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I first started vermicomposting back in the spring. Actually, I got my first bin of worms for Mother’s Day- what a gift, huh? Well for this homesteading mama it was the perfect gift! I really had no idea what I was doing and did some online research that I shared in this post. When I first started out, my worms were in a pretty simple homemade worm bin: a big plastic tub. The more I learned about vermicomposting and the more my worms thrived in their simple worm bin, the more I pined away for a Worm Factory 360.
If you’re not familiar with a Worm Factory 360, these are the cream of the crop of worm composting bins. Then last month I was contacted by Eartheasy and was sent a Worm Factory 360 with worms to review and share with you all. Talk about excited! In our mudroom we now have thousands of worms composting our kitchen scraps every second of the day to create amazing healthy compost we’ll use to start our garden seedlings in a few months. Little A calls me a “worm farmer” and I will admit that I find worm farming to be such a fascinating hobby and I love it!
Since I began vermicomposting back in the spring, I did learn a thing or two from my online reading and experience. But there were still a lot of questions I had about the process. The Worm Factory 360 comes with a handy 70 page book called “The Complete Guide to Vermicomposting With the Worm Factory 360“. This thing is the ultimate beginners guide to vermicomposting. I really wish I had this back in the spring! The guide is easy to read with pictures and diagrams to highlight the text.
Building a Worm Factory 360
The Worm Factory 360 showed up in parts all packed nicely in a big box. After unpacking everything, there were parts and pieces spread around the mudroom. Luckily the handy guide that came with it showed easy to follow step by step instructions on how to put the Worm Factory together.
Unlike my super simple homemade plastic tub worm bin, the Worm Factory has a collection base on the bottom to collect liquids that drip out of the bin. There’s an adjustable spout on the bottom and a small plastic container to use to hold the liquid run off when you’re ready to open the spout. We have a small bit of moisture in the bottom of our base after several weeks so my guess is that it may take several months or more before we’d have enough liquid built up to drain out.
Another great feature of the Worm Factory 360 is that it has a worm ladder that fits in between the bottom moisture collection base and the first tray layer. That way any worms that accidentally make their way down instead of up can easily crawl back up to the bin where the food is. When I feed the worms a couple times per week, I always peek in the bottom of the Worm Factory just to see what is in there. Only once did I catch a little escapee wiggling around in there! I scooped the worm up with my hand and placed it back with its worm buddies in the food tray just to save it the trip.
The Worm Factory is designed with layers of trays that are added one at a time. As the worms compost the materials in the lowest tray and create castings (castings are their poo that is the compost we use) the tray will start to fill with castings. As the tray fills up, another tray of food is placed on top of the second one with the lid put on top. As the worms run out of food in the bottom tray, they will migrate up to the top tray where there is more food. Eventually once all the worms migrated up, you are left with the bottom tray with no worms and just the castings. That is such an easy process!!
Compare that casting harvesting process to my simple homemade worm bin. To harvest the castings from my big plastic tub, I need to get out a tarp, dump the whole thing out, wait for the worms to wiggle to the bottom of the pile and harvest the castings from the top of the pile. This is a messy, time consuming undertaking and it is common for some worms to be accidentally harvested from the bin. Now you know why I think the Worm Factory 360 is so amazing compared to my simple plastic tub worm bin!
Another great thing I noticed about the Worm Factory 360 is how easy it is to pick up and move around. My other homemade plastic tub worm bin is so heavy I can barely move it. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to wrangle my husband into assisting me when it comes time to dumb out our plastic tub to harvest the compost!
Ordering Worms for the Worm Factory 360
When you receive a Worm Factory 360 in the mail, there is a voucher inside to use for ordering a package of one pound worms online. The worms are shipped separately since they are a rushed delivery. I was intrigued by how worms would be shipped and was fascinated to see that they were placed in a breathable mesh fabric bag inside a cardboard box with some holes poked in the side.
The first worm package we ordered was shipped out on a Monday when we were having bitterly cold temperatures. The postal service was closed on Tuesday for a holiday so unfortunately our worms got stuck somewhere and we’re guessing they probably froze. They arrived in a big slimy pile that wasn’t moving. Ick! You know your worms are dead when they have a pretty funky odor too.I contacted the folks who sent the worms and they immediately got us set up for another shipment of worms at no additional cost to us. Once the worms arrived the second time, I had the Worm Factory 360 and a bunch of slimy food scraps all ready for them. They adjusted wonderfully and within a few hours were happily starting to compost the food scraps!
