When taking care of any creature at home, it is important to become familiar with their needs, and the basics for creating and maintaining the best, optimum living conditions you can.
This is the same principle when raising something like worms – which despite being seemingly lowly creatures, still serve a distinct purpose, and likewise have distinct conditional needs.
But what exactly is the best way to set up a worm bin, and what benefits does this yield?
What Are Worm Bins?
While you might have a certain idea in your head – maybe something similar to a home ant colony – a worm bin is much more of a functional idea, and is used primarily in the breaking down of food and plant matter to create compost, a byproduct that can later be used for fertilization in gardens and on fruits and vegetables.
Also known as a ‘wormery’, these worm bins require at least two distinct layers and compartments: one lower level which is used as a sump to collect fluids, and an upper layer for the plant matter and kitchen waste to be placed so that the process can effectively take place.
How Does It Work?
When plant matter, vegetation, food waste, and all manner of other components are added into the top layer of the worm bin, the worms can then get to work consuming the material, before digesting and excreting it back into the soil within the bin as fertile, useful waste products.
This might sound like a dirty job – and, let’s be honest, it is – but there are few better methods for securing fertile and useful compost that can be used to create lush, healthy grass, soil, and plants.
Will Any Worms Work?
While those without experience might consider all worms to be the same, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and when it comes to composting, there are specific breeds that work better than others.
On the most part, the most common composting worms include: brandling worms, manure worms, red worms, and tiger worms. These species of worms already make their natural homes in the decaying plant and animal matter, and as such it is a perfect natural transition for them to be used in the composting process.
These are generally smaller, and have a redder color than typical earthworms – the latter of which are not considered to be useful for this process, and are seldom used in this way.
What Is Worm ‘Bedding’?
While the term ‘bedding’ might conjure up a cozy rabbit hutch or the sawdust favored by your typical dwarf hamster, it actually refers to the layers of soil, plant matter, and decomposing food waste within which the worms make their home.
This effectively serves the same purpose as the above mentioned set ups, but has the benefit of achieving fertile compost at the same time. As such, if you want the best quality outcome, you need to ensure you follow a few simple steps.
How Deep Should Bedding Be?
In the bottom of the bin, the bedding should roughly consist of an 8 cm (3 1⁄4 inch) thick layer. This should be composed of moist decomposing materials – such as old compost, soil, vegetation, plant matter, and rotting household waste.
Moist really is the key word here, as this can help the process of decomposition, and can better facilitate the whole process. While the worms themselves perform many elements within the process, the right conditions are also key.
Think of it like fermentation – which it sort of is. When fruit has been left out in the sun, it starts to rapidly ripen, and then break down – and this really needs heat and moisture to happen.
Decomposition happens in the same way, and the whole point of the bin is that it creates the perfectly warm, moist conditions under which this process can occur. It also protects the worms, providing them with the perfect environment under which they can grow, thrive, and remain healthy.
What Is The Right Waste To Use?
While you might think that all forms of food waste are appropriate, there are actually some that work better than others, and some that are best avoided.
Waste To Include
The best things to compost include:
- Raw vegetables (except for onions, shallots, leeks, and garlic)
- Any cooked vegetables
- All forms of fruit (except citrus peel)
- Tea bags
- Coffee grounds
- Small amounts of bread
- Newspaper, officer paper, and cardboard (nothing glossy)
- Small amounts of garden waste (leaves, weeds, and other green plant material)
Waste To Avoid
However, there are also some food stuffs to avoid. These include:
- Dairy products
- Fat and grease
- Meat and fish
- Tougher leaves (in large quantities)
- Wood and wood-like material (such as bark)
Things To Be Mindful Of
Once you have your worm bin all set up, there are some things that you need to remember – especially if you want to ensure the best results.
- pH levels – composting worms prefer levels of 6.5-7.0, and dislike extreme acidity
- Ventilation – the worms need ventilation to survive
- Temperature – ideal temperatures for worms ranges from 64-77 degrees Fahrenheit
- Location – avoid in-house set ups, as these can smell bad
- Water – be sure to drain worm bins regularly
And there we have it, everything you need to know about worm bins, and the basic facts that all worm owners need to know.
It’s true that worms play a much larger role in our global (and local) ecosystem than we give them credit for, and incorporating them into home gardening can be a rewarding experience.
However, when taking care of any creature, it is important to familiarize yourself with their specific needs, ensuring that you can maintain a good environment for them to live in. After all, this can be the difference between a thriving and failing composting system.