Start Worm Composting Free (or at least really cheaply)

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Beginning worm farming can be as cheap as free or as expensive as you choose. Because many begin vermicomposting to keep waste from the landfill and be more environmentally conscious we will begin by using free and recycled materials and tips to getting worms locally as cheap as possible. You’ll need a bin, bucket or container to start with. Sometimes places like bakeries or restaurants will let you have a free 5 gallon bucket or you can check Craigslist, freecycle or another local online classified (or newspaper classified ads) to see what type of container you can trade for or simply pick up. You may already have a clean bucket, storage tote, crate or other suitable container to use as a worm bin. Almost any uncontaminated and clean container can be used.

You’ll need to find a bedding material, cardboard newspaper, straw, very dry grass, autumn leaves and aged manure are just a few things you can find to use for free and save from a landfill.

To find local worms cheaply or free try local online classified searches for such terms as “red wigglers” “compost worms” “worms” if you find someone selling worms, message or email them and see if you can make a barter, maybe you mow their lawn for a set amount of worms, maybe that person wants a grass skirt just like the one you inherited from odd uncle William, whatever it is try to trade first and pay (but not overpay) if you must. Properly moisten your bedding as described in (fill later) and place it in your bin or bucket, add your worms and possibly a very small amount of fruit or veggie waste to start.

Adding your worms

Once you’ve gotten your worms they need to go into the bedding you prepared. If you purchased by mail order they may be dehydrated, gently remove them from the packaging in which they were received. It may be a good idea to shoot some video of this. In the event your worms arrived dead this will make the process of making a claim on a live delivery guarantee easier. Gently spritz the worms with a spray bottle of water until well wet down (presuming they’re alive and all is well.) gently place your worms on top of the bedding you prepared. They should almost immediately try to bury themselves into the bedding. It’s prudent to leave a light on and any planned lid off of the bin for the next 24 hours and leave the worms alone (I know you want to dig in and peak but resist). Shipping worms and changing their bedding are both very stressful to the worms and this first 24 hours is the most likely time for worms to attempt to escape your bins. You should wait another 24 hours minimum before beginning to add food waste or other “food”. The worms won’t starve in this couple of days as they also eat the bedding in which they live.

Bedding:

Bedding is basically the worms home, this should be considered and treated as a “safe zone” for them to retreat to if something goes wrong. Compost worms are surface dwellers, living, eating and breeding mostly above the soil level, in dead organic material . Bedding therefore shouldn’t be too deep, 6 inches for most worms and never deeper than 10-12″ even for the slightly deeper feeders. You should try to keep the bedding material moist but never soggy wet and never dripping “tea” as is very commonly believed. A handful of bedding when squeezed hard in your hand should produce only 2-3 drops of water. I personally start my bins a little wetter than that but I also spend little time tending my worms and don’t want to spend a lot of time wetting my bins down. By the time I’m ready to remove castings the moisture is goldilocks (just right).

Larry Shier
 

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