Worm Farm

Ever wanted to farm some compost? Put some worms to work digesting your kitchen scraps to make, well, more kitchen scraps?

How about a brief introduction and tour of our Worm Farm.

The Farm was began around mid March. They system has several trays that you add on to allow the worms to migrate upward to consume new food.  According to the instructions you start with only one layer which is composed of coco coir, shredded newspaper and worms. Then you slowly add compost materials. We are currently using the 3rd tray.

Here is the current Farm:

Those white sheets are there to stop the worms from migrating up and out of the bin and down into the compost tea that is collected from all of their hard work. They also help keep other unwanted bugs out. They seem to do a pretty good job.

Here is the top, or active, layer:

The cardboard is kept moist to maintain proper soil water retention and to limit the worms movement upwards by presenting a hard-to-eat challenge (it tends to be what dries out first) It’s primary purpose is to keep the pile moist from the top.

Underneath the Cardboard:

Can you spot any of the Worms?

The worms migrate upwards as they finish eating or “composting” the organic material in the tray.

Here are two lower levels. In all honesty, they are waiting for us to have the time to sift out the worms and use the compost. In reality, we don’t need another tray until all the ones we have are filled….. almost there. Almost.

One of the biggest complaints we heard about the plastic worm bins was the lack of airflow to the bottom piles, leading to poor worm health and poor production performance. However for just 5 watts (at our $0.28/kWh this costs about $0.70 / mo to use) which is almost nothing to give your worms excellent air flow using an aquarium air pump (small pump available for $5-$15 at your local pet shop or most big stores that stock basic fish equipment)

How we did modify the Worm Farm to add air:

You can see the hoses going from the pump underneath the Farm into  drilled holes in the side that permits oxygen to flow at an increased rate throughout the bin which increases the amount of material the worms can compost.

The spigot on the bin is used to dispense the worm tea. This is the fluid that is excreted from the composted material and contains the nutrients plants need in an easy to absorb form. You don’t collect much at a time, or very frequently when you first start off, but you really don’t need that much early on. After the system establishes its self, for us it was when we added the 3rd tray, we started getting about 1/4 – 3/4 of a cup of worm tea every other day. This was plenty to use ours in the nutrient brews that are used throughout the garden. When collecting and using worm tea, be sure to dilute it, think of it as a concentrate that needs to be watered down to work effectively, not to strong but not too soft. Ours usually measured above 1600-1800 ppm, which is too strong for most plants being that tea usually is high in Nitrogen (tomatoes, watermelons, and other heavy feeders may actually like this) it is perfect to add to a compost/guano tea brew for the garden.

I’m looking forward to using the worm castings to amend the soil, and eventually (hopefully) never have to buy new soil materials again, or at least not as much as we have had to this year to start up the garden.

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