Organic material will turn into compost on its own… eventually, but you can speed up the process with worms. Worm composting, or vermicomposting, can increase the time it takes to go from kitchen scraps to usable compost.
Not any old worm will do. Red wriggler worms are the preferred creepy crawly for worm composting. These redworms love to eat organic food waste, and you’ll often find them chowing down on manure. Purchase red wrigglers from a farmer, horse stable, bait shop or worm farm. Although red wrigglers are part of the earthworm family, other earthworms are not surface-level organic feeders.
You’ll need about 2 pounds of worms for each pound of food waste per day–that’s about 2,000 worms per pound. They mature and reproduce relatively quickly (doubling the population about every three months), but they respect the limits of available food and will adjust their reproduction based on available food and space. Weigh your worms and your food to make sure you have enough to make everyone happy and keep your worm compost thriving.
Red wriggler worms need bedding, which works out because you need to keep a balance of brown and green materials in your compost bin anyway. Use brown materials, like sawdust, newspaper, leaves and straw, to create a rich, nutritious bed. Bury food waste between layers of bedding and let the worms do their thing. Add food daily, burying it in different locations to make the worms travel and excrete castings all over the place.
After about six weeks, you’ll notice that the bedding is dark with worm castings. As the bedding quantity decreases, it’s time to harvest the vermicompost. There are basically two ways to do this: a hands-on method and a hands-off method.
Hands-on is exactly how it sounds. Dump out the compost and remove worms by hand, returning them to a bin with fresh bedding and food. The hands-off method forces the worms to move for you. Push the vermicompost to one side of the bin and fill the other side of the bin with fresh bedding and food. The worms will gradually migrate to the new food source and you can remove your compost from the other side. There may be a few worms remaining in the finished vermicompost, but you can just pull them out and throw them back in the bin.
There are also compost bins designed for worm composting that can make the separation process a whole lot simpler.