How to set up a worm bin.
If you search the internet, you’ll find countless articles on how to set up a worm bin. Many are great, and some not so much. Much of what I’ve learned over the years is reading the same topic over and over again from different sources because each will add a small tidbit that I’ve never seen before. If you’re brand new to vermicomposting or a seasoned veteran, I hope you can take away something from this.
First, you need a worm bin from a rubbermaid tote or something similar like the Urban Worm Bag. The idea is to keep the worms in a dark place that can hold moisture but also allow airflow. If you’re making one from a plastic container, don’t forget that airflow is key and so is drainage. Drill some holes in the bottom so that extra liquid can drain out and many many tiny holes on the lid and around the top of the container for airflow. I recommend a ⅛” drill bit as anything larger can allow worms to escape. (This is a rare occurrence, but it can happen.) Even better than drilling holes is to cut out sections and glue a fine wire mesh where the hole is. This creates maximum airflow in a small area that is the equivalent of hundreds of holes drilled. If you’re using a flow through system like the Urban Worm Bag or Vermibag, all you have to do it put it together and it’s set up.
Adding material before the worms is a must. You wouldn’t move into a completely empty home would you? Worms need bedding and food. Bedding is material like shredded cardboard or paper, coco coir, peat moss, or anything else that is similar. I can’t recommend coco coir or peat moss, not because they're bad at their job, but because worms don’t really break it down and it costs a lot of money.Cardboard boxes and shredded newspaper are everywhere, pretty much free, and eventually break down and turns into worm food. It’s best to add at least 2-3 inches of bedding material to the bottom of your system of choice. You want to soak it a bit in water to where is it moist, but not dripping. It is ok if its a little on the dry side because as you add fruit and vegetable waste, they will leak water and this bedding material will soak it up and help regulate the moisture. After you add your bedding, its best to add a few handfuls of compost or a small bit of dirt as this add microbes to the system and will help begin the breakdown process of the food you add. Next comes the food. Fruits and vegetables are typically the best things to add and is recommended to add it a few days before your worms. This way they’ll be semi broken down so the worms can begin eating it faster.
Next you add the worms. They really don’t like to be messed with, so as hard as it may be, it’s best to refrain from checking on them all the time. They don’t like light so every time you take a peak, you’ll notice the burrow down. The happiest worms are the ones that are left alone. It’s ok to check every now and then for moisture or to see if the food from the previous feeding has been eaten, but other than that, just leave them be. Worms can eat ½ their body weight in food every day (maximum), so if you have started with 1 pound of worms, they will eat around 3.5 pounds of food per week (maximum). Keep this in mind when feeding.
Finally, let’s talk about temperature. Most all composting worms prefer similar temperatures around 65 - 75 degrees fahrenheit. They should next get to freezing temperatures and shouldn’t get about 90 degrees either. Keep them in a cool shaded area like a closet or in a corner and they’ll be fine.
After all this is complete, you just repeat. It’s best to add equal parts bedding and food by volume every feeding to ensure there is enough living space for the worms. Regularly check the moisture and add extra dry bedding if its too moist or a small bit of water if it seems too dry. Also, finely ground eggshell is also highly recommended (and almost a must) as it provides grit for the worms and will help regulate ph so the system doesn’t get too acidic.
I’ll leave it at that for now as this is an overview and not an all inclusive post on how to start a worm bin. This should cover most of the basics and I’ll continue to add more information about more detailed subjects. Ask below if you have any questions and I’ll answer them directly and try to include them in future posts. Thanks for stopping by and happy farming!