If you are someone who greatly desires to provide your family with quality food. Food that does not have pesticides and other chemicals in it. Food that is non-GMO. Then, Organic Gardening is the best option, unless you don’t mind paying the increased prices at the health food store. And the best way to have an amazing organic garden is Organic Gardening with Worm Compost. Worm compost will give you amazing growth, disease resistant plants with natural pest resistant properties all in an extremely healthy product. And your organic produce will taste great.
The easiest composting worms to start out with is Red Wigglers, they compost very fast and very user-friendly. If you are a big fisherman I would recommend European Nightcrawlers, they compost very fast also, are almost as user-friendly as the Reds but are amazing bait worms. If you prefer not to compost with worms yourself take a look at our amazing Super Grow Worm Castingsfor your Organic Gardening needs. Just let us know what you need.
My Outdoor In-Ground Worm Bed will give me the ability to raise a much larger amount of worms and keep them alive through even the harshest of winters. I’ve raised compost worms for several years now in the basement of my home. Raising worms in the basement is not a bad idea. It’s amazing how many worms can be raised in a relatively small area. A few good size bins can support a good many worms. It also works out nicely in the winter time when it’s freezing cold outside, or in the heat of the summer.
With that being said, there “are” limits to what you can do in a small basement compared to the wide open spaces outdoors. Being blessed to live in the country with 40 acres of land, and a desire to raise more worms than I could possibly fit in my basement, I thought it might be nice to construct some outside beds last fall. As with everything I do it tends to be more work than fun. What made it difficult is the rocky ground around here.
I decided to put the worms into the outdoor in-ground worm bed in order to make it easier to protect the worms through the winter. So far I’ve completed one bed and began digging the second. Winter put a stop to things for now but I’m looking forward to getting going again this spring. The bed that I’ve managed to complete is four feet wide by twelve and one-half feet long.
Let’s look now at how I constructed the bed.
Below is a picture of the hole I dug for this first bed. Note the pick, rake, and scoop. There is no such thing as simply digging with a shovel in this ground. I used the pick-axe to loosen the ground then a garden rake to rake up the dirt and gravel into the scoop. It was a difficult slow process. I ran into some rocks that were quite big. One thing that really amazes me is that there is a pretty large mole population around here, even with such rocky ground. Another thing I should mention here is that the bed is located in a shady area under the trees so there were also roots to be chopped out.
These are some of the rocks I dug out of the hole. Also I was surprised to find a little ring-neck prairie snake while digging the hole (sorry the picture isn’t in focus).
After digging the hole to a depth of about a foot and a half deep I framed the bed with scrap oak boards that I had available. I ended up having to splice some of the boards together in order to have enough. After fastening the frame together I filled the bottom with crushed limestone. This will hopefully help to keep the bedding from becoming too acidic. After placing the crushed limestone in the bottom I raised up the frame and fastened 1/2″ wire mesh to the bottom.of the boards. This should keep moles from coming in through the bottom.
At this point I placed boards inside the frame on top of the wire mesh to prevent digging into the wire mesh and limestone when I harvest worms or change bedding. The boards I used for this are 1/2″x 6″ scrap pine.
Its Coming Together
After this I filled the bed with the bedding. I used aged horse manure for the bedding material. I then added another level of boards to the frame and placed more bedding inside.
Once I finished filling the bed with the bedding I then filled in around it with dirt and after that I stocked it with the worms. I used Red Worms from bins in my basement to stock the bed. I didn’t stock it heavily. I’m counting on the population increasing really good come spring.
The Final Result
The image below shows the outdoor in-ground worm bed as it appeared on January 31, 2015. It had been piled high with horse manure to help hold in warmth through the winter. At the time this picture was taken the bedding had thawed due to warmer weather, but a week earlier the top four to five inches of the bedding was frozen. The worms have plenty of room to go deeper to escape the frozen bedding. Upon inspecting the bed I found a good many healthy large red wigglers. There were also a good many smaller worms.
Now, with the weather finally starting to warm up, I am looking forward to getting back to work constructing some additional outdoor beds (and harvesting worms from the finished bed)!
