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I have been using the DIY Rubbermaid Worm Bins and have found that my worms were not happy, thus ordered the Worm Factory 360.  After much research, air flow, temp, and ph are the most important elements of a successful worm farm.

With my order of the Worm Factory 360, they have given me a FREE pdf file to share with my friends...thus, here it is:

 

Http://www.wormfactory.us

Table of Contents

The Benefits of Worms Recycling Your Garbage .................2

Equipment and Supplies .......................................................3

Worm Bin............................................................................3

Bedding .............................................................................. 3

Water .................................................................................. 4

Worms ................................................................................ 4

Food Scraps .......................................................................4

The Best Food for Worms ………………………….………… 5

Temperature.......................................................................6

Starting the Process..............................................................6

Select a Location................................................................6

Prepare the Bedding ..........................................................6

Adding the Worms..............................................................7

Adding the Food Scraps.....................................................7

Harvesting the Worms and Compost ....................................7

Application of Worm Castings...............................................8

Lawn................................................................................... 9

Annuals and Perennials .....................................................9

Garden................................................................................ 9

Potted Plants ......................................................................9

Non-aerated Compost Tea.................................................9

Worm Bin Troubleshooting..................................................10

Most Common Problems..................................................10

Mites.................................................................................11

Worms Climbing to the Top of the Bin..............................13

Research on Vermicompost................................................13

FAQ for Vermicomposting & Earthworms ...........................15

Final Words………………………………………………….....18

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

The Benefits of Worms Recycling Your Garbage

Tons of food waste are buried or burned each year at considerable financial and environmental cost. Instead of discarding your food scraps, you can recycle them with the help of worms. Vermicomposting (worm composting) turns many types of kitchen waste into a nutritious soil for plants. When worm compost is added to soil, it boosts the nutrients available to plants and enhances soil structure and drainage.

Many municipalities prefer that food wastes NOT be composted in the backyard compost pile. This restriction helps with issues of pests and odors. A popular way to compost food wastes and small amounts of paper is a worm compost bin.

Red worms (commonly called red wigglers) and brown-nose worms can be used to compost food scraps and paper. Worm compost bins are the ultimate in organic garbage disposal! The worms live in paper bedding into which kitchen scraps are placed. They eat both the paper and the kitchen scraps, and excrete worm castings. Castings are far more potent than compost made from a backyard pile. There are more nutrients in castings, and they are in a form that makes them even more readily available to vegetation.

People often question why this process doesn't smell.

It is actually the rotting portions of decaying food that stink. In worm composting, the worms eat the rotting portion. The fresh portion is then exposed to the air and begins to rot. The worms eat it as it rots. As long as you don't put in too much food for the worms they will eat the food as it rots. Therefore, there is no rotting food left to create an odor. (If your bin smells, you are providing the wrong kinds of food, or too much food.)

Using worms to decompose food waste offers several advantages:

It reduces household garbage disposal costs;

It produces less odor and attracts fewer pests than putting food wastes into a garbage container;

It saves the water and electricity that kitchen sink garbage disposal units consume;

It produces a free, high-quality soil amendment (compost);

It requires little space, labor, or maintenance;

It spawns free worms for fishing.


Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

Equipment and Supplies

The materials needed to start a vermicomposting system are simple and inexpensive. All you will need are a worm bin, bedding, water, worms, and your food scraps.

Worm Bin:

The general rule of thumb is one square foot of surface area for each pound of garbage generated per week. For two people average approximately 3-1/2 pounds of food scraps per week. Four to six people average about 6 pounds of waste per week. Redworms (the type used for vermicomposting) thrive in moist bedding in a bin with air holes on all sides. Keep a lid on the bin, as worms like to work in the dark. Store the worm bin where the temperature remains between 55° and 77°F.

Follow these links for our recommended worm farms and worm bedding.

Bedding:

The worms need bedding material in which to burrow and to bury the garbage. It should be a non-toxic, fluffy material that holds moisture and allows air to circulate. Add two handfuls of soil to supply roughage for the worms. Adding crushed eggshells provides not only roughage but also calcium for the worms, and it lowers acidity in the bin. About 4 to 6 pounds of bedding is needed for a 2-person bin, and 9 to 14 pounds of bedding should be used in a four to six people bin. Worms will eat the bedding, so you will need to add more within a few months.

Suitable bedding materials include:

• Coconut coir

• Shredded paper (such as black-and-white newspapers, paper bags, computer paper, or cardboard) Do

not use glossy paper or magazines.;

• Composted animal manure (cow, horse, or rabbit);

• Shredded, decaying leaves;

• Peat moss (which increases moisture retention); or any combination of these.

