How Do You Start A Worm Farm?

How Do You Start A Worm Farm?

In our latest blog, we’re going to talk about vermiculture and how you can create a mini organic fertiliser-producing worm farm in your garden in less than 10 minutes. Let’s get started.

You may already know about vermiculture but if you don’t you’re in the right place as this blog will hopefully provide you with a simple understanding of what it is, why it’s so important for your plants and the environment, and how easy it is to create your own worm bin that will start producing vermicompost in just a few weeks.

What Is Vermiculture?

Vermiculture is the cultivation process of worms, which turn organic food waste into vermicompost (worm poop).

Contrary to what Oxford Languages on Google tell you, vermiculture is NOT a cultivation process performed by earthworms, vermiculture worms are very specific, and there are many varieties although similar in appearance. The most commonly known ones are Tiger Worms or Red Wrigglers.

What’s The Difference Between Compost Worms & Earthworms?

The difference between the two types (earthworm and vermiculture Worms) is that earthworms consume microbial biomass present in soil and decomposing plant litter, they also select and promote the growth of other bacterial groups that aid in the decomposition of organic matter and influence nutrient cycling in soil. Earthworms are deep soil dwellers.

Tiger Worms and Red Wrigglers (Eisenia fetida), popular with fishermen, eat organic

food waste near the surface, which is then digested and returned to the soil (worm poo) as a very rich source of nutrients, known to many as “Black Gold”, as its one the most nutritious based naturally forming mediums of organic matter. When the vermicompost (worm poop) is added to compost at a ratio of 20/80, the productivity and growth rate can be as much as 300% more effective.

Worm poop, as disgusting as it may sound, looks and feels like very fine dark, almost black in colour compost, it has a unique texture and does not clump up when grasped in the palm of the hand (as long as the conditions are right, not too wet, not too dry).

This blog aims to show you how to get started with your own simple soil worm bin in your back garden, which, will be fun for all the family, young or old.



As for setting up a dedicated Worm farm, well we will need to leave that for another day and involves a lot more learning as these little helpers need a lot of care and attention outside of their natural habitat, that being in the ground.

For now, let’s not get caught up with the science but instead get started with building a worm bin in the soil of your garden, where you can fill it up with food waste from the kitchen for the Worms to enjoy and provide nutrients to the soil which will improve your plants or vegetables.

We Need A Container!

Before you run off and start chopping up the family possessions, here’s a list of items you’ll need to make your own worm compost making bin.

Ready, let’s go!

THE CONTAINER (AKA – WORM BIN/FARM)

First thing you’ll need is a container which will become your worm farm. This can be of any size but I’d suggest it should be proportionate to the amount of organic food waste you dispose of.

What is organic food waste?
Organic food waste is often referred to as kitchen scraps such as, carrot peelings, potato peelings, cabbage leaves, or any old veg or fruit that’s gone soft or over ripened. DO NOT add meat as a food source for your worm compost bin.

If you go through a lot of organic food waste or have a large family who eat plenty of veg (lettuce, carrot and potato peelings etc) then you’ll probably need a larger container.

How Do You Start A Worm Farm?

There’s no right or wrong way to this system as you’ll be placing the container in the ground, meaning you won’t have to worry about monitoring or maintaining optimum conditions as you would in a dedicated Worm farm set up for your Worms, who can be sensitive little buggers.

For a family of four, a 3 – 5 litre container Should be fine but depends on how many Worms you have joining the party, which is why it’s a good idea to buy some Worms to get you started. I would always advise getting some Worms in case you have a very low Worm count in your soil. 500g of compost worms is ideal, just make sure you choose the right ones! I’ll show you which ones to use further down this article….

Before you grab the nearest container and stab it to death, check to ensure its BPA (bisphenol A) free, we want to avoid the plastic breaking down into microplastics and entering the soil, or the Worms. Remove any wrappers from the container if you can.

Quick note on BPA
Whilst evidence has shown BPA plastics can contaminate food, it is often in miniscule amounts and would need to be consumed over many years in order for it to cause any ill affects. However, that said, anything that contaminates food is bad, right!? Of course it is, so let’s try and avoid using it. All good, let’s move on.

If you want to use a metal bin that’s okay, as long as it’s not galvanised as this contains zinc and some other nasty chemicals. Metal will breakdown and deteriorate quicker, so just be aware of that. If its plain old metal (steel) it’ll breakdown releasing iron into the soil and not zinc, or arsenic!

