How To Start A Worm Farm

New York now has food recycling bins which is a great step forward for the city, the only thing is, (and you can call me selfish for this), but I don't want to give my vegetable scraps away to the city. I want to make them into lovely compost to feed my new rooftop garden in the spring.

So a few weeks ago I started a compost bin up on the roof. I'd take our scraps up there and turn the mix with a length of wood every day. However, reading online articles online about how to effectively compost your waste, I was struck by the amount of people who say that worms are the quickest and best way to get the most beautiful unctuous 'black gold' compost.

Here is my video where I show you how to put together your very own worm farm. Believe it or not there are actually a number of worm farm videos on youtube already, but here is my effort anyway. I hope you enjoy it! More info etc on the process below.

This is not a new idea. It has been around a while and even has a fancy name: in high-vaulted worm circles it is called vermiculture or vermicompost. After researching the subject in depth, I'm sold. Cornell University has a big ongoing worm research project. They have found that worm castings (what is left once they have munched your waste) is an excellent alternative to pesticides: it not only nourishes your soil but actually helps plants fight off pests and diseases.

The worms provide compost that is "7 times richer in phosphates, 5 times richer in nitrogen, and 11 times richer in potash than the average lawn soil" [according to Uncle Jim], as well as helping suppress plant diseases. We aren't talking about your standard earth worms, these are "red wrigglers" specifically bred for the purpose. Red wigglers, or Eisenia foetida, don't burrow like your standard earth worms. They are a very sociable breed of worm, living well in close, highly-populated conditions.

FUN FACT ~ Red Wriggler worms can double their population every 90 days.

Anyway, that's enough about the worms. Let's get on with it.
I found this diagram very useful:

cross sectiona diagram of a 3 bin composter

The diagram above is basically what I followed, adapting it slightly to use five gallon buckets.You can use bought bins from a hardware store but you can also find five gallon buckets many places (restaurants etc). The only things I had to buy were the tap and the worms.

What you need:
  • x3 Five Gallon Buckets (available for free at many places, such as sushi restaurants)
  • x1 Five Gallon Bucket Lid
  • x1 Drill
  • x3 cardboard boxes (ripped up to make worm bedding)
  • x1 plastic tap
  • x500 or 1,000 Red Wriggler Worms (I got mine from Uncle Jim-he has a much bigger operation!) 
My worm supplier.
I used a fairly small drill bit for the holes in the sides to stop flies getting in  and a slightly larger one for the holes between the buckets so the worms can wriggle through and play on any level.

Drilling time.
Homemade cardboard worm mattress.
I added some soil to make the worms extra comfy.
In go the worms and some food!
I hope the worms were as happy as me.
They don't like light so its good to give them a good covering of cardboard.
Making the bed.
This is luxury for a worm!
The final product. Pretty much free and guaranteed to make beautiful compost for the garden.
A deserved Baba beer.

In terms of maintaining the worm farm all you have to do is regularly feed the worms... fruit and vegetable scraps are best, ideally cut into small pieces as they only have tiny mouths. I have been avoiding citrus peel and onion/garlic skins and pits of fruits. Also remember to keep them moist!