What is a worm farm?
…and why on earth should I be interested in making one? I’m so glad you asked! Basically, a worm farm is a form of composting. The quick and easy way to do it involves some worms, a couple of tubs, and something along the lines of lawn clippings or sad produce. So why make one? The worms make some truly fantastic “dirt” for your garden/potted plants, the bin is an environmental-friendly alternative to tossing out old food, and its super low-maintenance once you get it going.
In early January, I was having some serious cabin fever and was craving nice weather and outdoor adventure. I’m sure that you know what this is like. Don’t we all have some version of this in the colder months? Anyway, I decided that starting a worm farm was the perfect solution! Since winters in the Southwest are mild, I figured it would be great to get a head start on making rich fertilizer for spring and summer! I’m now realizing that a few weeks isn’t very long in composting time, but I’m still so glad I got our worm farm started! Making your own is pretty simple, check it out:
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2 storage bins with lids (we went with these 18-gallon storage bins so we don’t have to switch them out as often. If you don’t have much space, a smaller bin will definitely work!)
Drill and ¼” and 1/16” drill bits (we love our Dewault cordless drill that we got as a wedding gift!)
Dirt (worms need dirt for digestion-who knew!)
Worms (of course! We used nightcrawlers, but worms are worms. Use whatever kind you like!)
Worm food (compost material- see the list below for dos and don’ts and download the free printable!)
1. Use your ¼” drill bit to drill holes in the bottom of both tubs. Making 18-22 evenly-spaced holes should be good. I think we did 20 in each tub. Next, use your 1/16” drill bit and make some holes for ventilation in the lid and around the top of the bin. Drill holes all the way around the tub, about 1 inch apart. Drill 25-35 holes in the lid.
2. Next, you’ll tear or cut the newspaper into strips and make a nice, thick layer (a couple inches deep) in the bottom of one bin. (The second bin can be set aside until you are ready to harvest the compost from your first bin). As you put the newspaper in, spray it with water from a spray bottle to make it damp, but not soggy. You may need to stir it up with your hand to make sure that all the newspaper is damp.
3. When your newspaper is good and wet, sprinkle in a handful of dirt and add some worm food. You can see from the pictures that we added leaves and grass from our yard, as well as some banana peels, and other produce scraps. When the worm farm is all set, prop it up on bricks or logs on top of the second log to catch any of the “juices” that drip out from the bottom. This will make a great fertilizer.
4. Finally, just add your worms and let them get to work! That’s all there is to it. Keep adding compost to your worm farm in order to keep the worms fed, and the fertilizer coming! Here is a picture of our compost bin, 4 months in. Lots of different goodies get tossed in on a weekly basis, and some break down faster than others! We haven’t harvested our first bin yet, but we will likely do so when it’s about 2/3 full or so.
I couldn’t keep myself from sharing this adorable picture of our sweet pup, Duke. While we were making the bin, and filling it up, he was so intrigued! Each time we added something new, he gave the bin a good sniff and just looked at us like “what is going on?” Even still, he will come over and investigate every mushy banana or handful of egg shells that we toss in.
Dos and Don’ts of Composting:
Fruits and veggies
Seeds/pits from fruits and veggies
Lawn clippings/plant matter
‘Shiny’ printed materials (think magazines versus newspaper)
Onions, garlic, and citrus peels- apparently, these are too strong for the worms.
Click the photo to download the free compost guide printable!
“Where can I find worms?” You have two choices here-dig some up outside or buy some. We decided to buy ours and found them in the fishing section at Walmart. You can also buy from “outdoor” stores that sell fishing supplies, or online.
“That all sounds great, but I live in a tiny apartment and I don’t really have room for a bin full of worms and old food.” That’s another great thing about this kind of composting: it doesn’t take up much space so you can do it anywhere! Just use one bin (instead of two) that’s about half the size of the one I’m recommending and keep it under the kitchen sink (I would also refrain from drilling holes in the bottom!).
“Won’t the worm farm smell bad?” Maybe at first, I’ll give you that. Thank goodness for the lid that snaps on and contains the smell! But once things start to break down, and settle into a ‘system,’ it should start smelling more earthy than rancid. If it continues to smell bad after a few weeks, it may be too wet, so consider putting things like newspaper and cardboard into the bin.
“Should I be stirring this thing?” Turning your compost will definitely help it to break down faster and will keep it from getting too moist, but it’s not absolutely necessary. To stir it up, gently use a small shovel or something similar. Be sure not to drag the newspaper worm bedding up from the bottom, and just scoop the bottom stuff up and plop it on top. And just be aware of your worms in there!
“I’m ready to use my compost, so how do I get the worms out of there?” This is where your second bin comes in. Put a layer of damp bedding into the bottom and start tossing your compost materials into the second bin. Place the first bin inside the second bin, directly on the new compost. The worms will naturally search out the new food source in the second bin by wiggling out through the holes in the bottom. Within 4-6 weeks, they will be moved in to the second bin, and you first bin of compost is ready to use!
I am still pretty new to worm-farming, so I would love to hear your advice, tips, or success stories in the comments! You can also leave any lingering questions in the comments, and I’ll get you an answer a.s.a.p. 🙂