Farming Worms for


Vermiculture goes hand in hand with composting. The raising of earthworms, as vermiculture is known, is very easily done by using the worms in the compost bin. They work right alongside the bacteria and other aerobic organisms that break down the organic materials and turn them into compost. You can order fancy kits online, and spend many dollars getting yourself a container of earthworms to get started, or you can just go down to your freshwater bait shop and buy a styrofoam container of them for cheap. I've even seen them in a small refrigerator in the sporting goods section of Wally World. A couple of live earthworm containers, some browns and greens to make compost, and you are good to go.

I just buy a container and throw them in when I'm starting a new batch of compost. Here's exactly how I do it. I always save some of the older, completely rotted compost to start a new batch. It already contains all the living organisms I need to get the new batch started. This is where I place the container of earthworms. I then start adding the new organic material like grass clippings and old lettuce on top, and stir the stuff after a week. By then the earthworms have made themselves at home, and are already beginning to break down the hot mix. As long as you've given them enough of the older, rotted compost to live in the first week or two, they will be fine with the new mix, and your stirring and misting with water. They will help the mixture to break down even quicker, and add valuable worm castings to it as well.

Now, if You just want to raise them for the castings, you'll have to build them a box. Buy two 2 inches (thick) x (10 or) 12 inches (high) x 8 foot long boards, and cut them into equal lengths, to form a square. At the same time, using a sheet of 1/2 inch thick plywood, cut a top and bottom to fit your box. Hinge the lid, nail the bottom. Before attaching the lid, drill some 1/2 inch holes into it, to allow it to breathe. Do the same thing along the bottom and sides, up about 2 inches on the sides. This way if it rains, the box will not become a floating coffin for your worms. *Note: If you are like me, you can look around and see if any recyclable wood is laying around in the woodpile and use it instead of having to purchase it. Also, don't paint or stain the inside of the lid, bottom or sides. If you want to, you can paint with latex; the outer parts of the box to give it some weather resistance. DO NOT expose your precious earthworms to any painted or stained, oiled surfaces.

They will still be eating about the same things as the compost pile does. In this case, give them some good rotted compost to start off with, and add grass and leaf clippings, coffee grounds (they love coffee grounds) and other such yard and kitchen debris to the box. The worms will break it down, and leave the worm castings in a more concentrated space for you to use as fertilizer. If the worms seem to be hungry the first few weeks, as there is not enough debris for them, throw them a handful of wheat germ or unsugared corn flakes. Place this on the surface of the opened box. If you wait a few minutes, you can see them rise to the surface and begin to eat the wheat germ. You should also keep the soil barely moist. If it dries out completely the worms will die.

A good sized 4 x 4 foot vermiculture box breaks down into worm castings in about 4 to 6 months. You will be able to see them (the castings) appearing more and more on the surface. If you don't use some, the entire box will turn into worm castings. This will eventually make them sick and even kill them. Be sure to keep up with your job recycling the castings with new compostable materials.

Save a good two or three handfuls of the worms and castings and set aside when harvesting the box. Replace them into the scraped/shovelled clean box, and continue adding yard and crop debris as usual. It's a lovely, lovely never-ending cycle if you keep everything in balance. Isn't Mother Nature wonderful?

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