Starting a worm farm

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~Starting a worm farm or a bin~

I want to start a worm bin...

"I want to start a worm bin...Not only for the castings but we have a turtle that eats night crawlers and I hate buying I'm gonna get a plastic tub and I'm gonna drill a lot of little holes in the bottom and in the sides. I'm gonna put some shredded newspapers and peat in I good so far? When do I put the worms in????" - TFCoolone

Yes, your plan is foolproof.

After you have a well ventilated bin with some bedding, you need to moisten the bedding.

After the bedding has been moistened, you can add the worms. I would let them settle in for some days or a week with just a little something to feed on.

Once you see they are eating/have eaten that something, start adding more waste/food in small amounts, maybe once or twice a week.

In a month or two you will be a master worm farmer!

What do I need? (to make worm castings?)

All you need is a worm bin, basically a plastic or wooden box, and some composting earthworms (from worm-/garden-/fishing store, or from a recent compost pile or a windrow). Red Wrigglers seem to multiply very fast when fed with paper mulch & ground up kitchen waste -mix. They're not picky, recommended for vermicomposting!!

How to build a worm bin?

Basically you take a container of some kind, with a lid, drill a lot of tiny holes in it for aeration and some on the bottom for drainage. Place this box, bucket, tub, bin, what have you, on a tray, and you have a worm bin.

I prefer to use recycled food boxes made of PE or PP plastic. These can be had for free in all sizes and shapes at cafe's, restaurants and supermarkets.

I like a nesting box of design, where one box acts as the worm bin, and the other as a tray (inner is the bin, other is the tray). See the attached drawing.

Shallow worm bins and farms work best, with maximum depth of 30 cm (12").

Please also see this perfect thread in the organic foods forum - "How to build a worm bin?":

Where can I find worms for a worm bin?

You can buy them or look for them in nature. You will need to find surface dwelling composting worms.

In urban settings, the most common place you can find composting worms is the fishing store, where they are sold as bait. Common names are Red Wrigglers, Red tigers, tiger worms and earthworms. Also your local nursery or gardening center might sell them. Recycling centers and urban developement project centers also sell and hand out composting worms. Finally there is the internet, where a local worming resource can often be found.

In nature, composting worms like to spend their time in the surface litter, in compost piles and manure piles, wherever there's decomposing organic waste on the ground. The worms you are looking for are smallish and spend their time in the top layers of the litter. Please respect nature and dont wreak havok on the worm populations!

How deep should the compost be to encourage worm production? -Snoofer

A shallow composting bed works the best. In nature composting worms live on the very surface of the soil. I have found compost bins that are under 30cm (6 inches) deep to provide best environment for the worms.

How many worms does it take to decompose a box of bedding 3 foot square by 1 foot high?

3' x 3' x 1' box would contain some 64 gallons, or 240 liters of bedding. By numbers this bedding could perhaps have twenty thousand worms, and could maybe support up to a quarter million worms.

Worms are usually measured by volume. A liter of worms is often thought to contain an average of one thousand worms, weighing close to a kilogram.

Why bedding? What is the best material to use for bedding?

The purpose of bedding is to act as relatively neutral medium, to prevent composting heat-up (thermophilic bateria) and provide home for your worms.

There are many materials that will work well for the bedding. Shredded paper, cardboard, peat, coco coir or clean healthy gardening soil will all work very well.

I've never understood the difference between bedding and food. They eat both eventually, so why put food in there in the first place?

Well... Bedding is sort of like the water in juice - if you had to drink juice concentrate, it would burn! It also acts as a neutral safe zone for the worms, in case the fresh food isn't to their liking (so it will have to decompose for some time in the bedding).

In other words, bedding is for worms the same as the sea is for fish.

Usually the worm food is buried in one corner or side of the bedding. This way the bacteria start working on the food immediately, the food doesn't attract pests (house and fruit flies usually), doesn't smell in any way, and in case the worms dont like it they can easily move away from it.

Without bedding, the worms would have to live in pure food, which would at first start heating up, as there would be no bedding to 'cool down' the bacterial activity.

Bedding is usually very high carbon material. Worm foods are usually higher in nitrogen. High nitrogen materials heat up easily, but the bedding prevents this, so bedding works in many many ways.

What can I use as a feed for a worm farm?

When you start, it is best to use newspaper. Ordinary daily morning paper. Make sure that the inks used do not contain heavy metals by contacting the paper. Newspaper will never cause any problems, and the worms love the paper and the soy based inks. Do not use glossy magazines.

Generally anything that is organic and non-toxic to worms can be used as a worm farm feed. Anything that one would put in a ordinary compost bin. Worms will process almost anything, given the right conditions and adjustment period. Experiment with 'new' foods carefully. See mainteinance and reference sections for more on feeds.
  Last modified: 07:54 - Oct 02, 2005 

faq:1723 "Starting a worm farm"