So your are set on going green, and want to reduce your household waste. One of the best ways to reduce your household waste is to get into vermiculture. Vermi what?
Vermiculture is the grand word used to describe worm farming, Red Wiggler earthworms to be specific.
But why earthworms?
Earthworms take waste products and turn it into a useful product - compost. Earthworm castings (basically their excretions) are some of the best and environmentally friendly fertilizers you get. Castings consists of 30% humus the end product of compost and is considered to be five times richer than good topsoil.
If that sounds unhygienic to you … it is a known fact that earthworms neutralize up to 99% of germs in less than 2 hours.
Another byproduct of your earthworm farm is “worm tea” an odorless liquid that seeps through the material that the worms eat.
These handy little helpers will assist you to reduce your weekly household waste by up to 25 percent! Go on start your own earthworm farm and convert your organic waste into food for your plants.
Once you get over the fact that you have worms in your kitchen you will realize the value these little workers have for our environment.
How to start your own earthworm farm
There are two ways to starting your own worm farm; 1) make you own 2) buy a ready-made kit from a supplier.
If you decide to take the easy way out here is a list of earthworm farm suppliers.
Want to make your own earthworm farm? Here’s how:
What you’ll need:
- Two plastic bins with lids (black remember earthworm prefer the dark)
- If one bin has a tap attached to the bottom of the bin it will assist with tapping the “worm tea”
- Newspaper, cardboard
- And …. earthworms
Advice: Do not think that you can get some earthworms from your garden and they will do the trick! You need a special species! Red Wigglers (they are like superheroes when it comes to worms!). Here are some suppliers.
- Take the plastic bin (without the tap) and drill a series holes in the bottom to allow drainage.
- (Tip: drill from the inside so the rough pieces sits on the outside of your bin, if it is on the inside it might hamper your juice flow).
- Then drill some holes in the walls and lid of the same bin to allow air to circulate.
- Place a layer of small pebbles at the bottom of the bin, followed by a layer of mesh to assist with drainage and prevent the worms from falling out the bottom.
- For the next layer you will need to add a layer of damp shredded newspaper (long thin streaks) as the bedding for the earthworms, this layer should be about 5cm thick.
- Next you will need to add the worms, remember to add them with the soil that they came in.
- Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding, wet it a bit with a spray bottle.
- “Cover” your worms with the cardboard and then put the lid on.
- Place this bin into your bin with the tap and place it in a shady spot. You can even leave it in your kitchen as your earthworm farm should be odorless.
Now all you need to do is add your waste when available.
The worms will chew their way up through the material leaving their castings behind. When your bin is full, remove the layer of waste and a few centimetres of castings as this will contain most of your worms. What’s left will be the best garden fertilizer you have ever produced. Add a layer of damp newspaper to the bottom of the tub and then place the scraps and worms back into the tub and start the process all over again.
The worms won’t escape as they don’t like light, if they are escaping, their food may be too acidic, don’t feed them any tea bags, coffee grounds, citrus fruit or onions for a while. They may also try to escape if the farm is too wet or too dry.
Most worm farms that you can purchase come with removable panels that allow you to easily remove the castings with less mess.
"Worm tea” (leachate) and castings are safe to use without dilution, but if you prefer the recommended mix is one part leachate/castings to 4 parts soil or water.
Your earthworms will never overpopulate, as they self-regulate reproduction. The more food there is the more they will reproduce and visa versa. Don't over feed the worms in the early stages while they are establishing the population.
If earthworms are not for you, then here is an article on how to start a compost heap.
What to feed your worms
- Fruit, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, bread, cereal, paper
- They are not too fond of citrus fruit, it is a bit too acidic for them
DO NOT feed your earthworm:
- Dairy products, fats, meat, feces, oils
This is not a project that will yield results within the first week! You need some patience, you can expect to harvest your first castings between 1 – 3 months. At first you do not have to feed them that much but as your worms mature you will need to feed them daily.
Earthworms are great pets, if you go away on holiday all you need to do is place a big butternut in the middle of your wormery and enjoy your holiday.
Have a look at this great video on how to make your own earthworm farm by Patti Moreno from Garden Girl.