Doesn’t sound like a very exciting topic, does it? Well I raise worms here on the farm. I have three fifty-five gallon plastic garbage pails that support a lot of worms. Why worms? Well when the worms are finished processing all the kitchen scraps the chickens don’t want you have this wonderful soil for growing things.
I use to raise rabbits and the wastes from rabbits is the best soil maker around, but now we have too many neighbors close by who do not contain their dogs. Fifteen rabbits went to heaven one day and I was too discouraged to try again. I had dog-proofed as much as possible with extra fencing around their cage areas, but the dogs were determined.
So I looked for another way to create soil that was wonderful for growing garden plants and vegetables. Worms and worm bins. Commercially manufactured worm bins are expensive. On the farm you make do with what’s available. So I made my own worm bins.
How do you make and maintain a healthy worm colony? Well, start with a large container that will not rot when filled with soil. I use a dark colored garbage can with a tight fitting lid so they won’t escape. Drill holes around the bottom edge to drain excess water. If you want to collect the water, put a pan under it. It is compost tea. Great for potted plants.
Situate the bin in an area where it will not get direct sunlight. The dark can will get to hot for them to be comfortable in full sun. I have them under a large climbing rose so they have more light in winter when there are no leaves and shade in the summer when it is sunny.
Next find shredded paper. Paper is not necessary, but it does lighten the end product and the worms seem to like it. This should not be glossy, full color paper, but waste typing paper and old computer printouts and the like. I shred it and put it in the bottom of the garbage can. Next add a little plain old dirt. Worms like a little grit in their diet.
You can purchase worms by the pound for about $30 plus shipping. As I said previously, we make do around the farm, so I went out with a shovel and searched for some worms. Local worms are the hardiest. I managed to dig up about eighty in thirty minutes. I put them in the garbage can with 1 cup of cornmeal. Cornmeal to make them happy in their new home.
Then from time to time I add kitchen wastes. Some purists tell you you should never add onion skins, garlic skins, or citrus peels. Phooey. They love them. One of their favorites is banana peels which the chickens won’t touch. Pineapple shells, lettuce, leaves, weeds, any garden wastes that you don’t feed to the chickens, which for you city folks would be everything but egg shells and bones. These do not compost well. Add a little, not a lot, of shredded paper occasionally, if you like.
Two years ago, I read a label on a corn chip package that said it was completely compostable. Well, I put it in. I decided to put just one in and see how it went. It didn’t. Two years later it is still intact and shiny in the worm bin. I took it out and threw it away. The company has since taken that information off their label. The same was true for compostable doggy poop bags, though I don’t put doggy poop in the barrel. I guess you could, you just wouldn’t want to use it for growing vegetables. The same goes for cat poop too.
If the worms seem too dry, which is uncommon, add a little water, but don’t drown them. Keep an eye out for the wetness/dryness of the bin. If the water is rising, your holes in the bottom are plugged and need to be cleared. Worms don’t like to swim, the reason we see them above ground during heavy rains.
When we lived in Beijing, I started a worm bucket. It was a five gallon bucket with a tight lid. I added all our kitchen wastes and a little dirt. Finding the worms was the real hard part as the soil was like cement in the back garden and all I had was a large spoon with which to dig. I did find some searching in the moistest locations I could find. The result was some good worm compost I used to pot up jasmine, scarlet runner beans, and a few geraniums. The hardest part was to keep the bug away from the plants. They were voracious.
Well, there you have it. Happy worm bin making and using. Your plants will love you for it!