Monday, May 10, 2010

Our Worm Farm

Worm farm, sounds yucky doesn’t it? That was my initial thought when I first read about worm farms. And the reaction I get from some of my friends.  It’s not as bad as you may think. 

Our worm farm adventure actually started a couple years ago.  I was starting my square foot gardening and worm farm information kept popping up everywhere I looked. After learning worms were great for fertilizing your garden, I decided I wanted to start a worm farm myself.  

I purchased a Styrofoam cooler, worm bedding, and food.  All I needed to start the project was the worms.  We initially thought we could gather our own worms from the yard to get started.  The problem was, our worms only came out late at night, and we weren’t about to go outside in the dark to try to catch the amount we would need to start. 

After spending the time getting my square food gardening started, I didn’t have time to take on a worm project, so it got pushed aside.  The cooler, along with the bedding and food, slowly migrated to the back of my basement. This is where they sat until recently. 

Once we decided we were going to be purchasing chickens, I again started thinking about worms.  Initially I thought I could feed some worms to the chickens for protein.  I did further research to see how difficult of a task this was really going to be to get started.  I had no idea they would take awhile to multiply.  I found many helpful sites such as:

I was starting to read how others kept their worms in simple plastic totes and was almost ready to go buy a Rubbermaid tote.  Then I remembered the Styrofoam container I had purchased a couple years ago.  I figured my husband had disposed of it, or placed it where I would never find it.  To my surprise it was still there, buried in the back of our basement with the bedding and food next to it.  I didn’t read the bedding directions before I left for the store on my search for worms.  If I had, I would have noticed the bedding needed to be mixed with water and set for awhile before adding the worms.  I stuck the worms I purchased in the refrigerator and proceeded to prepare the bedding.  The next day I placed the worms into their new home. 

I ended up purchasing night crawlers.  I only bought one package because I wasn’t sure how well they would do.  I have read night crawlers are not the best choice since they don’t “eat through” the compost material as quickly as red worms.  Unfortunately, the only worms available to purchase at that time were night crawlers.  You can purchase red worms online, but by the time you pay for shipping they can become rather expensive.

After a few weeks I realized the worms were doing well and thought we should get more to expand the farm.  This time when I went to get more the store had Canadian trout worms.  They looked small and red, but I wasn’t sure if these were the “red worms” I was looking for without researching. Until I could research them, I decided just get two packages of the red ones and another night crawler.  I now have almost 100 worms in the cooler. 

Just before adding the new worms, I harvested some of the dirt and replaced it with new bedding.  I added more bedding this time since there was going to be more worms living in the container.  The pre-packaged bedding mixes contained food already added and you can purchase granules to feed to them as well.  These things are found in the hunting and fishing departments of most stores.

I actually liked the first brand of bedding I purchased. It was called Magic Worm Bedding (  When compared to the second package, which was Brown Bear, it was much better. The package of Brown Bear seemed to be ground up newspapers with a lot of dust.  The Magic Worm Bedding looked like actual dirt when it was all mixed.  The Magic Worm contained less dust, which is nice when you are mixing it in the container.  I felt I should have been wearing a face mask when mixing the Brown Bear mixture.  I might the next time. 

In the meantime, I will be on the lookout for the Magic Worm Bedding and stock up on when I find it.  Many sites will tell you to simply add newspapers, topsoil, straw, or manure to your worm farm to start it.   I didn’t have access to all of the materials and let’s face it, I live in town, and I wanted something simple and easy to use.  Thus the reason I chose the boxed bedding. 

The worms have been eating through left over lettuce rather well. Lettuce seems to disappear faster than anything else.  I also give them scraps of fruit such as pears, apples, and bananas.  The bananas I mashed almost into a liquid.  The other fruits I cut them up as small as I could and actually tried to mash them a little as well. I was reading they have very small mouths and have a hard time eating large pieces of food.  Some sites recommend actually putting the food into the blender. 

Now that the chickens are eating scraps, I have a dilemma.  Do I give scraps to the chickens, worms, or add to the compost pile?  Most of the time, the chickens win; unless it’s something they don’t particularly care for, or it has gone past the edible stage. 

You can buy a fancy home for your worms if you desire.  Most average around $100.  I found many people using Rubbermaid totes or simply a trash can dug into the ground and buried.  I prefer not to have to go to all of that trouble and expense.  I keep mine in my basement where it’s cool in the summer, but not too cold in the winter. 

I am hoping they will start to multiply soon.  I have noticed the bedding is starting to look darker and resemble dirt more than it originally did.  This means they are eating through the bedding and consuming the food we are adding to the bed.  Many sites discuss worm tea; however, with the cooler I am not set up to drain liquid from the farm.  I will have to be happy with harvesting part of the bedding every five weeks or so for my garden.

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