Did something about worms and their castings grab your attention and fill your head with ideas?
The challenge with new and exciting things is that we can become impulsive and act emotionally. In turn, spending lots of money on things, before really finding out if they are a good fit for us.
It seems that as soon as we make a decision to try something, Google, Amazon, EBay, and Facebook start sending us notifications of products that cost hundreds of dollars, and they are portrayed as "necessary" to start on your worm journey.
Well, you don't need any of it. That's right, I would actually recommend you don't buy anything...to start (other than a small amount of worms).
What is really necessary in the beginning is experience and experiential knowledge. Worms are livestock. They're living things, and just like any other living thing, they have needs to ensure their health.
So, I would encourage you to start simply... build a bin with stuff you most likely already have in your home. Then buy just enough worms for you to see results in a short amount of time. Once you feel comfortable with this small amount of worms, the sky's the limit. Worms are infinitely scalable to fit your goals.
"I don't want to tell you what to buy. I just want to help you think about why you're buying it." - Alexa Von Tobel
Simple Worm Bin Materials
Here's what you are going to need:
- 2 Plastic totes approx 24"x 16" (light-proof) with 1 lid
- Drill & 1/4" drill bit (or close to it)
- Shredded Newspaper and/or Brown Cardboard
- 1 lb. of red wiggler worms
Before we start loading our bin, we need to drill holes in one of the totes for a couple reasons.
- Worms and microbial life are both living things and require oxygen to survive. We need to make sure some holes are small enough that the worms cannot escape, but plenty off them so there is lots of airflow throughout the bin.
Holes for oxygen should be drilled in the top of the tote, and high on the sides so that they are above the level of the bedding.
- Worms require a moist environment to survive. The bedding must always stay wet because worms breathe through their skin. It is also important that the bedding does not get too wet or else the worms can drown.
We need to make sure some holes are drilled on the bottom of the tote so that any excess moisture has a way to escape.
Step 1 - drill approximately 20 (1/4") holes throughout the lid of the bin.
Step 2 - drill (1/4") holes approximately 4" down from the top of the tote. Space these holes 3-4" apart all around the top.
Step 3 - drill approximately 10 (1/4") holes on the very bottom of the tote
Worms need a bedding material for a few reasons;
- Anything that is used for the bedding is actually part of the diet for the worms. they will eventually eat it and turn it into castings. There are many things that can be used for bedding and most of the best are free waste products such as cardboard, newspaper, composted grass clippings (not chemically treated), composted manures, leaves, etc.
- Maintain Consistent Temperatures
- Worms can be very sensitive to temperature changes. Each type of worm has a specific preferred temperature. Having bedding that they live in allows the worms to go deeper or shallower in the bedding which helps them control their temperature.
- Retain Moisture
- Because worms need to stay moist. Bedding helps retain moisture for them.
Step 1 - Shred the newspaper and cardboard up as small as you can. You can use a shredder, scissors, or even simply ripping it by hand. The smaller you can get it, the easier the worms will be able to consume it.
Step 2 - Wet the bedding thoroughly. Bedding should be wet, but not soaked. If you have a moisture meter [check price], the approximate level is around 80%. Typically, however, I go by feel for my moisture content. I pick up a nice handful of the bedding, and I squeeze it…I don't want water dripping out - but I want it to feel that if I squeeze just a little harder, I may get a drop or two.
Step 3 - Fill your container 3-4" high with the shredded bedding
Add The Worms
The last thing to do is add your worms. When worms come in the mail or from a local seller, they are sometimes all wrapped up in a ball. Place them right on top of your bedding and also dump any bedding that came with the worms on top. There is no need to separate the worms, they will separate and burrow into the bedding within a short period of time.
Its time to put the lid on and let the worms work their magic!
At this point you can officially call yourself a worm farmer! As exciting as this is, this is when the responsibility starts. In the beginning, it's important to monitor your worm bin at least once a day. Your job is to maintain:
- Temperature - 65-85 degrees F
- Moisture - 70%-80%
There's something about caring for a living thing that just feels good. The responsibility, while large, seems small in comparison to the joy it brings. I wanted to share the simplicity of a first worm bin to help cut through all the noise and the sales pitches that are online. I want to make this experience about you and how you feel and learn throughout the process, not about products.
Sometimes complexity is created and then exhausted for financial gain. But who does that really help?
Optimal worm production in the future will require changes to a different bin type, bedding, even the worm types. But this will come naturally through continued experience and learning.
The real function of any formal education is to use existing information and add value to it through mentorship and community. I want to encourage you to find mentors and interact with the Worm People community - that is the important part. Remember, good information consumed too quickly can render itself useless if we just shut down when we get overloaded.
So start small, work within your limitations, but know that "From small beginnings come great things."
Have a wonderful worm week!