CHOOSE A BIN
Buy a bin, or build one out of wood, an old dresser drawer, shipping crate, or barrel. The County of Santa Clara offers residents a recycled worm box and lid for only $13.00 each. These bins are distributed at San Jose workshop at the Home Composting education Office each Monday from 8:30am - 11:30 am and 1:30pm - 4:00pm. Call the Rotline at 408-918-4640 for directions. Subject to stock on hand. Click here to download a PDF of the $13.00 worm bin.
Your bin needs to be 10"-16" deep, have a snug fitting lid, and holes in the bottom or sides for ventilation. To keep rodents out, the holes need to be 1/4" or smaller. The rule of thumb for bin size is two square feet or surface area per person. An average two-person house would need a bin about 2' X 2' = 4 square feet, or two bins that are 1' X 2' = square feet each.
PICK A PLACE
Locate your bin where it will not freeze or overheat--in a pantry, kitchen corner, laundry room, garage, basement, patio, deck, or in your garden.
MAKE A WORM BED
Worms like to live under lots of moist paper or leaves. This helps keeps them cool and moist, gives them fiber to eat, and prevents fruit flies from getting to the food. To make your worm bed, tear black & white newspapers into one-inch strips, fluff them up, then moisten them so they are damp as a wrung-out sponge. Fill your bin 3/4 full with moist "bedding." Shredded, corrugated cardboard, leaves, compost, sawdust and straw can also be added in a bedding. Sprinkle bedding with a few handfuls of soil. Do not use glossy paper or magazines.
ADOPT SOME WORMS
Compost worms are often called "red worms" or "red wigglers." They are different from earthworms and night crawlers who live underground. You can find red worms in an old compost pile, get them from a friend's worm bin or buy them. Start with one half to one pound, or two nice big handfuls.
FEED WORMS THEIR FIRST MEAL
Start your worms off with about a quart of fruit & vegetable trimmings. Then leave them alone for a couple of weeks while they get used to their new home.
MAINTAINING YOUR WORM BIN
Feed your worms about a quart (one pound) of food scraps per square foot of surface area in your bin per week. To avoid fruit flies and odors, always bury food under the bedding. Don't dump and run!
Add fresh bedding every 1-3 months. Always keep a 4" to 6" layer of fresh bedding over the worms and food in your bin. Keep bedding as moist as a wrung-out sponge. In a plastic bin, add dry bedding to absorb excess moisture. Wooden bins may require adding water occasionally.
HARVESTING AND USING WORM COMPOST
Harvest worm compost at least once each year to keep your worms healthy. You can start harvesting 2-3 months after you set up your worm bin. Simply reach in and scoop out the brown crumbly compost, worms and all. You can also move the contents of your bin to one side, place fresh bedding and a handful of soil in the empty space and bury food there for a month or two. Harvest the other side after the worms have migrated to the new food and bedding. More information on harvesting your worm bin can be found in the attachment below titled "Worm Digest Bin Article".
Using Worm Compost will help your plants thrive by adding nutrients and humus to the soil. Sprinkle a 1/4" to 1" layer at the base of indoor or outdoor plants, or blend no more than 20% worm compost into potting mix or garden soil.
A couple of local sources of red worms are
Sonoma Worm Farm at 707-996-8561 or 800-447-6996,
Blue Ridge Vermiculture-San Jose, Ca.
Jerry Gach 408-227-5267
web site: www.TheWormDude.Com