How To Make A DIY Worm Compost Farm

What do I feed my worms?

 Any nitrogen rich food scraps from the kitchen will do. Fruit and vegetable scraps from the garden will also do nicely. You can put coffee grounds with the filters, tea bags, bread crusts potato skins, molded and spoiled foods, paper napkins, vegetable peels, shredded newspaper, (no color paper or color ink) egg shells. Livestock manure can also be put in the worm bin. If you would rather use a feed type of food, Purina makes a worm chow. This typically sells in the $11 - $12 for 50lb. bag. If you use the worm chow you might want to mix up three cups of crushed limestone per bag. This will make for healthier worms.  

You should avoid putting things like meat, dairy products and very greasy foods. Dog, cat, caged bird manure, pig manure should be avoided in the bin.

What do I put into the bin for bedding?

You can put almost anything into the bin. This is the bedding I prefer to use. This combination is fairly inexpensive and will be easy to maintain. I start with about 60% peat moss, 35% paper, 4% composted cow manure and 1% play sand. Don't forget the water. You want to make sure this combination is really moist before putting worms into it. This combination seems to work well. I use 38 quart plastic containers for my bins. When starting a new bin I put in a pound of worms and about a gallon and a half of bedding, about 3 1/2" - 4" in the bottom of the bin.

How often should I water the bin?

This will depend on the climate you are in and also what type of bins you are using and airflow in the bin. Plastic bins tend to stay wet longer than the wood bins. If you can squeeze a handful of bedding and get a drop of water out of it then it is we enough. You do not want to soak the bin. A wet bin will be a smelly bin, once a bin is wet it will produce methane gas and smell really bad when you open it. If I have a bin that is too wet simply mix a double handful of shredded paper into the bin. This will absorb some of the liquid from the bin and the worms love it. I normally use about 33% of the bin with paper to bedding ratio. You can put up to a 50% paper ratio if you have a really wet bin with no adverse effects. They will eat all the paper you can put into the bin. 

How do I remove worms from the castings or compost?

The easiest way to separate worms from bedding without a harvester. Dump all the bedding out on a big piece of cardboard or plastic in the sun or under a bright light. If putting them in the sun do not leave them for very long because they will get too hot. The worms will go to the very bottom. Keep taking layers of dirt off the top until you have just worms and a little compost. Then take all that’s left and put it back in the bin.

You can also use the screen method if you don't want to wait. Although this method is more work. Use a piece of 1/8" screen and just dump a handful of worms and compost. Shake until only worms and peat moss remain. The 1/8" screen will only let the castings (worm manure) go through. This method works best if your bin is a little drier. If your bin is very wet then this will not work effectively This is the best method to remove only castings from the bin.

You might want to make a few frames out of 1 x 2 stock, use about a 2' square and just staple the screen on the bottom. Make one with 1/8" screen and one with 1/4" screen. Use the 1/8" screen first to separate worms from castings. Then use the 1/4" screen to separate the adult worms from babies and eggs. This is good if your bin is overcrowded and you want to start another bin. Just dump all your babies and eggs into another bin. Add a big handful of worms in there also if you want to use it for composting as well. Otherwise it will take 2 to 3 weeks for the babies to be big enough to compost effectively.

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