The Scoop on Building a Worm Farm
The Ultimate Guide to Vermiculture
If you're looking to save money and get healthier soil in your garden, a worm farm is the perfect solution.
You'll be able to turn your food scraps into rich compost while feeding your worms with kitchen scraps and other carbon-rich materials like shredded paper or leaves.
Worms are great at recycling food and turning it into rich soil—and they don't need much care!
Here's everything you need to know about building a worm farm for your home.
Choose the right worms
Choosing the right type of worms is an important step in building your vermiculture farm.
Red wigglers are the most common worm for composting because they're easy to care for and reproduce quickly. They eat a lot of food and produce a lot of compost—which makes them an ideal creature to have in your worm farm.
Additionally, red wigglers aren't fussy about humidity or temperature (they like dark, damp places) so if you want to keep your farm indoors or in a humid environment like Florida, they'll do just fine!
If your goal is a more advanced worm farm, you can try the Swedish Red Wigglers. They're smaller than red wigglers and have a longer lifespan (about 2 years), but they do require more care.
They need humidity levels around 70% and a temperature between 50-75 degrees Fahrenheit. They also prefer to be fed on fruit and vegetable scraps, so if you're looking for something more sustainable or just want a different type of composting experience, this is a great option!
Pick a bin that's right for you
You can use any type of container for your vermiculture farm, but make sure it's large enough to hold all your worms.
You'll also need a way to easily clean it without affecting the worms inside. A plastic bin will be easier to clean than a wooden crate or bucket, which you would have to empty out completely and scrub down before putting your worm farm back in.
If you choose a plastic bin, make sure it has holes in the bottom so that moisture can escape. If not, moisture could build up and cause mold or mildew growth on top of your compost heap—which means bad news for both yourself and your worms!
The container should also be easy to access and move around. If you plan on keeping your worm farm in a basement or garage, for example, it shouldn't be too heavy to lift or too large to move out of the way when necessary.
Keep your worm farm in a cool, dry place
The ideal place to keep your worm farm is in a cool, dry place. Be sure not to put it in direct sunlight or an area that gets cold, as this could kill off your worms and make them sick.
In addition, if you live somewhere with high humidity (for example, the Pacific Northwest), you may want to consider keeping your vermiculture farm inside on a bookshelf.
With enough sunlight and ventilation, you can also keep your worm farm outside. Just make sure that the worms have a place to hide from the rain and protection from the elements so that they won’t get too cold in winter.
If you’re having trouble finding the right place for your worm farm, consider using a small fan to increase ventilation. You can also try placing it near an open window or outside on a table where there is some air flow.
Give them lots of air flow
Speaking of air flow, this is essential to the worms’ survival. You can provide air flow by using a fan or opening windows in your worm bin, but be careful not to let any rain or snow get inside. If you do use a fan, make sure it doesn’t blow directly on the bedding layer—you want it to circulate around the whole system.
You should also make sure that there are holes in your bin for ventilation, as well as gaps between your lid and bin so that oxygen can seep through.
Check regularly with a thermometer (or even just by putting your hand down into the bedding) to ensure that there isn't too much heat or cold coming from inside of it; if either one gets too extreme, then it can kill some of your compost worms.
If you notice that your bin is getting too hot or cold, there are a few things that you can do to fix the problem. If it's cold outside, then adding some insulation (like bubble wrap) around the bottom of your bin will help keep heat from escaping. If it's hot outside, placing some ice cubes in a small plastic baggie and placing them on top of your bedding will help cool down your system without having to open up the lid.
Mix in "browns," or carbon-rich foods
In general, any type of food can be used for your worm farm. However, you should remember to mix in "browns," or carbon-rich foods like leaves and newspaper.
Brown materials contain carbon, which is needed by worms to produce vitamin B12 and other nutrients that are essential for their health. The inclusion of brown material will help keep your worms healthy!
