Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bin and Back: Farming with Worms

Red wrigglers (Eisenia foetida)

Worms are the quietest and most low maintenance farm helpers you can have. Creating a worm farm is simple and the benefits are legion.  It is something I have wanted to do since the beginning of the year and I finally got it put together a couple of weeks ago.  The process is always a little different each time depending on the materials that are available.  The keys to a healthy home for the worms are good drainage, air flow, moistness, layers of appropriate food and darkness.  There must be a balance between worm population, food and moisture.

I had an old sink on hand so that was perfect to make a worm farm.  The cracks in it will provide aeration.  I put a piece of 5 mm (1/4 inch) screen over the bottom drain.  Also already here was some old burlap cloth which made a good base bed inside the basin.

Then I layered cardboard that had been torn up and soaked in a bucket of rain water.  The tape had been removed and the cardboard was the brown, vegetable dyed type.  After soaking the cardboard, I wrung the excess water back into the bucket before placing it in the bin.

A handful of sand and handful of garden soil should be added a bit at a time on each layer to provide grit for the worms.

I had a bag of corn husks on hand as well that made a nice layer.

Brown containerboard type paper was also soaked and wrung out and then layered in.  Shredded newspaper also works very well as does egg cartons.

Layers of kitchen scraps are just what the worms need to round out their diets. When adding the kitchen scraps, pull back some of the moist material and bury the scraps.  This prevents fruit flies and odors.  Citrus and other acidic things such as onion must be added in moderation.  Do NOT use pineapple as it contains a substance that will kill the worms.  Green grass clippings should also be used very sparingly.  Meats, dairy, oily foods, spicy things and grains should not be added as the worms don't eat these things and they may cause problems. Well crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags are fine.

A worm farm can reduce your landfill waste by 25%

I collected leaf mulch from the food forest site to form the top layer.  It also contained the red wriggler (Eisenia foetida) composting worms that the system requires.  These little beauties will reproduce in the bin and in a couple of weeks the farm will be rolling.

It is reported that worm castings are five times more life rich than good topsoil.
Always remember to place a bucket beneath the drain as the worm juice makes an incredibly life rich additive for your soils.  Add some rainwater to the bucket to make sure that the worm juice doesn't dry up and to help create more life in there.  Place your worm farm in a shady location.  When it gets cold in the fall, the bin can be moved into the basement or garage.

The lid is a little different now, the larger peice of wood is above the lower one to provide air flow.

After a couple of months, the worms will have processed the original bedding materials.  Its now time to separate them from the finished compost by moving it over to one side of the bin and then adding new bedding and scraps to the other side.  The worms will move over there to get to the fresh food and bedding.  Just remove the compost and add it to any soil you wish to enliven.  Add some of the compost to some good water and you have yourself a "worm tea" to apply as a fertilizer.

If all of the contents are to be used, you can dump the bin onto a tarp and then slowly skim the top materials off as the worms go deeper into the pile to escape the light.

If odours are occurring then there is too much food being added.  Its important to only add the amount of scraps the worms can handle.  Fruit flies can sometimes appear and we deal with this by covering the top of the materials in the bin with a sheet.

Worm farming is really easy and just wait until you see the veggies you can grow with the juice/castings!

Update * The worms have reduced the materials by about 25% in about two weeks.  They have produced some juice and seem happy!


  1. Great Post, reminds me of when I was just starting work, I was mucking about with worms farms!
    We had a disability workshop and all the people would help harvest the worms for on selling to keen gardeners by mail order.
    Here's a tip - the best way to quickly bring some worms to the surface is to soak some dry dog food in hot water until it expands like sludge. Dig a shallow bowl-like depression in the center of the worm bed, and place the dog food mixture on it after it cools.
    Next day, you will have as many worms as you need to share with your friends just by peeling back the dog food and scooping up the worms.
    Come see my blog at Merewether Life next time you get a chance...

  2. we do worm composting at my work! it's neat to give your food scraps a new life through the warms. also their leavings make such fantastic compost, eh?


  3. it is fertilize the soil organically. also maintain the PH level of soil. farm will me more fertile using it. and also no need to other supplementary fertilizer for your farm.

    Organic Seed Companies