Look Ma, No Teeth

Worms convert waste into nutrients. Mary Apelhof’s book is full of advice.

Do worms have teeth?
No, worms don’t have teeth. Like birds, they have a gizzard to grind the food they nibble. For that reason, we need to add grit to the worm bedding. A handful or two of soil will do.

Q. What do worms eat?
The amazing thing about redworms is they’ll eat almost anything that was once living… beyond ripe food and plant waste, leaves, shredded newspaper, napkins… They are highly efficient recyclers.

And although worms will eat almost anything, there are some things you should avoid  putting into a worm bin. We recommend disposing of meat scraps, bones, and dairy products elsewhere. They’re more likely to attract rodents and other pests, and could cause the worm bin to become rotten and stinky. 

At Good Earth Worms, we bed our stock in pre-composted horse manure and hay. Our worms eat plant and vegetable surplus from our own organic gardens and hayfield, and from neighboring farms .

Local Worms

Photo of red wiggler
You may be able to find composting worms locally.

Q. I want to home compost. Where can I get worms?
We believe in supporting your local vermiculturalist (worm grower). If you’re having problems finding a local supplier, we can ship worms to you! However, at Good Earth Worms LLC, we don’t count or weigh worms like many producers do. We sell “bed run” worms by volume in 1 gallon containers. We do our best to make sure you get more than your money’s worth. But keep in mind, these worms are often quite small and can be camouflaged in the bedding. You likely have a lot more than you can immediately see.

Q. What does “bed run” mean?
That’s when you get working worms in their original bedding, including worms at every age and stage of development – cocoons, juveniles, adults and breeding stock. This is a great way to get started, and allows your worms to adapt and flourish in their new home as they would in nature.

Castings – No Warnings Required

ripening strawberries
Castings nourish soil without toxins. Great for pick and eat crops.

Q. What’s so special about vermicompost?
Vermicompost is a natural, non-toxic way to nourish your soil. It’s rich in humus, so it improves the soil’s overall texture and consistency. It also helps your soil retain moisture. And it’s gentle on your plants!

The most productive soils are teeming with life! Vermicompost contains millions of beneficial microorganisms that break complex nutrients down into forms that plants can readily absorb and utilize. Vermicompost restores soil vitality and is safe for you, your children, and pets.

While synthetic fertilizers may provide plants with an immediate nutrient boost, they destroy the soil’s healthy biological properties in the process. They’re poisonous to you as well. Just read the warning labels. No warnings required with vermicompost!

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.

Small but mighty

Q. How many worms will I need?
Experts have figured out there are approximately 1,000 Eisenia fetida worms to a pound, but we have never counted them. Those same experts tell us, “on average,” a pound of worms will consume about a half-pound of organic matter a day.

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.

Vermicompost

Finished vermicompost looks like dark-roast coffee.
Finished vermicompost looks like dark-roast coffee.

Q. What’s the difference between vermicast and vermicompost?
Vermicast is concentrated worm manure, whereby the worms have worked and reworked the organic material over and over. Vermicompost contains small amounts of undigested organic matter mixed in with the worm castings. Those particles, referred to as “humus,” will continue to break down in the soil and release valuable nutrients to your plants. What’s more, humus helps the soil hold water and makes the dirt feel soft and crumbly, which promotes root growth. 

Worm Speak

Composting worm, Eisenia fetida
Eisenia fetida have simple requirements.

Q. What is vermiculture?
Vermiculture is the enterprise of growing worms.

Q. What is vermicast?
“Vermicast” is just a fancy word for worm manure, also called castings.

Q. What is vermicomposting?
Vermicomposting is the practice of composting with worms. Unlike conventional “hot” composting in which microbes do all the work, vermicomposting is a “cool” process in which the worms work in concert with other microorganisms to break down organic waste.