Nothing is so beautiful as Spring. Time to bring science to our garden. For those who read my blog, know that I have placed solar panels on my roof. My two kid’s are proud that, Me and my wife take in account the environment and what we are doing with it. So let’s make a science project that I can do with the kids.Lets build a modern worm farm!
It looks like rich, dark compost. It contains five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil. It’s vermicompost – super soil produced as a result of the digestion process of the humble earthworm.
It’s basic stuff, but the increased crop productivity, and long-term benefits of vermicompost are undeniable. Soil conditioned with this “black gold” is what keeps many farm and garden operations from going under. It improves soil structure, increases yield and even improves the taste of fruits and vegetables, and makes them last longer in the field. And, it doesn’t require fancy chemicals or industrial packaging. It does it the old fashioned way, with millions of employees. Squirmy, red employees. Red Wigglers, or Eisenia fetida, to be exact.
Vermicompost can be produced in a tiny urban closet, or on a large ranch. In Sonoma County, California, Jack Chambers goes big. He produces 35,000 pounds a month at Sonoma Valley Worm Farm. Chambers bought the 1-acre operation in 1992, and since then, he figures he’s diverted 1.8 million tons of food from entering landfills by recycling agricultural waste, and selling worms to home composters. here’s a picture of Vermicompost.
Lets build our own worm farm, what do we need to build one:
Eisenia fetida, are the most common type of worm used for vermicomposting. These worms are sold by the pound at many gardening centers or bait shops. You don’t need a lot to start a home worm bin. One pound of these guys is equivalent to 1,000 worms. They reproduce like crazy and regulate their number based on the amount of food available.
- two plastic bins
We used plastic storage bins with snap on lids. The box you use needs to be at least 12” (30cm) deep. Make sure they’re opaque. Worms like it dark.
- A drill.
- A small flowerpot or a brick.
- Some old newspapers and household food waste.
Putting it all together is easy.
Mark out holes on one of the bins.
Using a pencil, mark out a series of holes around all four sides of the top of the bin. Mark out about 20 holes in the bottom of the bin. Leave the other bin blank. Make some holes at the side so that the bin will get some air exchange. Drill out the marked holes. For the lid and sides we used a 3/32” (2,4 mm) drill bit. For the bottom holes, we used a larger 3/16” (4,8 mm) bit.
Stack your bins. Put a brick or flowerpot in the un-drilled bin and stack the drilled bin on top. This allows some space for the liquid to drain out of the top bin into the bottom one.
Prepare the bedding.
Shredded newspapers work great, as does torn up corrugated cardboard. A few dried leaves work too.
Just avoid anything with glossy color printing or leaves with a lot of volatile oil or strong scent.
Once your bedding is in place, wet it down until it’s the consistency of a wet sponge. It should be moist, but fluffy.
Table scraps are the best.
Just don’t add any oil or animal products like bone, meat or fat, or any dairy like butter or yogurt.
Citrus is okay, and the blue mold that naturally occurs on citrus peels is actually good and it inoculates your bin with beneficial substances that help your worms do their work. Just go moderately with acidic substances like citrus and coffee grounds. “Diversity is the key”.
How to Feed Your Worms
Select foods that are suitable for worms including most fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, and other organic items like cardboard and tea bags. It is best to cut food scraps into small pieces before placing them in the bin. The smaller the pieces the more surface area there is for bacteria to start breaking down the food, making it easier for the worms to consume. Some people put their food scraps, including eggshells, into a blender and make a slurry. The worms seem to love this, but it is not necessary.
Keep shredded black and white newspaper over the food at all times. Newspaper or bedding helps keep the bin dark and moist and discourages fruit flies. Other organic material such as burlap or shredded cardboard or paperboard can also be used. The worms live in these materials and they also eat them.
To feed the worms, place the food under the newspaper in a different part of the bin each time. Do not bury the food in the castings.
How Much Food
Worms need to adjust to their new home and new foods so do not overfeed them the first few weeks. In addition to the food you are giving them, they’re eating their new bedding. Once they are settled, comfortable and happy they will quickly munch through their food. The bin will require more food as its population grows.
Have they had enough time to consume old food?
Is there food remaining because they do not like it?
Has the food not been broken down enough by bacteria for the worms to consume it?
If there is a little food left and the worms are eating, additional food can be added. But if food is left due to one of the other reasons, cover it with newspaper and don’t feed again for a week or remove the food from the bin.
