If you are tired of spending money on expensive worm compost, then it might be time to invest in your own worm farm. A worm bin is a great way to increase the amount of organic matter in your garden by creating rich soil for plants. It also provides an excellent way to reduce waste in the home and kitchen.
What does a healthy worm bin look like? Does a worm farm need a blanket? What do you do when your worm farm is full? Can you use newspaper as a worm blanket? How often should you aerate your vermiculture system?” These are just some of the questions that we will answer here!
We will also cover questions related to building your own worm farm at home using cheap or even free materials. Because worm farms can be constructed using items found around the home or purchased at a very low cost. It is of course easy to purchase worm bins online and some of the commercially available bins are fantastic. But if you like to tackle a project yourself, or are into recycling you probably want to build your own!
This post is designed to be a resource, use the navigation menu to jump ahead to any of the topics you want to know more about. Bookmark the page and use it when you need it again. If there are any questions we have not covered please let us know and we will add them to the list.
What is a worm farm?
A worm farm is a system for growing or maintaining composting worms to produce vermicompost. The smaller the ecosystem, the easier it is to monitor and control.
Worm farms come in a variety of forms, sizes, and will vary in price.
The simplest type of worm farming involves placing a plastic tub with its base buried in the ground into a garden bed that’s been prepared for crop rotation. The upturned lid creates a dark environment that provides an ideal home for worms while also acting as an effective drainage system during the rainy season.”
What is Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting is the term for composting using red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) to grind, shred or break down garden or food waste and give you vermicompost which can be used directly in your garden.
Vermicomposting with the use of worms is much faster than typical composting which normally takes months to break down organic matter. The acidity levels are more agreeable to plants during the worm-based process and the enzymes that are present in worm based compost act as a natural pest deterrent and growth stimulant. Moreover, there are not any dangerous chemicals used to produce vermicompost –only beneficial nutrients
Why are Wormfarms So Good For The Home Garden
Worm farms are one of the only ways to create your own vermicompost on a small scale. Vermicompost is an amazing organic fertilizer that’s full of nutrients, beneficial bacteria and microbes for plants.” This can be used as soil conditioner or added directly into potting mixes before planting seedlings indoors.
Worm composting takes up less space and is a more effective approach to convert your kitchen waste into usable garden compost than bacterial or chemical methods.
How Many worms do you need to start a worm farm?
There is no set minimum number of worms necessary in order to have a successful worm farm. Theoretically, you could start with a few hundred worms. However, if you start with too few then you will need to be careful not to overfeed your worms as they will take longer to consume the waste food.
For a starter worm farm, no less than 1,000 worms are recommended but 2,000 to 3,000 will give you the best chance of a highly productive worm farm in a much shorter time.
How Long do Red Wriggler Worm Eggs Take to Hatch
Red wiggle eggs take an average of 23 days (give or take) to develop into a worm that is mature enough to hatch.
Technically though what we see as worm eggs are in actual fact cocoons fill with zygotes or fertilized egg cells. Most Worm “egg cocoons” will contain a dozen or more fertilized zygotes.
The length of time it takes for red wriggler eggs to hatch will depend on the temperature they are stored at. Very cool temperatures will prolong development, Red wigglers need hatching conditions that range between 68-77°F (20-25°C). Cooler temperatures can interfere with metabolism!
Red wigglers also need around 10% humidity; too much moisture makes them drown, and dry air prevents them from absorbing enough water molecules for normal breathing!
The really cool thing about worm eggs is they can lay dormant until the conditions are right to hatch. I have personally left a worm bin that I thought was completely dead from getting too hot for over 12 months, once I added some moisture and moved it to a shady spot within a few weeks I had thousands of baby worms.
Does a worm farm need a blanket?
No, not necessarily. But, you will probably want to use one.
If you are in a dry climate special worm blankets are used to help maintain and retain moisture at the in the system. If the worms weren’t provided with this blanket most of them would move deeper into the worm bedding away from the food layer because they can’t deal with dry conditions. It is these moist conditions that allow the worms to do their job really well – decomposing waste material into nutrient-rich liquid fertiliser for plants and vegetables so we want to keep them at the surface doing their job.
Similarly, in colder areas, it may be a good idea to use a worm blanket or some additional layer to help keep the worms warm otherwise the worms will head deep into the vermicompost to stay warm.
Can I use newspaper as a worm blanket?
Yes, newspapers are a good option for worm blankets because they are free and using them makes good use of a waste product. Your worms will eat the newspaper but that is perfectly okay, just keep adding more as it breaks down.
How wet should a worm bin be?
