Starting A Worm Farm - Choosing A Style
When starting your worm farm, you’ll need to decide which style, if you will make your own bin or purchase one. There are several styles to choose from so let's go over them and the pros and cons of each one.
Plastic Bin A plastic bin is one of the easiest and most economical worm farm. You probably have the materials to put one together. This is the style of worm farm I have and if this is the type of farm you're going with, there are several things to consider with a plastic bin – the color, type of plastic container and size.
COLOR - Worms like dark so the container should keep the light out. If your only option is one that lets light in, consider spray painting the outside to block the light.
TYPE OF PLASTIC CONTAINER – Holes must be drilled for ventilation and not all materials can handle that without breaking. I found Rubbermaid totes easily handled it whereas Sterilite did not. Of the 4 Sterilite bins I purchased, only one did not break when drilling. I was disappointed these didn’t work out because I really loved their vibrant colors.
SIZE – A 14 gallon bin of moist newsprint weighs about 25 lbs. A full 14-gallon bin that is half newsprint and half castings (also known as vermicompost) weighs 45 lbs.
A full bin of castings is heavy. So figure out where the bins will be kept; where they will be harvested; where the castings will be kept; where the castings need to go to be used; where the clean up facilities are…..
My bins are kept in the basement and are moved to the kitchen or outside for harvesting because I don’t have a lot of space in the basement to harvest and I want to be comfortable. Harvesting is the most tedious part of a bin worm farm so I make sure I’m comfortable.
PROS: easiest & economical CONS: labor intensive to harvest and water pooling in the bin is an ongoing challenge.
Stackable Trays This system is a series of stackable trays. Worms start out on the lowest bin and once that bin is finished, food and bedding is added to the next tray. Worms move up to the upper tray and the lower one is left with finished vermicompost. This system is one of the easiest ways to harvest and you’ll never have to worry about pooling water.
A tray of worms can hold about 1000 worms and it will take about 3 months to process.
Two systems that are available for purchase are the Worm Factory and Can O Worms. This system can be easily made by stacking Rubbermaid bins or 5-gallon buckets.
PROS: harvesting is easy and castings are drier CONS: costly to purchase, stacking bins are much smaller; the ventilation can dry it out so moisture level must be checked regularly.
Flow Through System The Flow Through System is ventilated through the bottom of the bin with metal or plastic grates. The worms live & are fed in the top couple of inches while the finished vermicompost goes to the bottom, where it is easily removed.
A metal or plastic grate at the bottom is covered in cardboard, which breaks down over time, giving the finished castings on top of it a chance to compact. By the time the cardboard breaks down, the castings at the bottom are dry, easily loosened and fall through the grate for harvesting.
Flow through systems with grates are typically made yourself and are customized based on your need. They can be built in wood boxes, plastic buckets and even plastic garbage containers. There are many DIY videos online for flow through systems. One I would like to try this winter is with a 5-gallon bucket and drilling holes for thin PVC pipes as the grate at the bottom.
There is one other type of Flow through system that does not have a grate at the bottom. It’s called the Worm Inn, which is a breathable hanging bag using the same premise. This system can be purchased or there are several instructions available on line for making your own.
PROS: costly to purchase, great ventilation and easy harvesting and drier castings CONS: costly to purchase; if building your own, it can be labor intensive; moisture must be checked regularly.
This worm farm is buried in the ground. Because of the cold winters in Nebraska, make sure the bin is buried at least 12 inches in the ground so the worms can survive the winter.
This system can be purchased and the Worm Feast might be what you are looking for. It can also be made by drilling holes in buckets or PVC pipes and placing in the ground with a lid. My Dog Poo Worm Farm is an in ground system and you can find out more information about it here.