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How to Get the Best Compost from Worms

Worms are busy little workers, and they're great at turning kitchen scraps into fertilizer. If your kitchen produces waste, then you can use a worm composter. Worm bins work much faster than compost piles or compost trenches, and they even work a little faster than tumbling compost bins. That's because worms are born as compost specialists, and they're not afraid to get their hands dirty (in a manner of speaking).

You can build your own worm farm or save time by buying one of our worm bins. Whichever bin you use, there are a few things you can do to get the best results:

1) Choose the right size. You’ll need roughly one square foot of surface area for every pound of organic waste that you generate in a week. The average person needs about 2 square feet, and the average family needs about 8 square feet.

2) Put an organic liner in your worm bin. Worms need a barrier between themselves and the borders of their home that feels natural and reassuring. Shredded paper, coir, or leaves work well because the worms can also snack on this lining if the food scraps have too much nitrogen and not enough carbon. Over time, you will need to empty out the bin and replace the lining with fresh material.

3) Use red wigglers. Some worms like to burrow near the surface while other worms like to dig 5-10 feet down. If you have a shallow compost bin, red wigglers are the best bet because they like to stay near the surface. Red wrigglers are also known as Tiger worms and can be identified by their striped appearance. Nightcrawlers are not appropriate worms for compost bins.

4) Drain surplus liquid from the composter. The contents of your composter should be damp, but not too wet. Too much moisture will suffocate the earthworms, too little moisture will dehydrate them. The liquid that settles to the bottom of the worm bin is called "compost tea" and is great for watering plants or treating the lawn. Many worm bins have a catch tray and a spigot at the bottom that makes it easy to harvest compost tea.

5) Only compost organic material free of pathogens. When you add waste to your worm bin, it's like feeding a pet. Just as you wouldn't feed poisoned food to a cat or dog, you shouldn't feed hazardous material to your worms. Avoid painted wood or leaves that have been sprayed with pesticides, and feed your worms the table scraps that they prefer.

6) Compost pet waste separately from food scraps. Pet waste contains some dangerous bacteria that you don't want to give a chance to reproduce. When food scraps come in contact with pet droppings, the bacteria can grow faster than worms can consume them. These aerobic bacteria stink and can even kill the worms. So, if you want to compost pet waste, your best bet is to use a dedicated pet poop composter.

With the help of compost worms, you can cut a huge chunk of waste out of the trash stream. This organic material breaks down into powerful fertilizer that's free of chemicals and cheap to produce. Treat your worms well, and they'll help your garden bloom!

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