Worm Farm

One of Max’s favorite things to do in the spring is to dig up worms. He’s been doing it for as long as I can remember. In years past, he would dig the worms up, collect them in a cup filled with dirt and after a few days, the worms would either drown because he added too much water, or they would dry up and die because he didn’t add enough water. So this year, I started doing some reading and discovered that a great way to keep worms skin moist (which they need in order to breathe), is by setting shredding newspaper. The newspaper remains moist, but not soaked, so it provides a nice environment for the worms.

After reading about the newspaper, I followed a couple of related links, and found out about something called worm farms and worm tea. Essentially what a worm farm is, is a series of containers stacked on top of one another, to make a sort of compost heap. Some people use wood crates, some people use metal trash cans, but the most common material seems to be either Styrofoam coolers or plastic storage bins.

The weather here has remained unseasonably cool, so there haven’t been a lot of worms yet. I thought it would be good to try a small worm farm at first, so yesterday I went to Target and got a couple of small, plastic, shoe box sized storage bins. I thought it would be right up Max’s alley, so after dinner, we got out the bins and started constructing our mini worm farm out in the garage.

We began by drilling a series of small 3/8 inch holes in the bottom of the bin. This provides drainage so that excess water can drip into the bin below it. Then we drilled the same pattern of holes on the lid. This is to provide oxygen to the worms. Next, we took some pieces of newspaper and shredded them in our paper shredder. This makes nice, uniform pieces of paper to act as the bedding for the worms. Then we sprinkled a little organic potting soil on top of the newspaper and added a 2nd layer of shredded newspaper. Then we added some of the worms that we had caught over the past week. We sprinkled some dry oats on top, then we took a spray bottle and moistened everything inside. Finally, we added a piece of moist corrugated cardboard on top of the paper bedding. Then we placed our worm farm, inside of a second bin of the same size. This bin remained whole, with no holes drilled in it. This will catch any of the debris that falls through the small drainage holes.

Now on a large scale worm farm, it can accommodate hundreds, even thousands of worms. So far we only have about two dozen in our small scale farm. In a larger scale worm farm, you are supposed to add table scraps like coffee grinds, shredded vegetables, and ground up egg shells. This acts as food for the worms. They break it down, and it turns into compost. Worm tea is produced, which is a nutrient rich liquid that is formed as the carbon based objects like the newspaper, table scraps, cardboard etc get broken down. Over time, the food scraps and paper break down and make nutrient rich soil as well. It’s supposed to be great to use in house plants, and with vegetable and herb gardens. And worms reproduce rather quickly, so if you had hundreds of worms, as the older ones die off, you should have a steady supply of new ones. So all you have to do is keep adding more table scraps and newspaper, occasionally moisten things up, and the worms do the rest of the work.

I don’t think we will be able to collect enough worms to fill a large 10 gallon storage bin, so we will probably order some worms online and have them shipped. Plus, we can order a variety of different worms (red wigglers, super red worms, nightcrawlers and euro red wigglers), which I think Max would enjoy observing. The weather is supposed to finally warm up over the weekend, so as we collect more worms, we’ll keep adding them to our mini worm farm for now. If things go well with it, then I may order some worms online and construct a larger scale worm farm.

I was concerned about the smell and attracting bugs, but all the articles I read online say that as long as you bury the scraps of food and don’t let it linger at the top, there are no problems with smell or attracting unwanted bugs. I think it will be a fun experiment for Max and I to do over the spring and summer months.

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