Worm bins should remain moist but not wet. Optimal moisture levels will vary depending on ambient temperature and to what extent the worm bin is insulated.
Moisture levels that may seem good during warm weather, for example, will make the environment too wet to support worms at very low temperatures (such as in winter). As such you would want a higher moisture level in summer than winter. Keep in mind also that an insulated worm bin may require less or no water at all while one without insulation (especially if it has a hole) might require occasional watering. This is because high temperatures can cause moisture to evaporate out of open systems while colder ones don’t allow for much moisture loss.
What is Worm Wee Leachate
Worm wee leachate is often referred to as worm tea, but it is not actually Worm Compost Tea at all, it is just the excess liquid drained through a worm farm watering and added materials. Excess liquid is common in worm bins as it normally also contains excess nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. If you have a healthy worm farm you should not have too much excess leachate.
What is Worm Compost Tea
Worm Compost Tea is a liquid fertilizer made by adding worm castings (vermicompost) to water. The mixture or worm castings and water is aerated either mechanically or within an aquarium aeration stone and air pump in order to make millions of tiny bubbles which encourage aerobic bacteria growth. Sometimes sugars, usually in the form of molasses are added to aid good bacteria growth.
Most people mix their own and then apply it to house plants, vegetable gardens and lawns, though there are also commercially available solutions that can be used for composting.
Worm compost tea is great because it doesn’t contain any potentially dangerous animal waste products, and does not create odor problems that are typical of most organic manures.
How often do red wigglers lay eggs?
Red wigglers worms typically produce six egg masses per year, but they can produce up to twelve egg masses annually if the conditions are perfect. Typically, warmer temperatures equal increased production rates whereas cooler temperatures result in lower production rates. Increasing humidity also results in higher production rates compared to sub-optimal conditions.
How many eggs do red worms lay?
Red wigglers don’t lay eggs like most other insects. Instead, they lay cocoons of soft moth’s hair-like fibers that look like small dinner rolls. Each cocoon contains 12 to 20 tiny zygotes (eggs) and each roll measures approximately 1/8 of an inch or 3mm – 4mm.
How old are Red Wrigglers when they start to lay eggs?
Red Wrigglers only lay eggs when they reach sexual maturity, which takes 40-60 days. And will lay their first eggs about a month after mating.
In other words, red wriggles only start laying eggs at around 3 months of age.
How big are red wiggler cocoons?
Red wigglers are special. They make worm cocoons that are about the size of a grain short-grain rice. These cocoons keep the baby worm zygotes safe until they are ready to hatch – which is usually a few weeks after being laid if the conditions are right.
Do I need drainage holes in my worm bin?
Yes, worms produce a nutrient-laden liquid substance called leachate often just referred to as “worm juice”. So you will need drainage holes in an enclosed worm bin to allow excess liquid to drain away.
A healthy worm environment should be damp and workable but not wet, so your worms can breathe freely by taking air through their skin. Water must be able to escape easily or it can cause mould problems which are toxic for both man and worm alike.
What does a healthy worm bin look like?
A functioning worm bin should have plenty of lively worms, no apparent rotting material, and no unpleasant odor. If you can consistently see lots of worms, there are no rotting food items that have begun to decompose, and the bin doesn’t smell unpleasant then you have a healthy worm bin. Another thing to look for is the worm castings in the bedding should be a dark color, light and fluffy, not too waterlogged or compacted.
How many air holes are in a worm bin?
The answer is, it depends. The exact number of air holes will depend on the size and shape of your worm bin, as well as how much you want to aerate it. A good rule of thumb for a plastic tote style bin is to have 1/8 holes every 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch.
If you have a commercially available worm bin they will have adequate ventilation holes.
How often should you aerate your worm bin?
The answer to this question will depend on how often you are feeding your worms. If you’re only giving them waste every two weeks, then the aeration holes in the bottom of your worm house should be big enough for air circulation. The more food that goes in, the more ventilation it will require! So make sure that you are not overfeeding your worms and they will turn the material enough that you will not need to aerate the bedding mixture manually.
Should I stir my worm bin?
From time to time you may want to stir the material in your worm bin, if you have an area that is especially wet or slimy it is a good idea to mix it in with the dryer material.
Should I cover my worm bin?
Yes and no. If you’re in a freezing climate, it would be best to cover your worm bin for warmth and insulation. However, if you live in a warmer climate or aren’t concerned with your worms going dormant over winter, then there’s no need to cover your worm bin!
Can you use potting soil for worm bedding?
