What is Vermicomposting?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Vermicomposting is a composting technique which uses red worms to accelerate the composting process. Three to six months of vermicomposting will create thick, rich soil to spread on plants and flowerbeds, depending on the container and the amount of household scraps generated. In addition to being an excellent composting tool for regular gardeners, vermicomposting can also be undertaken in small spaces, like city apartments, and it is sometimes used as an educational tool in classrooms.

Handful of peat moss for use in vermicomposting.
Handful of peat moss for use in vermicomposting.

The process starts with the worm box, which can vary widely in size but should always be shallow and properly aerated, so that the worms can breathe while they eat. The worm box is seeded with moistened bedding materials such as shredded newspaper, peat moss, and corrugated cardboard. A small amount of soil or sand is added to encourage digestion, along with a minimal amount of powdered limestone. Finally, the worms themselves are introduced: most vermicomposting households use Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellas, which are readily available from many garden supply stores.

Red worms can be used for vermicomposting.
Red worms can be used for vermicomposting.

It is important to start out slowly when vermicomposting, so a small amount of food scraps is introduced at the beginning of the process, to allow the worms to adjust. The amount of food scraps can gradually be increased, although if the box begins to smell or attract flies, the food should be reduced again. A healthy vermicomposting box should have minimal odor, and will start to collect rich, healthy black soil and worm castings after only a few weeks. Most food scraps are usable for vermicomposting, although animal products like bone, flesh, and dairy should be used in minimal amounts. Most vermicompsters keep a small food scrap bucket in the kitchen which is emptied every few days.

After three to six months, the box will be filled with rich, healthy, nutritious soil. In addition, most pathogens which might have been present will be dead after passing through the digestive system of the worms. The soil can be used sparingly on growing plants, to mulch dormant beds, or mixed with water to make a highly nutritious liquid spray. But first, the worm box has to be emptied, so that the worms can be removed and used to start another vermicomposting box.

There are several techniques for emptying a worm box. The most basic involves upending the worm box onto a tarp or another sturdy material and forming the soil into loose piles. The worms will burrow in the piles to avoid light, and the worms can be scooped out of them easily and dropped into a new worm box to start the process all over again.

Worm castings should be able to be retrieved from a vermicomposting box after a few weeks.
Worm castings should be able to be retrieved from a vermicomposting box after a few weeks.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Vermicompose/cast/worm is now available in Libunganm North Cotabato Phil.

@anon9167: Let me guess. You're talking about the relay system?


I am interested to start this vermiculture for my gardening. Where can I buy those worms in Iligan City?


anon9167 says there is a much easier way to glean the worms. i would like to know how. can i put the bokashi bucket contents after two weeks of fermentation into the worm bin? would it be too acidic?


I am a science teacher in a public school in Iligan City, Philippines. Garbage before was a really an eyesore in our school. I really wanted to help Mother Earth by way of having an information drive campaign on not burning the garbage, especially the plastics.

Then I learned about vermicomposting in 2007. I really had a hard time with it in the beginning, but later on, with the help of my students, we made a good start.

The process is so easy. Prepare a soil bed, place all the biodegradable materials like leaves, vegetable and fruit peelings, paper, twigs and others. Place the worms in there, and in three months time, the worms were multiplied eight times the number of worms placed. The worms help in the faster decomposition of the biodegradable materials.

The decomposed materials with the worms' waste called "vermicast", are now the end product called "worm fertilizers".

This worm fertilizer is a good and natural fertilizer for the plants and is recommended for farmers to use, in lieu of the chemical fertilizers which can be harmful to one's health.

We generate income out from it since this worm fertilizer can be sold in the market and at the same time, we help cleanliness and save mother earth.

An appeal to everyone, help support in saving mother earth. Join the vermicomposting now, and be part of the movement!

Evelyn A., teacher, Iligan City, Philippines


you've got me interested! what's the process you use to glean the worms without digging through the compost?


I've been vermicomposting for at least 15 years. A couple of things - absolutely don't ever use meat or dairy for multiple reasons. There is also a much easier way to glean the worm castings without dumping and sorting through the whole bed, if anyone is interested.

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