How to Create a Small Worm Farm for a Compost Pile

Overview

Worms make the perfect pets. They won't chew on your furniture or annoy the neighbors, and they never misbehave. For children, they provide fascinating hands-on lessons in biology and the natural waste cycle. Vermicomposting provides your garden with a high-quality compost by turning your kitchen waste into nutritious soil-like worm castings.

Construction and Assembly

Step 1

Using the 1/4-inch bit, drill about 20 evenly spaced holes into the bottoms of the storage bins. Make these holes in two rows about an inch inside the long edges of the bins, ensuring that they are in the lowest areas of the bin bottoms. These holes will allow excess water to drain out. They will also allow the worms to move from one bin to the next when you're ready to harvest castings.

Step 2

With the 1/16-inch bit, drill a series of holes along the top edges of the bins. They should be separated by about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Also, drill about 30 1/16-inch holes into one of the bin lids. These holes will provide ventilation for your worms.

Step 3

Choose a well-ventilated spot in your home out of direct sunlight. It should not be subject to freezing in the winter. Ideally this spot will remain between 55 and 77 degrees F.

Step 4

Lay upside down on the floor the lid that you did not drill full of ventilation holes. This will act as a drainage tray. Place your bricks on top of this in such a way as to provide a stable base and an inch or so of air circulation space. Put one of the bins on top of the bricks.

Adding Bedding and Worms

Step 1

Shred the newspaper or cardboardinto 1-inch strips. Put these strips and/or dry leaves into your bucket and fill with water to cover. This will be your bedding material. Leave it to soak for about 5 minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Place bedding in the bottom of your worm bin, fluffing it up a bit with your hands. Repeat until you've accumulated about 3 or 4 inches of this bedding material.

Step 2

Toss in some dirt or soil. Just a handful will do. You're not trying to give your worms a digging medium; you're just providing them with the grit they need to grind up their food. Soil also contains microorganisms that will help the composting process along.

Step 3

Place your worms on top of the bedding in the bin. They will burrow down to get out of the light.

Step 4

Wet your piece of cardboard and lay it down on top of the worms. This will help keep the bedding moist and keep out the light. It will also help feed the worms.

Step 5

Place the ventilated lid on top of the bin.

Feeding and Harvesting

Step 1

Lift up the lid and cardboard piece and bury about a half pound of compostable kitchen scraps (bread, grains, cereal, fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.) in the worms' bedding every day. Choose a different area of the bedding at each feeding. As the worms multiply, you can slowly increase their daily food quantity.

Step 2

Check the worms' bedding once a week or more to ensure that it remains damp. If it seems a bit dry, sprinkle it with water or mist it with a spray bottle.

Step 3

When the bin is full of worm castings and no recognizable food scraps remain, prepare the second bin as you did the first: fill with moist bedding, add soil, bury food scraps in the bedding and cover with a wet cardboard piece. Take the ventilated lid off the first bin. Place the second bin directly on top of the surface of the first bin's contents and cover with the ventilated lid. Leave the bins stacked like this for a couple of months, long enough for all the worms to migrate into the upper bin via its drainage holes.

Step 4

After all the worms have moved into the upper bin, the lower bin should consist almost entirely of worm castings that will resemble soil. Use it in your garden as fertilizer or mix with perlite to form a nutritious potting medium.

Step 5

Fertilize your garden with any moisture (worm tea) that drips into the upside-down tray.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not feed worms any meat, fats or dairy products. Avoid anaerobic (airless) conditions. Worms need to breathe. If you detect any unpleasant odors, gently stir the bin's contents and stop adding food waste until the worms have eaten what's already there. Also check the drainage holes for blockage and drill more if necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 opaque plastic storage bins with lids, 8 to 10 gallon size
  • Electric drill with 1/4" and 1/16" bits
  • 2 to 4 small bricks, all the same height
  • Newspaper, corrugated cardboard or dry leaves/leaf mold
  • Bucket
  • Dirt, garden soil, or potting soil
  • 1 pound of redworms (Eisenia foetida)
  • Piece of cardboard cut to fit flat inside the bins

References

  • Cheap and Easy Worm Bin!
  • Worming Your Way to Rich, Black Compost

Who Can Help

  • Buy Red Worms
  • Blue Belly Farm
  • Cosmo's Red Worms
Keywords: vermicompost, worm bin, worm tea, worm castings

About this Author

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little is a freelance writer, blogger, and web designer from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a graduate of the professional SF/F workshop Viable Paradise (2006). Recent published work appears at TwilightTales.com and Pangaia.com, with a short story forthcoming at Ideomancer.com (March 2010).