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Worm Farming

Vermicomposting With Red Wiggler Worms

Naturally composting waste, providing an organic matter that enriches soil and even supplying hobbyists and fisherman with live bait. These are all reasons for worm farming. Taking care of the worms in a worm farm is typically quite easy but there some guidelines to follow. Proper feeding is important for the health of the worms.

Worms are fed a variety of food items, and nonfood items, for composting. Some food items that can be offered are fruits, vegetables, greens, bread products, cereals, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters and egg shells. The worms will eat just about anything so it is imperative to know which foods are appropriate and why.

Fruits and vegetables are easily composted by the worms. The important thing to remember when serving fruits and vegetables is the size of the portions. Fruit pieces should be cut down to 1/2 inch pieces or slices. Smaller pieces will be consumed more quickly. Food blended up with water will also help the worms find the food and consume it faster.

Fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious. Worms that are fed an appropriate diet will in turn produce a nutrient rich substance that is beneficial to crops, gardens, flower beds and even indoor flower pots. Some nonfood items that can be offered to worms for composting are paper products, cotton rags, hair clippings, leaves and soaked cardboard. A pizza box that has been torn up and soaked is a wonderful treat for worms.

When offering leaves to a worm farm, be careful to only use products that have never been treated with chemicals. For the safety of the worms, grass clipping and other yard clippings should be avoided in case chemicals have been used.

While there are many foods that can be offered readily, there are also those that should be avoided. Care should always be taken with items that have been treated with chemicals, medications or other substances that may prove harmful.

Meats should never be offered to the worms in a worm farm. Being voracious eaters, the worms will gladly consume whatever meat is offered. The problem with meat is with the pests it will attract. Flies and maggots will be found in a worm farm that uses meat and the best way to eliminate these pests is to eliminate the use of meat.

Citrus fruits, onions and garlic should not be used either. The worms appear to find the smell of these items offensive. Most worms will try to escape the bin to get away from the smell. Dairy products will also attract unwanted guests into the worm farm. Another problematic issue with serving dairy products is the foul smell that is emitted as it rots.

Feeding worms is a pretty easy job. The key is to know which items are good and which are bad for the health of the worms. Another point to remember is to not over feed. New worms should be fed in small amounts when they are becoming established within the farm. Once settled, the amount can be increased over time.

Over feeding leads to problems such as foul smells and pests. Keep feeding down to a minimum, offering new food only when the old food supply is running low. Worms can eat over half their body weight in food per day. The worm population can double every few months. Overfeeding can cause a problem but keep an eye on the population as well to be sure that underfeeding isn’t an issue.

A well fed worm population is a happy worm population. Happy worms produce a lot of naturally composted, healthy worms castings for soil enrichment therefore keeping the worm farmer happy as well.

Worm farming is a great way to naturally compost waste and other discarded materials. As a result, nutrient rich soil is produced and can be used in flower beds, crops, and gardens. Regardless of all the reading and research one does, issues may arise and can cause some concern.

Here are a few of the commonly reported questions and issues with worm farms.

Smell

It is often thought by many that a smelly worm farm is normal. In fact, it is not. If worms are kept in an appropriate environment, they will not smell. If the farm has an odor, the most likely cause is overfeeding.

Material to be composted is placed on the top layer of soil for the worms to consume. If too much is given to the worms, it can begin to rot causing a build up of bacteria within the walls of the worm farm. This is the cause of the smell.

To remedy the situation, simply discontinue feeding of the worms until any uneaten material is gone. The soil should also be stirred for aeration and to allow the worms to move more freely.

Bugs and other pests

Using a container with a tight lid can help prevent many pests from infesting the worm farm but some are sneaky enough to make it in regardless. Small vinegar flies are often a complaint among worm farmers. This type of fly is of no harm to the worm farm but typically is a result of overfeeding. Large flies appear when there is an abundance of food.

Ants are also a common issue. If ants are seen in the worm farm, the chances are pretty good that the soil is too dry. Adding water to the soil to increase the moisture can help eliminate ants. If using a worm farm that stands on legs, simply apply some petroleum jelly to the legs to prevent the ants from being able to climb up.

Maggots can be found in worm farms where meat is offered to the worms. The best scenario is to eliminate meat from the diet altogether. If maggots have made their way into the worm farm, they can be eliminated by placing a milk soaked piece of bread into the farm; the maggots will be drawn to it and can simply be removed.

