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Worm Farming

Vermicomposting With Red Wiggler Worms

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Some people ask, “Why in the world would I want to have a worm farm? There are plenty of other useful farms that sell vegetables, fruits, animals, and eggs. What good is a worm farm?” Well, it’s an understandable reaction. After all, it’s usually the quiet people in society that go unnoticed; so why shouldn’t there be quiet creatures that go unnoticed? People underestimate the value of the worm.

It’s true that there are worms that do damage to crops, animals, and people. Worms in your intestinal system are best flushed out. That’s why dogs and cats, even horses and cows receive worm treatments. These worms are taking away nutritional values the animals need to survive.

Worms

What about the good worms? The first reaction to a worm is, “Ewww, gross.” Well, understanding anything is the key to appreciating it more. The good worms are not poisonous and have positive benefits that are not readily seen. They’re hard-working little creatures and deserve our respect.

So, what are good worms? Earthworms, compost worms (red wigglers, blue worms), and fishing worms (night crawlers) are good worms. Earthworms are found in rich soil. If your plants are healthy and growing, chances are there are earthworms down there toiling away to help make this happen. Those die-hard fishermen can tell you about the benefits of a good, fat fishing worm! Catfish and bream are two of the types of fish that enjoy worms.

Worms are important for composting. They break down the material and produce a rich compost called vermicast or vermicompost. This compost is an excellent fertilizer. It retains moisture, encourages root growth and is high in the minerals that help plants grow.

Here’s one way you can help an earthworm (I know you want to)-the next time it rains and you see a worm on the street or sidewalk, gently move it to a grassy area so that it can burrow back into the ground. You can then congratulate yourself on being a lifesaver!

So now you know why you should create a worm farm. Worms are a vital part of our ecosystem and they do deserve our appreciation and respect.

Worm farming is an excellent way to naturally compost waste without adding to landfills. Vermicompost is produced as a result, providing a nutrient rich substance that greatly benefits gardens, crops and house plants. The worms (red wigglers) kept in worm farms demand little to remain healthy, voracious eaters. Understanding the anatomy of these worms proves useful in understanding their needs.

A worm’s body is made up of 70-95 percent water. Worms therefore require a very moist environment that should be mimicked in the worm farm. When worms die, they often shrivel up and go unnoticed as the water content is lost at this point.

Worms are cold blooded animals. Temperatures between 50-80 degrees are required to maintain the worm farm. The optimum temperature would be between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to assist the regulation of their body temperatures. Worm farms should be placed in a location that allows for this constant temperature, or bins that are insulated should be purchased.

One focus of worm farming is to have worms that will reproduce easily. Worms are hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both male and female sex organs. Worm farmers must realize that although they are hermaphrodites, they cannot self-fertilize. A single worm cannot reproduce alone. A colony of many worms will result in larger numbers being produced.

Red Wiggler

Worms used in worm farms are covered in a slimy mucus coating. This coating serves many purposes. The mucus helps the worms retain water. Since their bodies are made up of a high percentage of water, an important step when worm farming is to be sure to provide adequate moisture levels in the bin. The worm is able to hold in the required moisture level because of this mucus coating.

The worm’s mucus coating is also a protector. As the worm burrows into soil and bedding, the mucus provides a slick coat protecting it from harmful substances that may reside there.

The anatomy of the mouth of the worm is regarded as unique. In the worm, the mouth is called the Peristonium. Worms do not have teeth. Instead they have this mouth organ that is used for prying. Worm farmers should be aware that worms will be able to better compost food items that have been cut into smaller pieces. Soaked paper and cardboard products will be more easily pried apart than hard, non-soaked pieces.

Established worm farmers and those new to the hobby are often surprised to learn the life span of the worms that are commonly used in worm farming. The common lifespan of these worms is typically between 4 and 8 years. It has been reported that some worms have been known to live over 15 years.

These are long lived creatures whose lives are most often cut short by accidents. The myth that worms can be cut in half and therefore produce two worms is false. If a worm is cut behind its vital organs it will grow a new tail, but the back part will not survive. Worm farmers should always be careful when searching for worms, replacing bedding or removing vermicompost. Sharp or hard tools are likely to injure a worm or even cause death.

If provided a good diet, proper living conditions and a safe environment, worms can live long healthy lives. Healthy worms produce healthy compost that can be put to good use. Understanding the basics of the anatomy of these worms will aid in the understanding of how unique they are and how to address their needs.

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.