Worm farming is also called vermicomposting. It is a process that uses worms and bacteria to compost kitchen waste into a nutrient-high fertilizer for gardens and flower plants. The worm boxes are placed in a cool, dark location indoors or out, allowing for winter composting in snow and cold areas.
A worm box is either made or purchased from a vermicomposting retail site. A plastic storage container works well for beginning worm farmers or worms that are kept indoors. A cover is needed but should not seal shut. If worms will be housed outdoors part of the year, purchase a unit that is recommended for outdoor use. The box needs bedding that will keep moisture and air available for the worms. Shredded paper or corrugated cardboard makes great bedding. Paper may dry out faster than cardboard, so monitor moisture levels. Retailers also sell worm bedding, however this is more expensive. A worm box should be filled two-thirds full with fluffed bedding that has been prepared by soaking in water for 24 hours. Bedding that dries out can be sprayed with water periodically.
Types of Worms
Red worms are used in vermicomposting and can be purchased through vermicomposting retailers such as gardensalive.com. The worms are also known as red wigglers, tiger worms, red hybrid or manure worms. One pound of worms will feed on one-half pound of kitchen waste per day. The amount of worms needed depends on the pounds of garbage produced. Additional worms can be added to a worm box by spreading them across the top layer of bedding.
Kitchen waste that is nonfatty is the preferred food source for the worms. This includes fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, and pasta leftovers. Worms do not like foods like garlic and onion. A worm needs grit to digest foods, which is why coffee grounds, cornmeal, or dried and crushed eggshells are needed to assist with digestion.
Worm farming requires little maintenance. Add food waste slowly in the beginning to build up bacteria in the box and prevent the box from becoming smelly. At any time the box smell becomes strong, add less food to let the worms catch up. The worm bin should be kept in a dark place to promote the worms coming to the surface for eating. The food scraps are be laid on the top layer of bedding or under a thin layer of bedding.
The organic food matter is digested by the worms and creates a product called castings. In three to four months, a worm box will eat through the bedding and food and create a rich fertilizer product. The castings need to be removed so the worm box can be restarted. Worms do not like light and will move to the bottom of the box when you open it. This allows you to scoop the top layer of castings out. The worms will keep moving down and additional castings can be scooped out. Try not to remove worms or egg cocoons. To remove the remaining castings, move them to one side of the box with the other side filled with fresh prepared bedding and kitchen scraps. Wait one to two days and the worms will leave the castings for the new bedding and the remaining castings can be taken out.