Niche Workers

Q. Can I dig up worms from my garden and use them for composting?
A  The earthworms and nightcrawlers in your garden likely won’t be happy in a worm bin. Yes, they break down organic matter and enhance your garden, but they’re soil dwellers, burrowing beneath the surface. Redworms (Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei), also called red wigglers, are true composting specialists. They’re litter dwellers, happily living in old leaves, cooling compost heaps, and decomposing livestock manure where there is plenty of moisture.

These niche redworms are prolific reproducers and will live for about a year. They reach maturity in about 10 weeks.

Photo of red wiggler
Eisenia fetida are the composting worm of choice.

Q. How many worms will I need in my bin?
Experts have figured out there are approximately 1,000 Eisenia fetida redworms to a pound, On average, a pound of worms will consume about a half-pound of organic matter a day in the right environment. When planning your bin, you can weigh your food scraps for a week and divide by seven to get a “daily average” of what you toss. If that sounds like too much bother, guesstimate. A cup of veggie matter weighs about 8 oz. Take it from there.

Another rule of thumb is to keep about a pound of worms per person in your household, ie. four people in your family, 4 lbs. of worms will likely keep up with your organic refuse. And because worms multiply quickly, if you’re patient, you can start with a small amount and grow the population to suit your family’s needs.

Q. Where can I get composting worms?
A We recommend looking for a local supplier. Many people who raise composting worms do so as a hobby or cottage business. Check with your neighborhood greenhouse or nursery. If you’re still having problems finding a local grower, we can ship worms to you (we’ll box up “bed run” worms) but we’d prefer not to.