Worms help aerate the lawn and loosen the soil, making it easier for good plants to set root in the ground. Worms also break down organic debris and excrete nutrient-rich castings that provide natural fertilizer. Worms are, in other words, a valuable and essential part of the landscape. Many gardeners buy worms and worm castings to be used in their gardens. While this is a smart practice that can improve soil conditions, some gardeners like to take this practice a step farther by raising their own worms. This guide will help you start your own worm colony.
To get started, you'll need:
- A bin. This can be a plastic storage bin, a wooden box, or any container that can hold compost and drain fluid. Pressure-treated wood can leach chemicals into the bedding and should be avoided. Any storage bin used should include small drainage holes in the bottom, top and sides to release excess moisture.
- Bedding. Bedding consists of shredded newspaper. Avoid using newspapers with colored ink.
- Soil. Sprinkling garden soil throughout the bedding will aid the worm's digestion.
- Water. Worms need their bedding to be moist but not wet.
Preparing the Home
Fill the bin with the bedding and sprinkle in garden soil. Mix the bedding and soil with a trowel and wet the bedding with a watering can. Use as much water as the bedding will absorb without forming puddles on the bottom of the bin. The water will cause the bedding to compress inside the bin. Add more bedding, soil and water until the bin is full. Mix everything thoroughly, then release the worms into the bedding. You can buy worms from garden supply shops and fish bait suppliers. Either one is fine.
Raising worms will consist of three activities: feeding, watering and occasionally purging the bin of extra worms.
- Feeding: Feed your worms your household food waste. Every 2 pounds of worms will consume 1 pound of waste per day. This can include coffee grounds, egg shells, produce, pasta and more. Meat and bones can create odors and attract animals and should be avoided. In addition, citrus peels and citrus waste can harm your worms. Keep the food piled in the corners of the bin. Worms will gather in these locations, which will make it easier to harvest them.
- Watering: Worms need moist soil. Add water to the soil when it becomes dry. If the soil is too moist (forming puddles or creating wet slosh inside the bin), add more bedding to absorb the moisture.
- Harvesting: Like people, worms need space to be happy. Every two months or so, gather the older, larger worms and release them into your garden. If you've kept the food in piles at the corners, finding the larger worms won't be hard.
Keep adding bedding to the bin as the old bedding deteriorates. Over time, your worm bin will accumulate castings. When your worm bin is full enough, you can remove some of the old castings and put them in your garden. Keep the bin in a shady, dry location away from temperature extremes. Freezing temperatures, direct sunlight and very high heat can create an unfavorable environment for your worms.
They make strange pets, but for many gardeners, raising worms is a rewarding and satisfying hobby. For more information about landscaping, contact McDonald Garden Center or a similar company.