Reduce Organic Waste, Start an Earthworm Farm!

So you’re set on going green, and want to reduce your household waste. One of the best ways to reduce your household waste is to get into vermiculture. Vermi what?

Vermiculture is the grand word used to describe worm farming, Red Wiggler earthworms to be specific.

farming worms

But why earthworms?

Earthworms take waste products and turn it into a useful product – compost. Earthworm castings (basically their excretions) provide one of the best and most environmentally friendly fertilisers you can get. Castings consist of 30 per cent humus – the end product of compost – and are considered to be five times richer than good topsoil.

If that sounds unhygienic to you, it is a known fact that earthworms neutralise up to 99 per cent of germs in less than two hours.

Another byproduct of your earthworm farm is “worm tea”, an odourless liquid that seeps through the material that the worms eat.

These handy little helpers will assist you to reduce your weekly household waste by up to 25 per cent! Go on, start your own earthworm farm and convert your organic waste into food for your plants.

Once you get over the fact that you have worms in your kitchen, you will realise the value these little workers have for our environment.

How to start your own earthworm farm
There are two ways to start your own worm farm:

1) Buy a ready-made kit from a supplier (for a list of earthworm farm suppliers, |click here|)

2) Make your own. Here’s how…

What you’ll need:
* Two plastic bins with lids (black, as earthworms prefer the dark)
* If one bin has a tap attached to the bottom of the bin it will assist with tapping the “worm tea”
* Mesh
* Pebbles
* Newspaper, cardboard
* And… earthworms (do not use earthworms that you find in your garden; use only Red Wigglers. To find out where you can buy earthworms in South Africa, |click here|)

Step 1:
* Take the plastic bin (without the tap) and drill a series of holes in the bottom to allow drainage. (Tip: drill from the inside so the rough edges are on the outside of your bin; if you drill on the inside, it might hamper your juice flow).
* Then drill some holes in the walls and lid of the same bin to allow air to circulate.

Step 2:
* Place a layer of small pebbles at the bottom of the bin, followed by a layer of mesh to assist with drainage and prevent the worms from falling out the bottom.
* Then add a 5 cm-thick layer of damp shredded newspaper (long thin streaks), which acts as bedding for the earthworms.

Step 3:
Next you will need to add the worms; remember to add them with the soil that they came in.

Step 4:
* Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding and wet it a bit with a spray bottle.
* “Cover” your worms with the cardboard and then put the lid on.
* Place this bin into the bin with the tap and place it in a shady spot. You can even leave it in your kitchen, as your earthworm farm should be odourless.

Now all you need to do is add your waste when available.

The worms will chew their way up through the material leaving their castings behind. When your bin is full, remove the layer of waste and a few centimetres of castings as this will contain most of your worms. What’s left will be the best garden fertiliser you have ever produced. Add a layer of damp newspaper to the bottom of the tub and then place the scraps and worms back into the tub and start the process all over again.

Most worm farms that you can purchase come with removable panels that allow you to easily remove the castings with less mess.

“Worm tea” (leachate) and castings are safe to use without dilution, but if you prefer the recommended mix, it is one part leachate/castings to 4 parts soil or water.

Your earthworms will never overpopulate, as they self-regulate reproduction. The more food there is, the more they will reproduce and vice versa. Don’t over-feed the worms in the early stages while they are establishing the population.

The worms shouldn’t escape, as they don’t like light. If they seem to want to get out, their food may be too acidic. In this case, don’t feed them any tea bags, coffee grounds, citrus fruit or onions for a while (see “What to feed your worms” below). They may also try to escape if the farm is too wet or too dry.

What to feed your worms
Organic waste:

* Fruit, vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, bread, cereal, paper

DO NOT feed your earthworm:earthworm farm
* Dairy products, fats, meat, faeces, oils

This is not a project that will yield results within the first week! You need some patience; you can expect to harvest your first castings between 1 – 3 months. At first you do not have to feed them that much, but as your worms mature you will need to feed them daily.

Earthworms are great pets. If you go away on holiday all you need to do is place a big butternut in the middle of your wormery and enjoy your holiday.

Source: Popular Mechanics

A great article with good practical advice.  Once you start a wormery and see the benefits of using the worm compost, the initial effort will all be worthwhile.  Remember, if you need to dampen the soil, use rainwater or good borehole water.  Chlorinated municipal water should be filtered to remove chlorine- even low concentrations of chlorine will harm  helpful microorganisms and the worms themselves. Watch a video on how to make your own worm bin.

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