Starting a Worm Bin: Update 112 Sep, 2020
Benefits of Worm Castings:
Worm castings are the excrement from red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida). These castings are an amazing fertilizer for your garden or farm and can be used as a potting soil or as a soil amendment. Worm castings contain nutrients that are water-soluble, meaning that plants are able to use the nutrients right away. Compared to compost, worm castings have more humus concentration and are able to retain more water. Adding worm castings to your garden will help make nutrients and micronutrients more available to plants, improve the fertility and structure of your soil, and help your soil retain water.
About a month ago we started a worm bin to be able to create our own worm castings and help alleviate the ever growing additions to the compost pile. We opted for making our own bin rather than buying a pre-made version. The process was very simple, we simply drilled holes in the bottoms of the top two bins with air holes along the very top edge. The bottom tote was fitted with a drain which is where we will remove any worm casting liquids. The concept is simple. You add worms (red wigglers), newspaper, and food scraps to the top bin in the stack. The worms will happily eat everything in the bin and leave behind beautiful nutrient rich worm castings! Once the worms have gone through all the food scraps and newspaper, move the middle tote to the top and the top tote to the middle. Fill the now top bin with more newspaper and food scraps; the worms will then move through the holes to the top bin where all the food is. You will then have a middle bin full of worm castings that are ready to use in your garden. You can mix the worm castings into your soil as a fertilizer or use the castings to start seeds. For us, this is a great initial way to experiment with producing worm castings and for homeowners or those with a smaller space that still want to reduce food waste and create plant food, worms can be a great alternative to composting systems.
Important things to remember when raising worms:
- Don’t cook them in the heat, keep your worms in a dry and cool area (we currently have our bin in our cool room at 65 ℉). The ideal heat for your worms should be between 55-80℉.
- Make sure the inside of your bin is not too wet or dry (we didn’t add any moisture beyond the food scraps added and have added extra newspaper to the mix twice to add aeration),
- Mixing up your bin by hand occasionally will help aerate the mixture and lets you check to make sure your worms are alive and maybe even reproducing!
- Your worm bin, like good compost, shouldn’t smell bad (worms are in no means known for their lovely fragrance, but the bin shouldn’t smell like rotting food)
- There are a few things to avoid adding to your bin: citrus peels will make the soil acidic, onions/garlic can make a bad odor, and avoid adding meat, fat, and bones.
- Chopping up food scraps into smaller pieces will also help the worms process it more quickly (one of the first scraps we added was half a sweet potato, they are still working on that).
- When using newspaper bedding, avoid adding any glossy advertisement pages and shred the newspaper into strips so it is easier for the worms to process. You can also use peat moss, straw, or coconut coir as bedding alternatives.
So far our worms have almost gone through the entirety of the food we gave them, so check back in a couple weeks for a second update when we switch the bins!
If you’d like to use the same tutorial we used to make our worm bin, here is the link from Epic Gardening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaajjQ0FhM4
Also keep an eye out for an upcoming video where we will walk through our worm casting bin and discuss how the process works in more detail!
From Left to Right: Drilling two inch centered holes in the bottom of one of the totes- the progress of our worm castings- the three bin system