If you want to use potting soil, then you can, but it is not ideal. Red wriggles are not earthworms, they don’t live in dirt, and only need a small amount of soil grit in their environment to help with digestion. I recommend using old horse manure or shredded paper as bedding for worms. Paper has the advantage of being easy to obtain in urban areas. So it’s easier to replace when needed but if you have access to horse manure there is no better bedding material.
Can worms eat potato peels?
Worms should not eat potato skins, they will eat potato peels as they break down, but because they can have high levels of solanine they are potentially toxic to worms. Solanine is the potatoes natural defence against pest attacks. It is also the chemical that makes them turn green, as it is toxic to worms avoid putting potatoes or potato peels in your worm composting bin.
Can worms eat eggshells?
Yes, worms can eat eggshells, but don’t put entire eggshells into the worm bin. It is best to roast them in the oven and crush them using a mortar and pestle, food processor or a coffee grinder first.
If they are not crushed into a powder first the large pieces will be too big for the worm to eat, and larger shards that could be ingested may cause injury or obstruction to delicate areas of the worms gut. The reason for roasting first is to kill any potential pathogens such as salmonella that could be present on the eggshell.
The benefits of adding these calcium-rich foods to your worm compost are twofold. Firstly, they add grit to the worms food, helping them to digest better. Secondly, when it comes time for you to harvest your castings you’ll have a more nutrient-dense calcium-rich fertilizer.
When should I add a second tray to my worm farm?
You should add a second tray to your worm farm just before the amount of castings in your wormery exceeds the capacity of your current tray. when adding a second tray ensure the base is close enough to the top of the castings of the first tray to allow worms to reach up into the new tray.
What do I do when my worm farm is full?
If your worm farm is just too full of food, leave it a little while to allow the worms to process the food they have. If your worm farm is full of castings and there is little space for more food, then it is time to either rotate the trays, emptying the base bed of all its castings, or add an additional tray.
How many worms are in a tray?
Most worm farms you buy in a hardware store will hold between 5,000 – 10,000 worms per tray. But, like many other aspects of worm composting, the answer to this question will depend on what tray you have, and how deep your tray is along with a few other factors.
For example, The Worm Factory 360 is claimed to hold 10,000 per tray. But my hungry bin continuous system would hold 100’s of thousands of worms, and it is technically only one single tray.
How do you rotate a worm farm?
Once your top worm tray is full of 90% composted material and the lower tray is full of fine, black gold vermicompost, it is time to rotate the trays. Personally, I like to use at least three trays as it makes rotating easier and saves having to sieve the vermicompost but I will cover both methods.
Method one. The 3 or more tray method. Ensure the worm bedding and compost material in the top tray is mounded up in the centre so that it touches the new top tray. Put the new, empty tray on top and start feeding your worms on the top tray. After a week or two, all the worms in the lower tray will have migrated out and up to the top. Just be sure you don’t let the bin become hot or dry, as this will make them migrate down again. I leave the bottom material in for 3 weeks before use as this ensures any eggs will have hatched.
Method 2, two tray method. Take the lid off the tray and place it upturned on the ground, remove the top tray and place it on the upturned lid. Remove and tip the base tray vermicompost into a plastic tote. You should really sift the material to remove any worms or eggs that are still in the base tray.
Now place the tray with the scraps and worms back on as the new base tray, put the new tray on top of the old tray, mounding up the material so that worms can go up. Put scraps in the new tray, and cover with a worm blanket if you use one. That is it you are good to go.
How long can red wigglers go without food?
Red wigglers can go without food for 4 weeks, sometimes longer.
This is a difficult question because it depends on what you define as ‘food’. Even after you stop feeding your worms there is actually a lot of “food” still left in the bin. So if you are planning on having a holiday, stock your bin up with a good supply of fresh scraps and your worms could be okay for 6-8 weeks.
If you come back to a dead colony, don’t throw out the bin, put some more scraps in and wait, the eggs will hatch and you will have a whole new colony of worms.
Obviously, we do not recommend leaving your worms to starve while on holiday, but if you do accidentally starve them, all may not be lost.
What can I do with red wigglers?
The most common use of red wriggles is obviously their amazing composting abilities. But, like many other creatures and insects, red wigglers make good fish food/bait. Fish love the high protein content in worms! My son was always raiding my worm farm to feed his axolotl. Fishermen love using red wriggles as live bait, it does take some practice to get them onto the hook properly though.
How large do red wigglers get?
Not as large as their cousins the earthworm, red wrigglers are usually only a few inches long, but they can grow to be as long as 6 inches and get quite fat if the conditions are just right.