The Most Incredible Garden And Flower Fertilizer Ever – Worm Castings!

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It’s not often that we dedicate an entire article to a single organic substance, but when it comes to worm castings, they simply deserve the spotlight! I wish we had known the true power of them years ago. Ever since we

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Worm Farms: The Quick DIY Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

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Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

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Several years ago, Ohio State University researchers reported that there are “more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth.” These microorganisms, of course, are essential to producing rich soil and strong, hardy plants.

And one big key to healthy soil is worms. Worms help compost your soil and add castings (“worm poop”) for proper soil nutrition. Liquid fertilizer then can be made from the worm castings (a fertilizer called worm “tea”). This worm tea boosts the activity of the microorganisms of the soil by adding things like bacteria and protozoa.

You can dramatically improve your soil’s quality with a worm farm, also known as vermiculture — a process in which worms are utilized to decompose the organic food waste into a material usable by the plants. This can be done at home in a cheap and easy setup, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. All you need is creativity and time!

There really is no end to the uses of your worms and their byproduct. Use them for:

  • Fertilizer.
  • As a way to get rid of rabbit poop.
  • Fishing.
  • As a way to get rid of vegetable scraps and coffee grounds.
  • Chicken feed.

You can get creative with your vermiculture, but there is a general structure that must be followed for success. You’ll need the following components:

  • Something to hold your worms.
  • Some newspaper.
  • Compost or soil.
  • Green waste.
  • Manure.
  • Worms (of course!).

Assembly

Think of a vermiculture setup like a compost bin with worms and a tap. The container can be anything from an old broken fridge to a wood bin. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it has a hole in the bottom for draining. If you use the fridge, lay it on its back, take all the stuff out, and drill a hole in the bottom.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Make sure your worms are kept cool and are not in the sun! Also, avoid areas with vibrations.

Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

A vermiculture training class at a garden center.

Now that you have your container, it’s time to work on the bedding. Start with the newspaper and rip it into little pieces. Don’t rip it all up, though. Keep some whole sheets for later. Soak it in water until mushy, and then mix well with soil. Take a few sheets of wet newspaper and place it at the bottom of the container as a base. Then, place the soil-compost mixture on top. Make sure there are a few inches of soil. (This depends on the bin and how many worms you have.)

Place the worms on top and they will burrow down into the soil. Place the green waste on one side of the worm bin. This is what the worms are going to eat. If you have some manure, great, put it on top. Use farm manure from pigs, rabbits or cattle, but not from house pets. I would not put more food than one-fourth of the soil you have. Believe it or not, they eat half their weight every day!

To finish assembling, put a lid on it and make sure to allow a small amount of light in to keep them in there. If you don’t have a top on your worms, you will have a breeding colony of flies and maggots.

Worms of choice are red wigglers or composting worms. Earthworms just don’t like to eat like the little red wigglers do. Worms are the most expensive part of the worm bin. You buy them by the pound. Start small if you have more time than money, or go big with a few pounds of worms to get castings quickly.

The nice part about worms is they multiply quickly. Adult red wiggler worms (three months old) can produce up to three cocoons per week. Each cocoon has about two to three worms. The cocoons take 11 weeks or so to hatch.

You even could make some income selling worms!

Tip: The main issue with vermiculture is that people often overwater their worm bins. You can drown your worms, so just keep the plant-based scraps and manures we described above as the main source of moisture. Worms love leaves, so put a layer of leaves on top to make them happy. Also, don’t use meat! This will turn your worm bin into a mess — and worms do not like it, either!

How do you use worms on the homestead? Do you have any vermiculture advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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How to Start Worm Composting

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How to Start Worm CompostingThe very first time I heard about worm composting I was intrigued. The idea that you can feed food scraps to a bunch of worms and they’d turn it into rich nutritious compost for your garden…And you don’t need a ton of space to do it…And, you can even do it inside…Well, that’s something I definitely wanted to try!

This month, I finally got my chance to try it. And today, I’m gonna show you what I did to get started so you can try it too.  

What is Worm Composting?

Worm composting (a.k.a. vermicomposting) is the process of using worms to recycle food scraps into a high nutrient soil amendment called vermicompost or worm compost. To put it simply, the worms eat your fruit and veggie leftovers and their waste, (a.k.a castings) becomes your garden’s black gold. Nice, right?

Why Compost with Worms?

Because it’s good for your garden (and good for the Earth). Healthy soil is the key to growing healthy plants. When you add worm compost to your garden you are putting organic matter back into the soil which has the nutrients plants need.

