Can Earthworms be Used to Recycle Kitchen Wastes into Fertile Garden Soil?

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Author: Julianne Blair Bochinski


To determine whether it is possible to establish a recycling system for household waste into fertile garden soil by means of earthworms.

Materials Needed

  • scale
  • preweighed container
  • 1 colony of red earthworms (approximately 100 worms)
  • latex gloves
  • newspaper
  • 3 ounces (84 grams) of cornmeal
  • 6 flower pots
  • 14 pounds (6.3 kg) of nonfertilized
  • packets of seeds for three types regular lawn soil of garden vegetables
  • 10-gallon (l9-liter) pail
  • masking tape
  • organic kitchen wastes (e.g., apple peelings, potato peelings, bread crumbs, etc.)
  • marking pen
  • ruler


A kitchen compost container will be created to establish and study the feasibility of an organic kitchen waste recycling system that will employ the use of red earthworms. The soil from this system will be compared with that of nonfertilized regular soil for overall quality in growing garden vegetables.


  1. Weigh the colony of earthworms in the soil that you received them in.
  2. Mix the cornmeal into half of the soil in the pail which will serve as the kitchen compost container.
  3. Place the worms on the surface of the soil. Once the worms have disappeared into the soil, weigh the unit and place the container in your basement or outside your backdoor.
  4. Allow two or three days to pass in which to collect 2 cups (O.Sliter) of organic kitchen wastes. Place the wastes in a preweighed container, weigh the unit as a whole, subtract the weight of the container, and record the weight of the wastes. Add the wastes to the kitchen compost container. Continue to add 2 cups (0.5 liter) of weighed organic kitchen wastes to the compost container every two to three days for a two-month period. In order to determine which types of wastes are more acceptable to the worms, be sure to add a variety of wastes.
  5. Weigh the entire compost container at the end of each week and keep a record of its weekly weight Without disturbing the compost container, check it daily for signs of activity among the worms. Look for young worms and cocoons.
  6. At the end of the two-month period, weigh the container and do not add any more kitchen wastes. Put on a pair of latex gloves, take the kitchen compost container into your backyard, and gently empty its contents over newspaper which has been laid over the ground. With your hands, separate most of the soil from the worms and divide it evenly between three flower pots. Divide the remaining nonfertilized regular soil between the remaining three flower pots.
  7. Germinate the three types of garden vegetable seeds according to the packet instructions and plant some of them separately in the three labeled pots containing the kitchen compost soil. Then, plant some separately in the three labeled pots containing the remaining nonfertilized regular soil.
  8. Observe the plants on a daily basis. Once they have sprouted, measure their growth every three days for a period of seven weeks. Note the rate of growth and overall quality of the plants. If time permits, monitor the complete growing cycle of the plants and the quality of the vegetables each one produces.


  1. What was the original weight of the kitchen compost container? What was the weight of the container at the end of the two-month period? Subtract the ending weight from the original weight. Does the difference equal the weight of the kitchen wastes that were added over the two-month period, or is it lower?
  2. How did the weight of the kitchen compost container vary over the twomonth period? Did it increase or remain constant during that time?
  3. Was there more activity among the worms during the day or night? Did the worms accept some wastes more than others? What can the activity of the worms tell you about improving upon the kitchen compost container? 4. Which soil produced the best plants? vegetables?
  4. Is the kitchen compost container an efficient system for recycling organic kitchen waste? Would the addition of another colony of worms make it more effective?
  5. Is the kitchen compost container an efficient system for recycling organic kitchen waste? Would the addition of another colony of worms make it more effective?
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