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What Is Composting and Vermicomposting

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly way to recycle organic matter, it’s time to take a look at composting and vermicomposting. These are two methods to decompose natural waste, reducing the amount of rubbish you are adding to landfills.

So what is composting and vermicomposting? They are two approaches to breaking down organic waste to create a valuable substance that can be used to feed and nourish plants. Vermicomposting uses worms to decompose this waste, while composting occurs when a range of organic materials are combined in the right conditions with bacteria and heat working together to break down the matter. 

In this article, we take a look at each of these recycling methods in more depth. This piece will explore the following:

  • What is composting?
  • What is vermicomposting?
  • What are the benefits of composting?
  • What are the benefits of vermicomposting?
  • How to choose between compost and vermicompost
  • How can I create my own compost at home?
  • How can I create my own vermicompost at home?

What is Composting?

Composting is a natural process that turns your organic waste into a usable plant food. Essentially, when you combine organic matter in the right conditions, it decomposes to become compost. 

To create compost, you need to put your organic waste into a bin with the right materials. This includes soil, water, and oxygen that provides an environment where microorganisms can thrive. These microorganisms then work on breaking down the material. 

What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is a process that breaks down organic waste using earthworms. Worms consume the waste and produce compost that is rich in nutrients and perfect for feeding to plants. Each day, a single worm can eat half its weight in food. This means that vermicomposting is a quick way to produce compost. 

What Materials Can Be Composted and Vermicomposted?

Organic matter refers to a whole range of things. It can be food scraps, dried leaves, or trimmings from your garden. Everything from avocado pips to carrot peel to eggshells can be added to your compost. 

The following is a list of materials that can be composted:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Rind, peels, pips, and cores
  • Grains (bread, pasta, cereal)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea leaves
  • Herbs and spices
  • Nuts
  • Eggshells
  • Cut flowers
  • Plant trimmings
  • Dried leaves

What Materials Cannot Be Composted and Vermicomposted?

Animal products are not suitable for composting. The following is a list of materials that cannot be composted:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Animal fat
  • Greasy or oily substances
  • Pet feces 

What Are the Benefits of Composting?

There are so many benefits when it comes to composting, primarily, that it is an environmentally friendly way to recycle organic waste. Rather than simply adding this waste to landfill, composting turns our waste into a valuable product that can be used to enrich plants. 

It is an entirely natural process, meaning no chemical or nasty gases are used or produced throughout the decomposition of the waste. Landfills are such a huge problem across the world, so composting what you can is one small action that can make a big difference.

Compost also has many benefits as a product. If you are looking for a nutrient-rich substance to help your plants to grow and flourish, look no further than compost. Here are some of the advantages of using compost to feed your plants:

It improves the quality of the soil

The soil in our garden is part of an important ecosystem that all link together to function. Compost enhances this food chain by providing extra food and nourishment. This ensures organisms are able to function well and play their role in the whole process. 

Compost also helps to aerate the soil, which is hugely beneficial. Adding air to the soil allows it to retain water more effectively, but it also helps to create a natural drainage system. Overall, healthy soil equals healthy plants.

It provides an environment where microbes can grow

Microbes play a critical role in the decomposition of organic matter and are, therefore, vital to the composting process. Adding compost to your garden will help to maintain an environment where microbes can thrive, which in turn will keep your garden healthy.

It provides nutrients

Compost is a natural form of fertilizer that is very good for plants. It helps them to grow and maintain their health. By adding compost to your soil, you are adding more nutrients to your plants. Plants can access these nutrients and begin to thrive. 

It helps to stop disease spreading 

Compost can actually help stop disease from spreading through your garden and moving to different plants. It keeps the soil and plants healthy, being particularly effective at protecting tomato plants in your vegetable garden.

It prevents weeds from growing

Adding compost to your garden beds can discourage weeds from creeping through. Managing weeds properly means that there is more healthy soil and nutrients available for your plants, helping them to grow and keep healthy.

It creates a habitat for worms

Worms are a sign of healthy soil, and compost facilitates this. They play a big role in keeping the healthy soil by decomposing matter and helping to turn it into a natural fertilizer. 

Worms also help to increase the amount of air and water that exists in soil, improving its health overall. Compost creates a good habitat, and worms come to the area because they like the healthy soil, then the worms enhance it even further – win-win!

What Are the Benefits of Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting has many similar benefits to standard composting, as well as a couple of its own due to the worm’s role in the process. Again, the key benefit is that vermicomposting is an alternative to landfill, providing a waste solution that is much better for the environment. Additional benefits of vermicomposting are outlined as follows:

It improves the quality of the soil

Like normal compost, vermicompost improves the overall health and effectiveness of the soil. It plays an important role in enhancing the structure of the soil, adding air to it, and creating a more effective natural drainage system. It also helps the soil to hold more water.

It adds microbes to the soil

Compost contains microbes that help to decompose organic matter. These are great for soil, and by adding compost to your garden, you are adding these microbes.

It has heaps of nutrients due to the worm castings

Worms, as they process organic material, decompose this matter and turn it into a valuable substance. This end product is a type of natural fertilizer that contains a whole range of nutrients that are good for your soil and plants.

