Well if you have a vegetable garden it’s really a great idea. Give your earth worms your kitchen scraps and a little wiggle room and they will turn your garbage into pure gold, or so your plants will think. Earthworms make the best fertilizer on earth. They can eat up to 75% of their body weight a day. And with so little work from you they are a gardeners best friend.
I got my worm composter over 20 years ago and it’s still going strong, but whether you purchase a Worm Composter * or you make your own, the process for setting up a bin and raising worms is the same.
1. You want a set of plastic bins with lots of holes for ventilation and to drain the excess water out.
2.A way to collect the excess water (this is valuable “worm tea”).
3. A lid to keep them from crawling out.
4. Put news papers in the bottom to keep the solids from washing out, but use the black and white pages not the glossy ones.
5. Then you need some shredded news paper for bedding. Soak this in water, then drain off the excess. You can also add a little Peat Moss * or grass clippings, but it is not absolutely necessary.
6. And then you need some cute little Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms
7. Next you need to place your worm bin very carefully. It can be inside or out side, but if it is kept outside it needs to be out of the rain, out of the sun and kept from freezing. It also needs good air circulation.
Earthworms make great “first pets” for children. What child wouldn’t want to be a “worm wrangler”. They are very easy to care for and are fun to watch grow. Your children will also feel pride in contributing to the health of the family vegetable garden.
Once you have your bin set up and your worms in, leave them alone for a couple of days and let them burrow down into the bedding. Then you can start feeding your worms. Just like people, they thrive on a varied diet. They need about 1/2 pound of vegetable scraps a day (per pound of worms). They love all your fruit and vegetable scraps. Egg shells crunched up and used coffee grounds are good too. Don’t let the bedding dry out. It needs to be quite moist, but well drained. An earth worm is 75+ percent water and breathes through their skin so if it dries out they will die. But if their tunnels fill with water they can drown.
I keep a spray bottle near the bin to give it a couple of squirts whenever needed. Check the worm bin when you feed them. There should be very little odor. If there is, see if it is draining properly. Empty the liquid that drains off regularly. Dilute it and use it to water your plants. They will thank you for it.
There are a few things not to feed your worms. Citrus is too acidic and they don’t seem to like onions. Anything poisonous to you will be poisonous to the worms. Don’t feed them meat or dairy or fats as these things will attract bugs and critters you will not want and will cause your bin to smell. So stick to fruits and vegetables from the kitchen and from the garden. All those outside leaves of your cabbages, broccoli, and lettuce, etc. that you are not going to eat, or the half rotten tomato, your worms will just love.
If you are running low on food scraps a few handfuls of fresh grass clippings is a great thing to tide them over.
After several weeks you will notice a very dark crumbly substance. These are the worm castings or worm manure. Surprisingly it has very little smell at all, quite clean in fact. One way to harvest the casings is to dump them into a pile and shine a light on it. The worms will burrow down to get away from the light. Then carefully scrape off the top of the pile exposing the next layer to the light and just keep repeating until the worms have nowhere left to go. You then can gently scoop the pile that is left back into the new bin that you have put fresh bedding into. And you start it all again. If you use a worm bin with several layers the worms will naturally move up to the food as they use up all the food in the lower bins, leaving the bottom bin nearly worm free.
This is the main reason that you are raising worms. Worm castings! This is the best fertilizer you can get. You can mix it right into the garden. Put a little on your house plants. Pour water over it and use the “worm casting tea” to water your plants. Use it fresh and moist or let it dry. You can mix it with your potting mix to give your seedlings or potted plants a great start. Just remember, this is a highly concentrated fertilizer. A little goes a long way.
After a few months you may want to divide up your worms and start another bin of worms or start some worm towers in your vegetable garden. You can set these up and let them work their magic right in your garden. They can eat the scraps you put in the towers and also chew up all the grass clippings and leaves you have mixed into the soil. They leave wonderful trails through the dirt that lets in air and gives roots a place to grow into. They also distribute nutrients throughout all the layers of the soil. Check out how to make worm towers. Sign up to get e-mail updates so you don’t miss a thing!