Start With a Container
You can buy various sizes and types of commercial worm bins that are perfect for indoor or outdoor use. If you are handy with a hammer, you can build your own bin out of wood. For those of you on a budget, a plastic bucket or rubber container with a lid can also be used. If you are thinking of something larger, a raised garden bed might be right for you. If you choose to build your own or use a plastic bin, then be sure to drill holes in the lid and in the bottom to allow the worms to breath. Then cover the holes with mesh or landscaping cloth to prevent the worms from escaping. For raised garden beds, be sure to choose a shaded location or create shade with a covered frame or lattice. The Ideal temperature range for worms is 60F to 80F. If the ambient temperature outside is cooler or the nights are cooler, the worms will usually be fine because the decomposing organic matter will generate heat. If you plan on keeping your DIY bin inside, then remember to place something underneath it to catch any worm tea that drips out of the air holes.
Fill the Container with Worm Bedding
For composting worms like red wigglers, the most common form of bedding is shredded damp newspaper. Avoid glossy and color print as the chemicals are not good for the worms. Shred the paper into ½ inch to 1 inch strips. Moisten the paper. You can spray the paper until it fills like a damp sponge or you can soak the paper and squeeze out the excess. The shredded paper should be moist, but not dripping wet. Fluff up the paper to there is lots of air for the worms to breath and space for them to burrow. Fill the bin about three fourths of the way full. For a 10 gallon bin, you will need about 50 pages of torn newspaper.
Alternative bedding materials include shredded cardboard, shredded fiber egg cartons, and coir. Coir, or coco-coir, is available in a variety of “brick” sizes, which expand to roughly five times their volume when shredded. Whatever bedding material you choice, make sure it is moist and fluffed to create lots of air space for worms to dig in.
Sprinkle the fluffed newspaper or other bedding with 2 to 4 cups of potting or soil or soil from your yard. The worms need the grit in the soil to help them digest their food. Plus, the soil introduces beneficial microorganisms.
Add and Feed Worms
Introduce your worms to their new environment on a sunny day. The worms will squiggle down into the moist, dark environment to seek protection from the sun. Do not feed the worms right away. Let them acclimate to the new surroundings for five to seven days before feeding. Your worms can process roughly half their weight in organic matter per day. Weigh your worms before introducing them to their new home. Then feed them about three times their weight per week in one feeding or split into two feedings. Bury the food scraps under a layer of bedding material. A sheet of dry newspaper on top of the bedding material will retain moisture, reduce odors, and prevent fruit flies from invading.
Feed your worms fruit or vegetable scraps including rinds, peels, husks and cores. Vegetables can be cooked or raw. Even rotting or moldy fruits and vegetables are fine. Got overripe bananas, feed them to the worms. Crushed egg shells are fine, too. They help add the gritty material that worms need for their digestion. Chopping or even blending the food into smaller pieces will make it easier for the worms to eat. Avoid citrus as worms just do not like it, but it will not harm them. More importantly, absolutely no salt, meat, bones, dairy, oil, or animal products of any kind (except the crushed egg shells).
Just a few final reminders. Keep the bedding moist and not wet. If bedding is dry, spray with water. If bedding is wet, add more newspaper, crushed eggshells or calcium carbonate. Fluff the bedding weekly to bring in needed oxygen. Feed worms once or twice a week and keep them away from light and heat sources.
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Article Added on Monday, July 28, 2014
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