Creating the Right Environment for Your Worms
To set up the composting in a new worm bin, a fairly damp, but not saturated worm bedding layer, preferably of fibrous material such as coir, wood shavings (untreated) or carpet under felt, would be laid over the perforated base of the bin. Shredded newspaper can also be used. A thin layer of damp garden compost or well rotted manure would give the optimum temporary home for the worms, until the process is underway. Depending on the size of the bin, a couple of hundred red worms should be enough. Cover the worms with some more of the bedding material, to keep out flying pests and after a few days start adding food scraps under the top layer.
Rather mash up your garbage first
It is always better to mash up the kitchen scraps before feeding the worms, but an even better idea is to first place the scraps in a plastic bag in your freezer as freezing will greatly speed up the feeding process as it breaks up the cell structure of the worm food, making it easier for the worms to digest the material. Avoid citrus, pineapples and onions as these make the material too acid and too much meat and fat is not good, especially as these may attract rats – which can gnaw right through plastic. Every so often, replace the worm bedding with new material. Some soil or sand is also needed in the worm’s diet, as they use this in their gullet to act as a grinding/ calcifying medium. Crushed eggshells or a little agricultural lime will raise the PH, if the composting environment becomes too acidic. A PH neutral environment is optimal.
Citrus and Pineapple are too Acidic
Your Worms Need Air!
Your worm farm, should always smell good, and have a slight earthy odor. If you notice a sour/ rank smell developing and the bedding and compost is beginning to look over damp and slimy, with possibly some fungus present, it probably means that the environment is becoming anaerobic and primarily needs better ventilation to bring in more oxygen. This condition may be caused by excessive feeding, too much greasy food, such as meat and dairy, acidic conditions or not enough air circulating. Firstly, make sure the ventilation holes are not blocked and that the drainage is effective, then fluff up the bedding and rake up the vermicompost, to allow the air in. If there is too much unprocessed food lying around, stop feeding for a few days and thereafter put in less food, or get more worms. A we have said, it is also important to avoid putting in too much greasy food and acidic fruits such as citrus and pineapple.
Acceptable Temperature Range
Temperature is important and compost worms generally prosper best at temperatures that we would be comfortable with ourselves. Although different species have their preferences, as a generalization, they will breed at temperatures as low as 12º to 18ºC ( 54º to 65ºF) but stop all activity under 8ºC (46ºF)and as the temperature increases to around 25ºC (80ºF) they will become more active and productive, but above this the performance will drop off. As the temperatures rise or fall much outside this range they become more and more at risk and steps need to be provided to protect them from extremes, by having the worm farm set up in a shed or garage, where the temperature can be controlled. We need to be careful of not putting too much organic waste (especially fresh manure) into our worm farm at any point as the natural rotting process gives off heat and a bed of compost can easily get too hot for the compost worms to exist in it. The solution is to heap up this sort of material away from the worm composter for a few days to allow the heat to be generated and then dissipate naturally. Once it has finally cooled down it will be safe to use.