By Teresa J. Frith
What is a worm bin? It is a container used in vermicomposting in which worms live and are used to break down food scraps and other organic matter.
Why use worms? Because they are very good at eating scraps and other kinds of leftovers, then turning these into excellent fertilizer in just a couple weeks.
It’s also eco-friendly and organic, so it’s good for the environment as well as your garden.
Supplies Needed to Make A Worm Bin
Firstly, you need a container. You can either buy one commercially already made or construct your own out of items such as a plastic tote, an aquarium, or even an old drawer from a dresser. You also need some sort of lid that fits over your container.
The size of the container should be based on the amount of food waste you believe your household produces. For instance, if you figure you produce around a half pound of waste daily, the worm bin needs to be around two by two feet in size and you’ll need a pound of the worms. It doesn’t have to be really deep, as most worms only use the first six to eight inches of the living space.
Then you need some sort of bedding materials. Common materials include shredded newspaper or cardboard. You also need food scraps and other organic elements to feed the worms.
Setting Up A Worm Bin
Thoroughly clean the container via rinsing it with water so there’s nothing inside which can harm worms. Then, line its sides and bottom with plastic. Tip: You can use trash bags or even an old shower curtain.
Tear up the newspaper or cardboard into small pieces. Then soak this in a bucket of non-chlorinated water because worms need moisture. Don’t overdo it, just soak the paper until it is the consistency of a spongy mixture in which only a drop or two of water comes out when it’s squeezed.
Put it all into your container and fluff this up somewhat so it’s loose enough for worms to crawl around in. Add about a shovelful of dirt or potting soil. This additionally helps in adding some microorganisms which start the process of breaking down the food scraps. Then, add the food scraps, coffee grounds and other organic materials for the worms to eat.
Next, gently scatter your worms into the bin and put on the lid so they can’t escape. You can get worms from your own yard or buy worms such as earthworms or red wigglers from a bait shop, etc.
Where to Keep the Worm Bin
Keep your worm bin in a warm, dark area like the basement or a garage. Worms don’t like the cold, but depending on the type of worms they can live in varying environments, so be sure to find out all the needed information on the kind of worms you’re using.
Keeping Your Worms Healthy
Be sure to add around a cup of water every few days along with your food and other scraps. You don’t want it to get too wet, but it should stay moist. This water also works to rinse off your worms so their waste gets pushed down away from their bodies. If not, they can get sick from being covered with it all the time.
Feed your worms most types of veggie and fruit scraps like peels, cores, rinds, etc. Just be sure not to feed them things like meat, bones, oil or dairy. Worms need to eat around 3x their weight at least once every week. The scraps should be mixed with the bedding, not just thrown on top of the worms.
Soon they will begin to produce castings, otherwise known as worm poop which you can use to fertilize your garden or lawn as you desire. Happy worm farming!
Red Wiggler Worms in Your Worm Bin
One of the most advantageous qualities of the red wiggler is how readily they reproduce. In ideal conditions, a healthy red wiggler population can double in as few as three months. So let’s dig a lil deeper, pun intended, on that process.
Like many invertebrates, red wigglers are hermaphroditic meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. However, they cannot reproduce asexually. Worms need a mate to reproduce and when they connect, sperm is exchanged and later used to fertilize their eggs which are laid in a protective cocoon.
It’s important to understand the difference between the eggs and the cocoon. The cocoon is the tiny, round, firm, yellow-ish casing that you will see once your worm population has started reproducing. Within the cocoon are the eggs, as many as 20 could be contained inside. However, typically only three to six eggs will be fertilized and later emerge from the lemon-shaped casing the size of a grape seed.
The cocoons are then deposited in the soil and the ‘parent worm’ moves on. In optimal conditions, the cocoon will hatch in about three weeks. The emphasis here is on the environmental conditions within your worm bin. To encourage a growing worm population, it is important to ensure you are providing the right balance of warmth, moisture, food, and substrate. If conditions are not ideal, cocoons can remain dormant for extended periods of time- potentially up to two years.
On average, sexually mature worms can produce up to three cocoons a week. When juvenile worms emerge about three weeks later, it will take them approximately six weeks to reach sexual maturity. At that point, the whole process begins all over again. Red wigglers in a thriving worm bin can actually live up to five years.
Now that you have learned how quickly your worm population can grow, you may start to worry that it could get out of hand. Don’t worry! As you watch your worm community multiply you can choose how to proceed. If you only want to maintain one worm bin, no intervention is needed. Red wigglers are self-regulating so when available resources become scarce and population density intensifies, they will slow down or even stop reproduction.
However, if you decide you would like to expand your worm family to a 2nd worm bin, the possibilities are endless. You have full control over how small or how large of a worm operation you want to maintain.
One final thought, why not give the gift of worms? Now that you are a bona fide worm farmer, why not share the benefits of worm farming with family and friends? As your worms reproduce you have a great opportunity to help a fellow aspiring worm farmer to start their worm bin by sharing your red wigglers with them.
The possibilities are endless.