Vermicomposting is the process by which earthworms, microorganisms, and other decomposers convert organic materials to a soil conditioner called vermicompost. Although four temperate and three tropical species of earthworms may be used in vermicomposting, most people use Eisenia fetida (common name: red wiggler). E. fetida thrives in moisture levels of 80% and at temperatures between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. They will consume animal manures, food residuals, agricultural crop residues, yard trimmings, scrap paper, and other organic byproducts. Vermicomposting can take place anywhere and at any scale – in classrooms, homes, farms, warehouses, etc.
Vermicompost has many benefits for soils, including improvement of soil structure, reducing erosion, increasing soil porosity and moisture-holding capacity, and improving pH of acidic soil. Numerous studies have shown that vermicompost also increases the growth and health of plants, and suppresses plant diseases and pests.
To learn more about vermicomposting, check out these links:
NC State University’s Annual Vermiculture Conference
Vermicomposting classes, resources on how to start a worm bin or a vermicomposting business, curriculum for 5th graders, and where to buy worms.
Ohio State University’s Soil Ecology Laboratory
Vermicompost research results, research underway, publications, commercial vermicomposting, and other resources.
California Integrated Waste Management Board
Vermicomposting, classroom activities and an interactive game.
Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture
Vermicomposting and related resources.