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I’ve been chatting about wormeries and worm farms on social media for a few days and folks have been asking how to make a wormery or a worm farm and what the benefits are. I’ve had a wormery or worm farm for over 5 years and they are great for fellow nature enthusiasts who care about permaculture and sustainability!
If you’re passionate about sustainable living and gardening, then you’re in for a treat. We’re going to explore the world of wormeries and why they’re so fundamental to have. Plus, I’ll guide you through a step-by-step process to build your very own wormery or worm farm from scratch. Get ready to witness the magic of these wiggly wonders!
Why Worms ?
Alright, let’s talk about what worms, worm farms or wormeries bring to the table:
- Sustainable Waste Management: Picture this – instead of chucking your kitchen scraps into the trash, you can divert them to your wormery or worm farm. Those little heroes, known as composting worms, will happily devour your organic waste and turn it into nutrient-rich compost. Not only are you reducing waste, but you’re also making a positive impact on the environment by minimizing landfill contributions.
- Garden Gold: The compost produced by wormeries, also called worm castings or vermicast, is pure gold for your garden. It’s jam-packed with essential nutrients and beneficial microorganisms working wonders for your plants. By using worm castings as a natural fertilizer, you’re giving your plants the best start and care.
- Soil Saviour: When you add worm castings to your soil, you’re improving its structure and fertility. The worm-made magic creates a well-aerated, nutrient-rich environment promoting healthy root growth and enhancing plant vigor. Say goodbye to compacted soil and hello to flourishing gardens!
- Natural Pest Control: A Wormery attracts a diverse range of beneficial organisms, including earthworms, beetles, and microscopic superheroes. These little warriors help control pests, break down organic matter, and maintain a healthy balance in your garden ecosystem. It’s like having your own personal army of allies against unwanted bugs and wee beasties.
- Water-Wise Gardening: Guess what? Worm castings also improve water retention in your soil. They act like sponges, soaking up moisture and slowly releasing it to your plants’ roots. That means less water wasted and happier, hydrated plants. It’s a win-win! Also, as we move into more sustained droughts (there has been no rain in Scotland for 5 weeks !!!) this is a really important point to start thinking about when it comes to gardening and sustainable living.
Worms may not elicit the same response as a cute panda or become the face of a conservation campaign but worms’ role in providing essential ecosystem services is huge. In fact worms have been ranked as the number one most influential species in the history of the planet. They provide soil enrichment, nutrient cycling, water regulation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity support amongst many other things. In fat Darwin wrote a whole book about them.
As an aside, Earthworms were held to be of great therapeutic value and Dalyell’s The Darker Superstitions of Scotland (1647) describes “A child being stripped was rubbed with the oyle of wormes [and] held over the reik of a fyre”, all for the good of its health. For a worm in the cheek, a cure is at hand. Toothache was believed to be caused by a worm in the tooth or jawbone. A cure could be effected using a charm, called “wormy lines”, which was written on a slip of paper. This charm was then disposed of in some way. In fact worms have been associated with ill health in bodies for a long time and still are in same parts of the world and belief. Many cures we have remove the “worm” from the person. other times our anglo Saxon neighbours woudl use worms as a cure in itself.
Balds Leechbook III use earthworms and ants in the case of severed or shrunken sinews:
Gif sinwe syn forcorfene nim renwyrmas, gecnuwa wel, lege on oþ þæt hi hale synd. Gif sinwe sien gescruncene nime æmettan mid hiora bedgeride, wyl on wætre & beþe mid & rece þa sinwe geornlice.
[If the sinews are cut, take earthworms (lit. rain-worms), pound them wel, lay them on until they are whole. If the sinews are shrunk, take ants and their nest, boil in water and bath therwith the sinews and expose them earnestly to the smoke]
Building a worm farm or wormery
Anyway enough about folk magic how do we build a worm farm? Let’s dig in …
Step 1: Container Chronicles Okay, let’s get down to business! You’ll need a few containers for your wormery. It can be a few plastic bins, wooden boxes, or even like me you could just start with an old a bathtub (we used an old glass shower door painted black for the lid on the bathtub). Just make sure whatever you use has a lid to keep your worms happy and safe. If you are using multiple boxes make sure they fit into each other and not stack as they’ll need to contact the layer beneath. This will make sense later. Make sure the Worm farm is kept in a shady cool spot, so it doesn’t overheat.
Step 2: Drainage Drama To prevent your wormery from turning into a soggy mess, we need to create proper drainage. Drill some small holes in the bottom of your container, ensuring that excess moisture can escape. Trust me, your worms don’t like to swim. Each layer should have small holes in the bottom. You can drill them and space them about 3 cms apart. Make sure you drill from the inside out to avoid creating a burr. The bottom layer must not have any hole in it though as this will collect your worm wee or tea. If your like, you can fit a tap into the bottom layer to help with drainage easily.
Step 3: Bedding Bonanza Time to create a cosy bedding layer for your worms. Shred some newspaper or cardboard into thin strips and dampen them slightly. Spread this layer at the bottom of your container, about 4 to 6 inches thick. It’s like giving your worms a soft and snuggly mattress.
Step 4: Welcome, Worms! Now comes the star of the show – your composting worms. Red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and tiger worms (Eisenia andreii) are perfect for wormeries. We use Eisenia fetida, get your hands on a pound or two of these wiggly wonders and gently introduce them to their new home. Lay them on top of the bedding layer and let them explore. You can find them online used for fishing bait amongst other suppliers. Remember they won’t survive like earth worms as they don’t burrow into the soil as they are surface feeders and they will eat their weight in organic material a day potentially.
Step 5: The Feeding Frenzy Worms need to eat, too! Feed them a balanced diet of kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and crushed eggshells. But avoid meats, dairy products, oily foods, and acidic items like citrus. Bury the food scraps under the bedding and let the worms go to town! Ours particularly like corn …
Step 6: Moisture Matters Keep an eye on the moisture levels in your wormery. It should be moist but not waterlogged. If it feels too dry, add a bit of water. If it’s too wet, add some dry bedding material. Remember, worms like a comfortable, damp environment.
Step 7: Patience, Grasshopper Sit back and relax as your worms work their magic. They’ll munch away on the organic matter, transforming it into glorious compost. Be patient and allow them time to do their thing. In a few months, you’ll have a batch of nutrient-rich worm castings ready to use.
Step 8: Keep on Keeping on. If you are using a multiple stacking system, you can place the next layer once one is filled (The one sitting over the moisture capture bucket that is … your bottom container should always catch the water for draining otherwise they’ll get too wet). And simply place the scraps into this new layer …. the worms will move towards the food source and start to inhabit the next layer.
Step 9: Harvesting. The worm tea (correctly called worm casting leachate) is straight forward you just need to drain it from the tap. The worm castings or vermicast can be gathered by removing the layer that’s filled and sifting it with a sieve to remove the vermicast but keep the worms and place them back into the wormery once you’re done. Then all you need to do is continue the cycle.
If you need a visual how to with this, I’d suggest this tutorial on youtube
Congratulations, my fellow worm devotees! By embracing the wiggly wonders of a wormery, you’re not only managing waste sustainably but also enriching your garden and promoting a healthy ecosystem. I hope this short guide helps you feel equipped to build your very own wormery and witness nature’s incredible recycling process first hand. I find there is something of the sacred and animate in this process as well – the cycle of life and all that it represents. So, gather your materials, give those worms a warm welcome, and embark on a journey of organic gardening and environmental stewardship. You can soon call yourself the sovereign of worms – Happy composting!
There are some really great instructions here if you want to read more