It improves plant growth

Vermicompost, given its high concentration of nutrients, improves the growth of plants, including germination and the yield of crops. This natural fertilizer also has a positive impact on the structure of plants, including the roots and the way they grow.

How to Choose Between Composting and Vermicomposting

Both composting and vermicomposting are excellent options when it comes to environmentally friendly recycling. They will take care of your organic waste, reduce landfill, and create an effective, nutrient-rich fertilizer.

If you are struggling to determine which option is best for you, you need to consider your lifestyle and whether composting or vermicomposting suits you better. After all, there is no point in implementing a composting system if you are not going to stick to it.

Here a range of factors that can help you decide whether composting or vermicomposting is right for you:

The food you eat and need to dispose of

While both composting and vermicomposting decompose natural waste, worms do tend to be selective in the waste they break down. For instance, worms are not huge fans of citrus fruits. If you and your family regularly eat lemons or other citrus foods, this may be a problem. 

You can either opt for a traditional compost set up or determine another way to get rid of your lemon rinds. Worms also struggle to consume garlic and onion, another factor that may sway you towards composting.

That being said, if you have a lot of wet waste to dispose of (vegetable peel, fruit cores), then vermicomposting might be your optimal solution. Worms love this type of wet matter and will turn it into compost more quickly than a standard composting system.

Track your natural waste for a week to see what material you are actually disposing of. That way, you will be able to see whether a compost or vermicompost system is for you.

Set up cost

Typically, a vermicomposting kit will set you back more than a composting one. Some composting kits do not come with a bin,so make sure you factor this into your budget or ensure you have an alternative bucket that can be turned into a composting system. Vermicomposting needs the bin and system set up, as well as the worms. 

Make sure you look at your local hardware or garden supplies to compare prices. Vermicomposting might be more expensive initially, but you are likely to get more high-quality compost as a result. It really depends on the other factors and what is most suitable for your situation.

Available space

Consider where you will set up your composting system and the space you have available. In general, a standard composting system will take up more space than a vermicomposting kit. That being said, the size will need to increase as you continue to compost and need to add additional buckets. 

Composting is best suited to an outdoor space with sunlight and moisture. If you have a terrace or rooftop, this might be the perfect place for your compost to get light as well as some natural liquid from rain and condensation. 

Vermicompost can be conducted indoors, making it a great option if you live in an apartment. Simply find a spare corner and set it up. Worms like the dark, so if you can create a spot that isn’t impacted by harsh lighting, you will experience the best results. 

Composting can also be started indoors if you are willing to set it up in a place like your kitchen. However, it can begin to smell, and this may spread to the rest of your house. To avoid this, always covers wet waste with dry waste to prevent the odor from escaping.

Fertilizer needs

Think about the output and what you actually need it for. Compost is a great natural fertilizer and can be used to enhance the growth of plants, including fruits and vegetables. If you are deciding between composting and vermicomposting, you need to give some consideration to how much of this fertilizer you need. 

Composting takes time, and you won’t have a usable product for 3-6 months from your setup date. Some people are unable or unwilling to wait this long, meaning they will either have to buy compost in the meantime or look for another solution.

Vermicomposting is much quicker, with the worms getting to work immediately. This means that as soon as you add in your waste, the worms begin consuming it to transform it into nutrient-rich fertilizer. You will have compost output very quickly, although the quantity will depend on the amount of worms and the amount of waste.

Copyright protected content owner: ReadyToDIY.com and was initially posted on 2020-03-25.

Make sure you spend some time thinking about how much compost you need and the size of the system this will require. If you need a lot of compost for a big garden, you will need a large compost or vermicompost system to enable this. If you only want to feed two or three pot plants, a small system will do the trick, allowing you to recycle your waste while generating just enough compost for your plants. 

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. Both composting and vermicomposting are effective ways to turn your waste into natural fertilizer. However, cost, space, and time may influence your decision, and you should consider all of these factors before making your final choice.

How Can I Create My Own Compost at Home?

Creating a home compost system is a great way to help the environment, save money on fertilizer, and get rid of your organic waste all in one go. If you are looking to install a home compost system, don’t be daunted by the idea. It is quite a straight-forward process if you follow these easy steps.

Collect materials

Begin by collecting all of the materials you will need to build your compost system. This includes a bin or container to house your compost (these are available at hardware stores or garden supply centers), a tarpaulin or square of carpet, rough natural material such as hay or sticks, soil, manure (fresh not dried), water and standard organic waste (vegetable peel, apple cores, eggshells).

Create first layer

Once you have everything you need, get your compost bin in place. Start by adding the bottom layer. This will be the foundation for your compost. Use the hay, sticks, or similar coarse material to spread a layer across the bottom. This layer should be about 10cm thick and cover the entire base of the container.

Continue to build layers

After you’ve established the first layer, begin building the next layers. Start by laying garden waste on top of the coarse material. This should be about 15cm in thickness. Use different organic materials to create alternating layers. 