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

Water

:

The bedding must be kept moist to enable the worms to breathe. To keep bedding moist, add 3 pints of water for each pound of bedding. You will need about 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 gallons of water for 4 to 6 pounds of bedding. If the bedding dries out, use a plant mister to spritz some water on it.

Worms:

It is important to get the type of worms that will thrive in a worm bin. Only redworms or "wigglers" (Eisenia foetida) should be used (do not use night crawlers or other types of worms). Worms can be obtained from bait shops, nurseries, or by mail from commercial worm growers; the commercial growers are the most reliable source. Add 1 pound of worms to the 2-person bin or 2 pounds of worms to the 4 to 6 person bin.

Food Scraps:

What do worms eat? Technically, worms eat bacteria and fungi. They do not eat the food you give them. Composting worms eat the microorganisms that break down the food you give them.

Feed your worms any non-meat organic waste such as vegetables, fruits, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, and shredded garden waste. Limit the amount of citrus fruits that you add to the bin to prevent it from becoming too acidic. Break or cut food scraps into small pieces so they break down easier. Do not add meat scraps or bones, fish, greasy or oily foods, fat, tobacco, or pet or human manure. Fats, oils, and animal products most likely would break down at some point, but in the meantime would stink and attract pests.

Be sure to cover the food scraps completely with the bedding to discourage fruit flies and molds. One pound of worms will eat about four pounds of food scraps a week. If you add more food than your worms can handle, anaerobic conditions will set in and cause odor. This should dissipate shortly if you stop adding food for a while. Worms should be fed about once a week. It is much better to give them small amounts of food on a weekly basis.

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

So, what’s the best food to put in the worm bin?

There are many things you can feed your worms, generally vegetable scraps and newspaper or cardboard are the best. Below is a list of the most popular foods to feed to your worms. This list should be used as a guide only – if you experiment with other foods try a little at a time, to ensure your worms are happy with what you have given them.

These are some of the best worm foods:

potato peels

tomato

tea bags

banana peels

apple peels

lettuce

cantaloupe

watermelon

pumpkin

Note the above foods are soft and small and will start decomposing quickly. That’s what makes them good worm food.

Less desirable but still usable:

coffee grounds (very good but not in large quantity, can throw in the filter too)

corn husks

dried out rinds and peels

Foods to use in a pinch if you’re just starting a bin or run out of kitchen scraps:

oatmeal

stale bread

cornmeal

Food that will take too long to compost:

pits such as avocado

and peach

corn cob

corn stalk

avocado peel


Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us


You will notice, from looking over the lists, that the more tough and woody the food is, the less desirable it is. Also, using smaller pieces is better. Any uncomposted food can be screened out when you screen your compost and added back to the bin or thrown out.

Unsuitable food:

onion and garlic

spicy foods.

Citrus or acidic fruit should be given in small quantities only (e.g. lemons, oranges and kiwifruit).


Temperature:

Redworms will tolerate temperatures from 50° to 84°F, but 55° to 77°F is ideal.

Starting the Process

Select a Location:

Popular indoor spots are the kitchen, pantry, bathroom, mudroom, laundry room, or basement. If you want to keep your worm bin outside, put it in the shade during the hot summer and shelter it from the cold in winter by placing it in a garage or carport, or putting hay bales around the bin to allow air to circulate around the bin, and keep it protected from flooding, because the worms can drown.

Prepare the Bedding:

If you want to use newspapers, fold a section in half and tear off long, half-inch to inch wide strips (go with the grain of the paper and it will tear neatly and easily). Soak the newspaper in water for a few minutes, then wring it out like a sponge and fluff it up as you add the newspaper to your worm bin. Aim for the bedding to be very damp, but not soaking wet (only two to three drops of water should come out when you squeeze the bedding material).

Spread the bedding evenly until it fills about three-quarters of the bin. Sprinkle a couple of handfuls of soil (from outdoors or potting soil) into the bedding to introduce beneficial microorganisms and aid the worms' digestive process. Fluff up the bedding about once a week so the worms can get plenty of air and freedom of movement.

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

Adding the Worms:

Gently place your worms on top of the bedding. Leave the bin lid off for a while so the worms will burrow into the bedding, away from the light. The worms will not try to crawl out of the bin if there is light overhead.

