Vermicomposting is a wonderful way to deal with kitchen and yard waste, not to mention lower your green house gas emissions and save the planet, but how does it really work? To understand that you must understand how worms work, embrace the worm so to speak. Thankfully worm anatomy is fairly simple. Worms or Annelidas (from Latin “little ring”) are basically made of segments or rings. Most segments which make up the body are virtually identical with the exception of the anterior (head) area and the posterior (tail) area. There are 17,000 annelid species, divided in to two categories, ones without a Clitellum (about 12,000) and those with (about 5,000) Red composting worms are in this second group and have a Clitellum which is the reproductive organ that protects and feeds the developing eggs sacks.
What we are concerned with is digestion, this is where the magic happens, where waste is turned into the valuable resource; vermicast. Decomposition occurs because of bacteria and just as your digestive system uses it so does a worms. After food is ingested it sits in a worm’s crop and digestion begins, pushed into the gizzard food is combined with miniscule sand particles and broken down further. The surface area is increased and bacteria can interact in a more effective way. Upon entering the intestine the bacteria rich food material has almost compleated it’s journey. Here the worms can exchange air and nutrients thus sustaining themselves. The worms digestive tract is basically a long tube and let’s face it, not a complex system. By the time the food has passed it’s been broken down completely and turned from decomposing organic matter into vermicompost. Now rich in beneficial bacteria and Humus, the castings can be used to fertilize your plants. Worms are animals and require food to live, they ingest proteins and sugars, starches and salts just like all living creatures. The nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium contained in vermicast has always been there, it was just in the shape of a dead decaying plant before. The worm has reduced it into a usable substance that you can take to the plant. Nothing makes organic fertilizer better than a composting worm.