For example, if you add some vegetable scraps for the first layer, try adding something different, like dry leaves, for the second layer. Continue building layers, alternating as you go, until you are getting close to the top of the bin. Add soil or manure to each layer. This can be sprinkled over the top and is the ingredient that will make the entire thing heat up, resulting in the organic matter decomposing.

Add water

Make sure the compost is not too dry by adding water when needed. You might need to do this as you go to ensure an even spread of water across all of the layers.

Cover the waste

Get your piece of material (tarpaulin or carpet) and pull it over the container. This will form a lid, trapping the heat and moisture inside. This will help the substances to react together, aiding the composting process.

Leave it to sit

Compost needs to sit for several months before it can be used in your garden. Typically, this would be for 3-6 months. If it is not left to sit for the required time, the compost will not be complete, and it may actually be harmful to your garden. The waste will not have been broken down into valuable fertilizer, remaining in its rotting form instead.

At the three month mark, uncover your compost and tip it out. Then place it all back in the bin. This will help to aerate the mixture, improving the quality of the compost. If it is looking finished, you can choose to use it when it is three months old, although waiting for six months is likely to provide you with a better product. 

Use it on your garden

Once you have completed the waiting period, your compost is ready to use! Simply get it out of the container and spread it in your garden beds. Mix it with the soil for optimum results.

How Can I Create My Own Vermicompost at Home?

Creating a vermicompost system is also simple and can be even smaller than a compost one. These instructions will take you through the steps of setting up vermicompost at your home.

Find a shallow container

Your container mustn’t be deeper than 2 feet. It can be as small as 2ft x 2 ft x 2ft (great if you live in a small apartment!) or longer in length and width. 

The main thing to remember is that the container is not deeper than this. The reason being that worms live in shallow soil. You want them to perform at their best, meaning you need to create a home for them that allows them to thrive.

Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on 2020-03-25.

Find a lid for your container

Your container may come with a lid, but if it doesn’t, you will need to find one. Make the lid fits properly and can be secured. Once you have a lid, place holes in it to allow oxygen into the container. This is very important for the worms as they need to breathe.

Create a layer on one half the container

Wet some cardboard until it is moist, but not dripping. Place this in one half of the container. Add some old manure, and this will become your foundation ‘bedding’ layer. Alternatively, try drying leaves and soaking them in manure. This is also a good bedding option.

Place the container in a dark space

Earthworms like to live in the dark, so you will need to find a dark space for your vermicompost. The space should be dry, although you will need to ensure the compost stays moist at all times. Worms cannot cope with sunlight, and they need moisture in the soil in order to breathe through their skin. Make sure it does not become too wet as it is possible to drown worms.

Add worms

Take your collection of worms, along with some decomposed waste they have already produced, and place them on the bedding layer. If you have a container that is 2ft x 2ft x 2ft, about ½ a kilogram is a good amount of worms to begin the process.

Add natural matter

Once the worms are in their new home, its time to provide them with some food. They prefer wet organic matter such as vegetable peels and fruit cores, so it is best to start with this type of thing. 

Do not put animal products such as meat or dairy in the compost, and also avoid onion and garlic. You can put eggshells in the vermicompost if they are crushed up first. If they are not broken down into small enough pieces, the worms will not process them.

Continue to add waste

Collect all of the organic waste that is a suitable food for worms and continue to add it to your vermicompost. It is best to add new waste one to two times per week to ensure a continuous food source. Continue to check the moisture of the vermicompost as well.

Add bedding and waste to the other half of the vermicompost

Monitor the vermicompost over 2-3 weeks, and you should begin to notice some changes. The soil is likely to be drying out, and the worm castings will be filling the container. This is a good sign as it means your vermicompost is working. 

Add a bedding layer to the other side of the compost using cardboard, manure, and leaves as before. Make sure that it is moist, and the worms will begin moving over here. Add food scraps and other waste to this side to build a complete system. 

Remove the compost

Once the worms have moved to the new side to devour the fresh scraps, remove the original side full of their castings. This is your final product. Worm castings are a result of decomposed food that has passed through a worm’s system, turning it into valuable compost. 

Use and repeat

Use the compost in your garden to enhance your plants and their growth. Continue to repeat the cycle, feeding the worms, and removing compost as it is ready. 

With vermicomposting, it is important to remember that you need to look after the worms in order for the system to work. Ensure you create the right conditions for them to remain healthy, and they will continue to do their job. This includes keeping the container in the dark, making sure the environment is always moist, and feeding them foods that they like, rather than simply dropping in all organic scraps.

Final Thoughts

Composting and vermicomposting are both great options for turning your organic waste into a usable plant fertilizer. While both use processes that decompose the organic matter, the key difference between the two is that vermicomposting uses worms while compost does not. Both options are easy to set up in your home and can be maintained without too much trouble.

If you are finding it hard to choose between the two, composting is better for people with more time and who have more space. This is because compost created with a traditional system will not be ready for 3-6 months from when it is set up. It also needs sunlight and is more effective if the container is outdoors where it is exposed to natural moisture.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on 2020-03-25.

Vermicomposting is perfect for people who have limited space, and it is also less smelly. As worms eat the waste, it is ready for use. Generally, this compost would be available for use within 2-3 weeks.