Let the earthworms do the work—worms make the best compost yet!
Vermiculture is defined as "the use of specially bred worms to convert organic matter into compost." This kind of compost is called worm castings.
Earthworms make great compost and are easy to grow. You can raise them in boxes also called worm bins or just put them in your cold compost piles. Worm castings are richer than good soil or compost and are great for your garden starts or garden beds.
You can buy earthworm boxes or check out these directions for making worm boxes your self.
Compost piles can be turned into worm casting by just adding some starter worms to your compost piles. Follow the same basic instructions for earth worm piles as you would for cool compost piles with the exception of adding starter worms. You can get worms from a friend or buy them from a worm farm. There are many different kinds of worms, some are better for garden soil, fishing or making compost. Red wigglers (Eisenia Foetida) are best for your worm boxes or piles they are great for digesting compost and kitchen waste.
Kitchen waste can be added to your worm box or compost pile by the bucket or pail, the worms will eat it up.The number of red worms needed depends on the daily food waste. There is a worm to daily food ratio. The ratio is 2 pounds of red worms for each pound of food, in short: 2:1. You only have to add the worms once, and they will even multiply on their own.
How many red worms there are in a pound of worms depends on the size of the worms. Commercial growers estimate that there are 1000 breeders (sexually mature) in one pound of worms. If you order pit-run worms (worms of all sizes and ages) by the pound, you will have lots more worms than if you should order breeders by the pound. Great place to Order your Earthworms here.If you have trouble with animals digging up your piles you will need to buy or build a worm box or compost bin. If you use a compost pile or bin you can be pretty loose about how many worms you start with and if there are too many for the food supply they will just migrate into your garden to find more compost. If you are using a worm box it is more important to make sure you have a good ratio of bedding, worms and food.
A box measuring 1’ by 2’ by 3’ can handle 6 pounds of kitchen waste, which is the average for families from 4 to 6 people. A smaller sized box, 1’ by 2’ by 2’, can handle kitchen waste for 2 people.
Feeding the little red wigglers, and providing them good bedding, are important. Worms can eat and bed down on many things if the temperature and moisture is adequate.
Compost, garbage, shredded paper, all manner of grass clippings, cafeteria wastes, supermarket spoilages and crop residues. At some point, every organic thing is in a condition of decay suitable for earthworms to process. Worm castings can be used as mulch around the base of plants, where watering carries nutrients down to the feeder rootlets. Plants have been shown to rapidly colonize worm casting with dense networks of root hairs. Plants can be observed to "perk up" within a day or two of application.
Don’t lose your worms— Use a worm box or put a new pile with good worm conditions and nutrients next to your present worm pile. The worms will move over to the new pile on their own but digging through your worm pile and taking out the rich shovel full of squirming worms and adding them to the new pile will speed up the process and give you great plant food to feed your beds, use for flats or to top dress your plants with. It is fine to incorporate some of the worms from the piles into your garden beds further enriching your garden soil but I suggest putting most of the worms in your next pile as the red worms best suited for compost and do not do as well in soil. Conversely the worms found in soil do not do as well in compost.
Have a great time with your new earthworm farm, your garden will love you!