Organic matter is simply any type of living or dead plant or animal material. Worm compost is one type of organic matter that you can add to your garden soil. And, it may be the best. More organic matter in your soil means enhanced soil structure, better soil drainage, and a better environment for nightcrawler earthworms to live, eat, poop, and tunnel. ~wormcompostinghq.com 

Also, like I mentioned earlier, vermicomposting doesn’t require a lot of space (It can even be done inside!) so it’s a great way for urban families to start composting.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

Worms

Obviously. :) But will any old earthworm, do? No, not all worms are suitable in a worm composter. The best type of worms for vermiculture are Red Wiggler (Eisenia foetida), Brown Nose Worm (Lumbricus rubellus)  or European (Belgian) Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) variety. You can find these types of worms at bait-and-tack shops or online.  And once you find a supplier, you’ll need 1 pound or approximately 800-1000 worms to start.

Bedding

Inside a worm composter, worms don’t live in dirt. They live in bedding and the bedding is made up of “browns” which is carbon-based materials. “Browns” include shredded or torn newspaper, office paper, cardboard, leaves or combination of these items.

Food

What do worms eat? Your recycled kitchen scraps! Worms love fruit and vegetable scraps (raw or cooked) and their favorites are tomatoes, lettuces, melon rinds, banana, potato and carrot peels. They even eat egg shells, coffee grounds, bread and tea leaves! But be sure to skip the onions, citrus, meat, fish, dairy, fats and oils.

A Worm Bin

You can make your own worm bin or you can purchase one like this cool Worm Factory 360 eartheasy.com sent me. The Worm Factory is a compact, nice looking system that includes everything you needa durable, plastic, stacking tower, bedding made from coconut coir, pumice and shredded paper, thermometer, hand rake, mineral rock dust, an instruction book and DVDto get started. You have the option of purchasing the factory “with worms” or “without worms”. If you choose the “with worms” factory, like I did, it comes with a worm voucher. Basically, you go to the website listed on the voucher, type in a code and they send you the worms by mail.  Easy peasy.

How to Start Worm Composting

The Worm Factory 360 consists of a plastic tower made up of 4 stacking trays that have holes in the bottom. To give you an idea of how this works, the worms start in one tray and as they eat and fill that tray with compost, you’re adding additional trays with newer food to the top of the tower. The worms migrate upwards towards the new food and you’re able to harvest the compost from the lower trays.

I really like the Worm Factory 360. It’s a done-for-you option. Everything you need to get started comes together and you can easily set it up in minutes.

How to Set Up a Worm Bin

You want to make sure your bin is set up and ready before your worms arrive.

Here are the exact steps I followed:

1.Find a good location for your worm bin. Place your bin in a location where temperatures get no higher than 90º F and no colder than 40º F.  Some places to consider are a porch, patio, balcony, garage, basement, laundry room, or even under the kitchen sink. You can also keep the worm bin outside in the yard as long as it’s in the shade and is protected from wind and rain. Since the height of the Worm Factory 360 is taller than the space I have under the sink, I opted for the garage.

2. To start, you will use one stacking tray as the “starter tray” and set the other 3 stacking trays off to the side.  

3. Mix up the bedding.  The Worm Factory 360 came with a brick of coconut coir, minerals, pumice and shredded paper.  I moistened the coir in a mixing bowl, added the shredded paper, some pumice and 1 tablespoon of the minerals and mixed it all together. It’s a good idea to add one or two cupfuls of garden soil or compost because it contains organic organisms that will make the environment hospitable for the worms and help them digest the food. The bedding mixture should be moist, not dripping. It should feel like a wrung out sponge.

How to Start Worm Composting4. Take one or two sheets of dry newspaper and line the bottom of the first stacking tray. Then add the bedding mixture and spread it evenly around the tray.

How to Start Worm Composting

5. Add 2 to 3 cups of food in one corner.  The Worm Factory 360 instructions recommends feeding worms an even mixture of “browns” (shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves) and “greens”(fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds).

6. Gather 5-10 full pages of newspaper and wet until it is damp. Fold the newspaper so it fits in the stacking tray and lay it on top of the bedding to create a moist newspaper cover. Place the tower lid on top of the starter tray and wait for your worms to arrive. 

What to Do When Your Worms Arrive

When your worms arrive, open the worm bin and remove the moist newspaper cover. Add the worms (including all the bedding they came in) to the bin and replace the moist newspaper cover. 

How to Start Worm Composting

Replace the moist newspaper cover and put the plastic lid back on the worm bin.  It’s a good idea to leave the worms alone for two or three days so they can acclimate to their new home. 

After a few days, open the lid and lift the moist newspaper. If the worms aren’t moving around in their food, replace the newspaper cover and lid and wait two more days. If the worms are moving around in their food and feeding, it’s time to start adding food to your worm bin.

If you’d like to learn more or see how my worms are doing, join me in GROW…my Facebook group for beginner gardeners. 

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