Several weeks ago when starting a series of composting blogs, I promised that I would share my experiences starting up a worm cycling bin. The post is finally here folks!
What is worm cycling?
In a nut shell– it’s basically another way to turn food scraps and paper waste into rich compost/worm castings. Casting is a fancy word for WORM POOP. But don’t let this turn you off, worm castings are actually great fertilizer and have several other uses, such as a natural deterrent for white flies and other pesky gnats that lay their eggs in the soil.
What do you need?
1. Worm box or worm cycling bin. But you can also easily make rich compost and worm castings in open air containers as well (see this post). I have been doing this for years and have only started my worm box a month or so ago.
2. 1-2 Boxes of Live Red Worms. You can find these at your local garden store or you can order them online. I have heard that other kinds of worms work as well, but red worms seem to be the most popular.
3. The worm cycling bin that I purchased from the city came with a basic starter pack (instructions, shredded paper, and coconut shell pulp).
4. Finally, you will need about 1-2 cups of food scrap to start with.
How to set up your worm bin/worm box:
1. Follow the instructions on your specific bin for assembly and set up. Mine was really easy– I just had to stack the base and bottom tray and screw in a few bolts. Easy peasy!
2. Add a sheet of damp newspaper to the bottom of the bottom bin to discourage worms from escaping out the holes. Mixed shredded paper, some of the coconut shell pulp (you may need to soak it for a few minutes in water first), and a handful of dirt (if you have some on hand). Add paper/pulp/dirt mixture to the bin on top of the newspaper.
Other Bedding Options:
- Grit– grit is small loose particles of crushed rock or shells. Grit helps the worms to crush their food and adds minerals to the finished compost.
3. Place 1-2 cups of food scraps in the corner of your bin and then add your worms (and everything in their container. Place another damp sheet of newspaper over the worms and scraps before adding the bin lid to discourage them from escaping out the top of the bin.
4. Put the lid on and leave a light on for 36 hours. I placed my bin in our breakfast nook and then turned the light on at night before going to bed. This keeps the worms from trying to escape the bin as they explore their new home. Bins are fine to be inside and there shouldn’t be any odor. I put mine out on our patio 3-4 days after starting the it. People who live in extreme climates are recommended to keep the bin indoors. Worms can usually survive in bins ranging from 40-85 degrees.
Things you can add to your worm cycler:
Some people are meticulous about keeping a “balanced” bin. This means that there is an equal ratio of “green” and “brown” materials and an optimal ph level. Not I. I simply fill the bin with whatever I have on-hand without paying too much attention to the actual chemistry of the container. Obviously, this comes with certain risks, like “overfeeding” and potentially harming worms with damaging ph levels or an overload of certain materials (like onions, citrus, etc.). Personally, I don’t have time to worry too much about my bin’s chemistry, and luckily, I haven’t had any issues with any of my composting experiments. The hardest thing for me to get just right is the watering, which is a trial and error process anyway. As long as you give the mixture a good turning every now and then, it pretty easy to see if things are working out right.
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags
- Pasta & Cereals
- Paper & Junk Mail
- Unsalted Nut Shells & Dry Leaves
Other things I feed my worms regularly:
- Egg cartons, shredded cardboard, toilet paper rolls
- Wine corks
- Garden waste
Best of luck!
UPDATE: My Wormcycler had a mini-outbreak of fruit flies! Ewww. Ironically, never in all my years of open-air composting have I ever had fruit flies. Alas, I took care of the problem. Troubleshooting/solutions coming soon!