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5.10.2011

Worm Bin Basics

 Maintaining a worm bin isn't that hard.  I don't have a fancy schmancy worm bin so it is pretty easy to stay on top of it.  If you have never made a worm bin check out my post on starting a worm bin http://ranch-wife.blogspot.com/2011/04/start-worm-bin.html  or just look it up on the web ( I have included some web links on this last post.)
     So you have a worm bin, or you just started it, what now?  I am going to start with LOCATION. 
Worms like to be kept warm so keep the bin away from the cold winds and frosts, ideally situating the bin in a sheltered spot that is sunny for only the early part of the day. Avoid very sunny locations where heat can build up as too much sun could overheat the bin which will cook the worms. Be sure to give your worms at least 12 inches of soil for protection from extremes. If you want your worms to keep on making compost during the winter, it may be necessary to locate them in a shed or garage where temperatures do not fall below freezing. 

Avoid extremes!
      As the weather get colder keep an eye on the bins to make sure the worms are still active and breaking down the organic matter. You may have to slow down the rate at which you add food or you might want to throw an old blanket or towel over the bin to keep it warm. A build up of too much food may result in it putrefying and the bin will begin to smell.
You should locate your bin in a partly sunny spot away from flood zones in the winter and away from intense heat in the summer.
    FEEDING the worms is pretty simple, here are some examples.
 Strawberry tops and that stuff that comes out the back of a juicer are great choices for worm food.  Don't throw this stuff away!
 Worms LOVE banana peals, LOVE them.
Egg shells are also a great choice for worm food.  The worms don't necessarily eat the shells it is just a great addition to the soil for aeration and organic matter.  I guess it isn't food, just a good soil amendment. 
Tea bags, loose leaf tea and coffee grounds.
Paper napkins and junk mail.  Shred up the paper so the worms can easily access the material.

These are things you should NOT feed your worms.  

It isn't because the worms can't break it down (it would take a while to do) it is because other animals will try and get at it first.  Mice and small carnivores will work really hard to get into your bin if you have meat, dairy or fats inside.
Avoid too much acidic material such as lemon and orange skins can be hard for the worms to digest. Adding egg shells to the mix on an on-going basis will help keep the pH balance.
Be careful how much food you add: too much may heat up the bin and drive the worms away, leaving the food to putrefy and the bin will begin to smell which a well run bin does not.
 PLEASE ADD
 DO NOT ADD
  •  Kitchen and household scraps - Old fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, tea leaves, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, etc.
  • Paper & Cardboard - Small amounts, torn up (avoid magazines and color inks). Mix well with other items.
  • Wood Ash -Provides potassium and lime
  • Hair - From the family pet, or the family, moistened
  • Leaves - Add a little at a time. If there are large amounts these are best made into leaf mold in a separate heap.
  • Grass cuttings ­ Caution - High in nitrogen and a good "activator", but care must be taken not to overwhelm the compost bin with grass as it can turn into a slimy mess. Mix well with other materials. Do not add more than 2 handfuls of grass clippings to a 70-90 liters worm bin at any one time.

  • Dog & Cat droppings - This type of animal manure may carry parasites
  • Man-made fibers - These will not rot
  • Material infected with diseases - Composting may not kill these diseases
  • Materials sprayed with weed killers - The residues may remain in the heap
  • Meat bones 
For a more in-dept reading on what worms eat check this link out  http://www.allthingsorganic.com/How_To/05.asp
Soil moisture is a big thing to look out for in your worm bin.  A great test for moisture is to grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your hand.  Does it crumble?  Then the soil needs water.  Does it squish out your fingers?  Then you have too much moisture.  Does it hold it's form? Then the soil is about right!  You should water your worm bin like it was a growing plant, the summer months will demand more moisture than the winter.  It is a good idea to check your bin everyday, as you add your worm food just squeeze some soil.
Good damp soil clumps together.

Dry soil will fall through your fingers.


Here is another great link if you want to read more about the ins and outs of worm bins http://www.wormpoop.com/Composting/Composting.htm

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