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Composting > Setting up your Worm Bin

Setting up your Worm Bin

Redworms need a damp but not soggy environment with a moisture content more or less 75 percent by weight. But bedding material starts out very dry. So weigh the bedding and then add three times that weight of water. The rule to remember here is "a pint's a pound the world 'round," or one gallon of water weighs about eight pounds. As a gauge, it takes 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of dry bedding for each cubic foot of box.

Preparing bedding material can be a messy job The best container is probably an empty garbage can, though in a pinch it can be done in a kitchen sink or a couple of five gallon plastic buckets. Cautiously put half the (probably dusty) bedding in the mixing container. Add about one-half the needed water and mix thoroughly. Then add two handfuls of soil, the rest of the bedding, and the balance of the water. Continue mixing until all the water has been absorbed. Then spread the material evenly through your empty worm box. If you've measured correctly no water should leak out the bottom vent holes and the bedding should not drip when a handful is squeezed moderately hard.

Then add the worms. Spread your redworms over the surface of the bedding. They'll burrow under the surface to avoid the light and in a few minutes will be gone. Then add garbage. When you do this the first time, I suggest that you spread the garbage over the entire surface and mix it in using a three-tined hand cultivator. This is the best tool to work the box with because the rounded points won't cut worms.

Then cover the box. Mary Applehof suggests using a black plastic sheet slightly smaller than the inside dimensions of the container. Black material keeps out light and allows the worms to be active right on the surface. You may find that a plastic covering retains too much moisture and overly restricts air flow. When I covered my worm box with plastic it dripped too much. But then, most of what I feed the worms is fresh vegetable material that runs 80-90 percent water. Other households may feed dryer material like stale bread and leftovers. I've found that on our diet it is better to keep the box in a dimly lit place and to use a single sheet of newspaper folded to the inside dimensions of the box as a loose cover that encourages aeration, somewhat reduces light on the surface, and lessens moisture loss yet does not completely stop it.

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