First you will need to obtain one or morecontainers, which may be either plastic, woodor metal. Use your imagination and recyclean old bath tub or wooden box, drawer or aplastic basin, bin or crate, or alternatively buyor build one. Wooden containers providegood insulation and, because they areabsorbent, excess moisture in the wormerymay be less of a problem. Plastic containersare light weight and convenient.Experiment and find out what worksfor you and your worms.The container should ideally be 20-40cm deepwith a relatively large surface area (about 40 x40 - 60cm), because worms like to work nearthe surface. A shallow container also allowsfor better aeration of the bedding. As a guideallow approximately 2,000 cm
surface area(or a volume of 60 litres) for every 200 gramsof food waste per day. You can calculate theamount of waste you generate daily bycollecting potential worm food in a containerfor one week, weighing it, and then dividingthe weight by seven.Depending on size, drill or punch 8-12 holesof about 10mm diameter in the bottomof the container for aeration and drainage.Worms need air to live. If contents becometoo wet, drill more holes. Bins should beraised up on bricks or wooden blocks toaid air circulation and drainage.By placing a plastic tray underneath to captureexcess liquid, you can obtain an excellentliquid plant fertiliser
use diluted at the rateof 1 part liquid to 10 parts water.Cover the bin to conserve moisture andprovide a dark environment for the worms.Indoors, place hessian or similar material onthe surface or a sheet of black plastic on topof the container; outdoors, use a lid or coverto keep out scavengers, predators and water.The cover should be lose fitting to allow formovement of air.Consider using several containers for ease oflifting and moving. Wormeries are heavy,take care when lifting
bend your knees notyour back.
WORM BIN LOCATION
Locate your worm bins where access isconvenient. Worm bins can be kept indoorsall year round and outside during the mildermonths. Indoors a basement/garage, utilityroom, kitchen or any spare space may beutilised as long as the temperatures remainbetween 10-25
C.Outdoors, bins can be kept in sheds andgarages, on verandas, patios, porches,balconies or in the backyard. A sheltered spotthat gets some sun is ideal, but be careful asa bin in full sun may get too hot, especially insummer. When outside temperatures dropbelow 10
C, bins should either be movedinside or kept well insulated if left outdoors.Wrapping polythene bubble pack (packagingmaterial), carpet or something similararound the bin for insulation, willhelp prevent the worms fromfreezing during the winter.
Two species are especially suited for wormcomposting, namely tiger worms
and red worms
(which are also known as red wriggler ormanure worms). These types thrive on moistorganic materials such as food scraps, eatingas much as their own weight per day. Therecommended ratio of worms to food is: forabout 400 grams per day of food waste (atypical amount for a family of four to six), usea minimum of 500 grams of worms (just over1000 worms) and preferably 900 grams (about2000 worms). It doesn
t matter if you areunable to obtain this number of worms initially
just reduce the quantity of food fedaccordingly. If you provide ideal conditions,the worm population will steadily increase,doubling their numbers every 40 or so days.
The worms require a moist bedding in whichto live and lay their eggs. Suitable materialsinclude shredded and moistened newspaper(avoid coloured print, and tear newsprint intostrips about 25mm wide) as well ascardboard, peat, straw, aged manure orcompost. Other materials such as old grassclippings and other dead plant debris can beused, but make sure they don
t heat up asthis could be fatal for the worms.Sawdust is not recommended due to its resincontent. Experiment with different beddingmaterials, for worms like a varied diet.A mixture of ingredients is quite acceptable.Addition of one or two handfuls of coarsesand or topsoil (preferably silty loam) willprovide the grit that the worms need to grindtheir food. Fill three quarters of the worm binwith damp bedding that has the consistencyof a squeezed out sponge. It must be moistbut no soggy.Soak overnight to wet bedding if necessary,allowing time to drain or squeeze out theexcess moisture. Gently place bedding inposition avoiding compaction, as air spacesare necessary for successful composting,helping to control odours and facilitating freermovement and air for the worms.
Setting Up a Wormery -What You Need & How To Do It
SUITABLE WORM FOOD:
Worms are omnivorous, eating both plant and meat tissue, so most organic waste can becomposted. They will eat most kitchen vegetable/fruit scraps or peelings, shredded paper,e.g. handy towels, tea bags/leaves, coffee grounds/filters, crushed egg shells, bread scraps,leftover cereal, cottage cheese, plate scrapings, biscuit crumbs, even ice cream. Meat/fishscraps and dairy products may also be used, but feed in moderation, making sure you bury(not too deeply) them in the bedding to stop odours and discourage flies. Meat and fish scrapsare not recommended until you are familiar with worm composting. If odours are troublesome,these ingredients are best left out. It is beneficial to occasionally add a little semi-maturecompost (past heating stage), aged horse manure or similar to your system. This providesa source of decomposer micro-organisms which help to soften the food for the worms,as well as providing additional food.
Where to Obtain Your Worms
Worms live wherever a good supply of organic matter is available.You can check your or a friend
s compost heap for worms, visit horse stables or a farmer with amature manure heap and collect the worms. The kids will love this! Or else purchase themfrom a local or mail order source. Phone ARC on 366 2000 for a list of suppliers.