Vermicomposting and Vermiculture: Overview

What is vermicomposting?

It is the process in which composting worms are used to transform organic wastes into vermicompost/vermicast, one of the best known fertilizers to man.

What kind of worms are used?

In the Philippines, the African Nightcrawler is the best species to use. These worms are NOT found in your garden. Earthworms from your garden are anecic, or soil-dwelling and will not survive in a worm bin. The African Nightcrawlers are used as these are epigeic (live in decomposing organic matter) and adapt well to crowded and shallow worm bins.

Where do I buy them?

African Nightcrawlers are sold mostly online. When buying composting worms, make sure they come with enough original bedding to make sure they stay alive during delivery. As much as possible, you want to order from the nearest supplier. If you are in NCR, we sell worm starter kits HERE. Contact us at or text 09178900543 for inquiries. Meet-ups can be coordinated and additional fees for transportation may sometimes be added depending on the meet-up place.

How do I start vermicomposting?

First kit, make sure you have set up your worm bin. Add your preferred bedding and add a handful of “stabilized” soil or microbe rich material ex.(vermicompost, compost). Keep it moist (but NOT WET) and let the microbes colonize and moisture penetrate the substrate for at least a week. Neglecting this can risk losing all your worms at once. Alternatively, as mentioned, we sell kits that have been aged for a week or so prior to sale.  After receiving your earthworms, you may add a light above the bin for a couple of days to discourage them from venturing out of your worm bin due to their sensitivity to light.

The Five Essentials

1) Bedding

Worms need a place to live. Bedding is usually high in carbon to avoid overheating. Nitrogen-rich bedding can also be used if pre-composted very well. Bedding is also a source of food, but less nutritious especially if it is high in carbon. Examples include: newspaper, dried leaves, herbivores’ manure (MUST be composted VERY WELL to be used as bedding), composted corn cobs and husks, banana trunks, etc.

2) Food

Though bedding is already a source of food, it lacks nutrients needed for your worms to thrive. These are usually high in nitrogen and nutrients. Examples are: Food scraps, manure (no dog or cat feces, only herbivores’ manure), coffee grounds, etc. In a bin with nitrogenous bedding, food is not required.

3) Air/Oxygen

Worms breath through their moist skin and live on dissolved oxygen. Vermicomposting is aerobic, meaning with air. An anaerobic vermicomposting system (without air) will not allow them to breath, can cause foul odors and attract unwanted pests.

4) Moisture

As said in number three, Worms breath through their moist skin. Keeping a worm bin moist is needed to keep them breathing. A dry bed can wipeout a population within days. Too much moisture, on the other hand, causes foul odors and sometimes even drown the worms if flooded. Worms are more tolerant of moist conditions. They thrive at 75-85% moisture content.

5) Container

Your worms also need a container to live in. Commercial worm bins are available, but making your own/purchasing kits with a generic kind of worm bin is more economical and sensible. This can be as small as a plastic tub to a large concrete bed. It all depends on how many worms you are getting. A rule of thumb is 3000/m2 for optimal vermicomposting and 2000/m2 for higher reproduction rates. Wooden worm bins lined with plastic or tarpaulin are best due to its breathability, but won’t last forever.


Pre-composting Substrate/Bedding

Here in the Philippines, vermicomposting or vermiculture is usually done by farmers by first anaerobically pre-composting substrate before letting the  worms take over. This supposedly breaks down the substrate, making it safe for the worms. In other countries, however, many skip this step and instead use low nitrogen bedding as substrate. I myself only pre-compost substrate when I have too much green waste. So, the question is, which method is better? Here is a quick comparison between these two methods.

Pre- composting                                                                                                                                              

Pre-composting takes a LOT of time (4-8 weeks)

Nitrogen-rich waste usable for bedding

More nutrients because of nitrogenous waste

No need for extra nitrogen-rich food

Less time spent feeding

Requires a little more space

No Pre-composting

Bedding is safe without pre-composting

Only carbonaceous waste is safe for bedding

Less nutrition due to little nitrogen

Needs extra nitrogen-rich food

A little time spent feeding

Less space is needed

If you’re only available about a full day every week, and you have enough space, pre-composting might be a better option for you. If you have a few minutes to spare every few days, the “conventional” way might be better. Good luck and have fun! 🙂


I recall the first time I purchased African Nightcrawlers. I’ve read everywhere: “Worms can eat double their weight everyday; Worms eat one and a half times their weight daily; Worms eat as much as their own body weight everyday.” Excited as I was, I purchased 3 kgs. of worms and so, I dumped 3 kgs. of food. 3 kgs. everyday. I had to pick up 3 kgs. of worms on the floor everyday. The internet says it’s normal. Ok. So I continued doing that every day for about a week. One day, I woke up to the worst smell on earth: 3 kilograms of dead worms quickly decomposing. I only found out why recently.

Though a worm probably CAN eat as much as their own weight a day, remember: they eat bedding too. Other than that, Only a well-established bin would have that waste-processing capacity. The most effective way to prevent overfeeding is to feed them half of their body weight in different areas of the bin. Rotate the corners, then the middle. Only feed the same area once all the food is gone.

How could overfeeding cause problems?

Overfeeding can cause anaerobic zones which produce chemicals toxic to worms. This is the reason the worms escape. Also, those stuck in the anaerobic slop usually die of no oxygen.

How about underfeeding?

I have never underfed my worms. In fact, when there is any sort of problem, I stop feeding them for about a week. (sometimes 2 weeks). The worms don’t seem to be affected at all by this. Once overfeeding is eliminated, you’re pretty much good to go.  Happy Worm Farming!