre-made starter kits, as they already contain the correct container, bedding, and worms.

The Five Essentials

1. Bedding

Worms need a place to live. Bedding is usually high in carbon, and slow-rotting to avoid overheating caused by the rapid decomposition of nitrogen-rich material. However, with caution, nitrogen-rich bedding can be used, if pre-composted well. Bedding is also a source of food, but is considerably less nutritious. In other words, bedding is where they live, and also acts as a food source. However, bedding alone may prove to be insufficient for the worms. This is where food comes in. Examples of carbon-rich bedding include: newspaper, cardboard, dried leaves,  corn cobs and husks, banana trunks, and other slow-rotting materials. See the table below to find out what you can use as the bedding of your worms.

2. Food

Though bedding is already a source of food, it lacks nutrients needed for your worms to thrive. Unlike bedding, worm food is high in nitrogen and is fast-rotting. The nutrients in the worm food is necessary in order to create potent and nutrient-rich vermicompost. You can feed the worms once or twice a week; start off feeding them with a small amount, then slowly increase depending on the time it takes for them to  eat the food. For instance, if the worms seem to finish the food within less than a week of feeding, you can increase the amount of food. (Though not too quickly!) Examples of things you can feed your worms are: Food scraps, manure (no dog or cat feces), coffee grounds, etc. Beware of overfeeding, as it is much easier to overfeed than underfeed worms.

3. Air/Oxygen

Worms breathe through their moist skin and live on dissolved oxygen. Vermicomposting is aerobic, meaning the process requires oxygen. An anaerobic, or poorly-aerated vermicomposting system will not allow the worms to breathe, may cause foul odors, and attract unwanted pests. The lack of air in the setup may produce chemicals harmful to your worms. In order to ensure your worms are getting enough air, use airy and light bedding, avoid overfeeding, and keep the bin moist (but not drenched). All these factors will lead to healthier worms and better vermicompost for your garden.

PROBLEMS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO ADDRESS THEM

4. Moisture

Worms breathe through their moist skin. Hence, a completely dry bed can wipe out a population within days. Too much moisture, on the other hand, isn’t good either. Worms do well in bedding that is moist to the touch, but not sopping wet. The optimal moisture content of a worm bin is 60-80%. As a rule of thumb, squeezing a handful of bedding should result in little to no water droplets. The vermicompost produced should never be muddy. A bin with a good moisture level wil produce crumbly vermicompost that’s cool to the touch.

5. Container

Your worms also need a container to live in. You can either use DIY containers, or purchase containers specifically made for vermicomposting.  These containers can be as small as a plastic tub, or as large as a concrete bed. It all depends on how many worms you are getting. A few hundred worms in a bin is a good starting amount, and can handle most of the waste of the average household.

A variety of materials, such as wood, plastic, and concrete may be used for your worm bin. However, wooden worm bins and other breathable materials quickly dry up. Hence, more often than not, plastic containers are recommended. We also use plastic containers in our Urban Worm Bin Micro, Standard, and Plus.