Red wiggler worms, well adapted to living in the wild in leaf litter and manure, flourish readily when you meet their needs for food and habitat. They will excel at turning your kitchen scrap into valuable, fully organic plant fertilizer if you create optimum living conditions in their bin.
Things You'll Need
- Moisture meter (optional)
- Spritzer bottle
- pH meter
- Handheld garden cultivator
Feed your worms a balanced diet. They like kitchen scraps, crushed eggshells and a little bit of grit provided in a pinch or two of soil for digesting their food. Avoid feeding them milk or dairy products, meats and bones, garlic, heavily spiced foods and pet feces.
Keep the moisture level of your bin at between 70 and 80 percent. Buy a moisture meter or probe at a nursery or track how damp the bin needs to be by visually inspecting the bedding to make sure it is neither drying out nor sopping wet.
Adjust the moisture content depending on what your worms like best, as indicated by whether they are eating well and reproducing. If liquids accumulate in the bottom of the bin, add more shredded paper or newspaper to absorb them. If the bedding seems dry, spritz it with water, preferably water that has sit for a day or two in a container to evaporate its chlorine. Worms' bodies contain about 75 to 90 percent water, and they need water keep their skin moist.
Keep your worm bin bedding at between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. "Use a thermometer to check temperatures in the winter and summer," write the authors of "The Worm Book."
Use a pH meter to check the pH of your bin contents. Check that your worm bin's pH level ranges between 6 and 8, or right around 7, which is neutral. Avoid adding citrus fruits or peels, which increase the bin's acidity.
Check the air and drainage holes in your bin periodically to make sure they are not clogged with bedding material.
Monitor odors to avoid anaerobic conditions. To avoid odors, keep the oxygen level in the bin high, which allows aerobic bacteria to break down kitchen scraps for your worms and also prevents stink-causing anaerobic bacteria.
Turn and move around your bedding using a handheld garden cultivator to add oxygen and mix dry and wet bin contents. Keep bedding fluffed up to allow oxygen into the bin contents.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep records of types of bedding and food added to the bin to track any problems.
- Rinse banana peels to clean off pesticides before adding to the worm bin.
- Move your worms to another bin, if you notice a population crash or many dead or escaping worms. Add clean peat or fresh newspaper as bedding and moisten. Use any container you can get your hands on. Troubleshoot your original bin for excessive dampness, excessive dryness, a lack of food, the wrong temperature or too much light.
- Avoid placing chemically treated paper in the worm bin, such as shredded credit card receipts or thermal fax paper.
- Use unchlorinated water when spritzing your worm bin bedding.
- "The Worm Book;" Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogen Taylor; 1998
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