Making your own DIY worm farm is easy, but it’s definitely one of those things that you’ll either be super into…or not at all. I mean, let’s be honest – worms aren’t exactly cute and cuddly.
Worm farming, or vermiculture for the fancy among us, is a great way to reduce waste, but there are many other benefits, depending on how far you want to take it. It may be a weird way to save money, but it’s certainly a fun one!
Benefits of Worm Farming
First, when your wriggly friends break down your kitchen waste, they are eating up stuff that would otherwise take up space at the landfill while decomposing. As minimal as it may be, it all adds up over time!
Your worm farm will also be amazing for those of you are into gardening on a budget. Not only will the castings be great to mix in (no having to actually buy compost!) but the liquid “tea” they generate is one of the best fertilizers you can find…and it’ll cost you nothing to keep it going!
Another benefit is that it’s a great way to teach your children to care about the environment and about those around them. While not all kids will be into worm farming, let’s be real – most will be rather excited about it! Plus worm farming is easy to set up and care for, making it a great project for even the youngest among us.
What You Need for a Worm Farm
There are many (MANY) different wants to DIY a worm farm, but the route we went requires the following:
5 gallon tote with lid
Hot glue gun
X-Acto Knife or box cutter
Heat gun (not completely necessary but will definitely make cutting the tote easier!)
Shredded newspaper – about a Sunday’s edition worth – soaked in water and wrung out
Worms – check your local resale sites on Facebook or Craigslist to find ’em. You’d be surprised how common vermiculture is!
Where to Keep Your Worm Farm
Before you start building your worm habitat, decide on where you’ll keep the critters. Do *NOT* plan to keep them outside!! A warm, dry, dark environment is best – like your basement – but anywhere out of direct sunlight that’ll stay 40 – 80 F (4 – 27 C) will be fine. They tend to generate a lot of their own heat as they break down their food, so it’s exceptionally important you keep them somewhere relatively cool, though obviously not so cold they’ll freeze.
How to DIY a Worm Farm
Once you have your ideal location set, it’s time to get building!
First, if you have a heat gun, use it to warm up the area of your tote lid you’ll be cutting. It really does make a difference in getting that center cut out:
Then use that center cut out to trace and cut out screen material big enough to cover the area you just cut out. From there you’ll hot glue that screen onto the topof the lid. I then used duct tape to secure it all the better – again done on TOP the lid.
Originally I went the route of just drilling holes into the lid and that was fine…until my wriggly friends started to wriggle their way out of the nice home I built them! So rude, right? Supposedly the worms won’t do that if you have a nice environment for them, but uh…no. Heh trust me, the screen is the way to go!
You can also drill and insert a spigot into the bottom to drain some of the liquid that’ll accumulate, but I just make sure to monitor the dampness every few days and will add shredded newspaper or cardboard as needed.
What to Put In Your Worm Farm
When you’re first adding your worms, you can start with whatever dirt they’ve come in and then use wet, shredded newspaper and cardboard – be sure to wring it out first as you want it wet, but no where near dripping. Fill your tote about half full with the shreds and make sure it’s fluffed up enough for the worms to move freely and have plenty of oxygen.
There’s no need to add additional dirt, yard waste, etc. In fact, it’s safer to avoid ever doing that, as you never know what sort of contaminants might be there.
You can then go ahead and add your worms, but wait a couple days before adding in any food.
What to Feed Worms
Fortunately worms aren’t too picky when it comes to food, though mine are certainly big fans of moldy tomatoes (yum…)
You’ll want to avoid meat or highly acidic foods, like onions and citrus. Also try to avoid going overboard on the coffee grounds.
Your worms will thrive best when given a 2:1 ratio of pounds of worms to daily pounds of food, but this may vary a bit. It’s best to start off with food in one corner and then monitor it to see how fast it goes. As that corner starts to dissipate, put another serving in another corner. This helps keeps the worms moving and keeps the waste well circulated.
Should you start seeing gnats or other flying friends, cut back on the food a bit and/or loosely place a piece of dry cardboard in the bin on top of the papers/waste.
As they begin to generate those castings, feel free to scoop it out and add it to your garden or indoor plants. Eventually you may find your worm friends have reproduced so much that they need a new home – this can be a great way to earn some extra cash from home or you can create a second home if your garden is in need!
Do you have any questions about DIY’ing your own worm farm?
Growing a garden on a budget seems a bit “duh”, doesn’t it? Isn’t gardening an automatic money-saver, grow your own produce and all that? Well, not always…
When I quit my job to focus solely on Thrifty Guardian, our already-tight budgets were tightened a bit more to ensure we could maintain our savings and allow for a cushion should the momentum on my site slow.
One thing I cut (much to my husband’s dismay) was our previously robust gardening budget from previous years. Normally our gardening budget allotted for more than just vegetables and included landscaping – that we of course did ourselves but nevertheless could get pricey as we worked to turn our backyard into a sanctuary.
Gardening on a Budget
As I considered the cost of our garden versus what we’d end up spending at the Farmer’s Market for produce, I realized we still needed to allot something for the garden lest we go over-budget on food. We do almost all of our home shopping at Lowe’s and while I do love their prices (especially if you have their credit card and get 5% back!), we still had to find a way to cut back a bit.
