4-15-07, Starting Our Worm Farm

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Today our new Australia-made Tumbleweed worm farm arrived in the mail. This will be a great supplement to our regular compost pile. We liked the idea of setting up a worm farm because you can place it outdoors in the summer and move it indoors in the winter. That way we can recycle our kitchen waste quickly and efficiently all year round.

We live in New Mexico where our compost doesn’t necessarily freeze hard in the winter. However, I understand that worm farming is very appealing to people where it stays very cold in the winter. Especially if it’s too cold to turn your compost bin.  If it’s cold out, you can set up a worm farm in the garage and compost all year long!

The Australian Worm Farm is pretty cool. It has two durable polypropylene boxes that stack one on top of the other. The top bin sits inside the lower bin and has a series of perforated holes in the bottom. The lid has several perforated breathing holes in it as well.

The bottom part functions as a container to catch the compost tea that drains from the top box. This compost tea is easy to collect and use in your garden as the worms go through the composting process.

The instructions for the worm bin describe how you can remove the top box and collect the liquid from the bottom.

An important part of the way this worm bin is set up is the fact that the lower worm bin has a drain spout. The idea is that you place the bin at a slight angle so that the liquid flows out into a separate cup or container. This is intended to prevent the liquid from getting too high and saturating the worms.

As I mentioned before, because of time and convenience, we decided to start composting with a prefab worm composting bin rather than build our own. The advantage of building your own is that you can adopt the size of the bin to the amount of waste you and your family produces. The City Farmer Website has some great information on how to calculate the square footage of surface area of a handmade worm farm per pound of food scraps.

So today we eagerly set up our worm bin and got to work feeding the worms. We decided to first place the worms indoors in a small closet space that we have in our bathroom. It’s next to the tub so we figured it would be a nice, cool, moist place.

That lasted about a week, and the worms found that they could escape in search of adventure. Some made it as far as the hallway, but most stuck around the bathroom and found a nasty fate on the bottom of a shoe during our haphazard and half-blind morning rituals. I actually read on the MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina) website that worms leaving the worm bin during the first few days of worm farming is pretty normal. They are getting used to their new environment and may tend to wander away from the bin.

We started off feeding our worms with a combination of coffee grinds, tea bags, egg shells, assorted vegetable bits and banana peels. We used materials that were already decomposing a bit from our compost bin, knowing that the worms actually eat the bacteria producing from the decomposition of the food scraps and not necessarily the food scraps themselves.

We followed the instructions and put several layers of wet newspaper down. We put a thin layer of organic soil mix on the bottom before dumping the worms on top. This mix was a well mixed batch of manure, wood chips, and soil.

We’re using plastic as the top layer as the instructions say that this is what works best.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Barbara October 27, 2008 at 12:21 am

I like this site. I am about one year behind you in farming.
So far I share Many of your experiences.
I am lucky my worms can stay out all year in southern Cal.
I did not even KNOW about the worm “tea” part of this…It is like a whole new avenue has opened up for me.
I got into this accidentally…some organic potting soil I bought sat around with the bottom getting moist last winter and it must have HAD reds in it…
so I kept them alive and started a bin for them.
Thanks again,
Barbara

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