How to Start a Worm Farm

comments (12) March 18th, 2013

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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A homemade worm farm is an inexpensive way to reduce kitchen waste and create a rich compost.Click To Enlarge

A homemade worm farm is an inexpensive way to reduce kitchen waste and create a rich compost.

Photo: Todd Neff

Are you longing to join the growing group of urban farmers, but you live in a small space instead of the wide open spaces? Looking for a way to turn kitchen waste into a rich soil amendment, but there's no room for a compost pile?

A simple solution to both dilemmas is to start your own worm farm. 

It's easy and inexpensive to build a homemade worm farm and it can reap benefits for the garden. Worms produce rich compost that can enrich garden soil or brew into a compost tea

You can get started on your worm farm by purchasing stackable worm composting systems or you can build your own out of two plastic totes, like the one created by my friend Todd Neff.

For this project, you'll need the following:

Supplies

  • Electric drill with 1/4" and 1/16" bits
  • Two 8-10-gallon non-transparent plastic bins (found at a discount store, superstore, or dollar store)
  • Two bricks
  • Newspaper
  • A large piece of cardboard
  • One pound of worms

Instructions

  1. Drill 20-30 worm-sized holes (1/4 inch in size) evenly spaced in the bottom of both bins.
  2. Drill ventilation holes (about 1/16 inch) around the top rims of both totes, about 1 ½ inches apart.
  3. Drill another set of holes (about 1/16 inch) evenly spaced in the top of one lid. No holes are drilled in the second lid.
  4. Tear a section of newspaper into 1-inch strips.
  5. Soak the newspaper in water then squeeze out the excess water so the paper is damp-moist. 
  6. Place the lid without holes on the ground with the edge side up to catch any liquid that might drain from the bin; place the 2 bricks on it.
  7. Place one of the drilled totes on the bricks.
  8. Add a 4-inch layer of separated newspaper strips as bedding in the bottom of the tote and sprinkle in a handful of garden soil.
  9. Add worms (purchased online or where fishing bait is sold) to the bedding.
  10. Cut the cardboard to fit over the bedding and use a spray bottle to get the cardboard wet.

The worms will eat about 2-3 pounds of kitchen scraps a week. Feed slowly at first with coffee grounds, egg shells, fruits and vegetables past their prime, cereal, grains, etc. Avoid dairy products, meat, oil and fats.

When you add scraps, lift the ventilated lid and cardboard, and place scraps in a different part of the bin each time. Bury them in about 1" of moist newspaper.

  • When the first bin is full and all of the scraps are eaten, add new newspaper scraps to the second bin.
  • Place the bin directly on the surface of the full bin. 
  • Add scraps to the bedding; the worms will eventually move from the full bin to the empty bin.
  • The first bin is now full of a rich vermicompost to use for amending soil in the garden.
  • Repeat the process of feeding and adding moist bedding.

Place the farm in a well-ventilated area or outside in a shady spot. The keys to a successful worm farm are giving your worms enough moist bedding, keeping the bins well ventilated and feeding them a vegetarian diet.


After you try it, show it off to other members in the
gardener's gallery.
Post your photos

posted in: compost, worm farm

Comments (12)

Kat_from_the_OC writes: I definitely needs pictures. I buy worm castings and add them to my garden. Is this better? Is this the same as worm farming for castings? Whats the difference between buying worm castings and worm bins? Thx
Posted: 3:55 am on November 14th
woxall writes: woxall; I have wanted to start a worm bed before but was unsure what to do in the winter. I live in zone 6 (eastern Tenn.). Will they survive in an unheated garage. Do they continue to "eat" in winter or do they hibernate?
Thanks for any help.
Posted: 11:29 am on April 25th
Wormcompostinghelp writes: Hello Jodi,

thank you for the great information and descriptions.

I made a home build worm tower as well and it is working very well. You can find the instructions and photos of it on the following website.

http://www.worm-composting-help.com/homemade-worm-compost-bin.html

There are as well answers to all questions beginners to worm composting might have.

For those who want recycle organic waste with worms but don't want to spend any money at all here is a link to the possibly cheapest worm farms in the world! They are fully functional and have been working for me for more than 1 year now!

Here's the link.

http://www.worm-composting-help.com/crazy-worm-bin.html

Good luck to all friends of worm composting!

Kind regards

Stephan


Posted: 3:24 am on April 12th
WesternGardener writes: Thanks for all your questions and comments. Here's a website with photos that shows all the steps and it even has a troubleshooting guide:

http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm

Here's to happy worm farming!


Posted: 8:34 am on April 3rd
mitch8 writes: Thanks Jodi - appreciate the info.
Posted: 11:24 am on March 28th
WesternGardener writes: Thanks for your questions--I hope this information will be helpful.

It takes about 2 months for worms to make usable compost. Worms will freeze in cold winters, so bring the farm inside and keep in a heated basement or other area.


Posted: 8:30 am on March 28th
mitch8 writes: Just a quick question - when you put the second bin on top of the first one, do you remove the lid on top of the bottom bin to use on the top bin and do you also remove the cardboard from the bottom bin to use on the top bin?
Posted: 8:28 am on March 28th
Pastoralia writes: A few pictures would really help.

What is the difference between compost enriched with sheep manure and worm compost?
Posted: 2:32 am on March 28th
mitch8 writes: Great idea - small and perfect for my purpose. But pictures are worth a thousand words. It'd be nice to see a picture of the starter bin, and then the second bin.

About how long does it take the worms to deliver the compost that can be added to your garden? And how would you handle the worm farm during the cold north-east winters? Can the worms survive? Would you bring them indoors?
Posted: 12:47 pm on March 27th
WesternGardener writes: Hey, Mike--Do you have any pictures of your worm tower you could post? The bins work in a similar manner, except there are just two "trays."

Thanks,
Jodi
Posted: 4:18 pm on March 19th
MikeTheGardener writes: What timing!

I just started a worm farm tower. The kids love it. I am now up to tray number two, about to add tray number 3.
Posted: 9:50 am on March 19th
DMChristie writes: I would love to see pictures with these instructions. Thanks for the article!
Posted: 9:40 am on March 19th
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