Some examples of browns are: leaves, newspaper (without glossy ink), cardboard egg cartons (empty), paper towels (used dry), scrap cardboard boxes and old magazines (no glossy pages). Here is more information on using compost in your worm farm.
You can also use food scraps and kitchen waste to feed your worm farm. The best way to do this is to place it in a covered bin, like a garbage can. You may want to add soil or dirt to the bin so that your worms have something to crawl on. When you see eggs or worms coming out of the material, it's time to start feeding your worms!
If you aren't sure about a food, it's best to avoid feeding it to your worms. If you are unsure about whether or not something is safe for your worms, check with a local vermiculture expert.
Keep track of your worms
Another key part of vermiculture is keeping track of what you're feeding your worms, their temperatures, what you've added and much they have broken down. You can do this by using Farmbrite, on online farm and livestock management tool. Try today for free.
Choose the right bedding
Be sure to use bedding like sand, shredded paper or small wood chips that are free from chemicals or dyes.
The most important thing is to sure your bedding is non-toxic and easy to find so you can replace it easily.
Try not to use any type of paper that might contain dyes or chemicals as these can be harmful for the worms and will affect their health over time. You may want to try shredded newspaper instead of regular paper, as it's softer on the worms’ skin when they crawl through it.
You can also use shredded cardboard or paper bags, as long as they aren’t coated with plastic. You should avoid using any type of plastic in your worm bin because worms cannot digest it and it will contaminate your compost pile.
How to set up your worm farm
Once you have your bin, the first step in setting up your worm farm is to fill it with bedding. Then you can add your worms, making sure they're covered with another layer of moist bedding before adding food.
If you choose to use newspaper as a bedding material rather than soil or compost, be sure not to use glossy paper because it can cause irritation to the worm’s skin.
If you're using a plastic bin, it's important to note that these containers should never be used for storing food. They are not airtight and will allow oxygen to escape, which can cause your worms to die.
Maintaining your worm farm
If you’re looking for a way to keep your worm population healthy and happy, crushed eggshells are a great addition to your farm. They can provide your worms with calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc—and even copper in the case of older eggs. Eggshells will also help to maintain proper pH levels in your worm farm.
This is especially important if you are growing your own food waste in an urban area where the soil may be low in nutrients. Some experts recommend adding crushed eggshells on top of each layer of food waste as it is added to the worm farm so that they get exposed every time they need it.
The problem with crushed eggshells is that they can be messy. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to add too much or put the wrong type of egg in your worm farm (like duck eggs).
If you want to use crushed eggshells, it’s best to crush them into small pieces with a hammer or pestle. You can also use whole eggs if you are careful not to add too many of these at once.
The benefits of a worm farm
A worm farm is a great way to recycle food waste and turn it into rich soil. Worms are natural recyclers, eating up to 1/3 of their body weight each day and processing it through their digestive system. They poop out the nutrient-rich leftovers, called castings, which can be used as fertilizer for plants.
The worms will eat your food waste, including meat, dairy and even fish. All of these foods are high in protein and minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. The worms will also eat food scraps like breads, fruits and vegetables.
You can compost your food waste in a bin, but the process may take up to three months. Or you can use a worm farm to speed things up! Feed your worms once or twice a week with fresh fruit and vegetable scraps like potato peels or carrot tops. If you have meat scraps they will eat those too!
Worms are great for the environment because they produce little to no waste and don’t require any electricity or filters. They also help reduce your carbon footprint by reducing food waste sent to landfills.
Now you’re ready to start your own worm farm!
Vermiculture is a great way to recycle food waste and create your own compost for gardening. You can save money and improve your garden soil with this easy type of farming that has been used for thousands of years.
The best part is that once you have everything set up, worms farms are fairly low maintenance.
Courtney Garrett is a freelance writer and editor traveling the world as a digital nomad. She earned her Bachelor of Animal Science with a specialization in Livestock Science and Management in 2019, and has worked with dairy cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, chickens, and more over the past 10 years. When not writing, she enjoys horseback riding, swimming, and taking walks with her Havanese puppy, Ella.