So what are your options? Can you have a beautiful, bountiful yard on a budget?
Well, of course!
Gardens on a shoestring budget are how our grandparents and great-grandparents survived the Great Depression, and there are certainly some modern and some not-so-modern ways to get back to truly enjoying a gardening hobby without spending an absurd amount of money.
You might find the ingenuity needed to cheaply garden can be as rewarding as biting into a juicy tomato or the crisp green beans you grew yourself.
Getting Started – Garden Beds, Containers, and Soil
Raised beds made from store-bought lumber look beautiful and they’re quite useful (especially if you have a male dog who likes to “mark his territory”…), but fresh lumber is expensive.
There are a few other options that are readily available in most places that won’t cost you an arm and a leg:
Palettes – chances are good you know someone who is always making insanely cool stuff from palettes. Well, that’s because once you’re comfortable with it, they’re a cheap source of lumber that has a rustic appeal to it. Check out your local Facebook re-sale groups or Craigslist and you’re sure to find some at a low cost. Picking apart some decently fresh palettes and reassembling them into garden boxes of various sizes is a great way to cut out the price of raw materials, and it also allows you to be one of those people. Ya know… those people; Pinterest palette people.
Cinder blocks – these guys. LOVE them. They’re everywhere, and even brand new, they’re only about a dollar at Lowe’s. They’re great for many reasons, but here’s two: you can use them as the border of a raised bed, then use pond liner or tarp as a liner for the inside, creating a pretty easily constructed garden bed. OR you can use them as individual double-planters. We did this last year; I used some painter’s tape and spray paint to stencil on a cute little design. They’re great for planting in your front yard and can add a nice POP of color!
Containers for individual plants – those great little greenhouses with the individual cells are nice but of course cost money we don’t want to spend. A great way to start plants is in cardboard egg containers, just make sure you poke a hole in each bottom for drainage. Once you’ve got your young seedlings, you can widen the hole and then plant the entire carton in the ground. Cat litter containers are also great for individual plants that like space, like tomatoes, and are easy to move around as needed. Upcycle!
Get dirty with me – Soil is often easy to get ahold of if you look on Craigslist or Facebook resale groups. People are always moving tons of dirt when building, and will often welcome someone willing to come by and take it off their hands. While I don’t recommend using this soil when starting your seeds, it can be great to fill in beds, flesh out your lawn when re-seeding, or used to help landscape.
Frugal Seeds and Starts
Again, since quality seed packs can sometimes be expensive, finding other ways to get seeds and starts is essential.
A few options are:
Joining a seed bank or trading group. Again, Craigslist or Facebook are great for this!
Better yet – talk to your neighbors! We have all sorts of plants, particularly hostas, that we gladly divide up and share with friends or neighbors. Let your friends and neighbors know you’re looking to flesh out your garden and they might have some plants they’d gladly give you starts of.
Use discarded food scraps. We got all of our tomato plants this year from a mushy tomato in the fridge. I literally tossed it into a pot of soil and about three weeks later we had a dozen healthy tomato starts to separate and transplant. Any fruit or veggie with seeds would work (in theory).
Some plants, like green onions, will grow back quickly if you just put the remaining roots in water after you’ve cut the green off.
Fresh basil (and other herbs for that matter) will often root easily when the bottoms are cut diagonally and placed in water. We have a few herbs outside this year that are remnants from store-bought herbs we had this winter, that we put in water, grew roots, and then transplanted.
Potatoes are great because they do the work for you. The “eyes” they grow are basically starts. Chop them into cubes and plant them (as long as they have eyes). You’ll have more stalks than you know what to do with.
Though a much more extensive topic than can be covered here, harvesting, drying, and storing seeds from your produce is a great way to ensure you have seeds for the next year, particularly if you’re growing heirloom varieties in their original forms.
Tend Your Garden
Once you’ve gotten your containers and your seeds, it’s simply a matter of the day-to-day tending of your garden. Soon you’ll have bountiful crop of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and all sorts of delicious goodies, allowing you to trade or sell your the excess of your bounty.
The simple act of gardening is a great way to get exercise (just make sure you wear some sunscreen!) and it provides a great return on a minimal investment, while allowing you to recycle things you were probably going to throw out anyway.
And if you’re looking to add in some decor, sign up for programs like SnagShout and there’s a good chance you can find a bunch of cheap (if not FREE) garden decor – it’s where we got all of ours from and we didn’t pay a cent! All it took was a few minutes of reviewing the product, which is something we often do anyway.
Add in a good compost heap (or create your own DIY warm farm!) for your food waste and you’ll reduce your spending, your carbon footprint, and your waistline – all of which of very thrifty ways to live!
My personal favorite thing about gardening is the time spent watering. Sometimes I let my son help, but often I’ll sneak out in the evenings, using the time to reflect on the day and enjoy a few moments of peace and sunshine to myself.
Do you garden? What do you most enjoy about it?
Welcome! My name is Amber Temerity and I'm here to guide you on your journey toward a richer life.