Introduction: 5 Minute, 5 Dollar Worm Farm

Picture of 5 Minute, 5 Dollar Worm Farm

Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, is like regular composting, but super-powered! It has all the benefits of regular composting, like reducing garbage and providing an organic fertilizer, PLUS several advantages:

  • works much, much faster
  • can be done on a small scale (traditional composting is hard to manage small scale)
  • much more interesting than a pile of dirt
  • great on-going project to do with your kids

With 5 dollars and 5 minutes, you can start composting with your own worm farm!

**The hard part will be finding the worms, and finding them for cheap, but there are ways...

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My worm farm was thriving, but then I let it get too wet, and they drowned or suffocated... There were fewer and fewer worms each time I checked on them, until there were none left... Happily, I was able to recover some from a window box in which I had added a few worms at planting time. So this is me starting over, from scratch.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Picture of Gather Your Materials

You will need:

  • an opaque plastic storage bin (worms don't like light)
  • some "brown" compost material - newspaper, brown paper bag, toilet paper rolls, etc
  • some "green" compost material - fresh kitchen scraps
  • Red Wrigglers, or Eisenia foetida
  • eggshells and/or coffee grounds
  • 1 spoonful of dirt from the garden
  • *special equipment: drill

The Rubbermaid container I have here is ideal: only 5 bucks, and pretty sturdy. And it is wide and shallow, which is preferred by worms over containers that are small and deep.

For the browns, you can hit up your local liquor/wine stores and ask for their boxes. Try to get the plain ones and the inserts. It's a win for everyone, because there's less trash for them to haul out to the curb, the cardboard is getting recycled, and you get free, unlimited worm food/bedding. On another note, don't use glossy magazines or paper towels that has been used with cleaning chemicals as it might be toxic to the worms.

For the greens, my kitchen scraps has been more than enough, but other fresh organic material will also work. I normally keep one zip top bag in the freezer and add the random banana peel and apple core, and when it's full, add it to the worm bin. If I am expecting a lot of scraps at once, like while making dinner, I'll just collect them in a bowl, and afterwards microwave it for 2 min. The freezing or cooking will significantly speed up the composting process, but it's not necessary. Don't forget to let the cooked scraps cool off a bit before dumping on your worms!

The worms are a bit pricey if you buy it from a garden center. Try to mooch some from a worming enthusiast, or contact the local co-op. I understand sometimes bait shops will carry them for cheap.

The worms will need grits to help break down their food. Two or 3 egg shells or 1 batch of coffee grounds should do at the start, but you will want to add more later as the worm population grows.

Step 2: Drill Holes in Your Bin

Picture of Drill Holes in Your Bin

Your worms will need air holes and drainage holes. I used the biggest drill bit I've got, and made 8 holes at the bottom, and 4 on each side of the bin. (You don't want holes in the lid because rain might make your worm farm too wet)

Step 3: Toss It All In

Picture of Toss It All In

I like to layer it at the beginning, but it doesn't matter very much because it will get all mixed up in a few days. I added some cardboard at the very bottom, then some of the kitchen scraps, sprinkled with the eggshells, then more browns, and last layer of greens.

You could have carefully moistened and wrung out the browns before layering, or just wait till you get through and dribble in a cup of water.

Oh, and sprinkle in your spoonful of dirt. This will seed your worm farm with the necessary soil microbes to get things started.

Step 4: Add Worms to Their New Home

Picture of Add Worms to Their New Home

You can dump them right on top; they will move and dig down where they need to be.

The original can of worms I bought had about 300, but I was only able to salvage about 20 here, so it will take a bit longer to get established.

Step 5: Ta-da!

Picture of Ta-da!

Loosely place the lid, and set your worm farm some where safe from extreme heat or cold. I've got mine in the shadiest spot of the garden so it doesn't get cooked in the southern summer, but come winter time, I will have to move it to the garage.

Maintenance: Add more greens and browns every few days, and "aerate" your farm. Just rake up and fluff the contents of the bin so that it gets air circulation. I have a dollar store claw thingie that works great, but use what you've got. Don't forget to add extra "brown" material if your bin gets too wet! And some more grits every couple of weeks.

Harvest: In a few months, when your bin is "mature", and is full of that "black gold" and fat, happy worms, it will be time to harvest. There are many ways to do this, but probably the easiest is to make a new worm farm identical to the first, and set it right on top of the old bin and nestle it right onto the wormy compost. After 2 or 3 weeks, the worms will have migrated up through the drainage holes to their new environment. Remove the bottom bin, and let the top bin continue as before.

If you have a large garden, you can likely use the worm compost as is, but if desired, you can screen or strain out the chunky bits like stems and such for use in smaller containers.

Hope this was clear and helpful. Happy worm farming!

For more details, check out these sites:

http://www.vermicompost.net/what-do-worms-eat/

http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/Worm-Farming...

Comments

Jabez MelkiB (author)2015-09-16

This is really good! I live in the countryside here in Cambodia so only difficult thing to do is find a bin.... we already have a small garden at the back of the house. I'll just use earthworms that i can find in the back...Thank you very much for this 'ible...

AnnabellaMarie (author)2015-07-28

I live in southern Arizona. We don't have anywhere cool outside (until January)! Would a similar operation work under my kitchen sink? The laundry room? I really want some worm/castings, but I'm going to have to do it inside somehow. Any and all ideas will be appreciated.

There is a slight damp smell, like wet dirt, so maybe not under the sink, but laundry room or somewhere out of the way would be fine. Just make sure you have a liner or something on the bottom so that the leakage doesn't damage your flooring. Happy worming!

Sean Mcandrew (author)2015-06-19

If I wanted to harvest worms for fishing how often would they reproduce?

beamerpook (author)Sean Mcandrew2015-06-19

"Though it takes two red wigglers to mate, each wiggler will produce its own cocoon. Assuming an average of three cocoons a week, with an average of three hatchlings per cocoon, one wiggler can produce approximately 468 hatchlings per year. As the hatchlings mature, they will produce cocoons of their own, rapidly increasing the wiggler population."

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/facts_6954660_fast-do-red-wigglers-reproduce_.html

Sean Mcandrew (author)beamerpook2015-06-19

cool, I might just have to try this.

DIY-Guy (author)2015-06-04

Nice!
Is that plastic bin sitting on top of a metal baking pan?
Do the worms migrate out of the bottom holes?
Should the holes in the bottom be smaller to prevent worm escapes?
Thanks in advance for any help. :)

beamerpook (author)DIY-Guy2015-06-04

I have it sitting on a plastic seed tray. The theory is that it will prevent worms from escaping if you have the bin raised off the ground. I didn't mention it because I think it's pointless:
A) given a comfortably moist environment with lots of food, worms will not WANT to escape
B) if their situation got dire, too hot/col/wet, they will escape anyways. Thanks to your comment, now I believe this is what happened to my original bin!

You do want the bottom homes big enough for the worms to migrate through, for harvesting, and I guess as a way to save themselves if you let their environment goes to pot :P

Good luck, and thanks for the comment!

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