Worm farms come in all shapes and sizes. Creating your own DIY worm farm can be a fun way to learn more about this great hobby, especially if you have kids! The best part is, it’s actually very simple. All you’ll need are a couple of plastic containers to modify, a good bedding material, some worms and your unwanted food scraps. This alternative can be a lot cheaper than ordering a commercially available product, making it accessible for just about anyone. So why not start your own environmentally friendly worm farm and give Mother Nature a helping hand?
What Is A Worm Farm?
A worm farm simply refers to a container where you can pour your organic food scraps to allow them to be recycled by composting worms. The worms break down and consume the food given to them, and produce nutrient-rich worm castings as a waste by-product. When you think about it as a “farm”, the castings and the worms themselves are what worm farmers harvest.
Worm farms work by mimicking the habitat of worms so they eat food and reproduce. We can do this by using materials that provide the right kind of food and keep the conditions in the container ideal. Happy worms will more easily consume the food they are given and reproduce. More worms will mean more castings and more waste being converted into a usable product.
What Materials Do I Need to Make My Own DIY Worm Farm?
When making your own DIY worm farm, you’re going to need the following items.
- A few containers to house your worms
- Bedding material
- Organic matter for food
- And last but not least, the worms themselves.
Choosing a Container for Your DIY Worm Farm
A worm bin can be made from a lot of different things, and you can really get creative with what you want to use. A container for your worm farm should be strong, sturdy, and provide some insulation from the heat and cold. They don’t have to be the same as each other, but it does make things sit better if they are.
Plastic tubs, Styrofoam boxes, or even old bathtubs or laundry sinks can be used for containers. The main consideration is that you pick a container that is the right size for you. Remember though, that surface area is more important than depth. You’ll want the container to be at least 10-12″ deep to keep your worms happy. We’ve found that Rubbermaid containers work quite well. When it comes to plastic tubs, you want to ensure that they are opaque and therefore don’t let too much light in. Worms don’t like the light and can get distressed if you use a transparent plastic container.
Using the Right Bedding Material
For bedding material, you want to use organic material that is:
- Free from any chemicals
- Able to be consumed by the worms
- Retains moisture, but does not easily become soaked
- Offers insulation and,
- Allows air to flow through.
When working on a DIY worm farm, you can use recycled material like shredded newspaper, cardboard boxes, leaf litter or grass clippings. You can also buy bedding materials like straw, peat moss, or coir blocks to use. Compost and manure are also brilliant bedding materials that you can either buy or collect. Just ensure that if you’re using livestock manure it doesn’t contain any deworming chemicals or medicines. This can obviously be disastrous for your worms!
The last thing you’ll need is a regular food source for your worms. Luckily, this is probably the easiest thing to acquire, as worms love the fruit and vegetable scraps we usually throw away. They don’t eat everything though, so you be careful of putting in too much of what they don’t like.
So, How Do I Make My Own DIY Worm Farm At Home?
We’re going to take you through how to make a worm farm using some readily available materials you can find around your home or in hardware stores. You can scale up or scale down the size of your worm farm by choosing a container that suits the composting needs of your household.
DIY Worm Farm: Preparing Your Container
Firstly, get the containers that you want to use. It’s a good idea to clean them out with some water, just to make sure there’s nothing nasty in there that might hurt your worms. If the container didn’t happen to have a lid, you’ll need to make one out of something flat, like some timber, or use a lid from something else. To help with ventilation, you may want to drill a large opening in the lid to let oxygen in. If you’re worried about flies and other pests getting in you can always secure a piece of mesh over the hole. Alternatively, you can place your worm farm in a sheltered location and simply leave the lid off.
Next, you want to get some aeration holes into the bottom and sides of the containers. You can either drill them or use a knife to puncture the container (we recommend drilling if possible). You want the holes to be big enough to let moisture and airflow through, but not so big that your worms or castings can spill out. If you’re worried about the worms escaping, you can lay some fabric or a window screen across the bottom to act as a barrier. Remember, oxygen is key for composting. If your bin doesn’t get enough oxygen it will begin to decompose anaerobically and start to smell.
What About Drainage Holes?
You’ll notice that a lot of commercial products contain spigots used to drain excess liquid from your worm bin. The truth is though, that they aren’t always required. You can control how much moisture there is in your bin through what organic material you add to it. If you’re adding a lot of fruit and vegetables with high water content, then you may find your bin gets quite wet. To counteract this, simply add more carbon materials such as shredded paper, cardboard, dried leaves or even hay. This brings us to…
Creating the Worm Bedding
Now it’s time to put your bedding into your new worm farm container. You want to make sure you have good even coverage across the entire container. Your worms will love having a nice cozy home to settle into if you add lots of good quality bedding materials.
Make sure that you have at least 6-9″ of bedding in your container. A great material to use is dehydrated coconut coir which you can buy online or from many gardening stores. Simply place it in a suitably sized bucket of water to let it soften and absorb some moisture, for around 20-30 minutes. Then you’ll want to squeeze out as much water as you can before adding it to your container. You can also add shredded newspaper, dried leaves, hay, or even livestock manure provided it is free from anti-worming chemicals.
Use a variety of bedding materials to give your worms options on where they want to hang out. If your bedding is too dry, just give it a good spray with some water and you should be good to go.
Adding Worms to Your DIY Worm Farm
The size of your container will determine how many worms you can add. The type of worm you’re farming in your DIY worm farm will also impact how dense you can have them. Worms are relatively easy to purchase, and it is best to use bought worms over ones you’ve taken from your garden. This is because not all worm species are good for composting. As a rough guide, you’ll want about 1 lb of worms per square foot of surface area.
Finally, It’s Chow Time!
Once your worms are in, it’s time to add some food scraps as a layer. We recommend waiting for around a week after adding your worms before adding any food scraps. This lets them get used to their new habitat and work up an appetite!
Suitable food scraps that are cut up into small pieces work best. You can either spread the scraps out evenly or place them in one corner of the bin. One common mistake for beginners is overfeeding. By placing scraps in one corner of the bin, you can get an indication of how much is left the next time you feed them. Simply work around the bin and adjust the amount you feed them to ensure they get through it all. Alternatively, you can keep a diary of when you feed them as a record. We recommend feeding your worms just once a week to start with.
Cover everything with some more paper or cardboard sheets, or hessian to act as a blanket for your worms. Then put your lid on to keep everything nice and dark, and voila! You’re done. Congratulations! You now have a working homemade worm farm.
What Other Options Are There?
If building your own DIY worm farm seems a little tricky, or you’re not sure you’ll have the right materials on hand, you can always buy pre-made containers. There are so many options for home worm farms that you’re bound to find something that suits you. The majority will be made of durable plastic. Some will have legs and a tap to collect all the liquid run-off.
The sizes range from small enough to sit on your kitchen bench, all the way up to full-sized production farms that take up a sizable section of your yard! A great thing about pre-made work farms you buy commercially is that they sometimes come with bedding material, soil conditioner, and the worms themselves.
Whichever route you choose to take, you’ll surely love the feeling of being able to recycle your leftover food scraps. For the avid gardeners out there, making your own fertilizer will save you money in the long run. Worm farming really is a win-win situation for you, the environment, your garden, and your worms!
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