May 012012

A few weeks ago I posted about composting and vermiculture.   At the time I hadn’t been adding to my outdoor compost pile for various reasons, but decided that I really needed to get back to doing so.  When I started doing this I also began thinking about my worms.

How many do I really need if I wanted to compost all my family’s compostable garbage that way?

To find the answer to that question I had to answer two more:

  1. How much compostable garbage did my family produce?
  2. How much garbage are a certain amount of worms able to compost in a reasonable time?

To answer these I turned to my kitchen scale and the Internet.  Everyday I either collected my scraps into a container, weighed it, then added it to my pile.  Or, I collected it in a container in my freezer.  When that container was full I weighed it and took it outside to the pile.

In all fairness I only did this for food scraps.  I didn’t even include paper or other household waste that can be composted.  If I had that would have, obviously, increased this amount.

  1. Week #1 – 3 lb 2 oz
  2. Week #2 – 6 lb 1 oz
  3. Week #3 – 5 lb 10 oz

As you can see, I was able to collect more the longer I did it.  By doing it, I became more aware of what we were throwing out.  Actually week #3 is less than it should be because I didn’t complete the whole week.

So now, how many worms?

According to, “In Worms Eat My Garbage, Mary Appelhof suggests weighing your household food waste for one week (in pounds), and then provide one square foot of surface area per pound.”

Red Worm Composting agrees, but also gives some steps to make the composting go quicker.  I think this may  have been one of my issues the first time around.  I just added scraps without aging them or freezing them, thereby making the worms do all the work.  No wonder it was taking forever for anything to happen.

So, assuming that I can easily produce 5 – 6 lbs a week, finding 7 pounds of compostable material shouldn’t be too hard.  This will be especially true during the summer months when we eat more salad.  Looking at my notes, most days I was getting at least 1 pound.  This would mean that I would need 2 lbs, or 2,000 worms, to compost that amount of material.

I haven’t weighed my worms as of late, as I was waiting till they ate through most of their bedding before separating them out again.  However, next time I will be sure to do so.  Then I will know how close I am to this goal.  It will also allow me to track if they are multiplying or not.



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