WE’RE GOONA NEED A DRILL!

Once you have your container, you’ll need to drill or make some holes.

Worms come in many different sizes from the width of a hair to the size of a pencil. Whilst Worms can be flexible, we don’t want them getting their butt’s stuck in a hole. To avoid a blockage and potential death, we need to use a drill bit at least 6mm in diameter.

You’ll need to make holes approximately 50mm (2″) apart. You don’t have to line up the holes or make it pretty or perfect but you can if you wish. Just ensure you have plenty of holes near the base so the Worms can get out. Don’t forget to drill holes in the base to allow for drainage as the food rots down, about 1/2 a dozen (6) or more will do it. There is no need to drill holes right up to the rim at the top.

We need to drill some holes nearer the top (not too close to the rim) to allow for airflow. Once you have drilled all the holes make sure you wash the container out and dispose of the plastic swarf from drilling safely.

NOTE: If you don’t have a drill and want to use an alternative method (not recommended though) you could use a flame and an old screwdriver. Heat the screwdriver up in the flame being very careful and poke holes in the bin using the heat to melt the plastic. We don’t recommend this because the process gives off a nasty smell and produces toxic smoke which can be very harmful.

The illustration below shows what you should end up with. DO NOT drill any holes in the lid, this is important so that you don’t flood and drown your worms! 

 

How Do You Start A Worm Farm?

Our bin has many holes, all of different sizes it seems, that’s because the creator of this illustration doesn’t have a diddly squat idea how to use the software!!


Now, you don’t have to use a large tub like this or the one in the link, you could use almost any container with a lid, even a large ice cream container if you wish. People use all manner of tubs and containers. We even used a lollipop container that you buy from cash and carry, the ones with hundreds of lollipops in it that make kids run around like they have a rocket on their shoes.

Here is one the kids made for the garden using the lollipop tub…

THE FINAL STEPS 

Once you have drilled your container there is a few things to do to get it in the ground and get it working

Simply dig a hole where you want the “Black Gold” to benefit the most, this could be amongst your vegetable patch, near fruit trees or amongst the flowers in a garden border.

Dig the hole so that the tub or container sits within it ensuring that it is almost flush with the surface of the soil, I recommend having protruding out the ground by about 20mm so that you can get the lid off easily without getting messy hands.

Once it is in the ground, carefully, backfill the hole, you don’t want to put too much pressure to the sidewall of the container or it will buckle. You could leave the lid on to help keep its shape.

Now that the tub or container is in the ground and you’ve checked the lid seals nice and tightly, you need to add your coir, follow the instructions for this, which usually requires you to soak it in water and then squeeze out the excess. You don’t want this too wet, worms love moist areas but not wet! You don’t need a lot, it’s simply a little bedding for them so fill the tub approx. 1/4 the way full with coir. If you don’t have coir, use organic compost, they’ll love that too. Then add your food waste.

The way we introduce food to the worm bin is by chopping it up as worms don’t have teeth. Worms eat the food that gets broken down by the bacteria and microbes, so by chopping the food in a hand chopper allows them to get through it quicker, thus producing vermicompost quicker.

This is the chopper we use. 



 

ONE MORE STEP!

The final step, is the most exciting.

We need to add the composting worms! As explained, earthworms will not eat the organic waste, so we need to add some compost worms. Compost worms, like earthworms, are territorial, once they have nice conditions to live in and feed they rarely wonder, so don’t worry about your worms running off, they will stay and feed on your food because its far easier than spending 6 weeks travelling 3 meters to find more!

You can buy composting worms online, look for Tiger Worms or Red Wrigglers. 500 grams will do. Remember, the worms will multiply, they lay eggs, which look like small dark shiny balls, these eggs produce more worms and its not uncommon for your colony of worms to triple in size within months.

BE PATIENT

The worms will not devour your kitchen waste overnight, they will devour it quicker if you use the chopper though. It will take time so keep an eye on the amount of food you put into the worm bin. Too much could overwhelm the worms and you could create too much wet material.

The worms will now munch on the food you put into the worm bin and as they pass in and out of the container they distribute the vermicompost through the soil. Eventually, you will see a build up of black compost like soil, this is the vermicompost (digested food passed through the worms), if you can collect this easily you could spread this around the garden, depending on the size of your container.

 

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