Creating a Worm Bin
March 20, 2014
I have access to leaves, alpaca manure, and coffee grounds. I want to create an outdoor worm bed. What would be the best mix of materials (and layering) to get the most worms and compost?
Answer by JZ: Here is my (opinion) response:
1. Be sure that you use composting worms – red wigglers.
2. An outdoor worm bin is an excellent idea. The worms are closer to their natural environment and under good conditions they will breed and also be making humus throughout the seasons.
3. It would be good to consider the location / orientation for your bin, e.g., in the summer sun would not be the best location. 85F is about the highest temp. you want in the bedding.
4. Outdoor bins partially submerged in soil are then well insulated for our climate both winter and summer.
5. Worms will breed under ideal conditions of moisture, at least 50%, adequate organic material to ingest and a temperature in the bedding material of about 65F. Under good conditions they can double their population in 3 months.
6. Composting worms ingest dead / decomposing organic material, so leaves, alpaca manure, and coffee are fine additions. I do not know if alpacas occasionally get vermicide medication? You might ask the owners. If so, manure with meds in it should be allowed to decompose in the sun for 3 months so that any meds would be biodegraded. Then you could add the manure to your bed.
7. The “speed” at which your worms will make humus will depend on the number of worms reference the amount of organic material that you feed them. So it would depend on the size of your bin and how many worms you add right at the beginning. One pound of composting worms (about 2 cups) can ingest about 1 / 2 lb. of organics in 24 hours. So you could do some calculating with that approximation. Then observe how the worms do the job.
8. All the organic material mentioned would be fine to feed them. Mixing all 3, then making sure that the mix is 50% moist should get you going in the right direction. In my opinion you could feed them just about any organic material that you have available. The rate at which all this is going to happen depend on managing the variables of moisture, bedding temperature, available food and the number of worms working for you. Just get started, the worms will teach you the rest.
Hope this is useful. Let us know if we can help.