I admit, in most ways, I’m not a fan of worms. I still prefer my son baiting my hook when we’re fishing. When I see a worm on the surface of a street I get the shudders. But in my vegetable garden I’m thrilled to see lots of these wonderful creatures in the soil. They create a substance known as vermicompost which has five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium than plain old soil. It’s produced by the digestive process of worms and, in my mind, is worth its weight in gold. My favorite part is that it’s non-chemical and available right in my yard.
Vermicompost greatly increases crop productivity. It conditions the soil, improving soil structure, and even (go figure) improves the taste of vegetables and fruits and helps them last longer in the field. Since there are times when I am simply unable to get to the garden to harvest for a couple of days this is a big plus for me.
My youngest son came over on Mother’s Day to make me a new worm farm. The man knows what his mama likes! Here’s how to go about making your own worm farm.
The most common worm used in creating vermicompost is the common red worm a.k.a. red wiggler. You can pick them up at any bait shop and in many garden stores. They’re the first step in making your own worm farm. One pound is about 1,000 worms. They reproduce like rabbits and they won’t overproduce because production is based on available food. Night crawlers and the common garden worms aren’t the best for vermicomposting. And, if you’re around my age you may remember the jingle I first heard on WKRP in Cincinnati (a television sitcom in the late 70’s) about Red Wigglers; Red Wigglers, the Cadillac of worms! Boom, boom, boom! Cadillac of worms! I’ve had that song stuck in my head for days now.
Making Their Home:
- A couple of opaque plastic bins that are at least 12 inches deep and have snap-on lids.
- A drill
- A brick or a small terracotta pot
- Old newspapers, corrugated cardboard, and dried leaves
- Food waste from your kitchen (no oil and no animal products, including bones, meat, and fat, and no dairy including butter and yogurt). Citrus peels are good in moderation. Even those which have molded are good. The blue mold adds beneficial substances to the bin. Coffee grounds can also be added, but as with citrus, use in moderation. You don’t want too much acidic stuff in there.
- First mark where you’ll drill the holes on one of the bins. The holes will be on all four sides at the top of the bin and the lid of the bin to allow for air exchange. On the bottom of the bin, mark spots for about 20 holes. The second bin will not have holes.
- Using a 3/16” bit for the bottom of the bin and a 3/32” bit for the rest of the bin and the lid, drill everywhere you’ve marked.
- In the middle of the bottom of the undrilled bin place the brick or pot you’ve chosen and then place the drilled bin on top. This allows liquid to drain from the top bin to the bottom one.
- Tear the newspaper or cardboard into strips or pieces. Add dried leaves if using. Do not use anything that has glossy print nor leaves with a strong scent.
- Wet the bedding so that it’s moist but still fluffy.
*We completed this step and went to buy our worms only to discover that no one around here sells Red Wigglers! We’re going to have to order them online. Nevertheless, here are the last steps you need to finish your own worm farm.
- Bury a bit of the kitchen scraps your worms will feast upon and then add the worms themselves. Worms like the dark so they’ll find and bury themselves right in the food you’ve provided.
- Fruit flies can be a problem so lay a few sheets of wet newspaper on top of the bedding. Roll up some more sheets and tuck them around the edges on top of the layer of wet newspaper you just added. They’ll keep your worms protected.
- They’ll take a few weeks to really start producing that black gold you want but be sure to keep feeding them while you wait. They eat their own weight each day so if you used a pound of worms add a pound of scraps each day. Make sure you provide a variety of scraps. Check occasionally to be sure the food is disappearing. You can even feed them every few days or even once a week as long as the food is being eaten but it’s not completely gone between feedings. Bury the food under the bedding to keep odors down.
- When you see the vermicompost, which looks like coffee grounds, just give your wriggly little workers some fresh food away from the area you want to collect the vermicompost. In just a few days they’ll all have moved to the new feeding area and you can carefully scoop out the vermicompost. Try not to scoop too many worms out with it. You want to leave as many as possible working for you.
- Pour the liquid which has collected in the bottom bin into a container, dilute it, and feed it to your plants.
Once your worm farm is producing lots of vermicompost you can use it to make https://thecomfortablecoop.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/worm-tea-for-your-vegetables-and-flowers/ to really give your vegetables and flowers a boost!