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Begin a Worm Farm - How and Why
Red Worms in Compost
Worm Farming Sometimes Known as Vermicomposting
We’ll look at how to begin a worm farm and the many aspects one can use in this endeavor. Worm farming is sometimes known also as vermicomposting, and the finished product is called vermicompost or vermicast.
Some people choose to worm farm simply for personal use in their home gardens, to reduce waste, and recycle in an eco-friendly way. Others might do so to provide fishing worms as bait for themselves and other fishing buddies, yet others begin worm farming to begin a home based business providing a source of income for entrepreneurial types.
Why worm farm?
It seems strange, a worm farm. What is the point of such an endeavor? There are actually many different applications that depend on a person’s goals. Someone might do so for only one reason, or for all combined. We’ll break down the usages now.
Worms are a vital component to the whole gardening market and to people who are serious gardeners. Worms themselves help to improve soil structure, aerate soil, help bring a healthy balance to soil, and help to attract birds to the yard.
Worm excrement, otherwise known as worm castings is a very potent, organic fertilizer for gardens, potted containers, and container or raised bed gardening. Worm castings also really help to amend garden soil structure.
Worms also are wonderful to use for successful composting, as they will help to break down and decompose compost piles much quicker and more thoroughly than compost bins without worms. Some gardeners also make compost teas to use as fertilizers on their plants and gardens.
Worms also provide a healthy way to reduce yard waste, fruit, vegetable and other organic matter in an environmentally responsible way, minimizing the burden of those wastes going to landfills.
To re-cap, both the worms themselves and the worm castings are valuable to gardeners for various reasons. For people choosing to begin a home based business worm farming, this demographic market will be a large source of your customer base.
People who love to fish, or even professional fishermen who use worms as bait are another niche who will need worms. For those doing this as a business, you may even be a supplier to stores who sell fishing bait.
The general, the worms are sold by weight and packaged in their brown paper bags with some worm bedding, or specialized containers for bait.
Farmers and Ranchers
Another group of people to benefit from worm farming are farmers and ranchers, to help reduce and breakdown the livestock manure. It’s a fairly natural setting for farmers and ranchers to include a worm farm to their existing farm, and expand their market to the gardeners.
Another group that worm farming is a natural fit is those who raise rabbits, either commercially or for show. Rabbit manure is cold manure, and is considered one of the most perfect and complete forms or worm food available. It is also one of the best manures for gardening, high in nitrogen and yet won’t burn plants.
For people who do worm farming just for personal use in their garden, if you like rabbits, you might want to consider getting a rabbit as a pet, and use the droppings in your worm beds.
Another market for worms, is selling worms to other people wanting to start their own worm farms, whether as a home business, or the hobbyist for their gardens.
Worm Bed Option
Setting up Worm Beds
There are many methods of setting up worm beds. You’ll want to explore the options available and take a look at your setup to see which method will work best for you. However, there are some components to keep in mind when choosing one. The worms environment will need to stay moist, but not get too wet, have good drainage, a way to keep it covered and dark, and a convenient way to harvest either the worms or castings.
A person can purchase ready made bins specifically designed for worm farming. A large bucket can be used with a few holes drilled into the bottom. Large bins can be built, similar to raised flower beds. Another alternative would be trenches dug into the ground. There are also whole books dedicated to just this issue alone, so do some studying.
You’ll want to first make their bedding. It can be one or two components, or all. Here is a list of commonly used bedding materials:
Cardboard cut up
Livestock manure (if you use other types, let it age a while so it won’t burn the worms)
Small amount of soil
Layer these materials into the bottom of the worm bed area and lightly water the area so it is moist. You don’t want it overly wet or overly dry, as either condition can kill the worms. The best texture to aim for is a light, loose soil.
You’ll now want to add your worms. Don’t just dig up garden worms, as the type you use matters. Some types will tend to just burrow deep and not decompose much organic matter. Red worms are very popular choices, and are readily available to purchase as your ‘seed’ base, but there are other types of earthworms suitable as well, do your research.
After you’ve put your red worms into their bedding, add some organic scraps, fruit, vegetable, manure (cold types or aged) as food. Cover the top with either some moistened burlap or newspaper to keep it dark and moist. Resist the urge to peek for a couple of weeks. After 2-3 weeks pass, uncover and add more organic material, keep doing so. The more the worms multiply, the more you will need to make sure you add plenty of organic matter for their food source.
After several months, it will be time to harvest. Basically this means a separation of the worms from the bedding/casting mix. There are many methods to do this, and as you go, you’ll find your preferred way, which will also depend on the system you had your worm farm set up to begin with. A common technique however, is to push all the materials and worms to 1 side. Then build a brand new worm bed area in the clean side, add more organic matter/food, and cover. Let it set 2 weeks or so and let the worms migrate over on their own to the new bedding area. After this time elapses, uncover and remove the old casting area, and either add new bedding to that area or simply spread the 2 week old bedding into that area as well. Below, there’s a video clip on another method to harvest.