How to Raise Worms for the Garden Organically
Worms Will Improve Your Garden
Earthworms are good for the garden and will enrich your soil through castings. All you have to do is provide worms, food, and water, and you are on the way to a successful garden. This is another good way to dispose of organic kitchen waste, too, instead of adding to our landfills. Worms also reduce the acidity of one’s soil and complete the composting process of adding nutrients to the soil.
Where Can I Buy Worms If I Require Them?
This question can be answered by how big your household is and how much organic waste that you generate. Generally, you can support two pounds of worms for every pound of organic waste. The kind of worm that you will be using for your garden is a red worm. They are used for growers and are easy to find year round at the garden store and certain companies on the internet sell them, too. The best red worm to get is the pit-run, as they are young, cheaper, and will reproduce well. All worms need to get used to their new habitat. If you get the more expensive breeder, they will still need time to get used to their new environment.
Red Manure or the Red Wriggler Worms Are the Ticket for the Garden
These worms will thrive in a worm bed, reproduce quickly, and will dispose of a lot of organic matter. This worm has alternating red and buff colored stripes, and adults are one and a half to three inches in length. Adults produce young every seven days, are capable of mating in two to three months, and reaches full maturity in nine months.
- Peaty's Highly Pure Organic Fertilizer, 877-554-0143
Peaty's Highly Pure Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer and Tea-Soak, 877-554-0143
- VermiCo Earthworm and Castings
A complete website for buying worms, and easy-to-use bins such as the Worm Factory, Can-O-Worms, Eliminator, Enviro-Cycle, and other worm-related products. Learn more about recycling, vermicomposting, vermiculture and composting.
Worms Produce Fertilizer
Worms eat dirt and organic matter, combine this with digestive juices, and excrete castings, which is a mix of both organic and inorganic material. Castings will both improve soil structure and its ability to hold moisture.
To Get Started, You’ll Need a Worm Bin
You can use metal or plastic for longevity. Wood will rot eventually, so I don’t advocate that, as it will cost you a lot of valuable time to maintain it. If you choose to use it, keep away from aromatic woods, like redwood or cedar. Just be certain that your container was not used to hold pesticides, or it will kill your worms. Scrub your plastic container well. If you reside in a milder climate, you can build and/or keep your container outside.
The best container is 8-12 inches deep. The width of your bin depends on the amount of organic matter. An average family of four will require about a 4 x 4 x 8 foot bin, as an example.
These provide moisture to the bin and give you an area to bury the organic material. The lighter the bedding, the easier the worms can navigate around the box. Add a handful of soil to the bedding, which will help the worms break down the food in their gizzards. I also like to add pulverized eggshells for calcium.
Shredded newspaper is wonderful for bedding, as well as recycling. Tear it into lengthwise strips 1-3 inches wide. Wider strips will dry out too fast.
Manure also works well. The odor will decrease once the worms are introduced, and a peat moss addition will make it light. I wouldn’t use peat alone, as it is very acidic and has no nutritional value.
Don’t use any kind of used cat litter as bedding. The urine will kill the worms and the odor is horrific. Plus, if breathed by a pregnant woman, it will cause brain damage to the baby.
Let the organic matter build up for a few days and feed the worms once or twice a week. Don’t always put it in the same place. A nine-day rotation works about the best. Dig a shallow hole, put the organic matter in, and cover with an inch of bedding. Organic matter includes vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, tea leaves, ground corn cobs, a little mown grass, etc. You can also include pasta, rotten leftovers that were forgotten in the refrigerator, and chopped up meat. If you mix the meat with a little sawdust, it won’t smell as bad. Meat is very rich in nitrogen, if you eat it. Don’t try to feed the worms metal or plastic.
Basic Worm Care
When feeding, notice if the bedding is retaining moisture and any changes. As the worms eat their food and bedding, you’ll see more castings. This is what you want for your houseplants, window boxes, and garden.
Move the old bedding and castings to one side of the bin, then replace the empty area with new bedding. The worms will move over there, and you can just carry off your compost to use as you wish.
Using the Castings
Place the castings on your houseplants about a quarter inch deep, once every two months.
Use plenty of water occasionally to rinse off the salt that is produced in the castings. It might still contain some bedding, but contains less salt. Experiment with different potting mixes, use worm castings, vermiculite or perlite, or garden soil for additional body. To feed potted plants or transplants, make a tea from the castings by soaking in water. Water your plants with the tea, or place the castings in holes where you want to transplant trees or vegetables. You can also dig holes for some of the worms throughout the garden. Cover the worms with soil, manure, weeds, etc. Keep the worm holes covered and watered. The worms will turn the materials into castings and move throughout the garden. Your worms will reduce insect damage AND give the soil a better texture. Periodically add vegetation to the holes to keep the worms fed, and have a happy worm adventure!