Worm bins can really be made out of anything that is food safe. You want it to be food safe because you don’t want to harm your worms with chemicals (so no treated wood) and if you’re going to be using the worm castings for fertilizer then you’re not going to want chemicals in the castings either. A lot of people will build “flow thru” systems out of wood. While I do believe a flow thru system would be the most beneficial for a larger scale, starting out with plastic worm bins made out of totes is sufficient.
As noted in our post on Prepping the Bedding, we are using two 35 gallon totes that we’ve had for years and are recycling for this project. We’ve found 50 gallon totes at Goodwill for $6 or brand new for $20 at Walmart.
You really want a lot of air to reach the soil to prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic basteria is the bad kind of bacteria, it causes high acidity and very smelly bedding. What you want is aerobic basteria in your worm bins. This bacteria breaks down and eats the food that you place into the worm bins and then the worms eat the bacteria.
What we’ve done is created a way for as much air as we could to touch the bedding. We accomplished this by drilling a lot of holes into the bottom of the plastic tote with a 1/4″ drill bit. This also allows for draining from excess water that may enter your bins by either outside elements or if you put too much water into the system. We also initially drilled 5/8″ holes into the bin along the top as we had planned to keep the lid on the worm bin. Instead we ended up taking window screens and placing those on top of the bins to allow even more air into the bin.
In both of the bins we covered the holes with fiberglass window screen. In 1 bin we used silicone sealer to glue the screen down to cover the holes. On the one with the 5/8″ holes this serves the purpose of keeping other pests out of the bed. On the 2nd bed since we used window screens to cover the bins we didn’t feel it was neccesary to drill those holes.
From there we needed to mix the bedding. Our bedding consisted of around 60% aged horse manure and 40% peat moss. I also added a small amount of lime powder to lower the PH. In a worm bin system that you’re going to use for composting, you want to start with at least 8 inches of bedding to start off with. This allows your new worms enough room to acclimate to their new environment and gives them enough food if they need it before you start feeding them.
Your PH levels need to be above 6 and no more than 8. The best thing to do is to keep them as close to 7 as possible. The system should self regulate as long as you are not overfeeding the worms or allowing your worm bin to get too dry. For your moisture level, as long as the bedding doesn’t flood or dry out you should be good. Keeping it around an 80% moisture level is ideal, but you can go a bit lower or a bit higher. In some systems worms have thrived in a moisture level above 90%. I honestly believe that worms will acclimate to any system that they can live in, though they will breed or eat more if their environments are close to idea.
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