Getting Your Worm Farm
worms is pretty easy. However there are some basic but very important things you need to consider and few
components to put in place before you order your worms. This page lists the start up items you need;
and some basic tips and tricks to start off your worm bins
Worm Farm Starter
You really need only four basic things
to establish a successful and easy to maintain starter worm farm or vermicomposting bin. This page gives you a list
of the 4 startup items needed. To maximize your success from day one we strongly recommend you obtain them in the
order presented and prepare them as we suggest. Nothing is more disappointing to the new worm farmer than having
your first batch of worms die.
What You Need to
Start A Worm Farm
Worm Bin (a container)- This is the home for your worms
Worm Bedding - The material your worms live in
Worm Food- Don't worry you probably have some at home right now
Worms - We are not talking earth worms.
Perhaps the hardest decision a
beginning worm farmer or vermicomposter can make is determining what type of worm bin is right for them. There are
many different styles of worm bin, each having its own advantages and disadvantages. To learn more about different
types of worm bins visit our worm bin page.
The quickest and often easiest way to
get started with a worm bin is by purchasing a commercially produced worm system. Often you can find a package deal
including bedding and worms. Of course the down side of store bought bins is the cost when compared to a homemade
bin. A nice commercial worm farm system can cost upwards of $75.00. Manufactured bins are available in stackable
bin systems, flow through systems, and individual containers.
If you want to save a lot of money and
have an hour or so anyone can build a basic but very functional bin for about $10.00. All you need is a common
plastic storage container available at any big box store. Good quality 10 gallon plastic containers
with a cover made by Rubbermaid and Sterilite make very suitable worm bin containers.
If you make your own bin keep a few
things in mind.
1) Select an opaque (not
transparent) container as many composting worms are extremely light sensitive.
2) Second, make sure the lid fits
tightly before you leave the store. You may have to test several combinations of lids with your container. You
are not looking for an airtight fit; however a tight lid can prevent mass worm escapes.
3) Modify the
container as outlined below, this makes things a lot cleaner and easier.
Homemade plastic container bins should
have about a dozen 1/16 “holes drilled on the sides near the top of container, about two inches below the lip. This
will keep an adequate airflow in the bin. If you are really ambitious and want to prevent a soggy bin drill another
dozen 1/4 " holes in the bottom of the bin to allow moisture (worm tea) to drain out. If you do make drain holes
place your bin on some type of tray with shallow sides, like a boot tray to collect the liquid.
Preparing good worm bedding is
not hard at all; however it is important to use the proper materials. Properly prepared worm bedding serves two
purposes in your worm farm. First it provides a properly balanced medium for your worms to live in. Composting
worms live in their bedding, not in soil like earth worms. The second function of worm bedding is to provide
supplemental food, that’s right; your worms actually eat their bedding.
There are many good materials you can
use for bedding; and fortunately some of the best bedding materials are free or very inexpensive. Here is our
recommendation for worm bedding:
Good Worm Bedding
Now it's time to mix in some of the waste materials listed below, the waste material is more worm food.
The last step in preparing the bedding
is wetting it down. Worm bedding needs to be wet for a couple reasons. First; worms absorb oxygen through
their skin, so that’s how they breathe. They can only do this when kept moist. Second the bedding should be wet to
help facilitate the breakdown of food particles and bedding material.
Worm bedding should be wet as a
damp sponge, not soaking wet. Very slowly mix some water into your prepared bedding. The use of a hand held spray
bottle is a great way to wet it. Every so often check the moisture by grabbing a handful of bedding and squeezing
it tightly. The proper moisture level is reached when a couple drops of water drip out. If you add too much
water simply let the material dry, or add more bedding until it passes the squeeze / drop test.
Unless you already have your worms on
hand let your bin set for a week. This allows bedding and food to start breaking down; it also allows for the Ph
levels and temperatures to stabilize before the worms dig in.
Worm Food (Organic Waste
Our worms do better when
given food sources besides their bedding. However there are many worm farmers that feed their worms nothing
but shredded cardboard. But most of us are very interested in composting with worms so they can process lots and
lots of our food waste and in return give us our "black gold" (worm castings).
Worms are fairly tolerant when it
comes to food but they cannot be fed just any old table scraps. These foods are safe and healthy for
non-citrus fruit waste,
used coffee grounds,
ground egg shells in small amounts,
aged animal manure (beginners should start with horse manure and experiment from
commercially available worm food.
Things you don't want to feed your worms include; meats, dairy products, cooking oils / greases, citrus fruits,
plastics, too many starchy grains, or human waste.
Do Not Feed Your
It's good to let your food waste start to decompose a bit before you add it to your bins. This is easily done
by either freezing it and or chopping it into small pieces. Remember; most composting worms don't actually eat
pieces of food. Instead they eat the liquidy mush of decomposing organic matter produced by naturally present
Now it's time for the fun part,
getting your worms. When it comes to a worm farm or Vermicompost bin you just can't go into the back yard and dig
up a bunch of earth worms. Not unless you want them to die. Earth worms are not at all suited for the worm
What you need is composting worms.
Composting worms do not live deep in the soil. They thrive in colonies within the nutrient rich layer of decaying
matter found on top of, or within, the first few inches of topsoil.
Note: Selecting a good worm supplier is absolutely critical at
this point. It can literally make or break your compost bins. There are many large and unscrupulous
worm suppliers that will short your worm order, fill your order with inferior breeds that you did not
order, and provide poor customer service.
Even we got taken
by one of the large on line suppliers promising to send us a pound of red wigglers at a great
price. What we got was a pathetic half pound clump of mixed red worms and blue worms (the
blues could not survive our outdoor beds). Before you buy do a search of the web for
customer satisfaction reports.
There are several types of composting
worms available. The most common is the red worm.
Hands down this is the worm we recommend for all new worm farms. The red worm is so popular because they are easy
to raise, relatively inexpensive, withstand a wide range of temperatures, breed quickly, and produce good worm
For a comprehensive look at all the
popular composting worms take a look at our composting
worm page. Here is a quick list of each breed. For more in depth information on each breed simply follow
the links by each worm breed:
Red Worms (red wigglers) - By far the most common
composting worm. Easy to raise and breed.
European Night Crawlers - The most popular
"big" composting worm. Easy to raise and breed.
African Night Crawlers - A good "big"
composting worm, but needs TLC in cold climates.
Alabama Jumpers - Another popular compost worm,
but they have some special considerations.
Blue Worms - Suitable for composting, however they are
not favorites of many worm farmers.
Beginning Tips & Tricks
Here are some beginning worm farm tips and tricks to keep your worm farm running smooth from day
Food- Use only recommended food for your worms and start slowly. It is much easier to add a bit
more food than to deal with a putrid bin full of too much food.
Bedding - Use recommended materials. If you try other materials go slowly and
experiment in a "test" bin so if your new bedding harms your worms you will not loose the whole
Pests- You will see mites, pot worms, and other small insects in your bin. This is normal and
actually helps break down organic material.
Watering - Start slowly when watering your worm bins. Utilize the squeeze / drop test.
We recommend having your bins a bit dry, rather than too wet.
Worm Sources - Use only quality sources for your worms. Read online reviews of providers, or
look for ones that have no negative reviews.
Slow down - It takes a couple weeks for your worms to get comfortable in their new surroundings.
Unless your worms are dying or performing a mass exodus from your bins give them time to settle in
before you start changing things.
Now that you read our getting started page start setting up your worm bin. Then come back and learn
more about worm farming and vermicomposting on our pages.
Return to the top of our Getting Started Page.