How to set up and feed your "Rhody Worms"
One to two pounds of worms will be comfortable in a bin 2' x 3' or an 18 - 20 gallon container. One pound of worms contains anywhere from 650 to 2,500 worms. The worms you receive from The Worm Ladies will be a bed run of worms: cocoons, baby thread-like worms, and worms in different stages of development. Your red wigglers may lose up to one third of their body weight during shipping but they will quickly gain it back. There also may be tiny white "bugs" called protura included with your worms. They also decompose the food and are harmless inhabitants of your worm bin along with many other creatures. Under proper conditions worms can consume more than their weight each day, regardless of their size. The worms do all the work - you just feed them! Remember not to feed the worms any meat or dairy products as well limiting anything excessively oily. The oil will clog their skin and they will be unable to breathe.
1. CREATE YOUR BIN
Indoor bins: Punch or drill ¼" holes on all four sides of the bin. Worms need air! If you are setting up a doublebin (one bin inside another), you will also need holes in the bottom of the top bin and something to separate the two bins such as flower pots or empty plastic bottles. Do not be conservative with the bottom holes - 15 - 20 holes will be adequate. These bottom holes will allow for drainage of excess moisture so the bin is less likely to become anaerobic. If you are not using the double bin setup you can pass on the bottom holes but will need to monitor your moisture content more frequently and carefully.
Outdoor bins: The worms will survive the winter if there is no bottom. The worms go deeper into the ground and then will come back up again in the spring. If you add items like the vacuum cleaner bag, dryer lint, wool or cotton items, it will keep the worms warm in the winter and insulate them from the cold temperatures.
2. MAKE A BED FOR THE WORMS
Using any combination of shredded newspaper, paper, or cardboard and coir, or peat moss, make a bed in the bottom 4-6 inches of the bin. Throw in a handful or two of "dirt." The dirt provides grit to break down the food in the worm's gizzard. Do not put shovelfuls of dirt in as the worms will not eat it. Dampen the bedding with water until it reaches the consistency of a wet sponge.
3. PUT THE WORMS IN THE BIN AND FEED THEM
Place the worms in the bin. Make several pockets in the bedding and put in the vegetable scraps, spoiled fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags, crunched egg shells, or whatever you have. Outdoors or indoors you can use leaves and any kind of manure as well. DO NOT put in meat, fat, oily foods, dairy products, tin foil, plastic, or metal — that stuff is just not appropriate for the worms. If you are using a purchased compost bin outdoors, put the worms on top of the bedding and scraps and they will find their way to a comfortable spot. For outdoor compost piles — add worms directly to the outer edge. The worms will find a comfortable place to live. Be sure to keep the pile and bins moist.
4. COVERING THE BIN
Add food whenever you have it, remembering that one pound of adult worms can eat a half-pound a day. Check the moisture from time to time to be sure they are not too wet or too dry. Cover the food in the bin with bedding and then place a cover on the bin if you want — however, it is not necessary.
Harvesting the Castings
Discontinue feeding for several days before harvesting the worms. Then try one or more of the following methods of harvesting the worms from the castings:
- The Dumping Method: Place the contents of the worm bin on a black plastic bag in the light. The worms do not like the light and will keep going to the bottom of the pile. Keep scooping the castings off the top and harvest the worms at the bottom.
- The Melon Method: Place the remains of a decomposing melon on one side of the bin and the worms will flock to the melon.
- The Onion Bag Method: Place food scraps in an onion bag and the worms will enter the bag to reach the food and the bag can then be removed.
- The Divide the Bin Method: Divide the bin in half and feed only one side of the bin. The worms will move to the side with the food.
The castings may be sifted with a mesh screen for starting seeds or making “tea.”
The threads or babies should move with the larger worms. The cocoons may end up in the castings.
Use the castings on a 1 part castings to 10 parts other material.