Adding the Food Scraps:

Once the worms have settled into their new home, add food scraps that you have been collecting in a leak-proof container. Dig a hole in the bedding (or pull the bedding aside), place the food scraps in the hole, and cover it with at least an inch of bedding. After this first feeding, wait a week before adding more food. Leave your worms alone during this time to allow them to get used to their new surroundings. Bury food scraps in a different area of the bin each time. Worms may be fed any time of the day. Do not worry if you must leave for a few days, as the worms can be fed as seldom as once a week. Note: Do not be surprised to see other creatures in your worm bin, as they help break down the organic material. Most of the organisms will be too small to see, but you may spot white worms, springtails, pill bugs, molds, and mites.

Harvesting the Worms and Compost

The compost is ready when the bin is filled with a dark, peat-like substance and no food parts can be identified. After about six weeks, you will begin to see

worm castings (soil-like material that has moved through the worms' digestive tracts). The castings can be used to boost plant growth. In three or four months, it will be time to harvest the castings. Mixed in with the castings will be partially decomposed bedding and food scraps, in addition to worms; this is called vermicompost. You may harvest the vermicompost by a number of methods:

Method 1 – Worm Factory Method: If you own a Worm Factory harvesting compost is very easy. The Worm Factory is designed so the worms will migrate upwards towards the newer food scraps once they have converted the oldest scraps into vermicompost. This means that after 3 or 4 months your compost from the bottom tray will be ready to harvest and all you have to do is simply remove the bottom tray to harvest your compost.


Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us


Method 2 – Migration Method: Place food scraps on only one side of your worm bin for several weeks, and most of the worms will migrate to that side of the bin. Then you can remove the vermicompost from the other side of the bin where you have not been adding food scraps, and add fresh bedding. Repeat this process on the other side of the bin. After both sides are harvested, you can begin adding food scraps to both sides of the bin again.

Method 3 – Light Method: Empty the contents of your worm bin onto a plastic sheet or used shower curtain where there is strong sunlight or artificial light. Wait 20-30 minutes, and then scrape off the top layer of vermicompost. The worms will keep moving away from the light, so you can scrape more compost off every 20 minutes or so. After several scrapings, you will find worms in clusters; just pick up the worms and gently return them to the bin in fresh bedding.

Be on the lookout for worm eggs, they are lemon-shaped and about the size of a match head, with a shiny appearance, and light-brownish color. The eggs contain between two and twenty baby worms. Place the eggs back inside your bin so they can hatch and thrive in your bin system.

All of these methods will leave worms behind. You can try to screen leftovers out with a 1/4" screen. Just gently push the compost through the screen. This is difficult to do when the compost is wet. After you harvest your worm compost and worms start a new bin!

Application of Worm Castings

You can either use your vermicompost immediately or store it and use it later. The material can be mulched or mixed into the soil in your garden and around your trees and yard plants. You can also use it as a top dressing on outdoor plants or sprinkle it on your lawn as a conditioner.

For indoor plants, you can mix vermicompost with potting soil. For top dressing indoor plants, you may want to remove decaying bedding and food scraps from the castings. Make sure there are no worms or eggs in the castings, because conditions in a plant pot will not allow them to survive.

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

You can also make a "compost tea" to feed to your plants. Simply add two tablespoons of vermicompost to one quart of water and allow it to steep for a day, mixing it occasionally. Water your plants with this "tea" to help make nutrients in the soil available to the plants.

Earthworm castings are even richer in nutrients than compost, so they must be used more sparingly. Castings are rich in bacteria, calcium, iron, magnesium, and sulphur and 60 other trace minerals. N-P-K is about 1-.1-.1 according to one source.

Lawn:

Apply castings once per year at 20 lbs. per 1000 square feet.

Annuals and Perennials:

Put a small handful of castings into each hole as you plant. Four times a year, apply castings at a rate of 10 lbs. / 1000 square feet -- OR -- once per year at 20 lbs. per 1000 square feet.

When preparing beds, mix 6 inches of compost into the soil, and then mix in castings at the rate of 20 pounds per 1000 square feet.

Garden:

When germinating seed, place in bottom part of soil. At transplanting time, put a small handful of castings into each hole as you plant. This is also true for bulbs, vegetables, and herbs.

Potted Plants:

Mix a small amount of earthworm castings to your potting soil. Remember that castings are very potent, so you don't need to overdo it. No more than one-fifth of the ingredients should be castings.

Non-aerated Compost Tea:

Put compost in a burlap bag and set in water. Agitate every once in a while. In a few hours to a few days (depending on amount of compost and water) you will have compost tea. You can make compost tea in containers from the size of a watering can to the size of a garbage can, or larger. For use, the tea should be a

Copyright WormFactory.us 2011 Http://www.wormfactory.us

light amber color. If it is darker than that, simply dilute with water. Pour a pint each around shrubs, water your lawn with it, and soak seeds in it before planting.

