Worm Bin guide
Red worms or red wigglers are the best worms for vermicomposting. Red worms may be found in compost piles, rotting vegetation or manure. They are not the same as earthworms you find in the soil, although they are a species of earthworm. The various species of earthworms play a mighty role in nature.
To get started with vermiculture, get at least a pound of red worms. They can be purchased online, at bait stores, or sometimes at garden centers. Experts say that one pound of worms eat approximately 1/2 pound of food scraps daily! After taking the food through their bodies, the worms excrete it as vermicast (aka Worm Castings, Worm Poop, Worm Manure.) The process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.
Where do you keep the worms?
In a worm bin. This can be as simple as an old dresser drawer, trunk or wooden barrel. Basically, a worm bin is a box with a lid. It can be wood or plastic. If you keep the worm bin inside, you can cover it with burlap or plastic. If you use a plastic box and lid, don't keep the lid clamped down - let it loosely rest on top to allow the worms and microorganisms enough oxygen to live. Allow for drainage with between 8 - 14 holes in the bottom, depending upon box size. Worms like cool, dark, moist places.
If you want to build your own worm bin, it is really straight forward. Alternatively, you can purchase worm bins online or at many garden centers.
What can you feed the worms?
-fruit peelings (make sure no pesticides were used on the fruit)
-bread and grains
-coffee grounds and filters
Don't feed them:
-Wood scraps/twigs, etc.
-Cheese or dairy
-Banana peels (or anything else that might have had pesticides sprayed on it)
-no synthetic materials
What do you use for worm bedding?
-Any shredded paper
-Buy commercial worm bedding
-Shredded fall leaves
-Shredded dead plants
-Chopped up straw
Your bin needs to be filled about 3/4 full with the bedding. Wet the bedding and wring out the excess. Allow it to dry some but not completely. Then put it into the bin and "fluff" it up. Keep your bedding moist by misting it with water from time to time. The key is moist bedding - not wet!
What is the Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio?
Balance your green matter (e.g. scraps) and your brown matter (bedding)in a ratio of about 2 to 1. Technically, that is called the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Bury kitchen scraps under the bedding to reduce smells and outside pests.
What is the best temperature for worm bins?
They tolerate 50 - 77 degrees. Bring your worms inside if it is going to freeze, or if it gets over 85 degrees F.
How do red worms reproduce?
Redworms are hermaphroditic. They produce one egg capsule every 2 or 3 weeks. The egg capsule usually contains a dozen babies. Your supply of worms will grow quickly and you may soon need to add more boxes, or get a bigger box!
Either build or buy, or use your imagination and recycle something like an old dresser drawer, trunk, bath tube, or discarded barrel. Wood is better because it is more absorbent and a better insulator for the worms. You can use plastic containers but the compost tends to get quite wet. Experiment and find out what works for you and your worms.
Depending on the size of the container, drill 8 to 12 holes in
the bottom for aeration and drainage. A plastic bin may need more
drainage - if contents get too wet, drill more holes. Raise the bin
on bricks or wooden blocks, and place a tray underneath to capture
excess liquid which can be used as liquid plant fertilizer.
The bin needs a cover to conserve moisture and provide darkness for the worms. If the bin is indoors, a sheet of dark plastic or burlap sacking placed loosely on top of the bedding is sufficient as a cover. For outdoor bins, a solid lid is preferable, to keep out unwanted scavengers and rain. Like us, worms need air to live, so be sure to have your bin sufficiently ventilated.
It is necessary to provide a damp bedding for the worms to live in, and to bury food waste in.
Suitable bedding materials are shredded newspaper and cardboard, shredded fall leaves, chopped up straw and other dead plants, seaweed, sawdust, compost and aged manure. Try to vary the bedding in the bin as much as possible, to provide more nutrients for the worms, and to create a richer compost. Add a couple of handfuls of sand or soil to provide necessary grit for the worm's digestion of food.
It is very important to moisten the dry bedding materials before
putting them in the bin, so that the overall moisture level is like
a wrung-out sponge. The bin should be about three-quarters full of
moistened bedding. Lift the bedding gently to create air spaces
which help to control odours, and give freer movement to the
The two types of earthworm best suited to worm composting are the redworms: Eisenia foetida (commonly known as red wiggler, brandling, or manure worm) and Lumbricus rubellus They are often found in aged manure and compost heaps. Please do not use dew-worms (large size worms found in soil and compost) as they are not likely to survive.
Where To Get Your Worms?
If you feel adventurous, find a horse stable or farmer with a manure pile and collect a bagful of manure with worms. Check your own or a friend's compost bin for worms. You can also purchase worms.
How Many Worms Do I Need?
Anywhere between 100 and roughly 2000 is managable. If you start small, feed smaller amounts of food waste while the population steadily increases.
What Do I Feed My Worms?
You can compost food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. It is advisable not to compost meats, dairy products, oily foods, and grains because of problems with smells, flies, and rodents. No glass. plastic or tin foil, please.
To avoid fly and smell problems, always bury the food waste by pulling aside some of the bedding, dumping the waste, and then cover it up with the bedding again. Bury successive loads in different locations in the bin.
Where Should I Locate My Worm Bin?
Worm bins can be used indoors all year round, and outdoors during the milder months. The advantage of mobile bins is that they can be moved when weather conditions change. Indoors, basements are excellent locations (warm, dark and dry), but any spare space can be utilized, so long as temperatures are between 40-80 degrees F. We know dedicated worm composters who have convenient kitchen counter worm bins. Outdoors, bins can be kept in sheds and garages, on patios and balconies, or in the yard. They should be kept out of hot sun and heavy rain. If temperatures drop below 40 degrees F., bins should either be moved indoors, or well insulated outdoors.
How Do I Maintain My Bin?
If you have the correct ratio of surface area to worms to food scraps, there is little to do, other than adding food, until about two and a half months have passed. By then, there should be little or no original bedding visible in the bin, and the contents will be brown and earthy looking worm castings. The contents will have substantially decreased in bulk too.
It is important to separate the worms from the finished compost,
otherwise the worms will begin to die. There are several ways to do
this. and you can discover which is best for you. The quickest is
to simply move the finished compost over to one side of the bin,
place new bedding in the space created, and put food waste in the
new bedding. The worms will gradually move over and the finished
compost can be skimmed off as needed.
If you have the time or want to use all the compost, you can dump the entire contents of the bin onto a large plastic sheet and separate the worms manually. Most children love to help with this process and you can turn it into a fun lesson about worms for them. Watch out for the tiny. lemon-shaped worm cocoons which contain between two and twenty baby worms!
By separating the worms from the compost, you save more worms for your next bin. Mix a little of the finished compost in with the new bedding of the next bin, and store the rest in plastic bags for use as required.