So, you’re considering starting a worm farm in a brand-new worm bin and are asking yourself "what do I need to know before I start?"
In this guide, we’ll cover all the important topics to get you better understanding the basics of vermicomposting, aka worm farming.
Choosing a worm bin
There are many types of worm bins available out there, and you can always make one yourself, but we recommend keeping it simple and going with something lightweight and user-friendly like the Worm Bucket.
You should be able to buy worms online or locally, but if you have a large garden or outdoor space, you can also try what’s known as worm grunting, to get your own worms for free! Click this link to learn more about worm grunting, and to find out how it’s done.
No matter the type of worm bin you chose, starting with 250 worms is a great place to begin. Adding too many worms, too quickly can lead to overcrowding and result in airflow and/or drainage issues. All of which can lead to the worms dying. It's better to start slow and build up to your optimum worm ecosystem.
Once you've selected the type of worm bin you prefer, you'll need to select a worm bedding. The bedding is the carbon-rich, moisture absorbent material your worms will live in. Carbon is a main ingredient composting, aka the compost "browns".
Anything that qualifies as a 'brown' for your compost pile, chances are you can use it as a worm bedding. Examples include things such as clothing scraps, shredded paper, coconut coir, cardboard pieces, aged compost, wood shavings, straw, dried leaves, soil, and anything else that’s high in carbon and biodegradable.
This is a great opportunity to reduce your landfill waste by upcycling your household items. Weren't you looking for a way to get rid of some of those shipping boxes in the garage?
Over time, the worms will turn the carbon brown bedding will become a part of the worm castings and will be harvested. You'll change their bedding every few months, when you harvest the castings – your worms will appreciate the fresh start. For tips on harvesting, check out this video.
Feeding your worms
Now, let’s talk about the most important step, which is feeding your worms. You will learn over time what foods your worms eat quickly and which things take longer for them to break down. Reduce your food waste by feeding your worms kitchen scraps. They like any uncooked fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, bedding materials, and more. Just toss in some food every 7-10 days, as needed, making sure your worms always have something to munch on.
Stay away from feeding your worms oil, cooked food, citrus and any animal products (dairy, eggs, meat, bones), or you risk stinking up the bin. Check out this article for a full list of foods to avoid.
Drainage and ventilation
If you purchase a worm bin, ideally, it should take care of drainage and ventilation for you. The Worm Bucket, for instance, has an outer drainage bucket with a spigot, and escape-proof ventilation holes, so your worms have plenty of fresh air, but they won’t escape the bucket.
If you’re making your own worm bin, you will need to make sure these two conditions are met. If not, you risk having a stinky mess on your hands, or worse, dead worms.
Here are some more tips for keeping your worms happy, healthy and productive:
Keep the worm bin indoors where the temperature is ideal. Between 60-80F degrees is ideal.
- Place the bin somewhere dark but well-ventilated (such as under a cabinet or table).
- Avoid overfeeding your worms or giving them too much of the same thing.
- Stop feeding them for at least a week before you harvest the castings to give the worms time to break everything down.
- Moisten your browns before you give them to your worms, and drain the bin as needed.
Worm Castings Benefits
What are worm castings and why should you use them for your plants? Worm castings are the excrement of worms, essentially their poop. Don't worry, they don't smell and can be compared to the scent of a rich soil.
You may also hear the castings called vermicast or vermicastings. This is because “vermi” means worm, therefore the procedure of using worms in composting is called vermicomposting.
When worms eat organic matter like the scraps from your kitchen meals, they are actually feeding on the microorganisms in that material. Their castings turn into a super fertilizer rich in nutrients and it contains five times more nitrogen, seven times more of potassium and phosphorus, as well as two times more calcium than mere dirt alone.
Worm castings actually assist in making the soil healthier for your plants by aerating the soil via the tunnels the worms make as they burrow through the dirt, which in turn helps the dirt absorb water better too so it’s not too dry. The castings also contain beneficial fungi and bacteria which helps to support other organisms living in the soil, which is vital if you’re doing any organic gardening.
Plants even grow quicker in soil enriched via worm castings and in some cases get twice as big as plants that don’t get the benefit of worm casting fertilizer. Best of all worm castings are eco-friendly, chemical free, won’t burn your plants like chemical fertilizers and don’t smell bad like some types of fertilizer. Instead, they have a rich, earthy odor.
Another benefit of worm castings for plants is it helps protect them so they can fight off diseases or pests like predatory insects.
Using Worm Castings on Your Plants
The way you use this wonderful soil enhancer is by mixing it into your soil mixture. A healthy soil mixture should be made up of 20% worm castings.
Worm castings are also great to use for seed starting. Add a cup of worm castings to 2 cups of dirt for starting seeds. When you go to transplant your seedings, be sure to dump in about a quarter cup of them into each hole. If transplanting a tree or shrub, increase that to a full cup of worm castings for best results.
Where to Get Worm Castings
One of the best ways to always have worm castings on hand to use in your garden is to make them yourself. It’s not difficult and all you need is a proper container, bedding such as shredded paper, cardboard and soil, enough water added to make it moist, but not sodden, and a lid so the worms don’t escape. The Worm Bucket is the easiest solution for beginners. It comes as a kit with everything you need to build a healthy worm habitat.
Once it's set up, just feed your worms kitchen scraps like peels, cores, leftover scraps, coffee grounds (even coffee filters), grass clippings (not weeds or the weeds will come back up in your garden or yard), etc. Don’t feed them dairy, meat, oils, human or animal waste products, or citrus fruit scraps.
Soon they will be producing the luscious worm castings you need to fertilize your plants. Vermicomposting is a quick composting process. If you start off with around 250 worms, you can begin harvesting pounds of castings in just 2-3 months' time.
These castings resemble rich, dark dirt and look a little like coffee grounds. If you squish a handful of them together, they will make a clump which holds together and feels a little like a sponge consistency. It may have tiny pieces of the food you’ve been feeding them, but that won’t keep the castings from being beneficial to your plants.
So, in answer to what are the benefits of worm castings for plants, you can see that they are a wonderful and all-natural method of fertilizing plants and are quite easy to obtain and maintain for achieving higher yield of vegetables, fruits, or any other type of plants you choose to grow.
Invest in a worm bin, such as the Worm Bucket, today and soon you'll have wonderful worm castings that you can use to fertilize your plants!
Our blog is an excellent resource for getting started – it has lots of bite-sized articles that cover everything from basics to how tos, dos and donts, and FAQs.
Happy Composting from Rob & Audrey at Wormbucket.com