Worms leave the farm

If a worm is leaving, he is unhappy with his environment and is in search of a more suitable one. Worms will escape for reasons such as the soil being too dry or there isn’t enough food. On the other hand, soil that is too wet could also be affecting the worms, causing them to want to leave.

The source of the problem should either be eliminated or fixed. If the soil is too dry, fresh water should be added to the farm. If it is too wet, the excess should be drained and new bedding should replace the old. Locate the cause of the excess moisture and eliminate it.

Ensure that the worms are getting enough food and the farm is in a location where the temperature will remain constant.

Feeding

There may be some confusion on what to feed worms. Appropriate foods to feed include fruits, vegetables, egg shells, greens, tea bags and coffee grounds and filters. Non-food items can also be fed to the worms and include soaked cardboard, paper products, cotton rags, leaves, dirt and hair.

More important are the items that should not be fed. Dairy products, meat, citrus, onions and garden waste that has been treated with chemicals are all things to avoid in a worm farm.

These are just a few of the common topics when it comes to worm farming. Although they are pretty easy to care for, it is important to realize the reason for some of the changes or issues noticed within the worm farm. Problems should be corrected early to prevent the loss of the worms.

Providing a proper environment, correct food, appropriate moisture level and temperature will help ensure a supply of happy and healthy worms.

Worm farming is done for several reasons.  Composting, the production of nutrient rich soil and providing live bait are three of the most common reasons for worm farming.  Some worms do a better job at their duties than others so it is important to know how to choose the right worms for your worm farm.

Composting is one common reason for worm farming.  Worms are used to compost waste and discarded material naturally and without adding to the local landfills.  To do this, the worms eat fruit and vegetable scraps, along with other compostable items such as paper products, leaves, cotton rags and egg shells.

If composting is the primary reason for setting up a worm farm, choices should be made for the appropriate types of worms that are known as being the best for this option.  The Red Wiggler, or Eisenia fetida, is reportedly the best worm for composting.  These worms reproduce easily and are extremely hardy.  The trait that makes them best as compost worms is their ravenous appetites.

Worm

Because of their eagerness to devour anything edible, Red Wigglers produce a high quality substance resulting in a nutrient rich soil that is so desirable with worm farming.

Perhaps raising worms for the purpose of providing live bait is the goal of a worm farm.  Bait can be raised for personal use or even supplied to local fisherman through bait and tackle shops.  The best worms for this purpose are the European Night Crawlers.  These worms can be used for baiting fish in all types of conditions, even in saltwater.

The European Nightcrawler is reported to be one of the hardiest fish available for worm farming.  They can also be used as a live food source for other animals such as birds, reptiles, exotic pets and aquarium fish.  They can be used in a composting type worm farm but work best as live food and bait.  Night Crawlers are readily available and have similar care requirements as the Red Wigglers.

Worms used for garden and lawn farming are typically available in sets of three different varieties of worms.  The Red Wiggler and the Night Crawlers are often two of the types of worms in these sets.  The third worm is usually Pheritema, or Florida Wiggler which are worms that burrow deep into the soil.

Over 3000 varieties of worms exist.  The worms mentioned here are the most commonly used and readily available on the market today.  They can be found at various online distributors.  Local worm farmers can be found through online directories or by looking up the topic in the local telephone book.

Most types of worms are typically made available as adult worms, young worms and egg capsules.  Typically sold by the pound, the number of worms per unit will vary depending on their age and size.  Egg capsules yield a higher number of worms per unit once hatched.

A worm farm will be most successful when the appropriate worm is chosen for the job at hand. While most worms will compost discarded items and waste and act as live bait, make sure you choose the right worm for the job.

If you are from the southern portion of the United States, you may not know about catalpa worms, but chances are you’ve at least heard of them.  Catalpa worms are not really worms, but they are lumped into the worm family anyway.  Try telling the redneck fishermen these little buggers aren’t worms!

Catalpa worms are usually called “Catawba worms”.  Although it isn’t likely you’ll find many catalpa worm farms, this may be a very good reason you should start one of your own.  It’s a way to enlighten the public and provide something unique for consumers.

