Get Started Worm Farming: A Beginner’s Guide

Did you know that it’s possible to turn the food waste in your home into gold? No, we aren’t talking about alchemy, we’re talking about vermicomposting!

Vermicomposting, or worm farming, is an incredibly effective way to create nutrient-dense compost for gardening in a natural and sustainable way. Worm farms take advantage of the natural process of worms digesting food scraps in a way that makes the worms happy and provides you with a virtually limitless supply of high-quality fertilizer for your garden!

What is a worm farm?

Before you get started worm farming, it is important to learn how it works. At its core, worm farming is a process designed to generate nutrient-dense compost, ideal for home gardens, while being far easier (and less expensive) than other composting methods.

Traditionally, gardeners who want to use compost must either let it slowly decompose – which can be smelly (and time-consuming!) – or spend money on fertilizer made somewhere else, which can quickly add up (especially for those who like to do a lot of gardening).

Why Start Raising Worms

You might be surprised to learn the numerous benefits that raising worms can offer. Whether your concerns are environmental, financial, or horticultural, worm farming can provide significant value to those who are willing to put in the effort. Although there are many benefits that come with worm farming, the following are four of the most significant according to our readers:

Reduce Household Waste Production

Every day, we produce huge amounts of waste in our homes. Everything from banana peels to old newspapers would normally add up to a lot of waste thrown away. In fact, it is estimated that Americans generate about 67 million tons of organic waste every year, and less than a third of that waste ends up composted. Part of the reason for this is that many Americans think composting is too difficult or not worth their time and effort.

Whether you are interested in reducing the environmental impact of your household, or you just like the idea of reusing what would otherwise be garbage in a useful way, vermicomposting is by far one of the best ways to do so.

In addition, not just organic waste can be used. Even paper waste (such as newspapers and cardboard) play a role in the composting process.

Virtually limitless supply of “black gold”

Anyone who has been gardening for a long time knows that the cost of fertilizer is one of the most significant costs associated with gardening. Nevertheless, the payoff (both in terms of enjoyment as well as the financial savings of growing your own fruits and vegetables) almost always outweighs those costs. However, if you could create all the fertilizer you needed, wouldn’t that make gardening that much more enjoyable?

The compost generated from vermicomposting is called “black gold” for a reason! The incredibly nutrient-dense material can turn even the most barren soil (the type of soil you’ll often find in your backyard) into great gardening soil.  Over time, this “black gold” can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars that would have otherwise gone to purchasing fertilizer, saving time, money, and the environment!

Teach your children valuable lessons

Vermicomposting is a great activity to teach your child as well. It is simple enough that most children will be able to pick it up quickly, but also requires a level of responsibility that will prove invaluable to them down the road. Vermicomposting is most effective when it is maintained for a few minutes everyday, and it can be a great alternative (or addition) to teaching your child responsibility through the care of a pet.

Not only that, but vermicomposting teaches your child about the value of conservation, and can introduce them to the fun and rewarding world of gardening in a way they will understand. Think about it: many kids play in the dirt anyway, now you can make it a worthwhile endeavor!

It’s a great conversation starter!

Worm farms are popular in many parts of the world, but they are still relatively new concepts in many parts of the United States. If gardening is something that you enjoy talking about with your friends, vermicomposting can be an interesting – and fruitful – conversation.

Benefits of Worm Castings

Worm castings generate the best compost in the world. Not only is it made with a completely organic process, but it also provides the perfect balance of nitrogen, phosphates, potash, and all the other plant nutrients that your garden needs to thrive. Of course, not all worms are the same, and the Red Wiggler worm is by far the best worm for vermicomposting.

The worm casings themselves are the result of the digestive process the worms go through. The material itself naturally mixes into the soil of the worm farm, producing the highly valued fertilizer.

If you are worried that you’re somehow disrupting the natural process by harvesting the worm castings, don’t be! Studies have shown that worms don’t actually thrive best in their own castings, so you’ll actually be doing them a favor every time you harvest new fertilizer for your garden!

Some other benefits of worm castings include:

Is Worm Farming Difficult?

In a word: NO! Worm farming is actually incredibly easy to learn. That’s why we encourage you to teach your children how to do it; it’s a great skill that is absolutely manageable by even relatively young children. In order to create a worm farm, all you have to do is follow a few simple steps:

  1. Build or find a container – The first step is to find a container (typically wood or plastic) to hold the farm itself. While it is possible to build a container yourself, commercially-produced containers are more reliable over time, and are certain to not interfere with the natural processes of the worm farm.
  2. Fill the container with appropriate bedding – Before adding the worms, you’ll want to line the container with wet newspaper (or another appropriate bedding), then add some simple soil, either that you purchased or some that you already have in your backyard. The container itself should be moist enough to keep the soil loosely packed, but not so wet that the worms are at risk of drowning. It is also helpful to add egg shells to the soil (if you have them).
  3. Populate the farm with Red Wigglers – This part is fairly simple: simply add the worms to your container. Don’t worry too much about putting too many (or not enough) into the farm, as the worms will self-regulate their population fairly quickly.
  4. Provide the compostable material – Compostable material can be everything from food waste to the remnants of lawn mowing. The simple rule here is: if it decomposes naturally, it can go in the farm. However, there are some specific types of compost that should not be put into your worm farm. These foods include: dairy, meats, citrus, spicy foods, fats, oils, and heavily-processed foods.
  5. Maintain and harvest the farm – While it is important not to overfeed your worms, keep in mind that your worms like to eat a lot. In fact, Red Wigglers eat about half their weight every 24 hours, which means you can add new food for your worms every day (this is a great job for kids!). Remember to cut the food into the smallest pieces you can. Also, avoid putting dairy and meat into the farm. These are harder for the worms to digest and can create a significantly worse smell.

