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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Few (Hundred) More Mouths to Feed

Cherie Langlois
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

A Worm Factory Composting Worm Bin System
Photos by Cherie Langlois
Several months ago, we purchased a Worm Factory Composting Worm Bin System made from recycled plastic right here in Washington.

For many years we had a simple homemade wooden bin that served our worms and us well until the bottom rotted out.  Building another one had long been on THE LIST, but never seemed to make it into the elite category of projects to actually be started (let alone finished), so we broke down and bought this one instead. 

This ritzy worm condo consists of a bottom collection tray to capture the liquid leachate called “worm tea,” complete with spigot and worm ladder so worms can climb out if they fall in, and stackable trays for the worms to live, eat, and breed in, plus a cover. 

It came with a 16-page instruction/worm care booklet that left me feeling a bit intimidated.  I had no idea, for instance, that worms aren't supposed to eat citrus peels or salty junk foods, or that you could cook them to death if you toss in fresh grass clippings. 

The red wigglers actually require specific care
Extreme hot and cold temperatures are a no-no, so the bin needs to be sheltered from summer sun and, in northern climes, brought inside during winter.      

Apparently these squirmy little creatures need care, just like the rest of our menagerie.

Anyway, this weekend we finally set up our worm bin.  Here's what we did:

1. Put the first working tray on the collection tray base and lined it with wall-to-wall newspaper.

2. Soaked the comfy coconut fiber bedding in water, squeezed it out, and mixed it with shredded paper and a dash of compost on the tray’s floor.

3. Put a few handfuls of food scraps in and covered this with cushy shredded paper, then several sheets of moistened newspaper (I’m thinking these worms will be the most spoiled in the history of wormdom). 

4. Rounded up our worms.  The instructions advise us to purchase worms locally, but Brett had discovered a huge free worm colony in our horse manure pile.  The instructions specify using red wiggler worms, and after careful scrutiny we determined the worms in our pile were reddish and quite wriggly and hence red wrigglers. 

Now for the yucky part:  we plucked the worms from the manure and put them in a bag.  The instructions recommended starting with at least 500 worms, but squirmy masses of worms are not easy to count, so we just grabbed a bunch and called it good.

5. Deposited them in their new home-sweet-home under moistened newspaper, and voila, now I have several hundred more mouths to feed.  Granted, they have teeny-tiny mouths and they’ll be converting our kitchen waste to nutrient-rich compost, but still…

I’ll keep you posted on how they do (unless you’d prefer less slimy subjects!)

~  Cherie 

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A Few (Hundred) More Mouths to Feed

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Reader Comments
So, if I did a compost pile I would still get worms, but if I have a worm farm, they eat more than my veggie scraps, they eat my shredded paper and perhaps my thin cardboard?
Denise, Thousand Oaks, CA
Posted: 10/5/2011 3:25:22 PM
Hi Cheryl,

I know rats can chew through just about anything, but the bin is sturdy hard plastic, and my husband says as long as we only put veggies, fruits, etc. in it shouldn't attract rats. We'll see!
Cherie, Graham, WA
Posted: 4/29/2010 10:41:10 AM
I've always wanted to try one of these but I worry about attracting rats. Is it rat-proof?
Cheryl, Carnation, WA
Posted: 4/27/2010 7:48:12 PM
You bring up an excellent point, Terry! I think the main reason is convenience: you can put the worm bin right outside your back door, and some people even keep them inside their homes--not something you'd want to do with a compost pile :) But you're right, compost piles are a lot simpler!
Cherie, Graham, WA
Posted: 4/19/2010 12:35:31 PM
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