Feeding time Unlike other critters, worms don’t demand to be fed on a schedule. They can be fed once a day, every two or three days, or once a week. You can go on vacation for a month without worrying about them. Just give them a regular amount of food before you leave and place plenty of shredded newspaper, cardboard or paperboard on top of the food. Make sure you leave the bin in an area where the temperature will not get too hot, not over 90ºF (90°F – 32 ) × 5/9 = 32.222222222°C ) and the cover material is wet enough that it will not dry out.
Happy redworms will eat half their weight in food every day. That doesn’t sound like a very large quantity of food because they’re so small, but when you get a few thousand worms living in a bin, food disappears rather quickly.
Because worms have no teeth, they need to take in grit with their food. Rock dust or crushed eggs shells offer grit for their diet and can also help correct problems if you’ve added too much food to the bin. These can be purchased at most garden stores. To add these powders to the bin, sprinkle a small amount on the food scraps once or twice a month.
Pulverized eggshells are an excellent source of grit. If you are adding eggshells to your bin you probably won’t need to purchase other types of grit.
Problem: Moldy food
Solution: If you have fed the worms too much, the food might become moldy. Remove moldy food as worms are unlikely to eat it and it makes the system vulnerable to infestations from other microorganisms.
Problem: Offensive odor
Solution: Uneaten food has become anaerobic. Make sure there is a generous amount of damp newspaper or cardboard placed over the food and stop feeding for a week. Add rock dust or crushed oyster shells.
Problem: Worms trying to escape
Solution: Bin may be too wet or too dry. Add more dry bedding if too wet, or moisten bedding if too dry.
Examples of Worm Food
Fruit: apples, pears, banana peels, strawberries, peaches and all melons
Vegetables: beans, cabbage, celery, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, all greens, corn, corncobs and squash
Cereals and grains: oatmeal, pasta, rice, non–sugared breakfast cereals, corn meal, pancakes
worms eat eaggshells and tea bags
Miscellaneous: coffee filter paper, tea bags, eggshells, dead flowers
Use Caution When Adding These
Breads — can attract red mites
Potato skins, onions, garlic, ginger — get consumed slowly and can cause odors
Coffee grounds — too many will make the bin acidic
Do Not Feed
Meat, poultry, fish, dairy — protein attracts rodents
Potato chips, candy, oils — worms do not like junk food and these attract ants
Oranges, lemons, limes — citrus has a chemical substance (limonene) that is toxic to worms
Definite No–No’s in a Worm Bin
Non–biodegradable materials that do not belong in your bin include plastic, rubber bands, sponges, aluminum foil, glass, and dog or cat feces.
Add the wigglers
Once your bin is all set, bury a small amount of food scraps and let your worms loose on it. Worms naturally go for the dark, so they’ll bury themselves in your table scraps. Don’t worry, they usually can’t find their way out of the bin and escape. They don’t want that anyway, and neither do you. I found my little worms online here. But there are a lot of sites that sell them.
Tuck them in
To avoid fruit fly infestation, and worm escapees, take a few sheets of wet newspaper and lay them flat on top of your bedding. Then take a few more wet sheets and roll them up. Tuck them around the corners to form a seal so that everything stays in place and your worms are protected.
Put them to work
Don’t expect much in the first few weeks. They are getting over the trauma of a new home. Once they’re up to it, though, they can consume up to their own weight in food a day. So, if you put in roughly 1 pound (453.59237 grams to be exact) of worms, try putting in just about a pound of scraps a day. Don’t worry if you put in too much or too little, just make sure you add a variety of food scraps, so that the little guys will have something to munch on. You can feed them every few days, or as infrequently as once every two weeks. Just make sure you replace the food that is disappearing. You’ll see that some foods break down quickly (like ripe fruit) and others take forever (like root veggies and cabbage). To avoid bad smells, bury your food scraps underneath some bedding and vary the location of the food throughout the box.
Once the worms have done their work, you will see vermicompost in the bin. It’s dark brown and looks like coffee grounds. To get some, without using fancy machinery, lure the worms to another area of the bin with fresh food. In a few days most of the worms will be working the new area, so you can carefully scoop out the finished compost. It’s okay if you have a few worms hanging on. Just make sure you leave most of them in the bin to keep working.
You can also detach the top bin and pour out the “juice” that accumulates in the bottom bin. This stuff is like a high-energy drink for your plants. Dilute it or aerate it and feed your houseplants.
Do you have any questions? Leave a comment down below!