Composting is quite the process, often taking months to achieve the result. However, some gardeners are using shortcuts as a way to speed up the process, cutting the processing time considerably.
How is it possible to accelerate decomposition? Well, aside from certain environmental factors, the answer here is worms. Many gardeners use red wigglers in their composting piles, but could you employ different worms for the job? How about nightcrawlers?
As you’d probably imagine, the answer is yes; you can use nightcrawlers for composting. Before you start composting with nightcrawlers, though, you should know a few things.
What Is Vermicomposting?
Composting isn’t restricted to one method of achieving the final result. While you can let nature take its course, allowing microorganisms to feast on your food waste, you could also use worms. Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, can actually accelerate the process.
The worms in your compost pile work through the organic material, turning the scraps into rich black soil. Once the process is complete, you can remove the dirt and add it to your garden, using it as an additional source of nutrition for your plants.
Can I Compost With Fishing Worms?
While you can undoubtedly use worms to catch a few fish on the river, you could also use them to create nutrient-dense soil for your garden. If you don’t have a garden, then, by all means, use the worms for fishing. After all, you probably bought them in a small container specifically intended for fishing use.
Earthworms, red wigglers, and nightcrawlers work well in a composting setting, as they’ll rapidly work through the organic matter you give them. Of course, the environment needs to meet specific requirements for them to thrive, but as long as you meet said requirements, they’re a great addition to your composting pile.
Are Nightcrawlers Good For Soil?
Nightcrawlers are a great addition to various settings, including gardens and composting piles. In a composting environment, they work through and process about 2 to 3 times as much food as red wigglers. So, nightcrawlers can potentially accelerate your composting process by leaps and bounds, giving your nutrient-rich compost year-round.
There are a few different types of nightcrawlers gardeners commonly use for their composting piles and gardens, including European and African nightcrawlers.
The European nightcrawler is a familiar face in the world of vermicomposting. While many gardeners prefer to use other worm varieties, you can use these worms for effective composting. They’re great for aerating and fertilizing the soil, as they make deep burrows throughout the mixture.
Their burrows allow air and water to move into the composting system, ensuring the worms get the components they need for survival. Aside from composting, these worms are regularly used as fishing bait and live food for various reptiles, birds, and amphibians.
The African nightcrawler is another standard pick for composting. These worms, also known by their official name, Eudrilus Eugeniae, are an excellent choice for composting settings. They move through food rapidly, accelerating the composting process considerably.
Due to their ability to rapidly process and compost food, you’ll find these worms in composting bins and at worm farms. They can survive in lower temperatures, making them an ideal choice for cooler climates. Like red worms, these produce castings as they work, which helps improve soil quality.
These worms are large compared to others, so they’re usually found in larger composting bins. Also known as dew worms, these nightcrawlers are deep burrowers. While this is great for large composting bins, these worms aren’t ideal for small home composting bins.
Composting with Canadian nightcrawlers is doable, but many folks prefer to use them as fishing bait. If you decide to use Canadian nightcrawlers for your composting bin, ensure you meet their requirements. They generally need plenty of space and cooler temperatures, while other varieties (like European nightcrawlers) prefer warmer temperatures.
Benefits Of Nightcrawlers
Vermicomposting is an excellent way to repurpose food scraps that would otherwise be wasted. While there are a variety of worms to choose from, nightcrawlers are a strong contender. Here are a few benefits of using nightcrawlers for composting:
- Improved soil structure
- Enhance plant growth
- Break down organic waste into valuable compost
- Raise the quantity of air in the soil
How To Compost With Nightcrawlers
Once you decide to use nightcrawlers for your composting bin, you’ll need to set up a suitable environment for them. Remember to abide by the requirements of the specific nightcrawlers you get, as some require cool temperatures, and others need warm conditions.
Prepare The Bedding
First, you need to prep your compost bin. An opaque, darker-colored container is usually the better choice for nightcrawlers, but you can use alternate colors. Cover the bottom of the bin with the bedding material of your choice.
Coconut fiber sheeting is a good choice, but you can select an alternative if it’s unavailable in your area. Cover the bottom with 3 to 4 layers of bedding, then dampen it with water. Don’t overwater the bedding; just use enough to dampen the area.
After laying the bedding in the bottom of the bin, your next step is to add soil. Cover the bedding with roughly 8 to 10 inches of soil. Your nightcrawlers will burrow throughout the soil, nearly doubling the volume, so don’t overfill the bin.
Fill the bin about halfway with soil, as you’ll run out of room if you add any more. Next, check the pH of your soil. Nightcrawlers are sensitive to acidic soil, so the pH should always remain between 6.0 and 7.0. Powdered limestone is a great additive to ensure the pH levels never swing abruptly. Add it each time you feed for the best results.
Add The Nightcrawlers
Once your soil is prepared, dig a small hole in the soil. This is where you’ll add your nightcrawlers. You don’t want to leave them on top of the soil, so make a burrow in the soil large enough to fit the nightcrawlers.
Add your nightcrawlers to the hole, then cover them with the remaining soil. Place your kitchen waste on top of the soil. The worms prefer their food on top of the soil as they come to the surface to eat, then burrow back down into the ground again.
However, don’t completely cover the surface – keep the corners and edges free of food so the worms can burrow down when they’re ready.
Tip: Avoid buying nightcrawlers sold as fishing bait. Many times, these worms are past their reproductive prime, so they don’t make good composting worms. Instead, shop at a local plant nursery or online from internet worm vendors. You can buy nightcrawlers in large quantities from online sites and have them shipped to you if your local nursery doesn’t stock them.
Keep The Bin Cool
Now that you’ve added your worms, you just need to wait. Feed your worms periodically, sprinkling limestone powder to balance the pH each time. Don’t leave the bin in direct sunlight, as this will heat the interior.
Keep the bin out of the sunlight, and make sure the bedding doesn’t dry out completely. The worms need moisture to respirate, so you need to keep the bedding in the bin damp.
Watch For Overcrowding
Nightcrawlers reproduce rapidly, often overtaking space in the bin by a landslide. So, if you notice overcrowding, you need to take some out. Start a separate compost bin, release them into your garden, or sell them to fishermen as bait.
While it might seem like a good thing to have dozens of nightcrawlers in your compost bin, you’ll want to ensure it doesn’t get too crowded in there.
Harvest Completed Compost
When it’s all said and done, you can harvest the compost. To harvest finished compost, simply sift out the nightcrawlers and undigested food scraps from the rich black soil. Use a wire mesh with decent-sized holes (not too fine) to separate the nightcrawlers from the soil.
Add the nightcrawlers and food scraps to the compost bin, then use the compost you harvested in your garden, flower pots, or lawn.