Do you want to grow lots of worms at home? The Super Simple Worm Farm Bin is the answer. My advice is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple). It’s a lot easier to get started than many people think!
The basic plastic bin set-up described here is especially well suited for European Nightcrawlers – since they love moist condition – but it’s a great starter bin for Red Worms as well.
Here is all you need to build your Super Simple Worm Farm Bin:
A Plastic Bin – my personal favorite is a Rubbermaid “Roughneck” tote, approx 21″x15″ and a depth of 9″. I wouldn’t recommend going much deeper than 18″ with a bin like this since it will impede air flow to the lower reaches of the bin.
Bedding – these are absorbent materials like shredded cardboard, shredded newsprint etc. They help to soak up and hold moisture and to provide the worms with a nice habitat to live in. Contrary to popular (newbie) belief – soil is NOT a good bedding material for a worm bin. Here is a great article on Worm Bin Bedding.
Compostable Kitchen Scraps – fruit and veggie wastes are ideal. When starting out you are probably best to steer clear of citrus wastes, spicy/salty materials, and even starchy wastes.
Composting Worms (not needed right away) – again, Euros and/or Red Worms are very well suited for this type of system. For a beginner Red Worms (Red Wigglers) are the easiest and most tolerant.
Setting up the bin is as easy as pie – really, it’s just a matter of starting and ending with thick bedding layers and putting some food waste in between. I recommend freezing/thawing the food materials and then chopping up before adding to the bin, if possible (i.e. MORE optimized than shown in images below, in case you are wondering), since this speeds up the breakdown process.
If the bedding is not already moistened, you can spray it down as you go. This is especially important if you plan to add the worms fairly soon afterward – but, if possible, I actually recommend leaving the bin to sit for a little while before the worms are added.
The Value of Moisture
The key with moisture is to get the habitat as moist as you can without excess pooling of liquid in the bottom. If you DO end up with pooling, simply add in some dry bedding to soak it up.
The bin itself should have some air holes in it. I used to drill lots of smaller holes in my bins, but have since switched over to cutting out fewer (but considerably larger) holes – as you can see in the image at the beginning of this article.
Ideally, your bin should sit someplace indoors. It is possible to keep plastic bin systems outside at certain times of the year, in certain locations – but once the weather gets really warm or cold, things can get a lot more challenging (impossible in many cases). We’ll talk more about effective outdoor systems in upcoming articles.
Adding worms to the super simple worm farm bin (a pound, or 1 gal. of our “Composting Worm Mix” for a bin of the size mentioned earlier) is easy too. Simply create a small depression in your bedding, empty out the worm bag(s), and leave in a well-lit location for several hours. If at all possible, I would actually recommend leaving the bin in a location that has some light all the time – at least until the worms are well settled in. Euros, in particular, can be prone to wander early on.
Things to Remember
Use LOTS of bedding – again, shredded corrugated cardboard and/or shredded newsprint are prime examples of readily-available, highly-effective bedding materials (bleached office paper should be avoided if possible – or at least soaked and rinsed well before use). It’s always amazing to me how many people don’t add enough bedding when starting a new worm bin. Do not be afraid to fill the entire bin – the level will settle down quite quickly
Start the bin a week or two before you add the worms – this provides time for the microbial community to develop (and waste materials to start breaking down as a result), helps moisture to become evenly distributed throughout system, and just generally leaves you with a habitat that will seem more like “home” for the worms. Many make the mistake of adding worms to a bin that’s basically sterile since set up right before the worms are added.
DON’T add soil to a worm bin – people naturally associate worms with soil, but it’s important to remember that these are NOT soil worms. While a small amount of good quality organic soil certainly won’t hurt (and may even help to inoculate the bin with beneficial microbes), a lot of bagged potting soil can actually be very hazardous for the worms since it often contains fertilizer salts.
Go easy on the feeding early on – people often get it in their heads that they need to “feed” their worms on a regular basis. It is important to remember, though, that the food and bedding added when the bin was set up can actually sustain the worms for quite some time. What is FAR more common than people starving their worms (next to impossible when loads of bedding materials are used) is overfeeding, which can create a lot of problems – and potentially even lead to the death of your worms!