Worms are one of a gardener’s best friends. These little creatures are Mother Nature’s soil conditioners. Worms aerate the soil and the castings they leave behind are one of the best fertilizers that can be used on nearly everything you grow. If you would like a regular supply of this nutrient rich worm fertilizer, as well as plenty of extra worms for your garden, start a worm farm. You will need to use Red Worms or Tiger Worms for your worm farm. You can get a few of either type of these worms from most any local plant nursery. The common garden worm that you see most often after a good rain is not suitable for your worm farm as they do not do well in an artificial environment.
Worm farms are super easy to make yourself out of most any suitable container. All you need is three or four stackable crates, or some other container, made of plastic, wood or any other suitable lightweight and waterproof material. Your worms will live in these containers and slowly wiggle and squirm their way up from the bottom bin into the next container above. Your worms will be able to smell the fresh food, which usually consists of fruit, vegetable and other scrap food that would otherwise end up in the local landfill. As the worms eat their way through these scraps, they turn the scraps into the castings that make that wonderful fertilizer so sought after by gardeners everywhere.
The base container will have to have a solid bottom to catch the liquid that runs off from the upper bins. It is recommended that you have some sort of drain hole or tap near the base to drain off this liquid as needed without having to remove any of the upper bins.
All of the bins that go on top of the bottom bin will have holes poked into the bottoms to allow the your wriggly little gardeners to wiggle their way up through the floor to reach the fresh food supplies you give them. All of the upper containers will lock into each other and should be deep enough to leave plenty of room for the worms to squirm and wiggle around without getting squashed.
To make the best living conditions for your worms you will need newspaper and basic potting soil to start the farm, as well as consistent supply of tasty food scraps.
On top of the base container fit one of your bins with holes poked in the bottom of and line it with a few sheets of shredded newspaper and a little bit of soil–about 3-4 handfuls to start with. Spray lightly with fresh water until the soil is just damp NOT soaked. Worms like moisture and should not be allowed to dry out, but if you put too much water you will drown your worms. A light spray of fresh water when the worm farm is first constructed will almost always provide more than enough moisture for the farm. (Once your worm farm is settled in you shouldn’t need to add any extra water.) Now, put you Red worms, or Tiger worms, into the bin along with a small amount of food scraps. Keep any light from the the bin and keep it nice, dark and moist by covering it with newspaper or some sort of covering that will allow good air circulation–worms have to breathe too! Allow your worms to get settled in for about 2 weeks before removing the covering to add more food scraps. Check on the bin’s progress about every 3-4 days and add more food scraps as needed. Your worms will grow and multiply fairly quickly. Always make sure that your worms have enough food, but also make sure to NOT overfeed them. Worms can only eat so fast and any uneaten food will rot, resulting in a very stinky situation and very unhappy worms.
When your first bin is about half full of worms and worm castings, remove the newspaper or other covering and place your second bin with holes on top of the first one. Put some soil and food scraps into this second bin and, as before, block out any light and keep it moist. In about a week’s time your wiggly friends will have wriggled their way up to this second bin and the fresh food stuff leaving behind all that rich fertilizer just waiting to be used on your garden.
Worms are big eaters–they eat nearly all the time. Once your worms are settled in good and growing well, make sure to give them a good supply of suitable food. Worms like almost any vegetable and fruit scraps, with the exception of onions, garlic, and citrus fruits. ANY plants from the onion family and citrus fruits contain volatile oils that are an anathema to your worms. If any of these are included in the food scraps the worms will make a mad dash to get out of their bin and away from the smell.
Make sure that the food scraps are cut into really small bits because worms do not have teeth. A blender or juicer is idea for making up excellent dining for your little wiggly buddies.
Worms also like well soaked and shredded pizza boxes, cardboard, paper, leaves, dirt, hair, egg shells, as well as dog, cat, horse, cow, etc. feces, but never add human feces because human feces can cause serious contamination and illness.
An excellent liquid fertilizer can be made from the castings or the liquid that is in the bottom bin by adding water until the mixture looks like weak tea. Any plants that like being fed from the roots just love this mixture.
Once you have built up quite a population of worms, you can put a few into your compost heap where they will help speed up the composting process and make excellent food for your garden.