Introducing Worms in a Worm Factory 360
Like any worm bin, you need to create bedding from a mixture of “brown” and “green” materials (the booklet that came with the Worm Factory has a nice list explaining these materials and what can be used). The Worm Factory 360 came with all the materials except for food scraps. The handy book it came with explained step by step which materials and how much to include in the bedding mix. The Worm Factory came with coconut coir, which isn’t something that is naturally occurring here in Montana. There is a note in the guide that says it is not a required material in the bin so it won’t likely be one I will continue using once our supply runs out. For my worm bins I prefer to use free materials that I can source from around our property and home.
I mixed up the bedding in the deep tray that came with the kit that is designed to be used to catch liquid that will drip from the spout on the bottom of the Worm Factory when you’re ready to open the spout. I also used the rake it came with to stir the bedding up. It was so convenient to have these tools provided so I didn’t have to go out the barn in the cold to dig around for a bucket and a rake!
The instructions that came with the Worm Factory 360 suggest shining a light on the worm bin throughout the night for the first few days after introducing the worms. Worms don’t like light and will crawl away from it. As worms are adjusting to their new bin, they slither around and check things out. Sometimes they’ll all try to escape the worm bin, hence the light shining on it all the time to prevent that. During the day our worm bin sat out in the light in the mudroom. At night, I sat the Worm Factory under a light we leave on all night for Little A’s night light. We didn’t have a single worm bail out of the bin!
Feeding Worms in a Worm Factory 360
Feeding food scraps to the worms in a Worm Factory 360 is pretty simple. There is a small hand rake that came with the Worm Factory. To feed the worms, I pull back the layer of damp newspaper on top of the tray, rake back the bedding and dump in a pile of previously frozen and thawed food scraps (you can read here why we do this to keep the fruit flies out of our worm bins). Then I rake the bedding back over top.
Each time you feed the worm bin, it is important to add both “green” and “brown” materials to keep a balance in the bin and ensure happy worms. Why? Because if worms are happy they will reproduce more and they won’t try to bail out of the worm bin. Here’s our Worm Factory 360 with fresh bedding and the first pile of food scraps.
After I introduced the worms to their new bin, I checked on them a few days later. I was thrilled to see them happily swarming around the food scraps working their magic to turn the scraps into compost!
I feed our worms two to three times per week. After I dump in the food scraps, I add either newspaper shreds or small torn pieces of paper egg cartons. Then I put the layers of newspaper back on top. If the newspaper feels dry, I spritz it down with water to help keep some moisture in the tray. Everything I’ve read about vermicomposting says that the bedding in the bin should have the moisture level of a wrung out wet sponge. I used to test the moisture with my hands but now that I’ve been vermicomposting long enough I can tell by just looking at the bin if it is damp enough or too wet. If the worm bin is too wet, I add dry newspaper shreds to absorb some moisture.
Harvesting Worm Castings from a Worm Factory 360
The guide that came with the Worm Factory 360 said that it takes approximately three to four months for the worms to fill up the bottom tray with castings. Then they will need to have another tray of food placed above them so they can start to migrate up and vacate the bottom casting filled tray. I’ve been vermicomposting with the Worm Factory 360 for almost a month now but our bottom tray is not even half filled with worm castings yet. Stay tuned in a few months for an update when we’re ready to harvest our first tray of worm castings!
Eartheasy: Solutions for Sustainable Living
Eartheasy is the company that graciously sent us a Worm Factory 360 to review. Eartheasy is a family owned and operated business based out of Canada, our neighbors to the north. They have such an amazing story to tell about how Eartheasy came into existence, you should definitely read it here on their website! Since we dream of one day living off grid, it is so inspiring to read of other families who have thrived living off grid and were able to make a living doing so.
The Eartheasy website was created “to encourage, inspire and inform people about the benefits of a simpler, less material lifestyle, and the importance of protecting our natural environment as the source of our well-being”. Their website reflects these values with the types of sustainable living products they sell for the home and garden. They also have a blog on their website with informative articles about sustainable living.
In the month that we’ve been using the Worm Factory 360, I haven’t found anything I don’t like about it. There is a reason the Worm Factory 360 is known as the cream of the crop of vermicomposting bins!
Are you a “worm farmer”? What type of worm bin do you use?