Vermiculture: Another fancy word for composting with worms


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Vermiculture is a word that can be confusing. What does it mean? The prefix, “vermi”, sounds unpleasant, like ‘vermin’, but Vermis is the Latin word for worm. That leads to the next question – how does one “culture” worms? Well, so far no one has had any luck teaching worms to enjoy the opera or visit art galleries. Instead, we’ve learned how to culture worms in the same way that milk curds are cultured to produce cheese. Just like cheese bacteria, it’s easy to raise worms and get them to do useful work at the same time that they grow up and reproduce.

Worms can reproduce very quickly, as many species are hermaphrodites. They can breed even if there are no other worms to mate with. Worms lay cocoons that contain anywhere from 2 to 50 baby worms. This rapid reproduction keeps the species alive in the wild, even though many different birds, snakes, and other predators try to eat them. Inside a worm bin, there are no predators so the worm population will grow quickly.

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Worm composting can be done indoors or outdoors. Many different containers are suitable for vermiculture. You can buy a custom built worm bin, or build your own using a wooden or plastic container, an old wash tub, barrels, sandboxes, dresser drawers, or even suitcases. The trick is to keep the worms happy. Maintain good air flow, keep the soil damp but not too wet, and give the worms plenty of food. Then, sit back and let them eat and reproduce around the clock. If you feel like it, go to the opera or check out a museum – the worms will still be working when you get back.

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