Catalpa trees are the way to get Catalpa worms.  So, a tree farm of catalpas is your first investment.  Other things you may need to invest in are:  sprinklers, wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, containers, a business license, fertilizer for your tree crop, and advertising.

Catalpa Flower

Your catalpa trees are going to make quite a mess with litter, so you’ll want to decide how to handle that as well.  It’s an idea to turn this litter into a profit.  Toss it into your compost pile to help build up some valuable food for your trees.  Sell it for seeds to others who may want to grow a tree.  Use it to start campfires.

One tree can provide a worm farmer with hundreds of worms.  They’re a hot commodity for southern fishermen.  The fat worms draw catfish like crazy.  Their juices are the enticement for the fish.  They just can’t seem to resist.  The best way to use the worms is to break them, tear them, or cut them somehow to allow the juices to flow.  Place them on your hook and put the hook as near to the bottom of your fishing hole as possible.  This keeps the juices close to the bait instead of allowing it to float down and away, which causes the fish to also go down and away to chase after the juice instead of the bait!

If you invest in a freezer, you can also freeze the worms to sell out of season. The caterpillar stage only lasts about three weeks.

You can buy a starter tree from the Arbor Foundation for $9.  If you’re lucky enough to have a relative or friend who has a tree, you can try growing your own from the seed pods that hang from the limbs.  Your best bet for starting the worms is to harvest eggs from a tree that is already established and attach them to your own tree.  The caterpillars emerge in the spring, so you’ll want to attach them in February or March.  You could try ordering the catalpa sphinx moth yourself from an insect source of some kind.  This is what the catalpa worm evolves into, so obviously it would lay the eggs to start more!

The downside to catalpa worms is their ability to devour leaves.  All species of the catalpa tree are subject and can be host trees.  You’ll have to guard against small wasps and parasites that can destroy your worms.

Worms

Vermiculture composting, also known as vermicomposting or worm composting, is the procedure of using worms and micro-organisms to recycle food scraps and other household waste into a nutrient-rich black soil.  This rich soil (worm castings) is the product of the worm’s digestion.  Worms are capable of eating between half to their full weight in waste each day. The worm castings are a natural fertilizer that provides a wonderful source of nutrients to plants, flower beds and gardens.  The castings are extremely valuable to the texture and fertility of the soil and can add 10 times the nutrients back into the soil that have been taken out during harvests.  Vermicompost increases the water-holding capacity of the soil and improves the overall soil structure. Your plants will grow stronger and have deeper root systems for better drought tolerance and disease resistance.

Red wigglers, manure worms, tiger worms, blue worms and red hybrid worms are used in  the vermiculture business and the vermicompost process.  These worms can be purchased on the internet, in a bait store or from your local worm farmer.  A pound of worms is all that is needed to start a worm farm.  These worms will reproduce quickly.  They have big appetites so expect them to eat their weight in waste every day.

Vermiculture bins can be basically a box with a lid.  They can be made of wood or plastic.  A loosely fitted lid will allow the worms the proper oxygen they need.  Always have drainage holes in the bottom of the vermiculture bin.  Vermicomposting worms like moist, dark and cool places.  Without the proper conditions and temperature the worms will try to escape the worm bin. Building a worm farm is easy and anyone can set up a worm farm.

Commercial vermiculture is the breeding of worms for re-sale. For many years worms were raised solely to sell in bait stores. Now with the new shift to commercial vermicast composting in the past two decades, the demand for worms has greatly increased.

A vermicomposting business solves two very important problems.  It takes care of organic waste and it produces an enriched soil that is extremely helpful for plants, gardens and lawns. Vermicomposting, through the use of worms, changes organic waste into a product that can be harvested regularly and sold.  The need for more vermicomposting sites around the world will continue to grow.  Schools, institutions, military bases, prisons and other facilities can set-up vermicomposting bins right on their site to recycle food waste.

Vermiculture is an easy way to recycle food waste, help the environment, put nutrients back into the soil and make money, too.  One third of household waste can be recycled through a worm farm.  The environment is helped by keeping tons of waste out of landfills and vermicompost is an all-natural fertilizer that eliminates the need for harmful chemicals.  The worm castings add important nutrients back into the soil. This aids in stimulating healthy root growth, control erosion and enhance soil fertility. Worm composting can even be turned into a business with the right vermiculture technology.

Worm Factory 360

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Red Wiggler Composting Worms

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