You’ve decided to start a worm farm! A unique, but rewarding journey awaits you. As you tell your friends and family that you have worms you must be prepared to despise the shame of the world if you are to inherit the joys of home worm composting.
Well - maybe it’s not that dramatic.. but if you go through all the information compiled on this post, you will be a worm whisperer in no time!
We will go over
The Needs of an Earthworm
Which Worm Species Should I Use?
For 90% of beginners you'll want to start with Red Wigglers. But, if you're curious to compare with other composting worms, check out this post:
What Temperature do I need to Keep My Worm Bin At?
The ideal temperature is around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the most efficient temperature for food consumption rate as well as reproduction rates. However, they will do well anywhere between 60-80 degrees. As temperatures get hotter or colder from that range, their performance will slow down and they may eventually die.
If you are using Red Wigglers or European Nightcrawlers, they can begin to die at temperatures over 85 degrees, or around 32 degrees.
Tropical composting worms, such as African Nightcrawlers, can begin to die over 85 degrees, or under 50 degrees or so.
Similar to humans, of the needs for air, water, and food, air is the most important for worms.
Maintaining conditions where oxygen is present throughout a system - aerobic conditions - is the #1 guiding principle you should keep in mind when introducing organic matter or water to your bin.
If there is no oxygen (anaerobic conditions )the bin will become acidic, create foul odors, attract pests, and the worms will escape or die trying.
If there is oxygen present, the bin will remain at an appropriate pH level, there will be no foul odors, no pests, and the worms will be too happy to even consider making an escape.
Read more about keeping the worm bin aerobic here:
Having the appropriate moisture level in your bin is critical to success. Too much water and it will inhibit oxygen, which can be fatal to your bin. If there is too little, decomposition cannot occur. The downsides of under-watering your bin are much less significant than the downsides of overwatering you bin.
Never add too much water that it jeopardizes aerobic conditions in your bin.
Worms eat decomposing organic matter. They can/will eat just about anything organic with a few exceptions like meat, dairy, citrus, and spicy foods.
There are 2 classifications of organic matter in a worm composting context; Bedding and Food.
Materials that will encourage aerobic conditions in any quantity, and are not prone to heating up from high nitrogen are labelled as "Bedding". These are things like shredded cardboard, newspaper, fall leaves (not fresh green leaves), straw, hay, coco coir, etc.
Bedding provides a stable aerobic environment for the worms. They still eat bedding, but its purpose is more so for maintaining a stable aerobic environment rather than providing nutrition. Your bin should be 100% bedding when you first start.
A quality bedding mixture will be high in carbon (more than 40:1 parts carbon to nitrogen), absorb and retain moisture, and provide airflow.
A good bedding at a good moisture level is synonymous with aerobic conditions, so it is crucial to make sure you have good bedding.
As you gain experience, you will be familiar with what worms look like/act like when they are happy or unhappy. Once you have figured this out, there are many questions that you can have answered by “asking” your worms rather than people online. So pay attention to your worms, learn to speak their language and you’ll be a worm pro before you know it!
If you've read this far, thank you for sticking it through! You will have an awesome start to your worm bin and feel free to call or text me with additional questions, or post in the "Community Questions" section of the forum!