Using Old Freezers as Worm Beds

Worm Composting...

“Hi, I’m just starting to try worm farming. I would like to read some opinions on the best types of beds. My son thinks that burying old freezers in the ground would be good. What does everyone think of that idea? What is the best bedding? Like I said I’m just starting and all the help I can get would be greatly appreciated.” ~ Dave Fee

Hi Dave,

The first thing you should ask yourself is why you want to set up a worm bed. Are you just looking for a fun hobby, or for a potential business? How you answer that question will help determine what’s the best approach to take in terms of the type of bed to set up. More on that in a minute.

Truth be told, I always recommend that anyone who is just getting started to start small and work from there. Setting up your own Rubbermaid (or similar) worm tub and starting to compost your leftover food waste can go a long way towards helping you gain some vital hands-on experience. Once you get the hang of it (shouldn’t take long) you can expand from there. This also provides you with a little more time to learn about the business side of things as well – hopefully preparing you for when you are ready to set up shop.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with testing out some larger systems early on, especially if you are willing to put in the time to learn about worm farming either before, or at least while you are doing so.

Using a container you can get for free (or at least at low cost) is an excellent idea – again, this helps minimize your initial financial outlay (and thus risk), plus it’s a great way to reuse old containers that would just end up in the landfill otherwise!

An old freezer could work very well – but again it’s important to decide what your overall goals are. If you are interested in setting up a serious worm operation (selling worms, castings or both), using relatively inaccessible beds like that might prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. Some sort of above-ground bed might be a better idea.

Freezers (assuming we’re talking about chest freezers) also tend to have a pretty low surface-area:volume ratio and are sealed containers, thus making it quite difficult to maintain oxygenated conditions within. Using an old fridge (placed horizontally) might work better.

On the plus side, a freezer does offer great insulation and moisture-retention properties – especially valuable if you live in a hot/dry and/or cold climate. They tend to be light colored as well, thus reflecting sunlight and helping to prevent overheating.

If I were going to use an old freezer I’d likely keep it above ground and would drill aeration and drainage holes into it. The more I think about, the more it actually sounds like a fun project to try out! Some other possibilities for cheap worm beds include old bathtubs, feed troughs, large diameter piping (split in half), the list goes on.

If you are the handy-man sort, you might also think about building your own system. Oregon Soil Corporation offers for sale plans for their “OSCR” (Oregon Soil Corp Reactor) system – a nice ‘flow-through’ design which funny enough kinda looks like a chest freezer! 🙂

You can get these plans from Vermico:

…and see pictures of them here:

Just so you know, flow-through beds are great since they make it MUCH easier to continuously remove the worm compost without disturbing the contents of the bin.

As for bedding, there are plenty of options. If you can get your hands on some well-aged horse or cattle manure that would be ideal. Maybe you know some local farmers with old manure piles lying around? You never know, you may even luck out and find that these piles are already jam-packed with redworms!

Other great bedding materials include rotting leaves or straw, shredded corrugated cardboard (moistened), or peat moss (helps if it is soaked/drained several times to eliminate acidity).

Anyway, Dave – hope this helps.

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  1. Hi dave,
    I am also new to breeding worms & started out not knowing what to use & what to do.
    I seeked advice through websites & also a couple of worm books,one is called Worm Farning Management by Eric Wilson.
    Another is called The Worm Book by Loren Nancarrow & Janet Taylor.
    Both books provide excellent info on all aspects of worm farming.
    Now i have purchased the Worm Farming Book from Duncan i am steered in the right direction.
    I personally deciced to use 60 lt black bins purchased from the reject shop or Bunnings as these are stackable if required.
    I use them & was worried that i would have trouble with heat here in the middle of NSW Australia, but so far all is going well & i have separated the eggs & breeders & have 4 containers of hatchings 3/4 grown & all going well.
    I also use the foam broccoli containers from the supermarket to use as incubaters.
    I have just mixed a fattening formula i got off this website & hopefully the worms will be ready for distribution soon.
    By the way i am breeding tiger worms & big reds.
    Dave go with what you feel would be best to use as Duncan said it depends on what you want to do with the worms & how big you want to start.
    I started out intending to have a few fishing worms & now intend to sell what surplus i have & also intend to expand a big bigger with a couple more varieties of wormsto see how they go.
    All i can add is get out there have a go & enjoy, i have.

  2. do you need to insulate cast iron tubs if used outside? and if so what do you use?

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