What Do I need to Start Worm Farming?

Vermicomposting is great because it doesn’t require much of an investment, and provides significant dividends very quickly.

Worm composting bin

While you can technically use just about any container as a worm composting bin, some are far better than others. Commercially-made containers make it far easier to maintain new layers of your farm, and will be far more reliable than something you make yourself. We have a few worm bins available in our online shop that are optimized for the environmental concerns involved with worm farming.

Live red wiggler composting worms

As we mentioned, not all worms are ideal for vermicomposting. Red Wigglers are by far the best option because they generate the ideal blend of nutrients for gardening. While it is unlikely that you can find Red Wigglers in your backyard on their own, they are incredibly affordable and available on our website. For the cost of a bag of fertilizer, you can have the creatures you need to create your own fertilizer in perpetuity.

Worm composting accessories (optional)

As far as required components, you will be able to make do with just a bin, worms, and the raw materials your worms will eat. However, there are a number of accessories that can make worm farming easier, and can help increase your yield (effectively paying for themselves over time). Having the tools you need to ensure your farm has the right temperature, moisture, and pH can prevent mistakes, and ultimately save you money down the road.

Get Started Worm Farming Today!

While worm farming is a great activity that will provide significant value over time, it can be a little overwhelming for those who have never tired it before. Our mission at The Squirm Firm is to help those who are brand new or intermediate worm farmers learn everything they need to know to make the most out of vermicomposting. We offer a monthly newsletter all about worm composting, and have entries on everything from why Red Wigglers are actually the best worms to use to maintaining your farm during the winter.

If you are ready to take your garden to the next level, and want to create your own premium fertilizer, sign up for our newsletter below!

Readers Comments (14)

    • Welcome, Bert!
      We at The Squirm Firm are dedicated to educating, inspiring, and encouraging people like you to discover all the benefits of worm composting.
      Stay connected!
      Let us know if you have any questions and sign up now for our free monthly newsletter. Once a month we will deliver a useful set of tips, tricks, and tools for keeping your worm composting project going strong.

      Reply
  1. I am a first timer in this worm busy any help will be good.

    Reply
    • Great to have you Derrell! Has anything come as a surprise as you’ve been learning about your worms? Keep coming back to find out all you can to keep your worms safe through the seasons and building their population.

      Reply
  2. glad i found your sight

    Reply
    • We are so glad to have you! We at The Squirm Firm are dedicated to educating, inspiring, and encouraging people like you to discover all there is to benefit from worm composting. We have everything you need to start out and keep your worms going strong. Have fun! Let us know if you have any questions. We are here for you!

      Reply
  3. Just started. Feel that I’m doing something wrong. First bin almost full and don’t see a lot of worms. Should I not fill a second bin until I see more activity?

    Reply
    • Tyler-
      Good question, but it’s tough to say if you are doing anything wrong without a little more information. How big is your bin? How many worms did you start out with? How long have they been in there? What have you filled your bin with?
      It generally takes months to accumulate enough finished product that the worms are ready to relocate. The number of worms isn’t as telling as the rate at which they are processing what you feed them.
      Your worms may just need to work through what they have.

      Let us know how it goes!

      Francesca

      Reply
  4. When I bought my worms (400) I also bought 5 pounds of castings that had a ton of cacoons and baby worms. Every night I spend a half hour combing through the castings pulling out cacoons and babies and I was putting them back into my worm farm but last night I started putting them into the yogurt containers that my worms came in. What materials should I add to the container?

    Reply
    • Kristin,
      It sounds like you have the makings for a well-populated worm bin! I suggest adding bedding materials of shredded paper, cardboard, or coconut coir along with enough water to just moisten all of that. The worms will also need some easily consumable food. I’ve always put my cocoons back in with the rest of the colony, just like you did. Check out our library of blog posts on setting up your worm bin http://thesquirmfirm.com/category/setting-up-your-worm-bin/ for all of the very best information, tips, and tricks for keeping your worms on the right track.

      Reply
  5. Daniel Bridson May 13, 2017 @ 6:51 am

    I have a worm factory with six or eight bins, it’s been running successfully for over six months. It is also swarmed with mites. No idea what type, but they layer themselves on all of the worms’ food and eat it. There’s still plenty for the worms, I think. I’d like to get rid of them without having to completely start over. Does anyone have any ideas?

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel,
      Mites can be a symptom of high acidity and moisture in your bin. I recommend using a meter to check those levels. Then, amend your bedding to dry it out a bit and lower the pH. Are you certain that you have mites and not springtails? Check this article out to make sure: http://thesquirmfirm.com/little-white-bugs-worm-compost/. Best of luck! Let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  6. glad i found your site. our worm bin has recently had an infestation of maggots and i have spent today going through the scraps rescuing my wrigglers and ditching the maggots. my worm bin is now back to basics, washed and i have set a calendar reminder every 2 days to check on my little ones. are there good suggestions for deterring flies from laying maggots?

    Reply
    • Great question! Fruit flies are a common nuisance in and around the worm bin, but other flies that find the worm bin irresistible may also lay eggs that grow into maggots and eventually develop into flies as well. One solution to this problem is to be certain that the food scraps you feed the worms have been frozen and thawed in an effort to destroy any eggs already on the food. A second method uses layers of moist newspaper or even cheesecloth over the bedding to prevent flies access to the bedding at all. Best of luck. Let us know if you come up with another surefire way to keep the flies from laying in your bin!

      Reply

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