The compost used to make the tea is still potent. Use it as you would use fresh compost.

Worm Bin Troubleshooting

Most Common Problems:

Problems

Causes

Solutions

Bin smells bad

Over feeding Non-compostables present Food scraps exposed Bin too wet Not enough air

Stop feeding for 2 weeks Remove non-compostables Bury food completely Mix in dry bedding; leave lid off Fluff bedding; drill holes in bin

Bin attracts flies

Food scraps exposed Rotten food Too much food; especially citrus

Bury food completely Avoid putting rotten food in bin Don't overfeed worms

Worms are dying

Bin too wet Bin too dry Extreme temperatures Not enough air Not enough food

Mix in dry bedding; leave lid off Thoroughly dampen bedding Move bin where temp. between 55 and 77°F Fluff bedding; drill holes in bin Add more bedding and food scraps

Worms crawling away

Bin conditions not right

See solutions above Leave lid off and worms will burrow back into bedding

Mold forming

Conditions too acidic

Cut back on citrus fruits

Bedding drying out

Too much ventilation

Dampen bedding; keep lid on

Water collecting in bottom

Poor ventilation Feeding too much watery scraps

Leave lid off for a couple of days; bin add dry bedding Cut back on coffee grounds and food scraps with high water content

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Comment by Michelle Craigmiles on March 12, 2012 at 11:44pm

I hope this helps all beginners...and those who want healthier worms!  Much knowledge can begin at the beginning...Save our worms..Save OUR earth.

Comment by Susan B on March 27, 2012 at 11:38pm

In my experience, it's air flow that's the most important.  Rubbermaid bins without holes in the bottom just don't work well or quickly.  The more oxygen, the more bacteria.  The more bacteria (what the worms actually eat), the more worms and VC.  Worms tolerate a wide range of pH levels, they just don't tolerate rapid changes in pH.  That's why I think flow through bins are the best - they have the best air flow.  

Comment by Alan Robinson on March 31, 2012 at 6:00am

I like my WF 360  I       had it for about 6 weeks now it is doing great !  I started a RM bin about 2 weeks ago

The worm seam to stay at the bottom ? I'am doing a test on both  to see what works better

Comment by Brenda R on April 1, 2012 at 8:15pm

I am enjoying my WF 360, started on 2/27. and it seems to be doing really well, worms seem happy, lots of little ones, which really surprised me . I am so looking forward to my first harvest!

Comment by Michelle Craigmiles on April 2, 2012 at 8:47pm

Just added 1000 RW to my 360.  Also use the DIY bins and those EN and RW are doing great...getting big.  I like the 360 as can add trays as they breed versus sifting thru compost to find the worms.

Comment by Michelle Craigmiles on April 2, 2012 at 10:00pm

Can one set up several working trays at same time or just add trays to 360 once first one in fuly composted?

Comment by Andrew from California on April 2, 2012 at 10:32pm

These upward migration systems are designed to have only one feeding tray at a time. Even though you stop feeding a lower tray, the worms will continue to process it for another 1-2 months. Cocoons hatch and those worms also have to migrate up.

In my experience, material in the lower trays tend to settle/compress below the level where it touches the next tray up. That means you need to check every few weeks and make a mound of the remaining VC so that it touches the bottom of the tray above.

I no longer have such a system (they tend to get too wet), but in the past I harvested the bottom tray when I was ready to start the 4th tray. That means you really only need 3 trays. A 4th/top tray is handy for storing some bedding.

BTW, the leachate collection tray in the bottom was useless for me. I converted it to a pre-dampening tray for bedding. Throw dryish chunks of egg cartons and cardboard in there and it soaks up leachate & moisture.

Comment by Michelle Craigmiles on April 3, 2012 at 12:24am

Thank you Andrew for your advice.  Yes, I did notice water moisture on the actual lid, yet even though keep tap open for the tea worm...none is gathering there.

Comment by Brenda R on April 3, 2012 at 4:01am

Hi Michelle, I just added my fourth tray. Bottom two trays looks pretty good, the majority of the worms are still in the bottom two trays and the material looks pretty well processed I am hoping to have some nice compost by the the end of May.  I have been adding trays a once a tray is full I put on the next tray.   I have the condensation too on the inside of my lid too, but overall it does not seem to wet to me at all, no leacheate for me as well.  I really like my system, so far anyway, lol.  Infact I just orderd 3 more trays.

Comment by Andrew from California on April 3, 2012 at 8:39am

Brenda, please see my earlier comment about checking the lower trays to make sure the material is touching the bottom of the tray above it. Ideally you want the majority of your worms to be working in the tray that is being fed new scraps.

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