There are several reasons for having an earthworm "farm," including (but of course not limited to) fish bait, the creating of fantastic soil, and the love of science and worms. Whatever your reason for wanting an earthworm farm, you can set one up in a few simple steps with these tips. You'll even learn about their food and reproduction.
A great place to start when raising earthworms is with Worm Farming Secrets - you're sure to find lots of tips and interesting facts about earthworms that will help you create the perfect earthworm farm!
Use this information to learn how to set up your farm:
- Find an appropriate home. This is by far the hardest part of your project. Believe it or not, old timers often bury old refrigerators. This is an option, but before doing it, keep a few things in mind. Freon is a dangerous substance, so it should not be buried with a refrigerator. (Whether or not your refrigerator has freon in it often depends upon its age.) Additionally, it is wise to remove the door to make sure that no young children hide in there and become trapped. You don't have to use a refrigerator. If you are looking for a small worm farm, you can do it in an ice cream bucket. Other options include a wooden box, a small hard plastic child's swimming pool, or a plastic tote of the size you want.
- Create drainage, if necessary. If your container has a tight sealed lid, or will be stored out of the rain, you don't have to worry about drainage. However, if your container is open and outside, you will want to puncture some drainage holes in the bottom sides. If you use small nails and carefully pound them into the sides, down at the bottom, you are less likely to have escape artists.
- Add the soil. You will want to fill your container about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up with soil. It should be a decent quality soil. It doesn't have to be great soil, but you don't want it to be made primarily of sand or clay. A medium brown, loose soil with a small amount of sand or clay works well.
- Add food. This is an important part of raising healthy and reproducing worms. You will want to keep adding lots of food for them to encourage growth and reproduction. Good food sources include vegetable and fruit scraps from the house (carrot peels, lettuce, apple peels and cores), leaves, and grass clippings. You will want to avoid adding potato peels because they will grow (even in the dark), as well as some other items commonly thrown into compost. If you put in eggs and eggshells, manure of any sort or meats of any kind, the soil can get too hot as the bacteria start to decompose these items.
- Stir it well. Stirring the food is important, as it allows the worms to eat at all levels. This makes overcrowding less of an issue, as the earthworms will live at all levels instead of crowding into the level where the food is at.
- Top with something dark. Topping the soil with leaves, grass or cardboard is important. This will help hold moisture in, keep it dark under the soil, and still provide food (they even eat the cardboard).
- Choose and add your worms. You can buy worms from a bait shop or harvest the worms under piles of leaves, grass and rocks. Buying them is easiest, but kids love finding them. Identifying the worms will help you understand their size when full grown. Small red worms are often found in leaf piles. They are leaf worms and don't get very large. Some light brown varieties get to medium size. If you are looking for large worms, you will want "crawlers." They tend to be the largest and in some places, these worms can grow up to a foot long. However, you most likely won't find them sold at that size. If you live in an area with large crawlers, you can hunt them. It is best at night, after a rain or during a light rain. Adding the worms you have chosen or found is as simple as dumping them on top.
- Maintaining your farm. Your soil should be moist, but not wet. If it becomes wet, some worms will drown and rot. If you notice that it is wet, add some dry soil and leaves to help absorb extra moisture. If the soil is really dry, lightly water it. Add food as the soil packs down and needs more space. Keeping your worms well fed is important.
- Breeding your worms. Let's talk about earthworm reproduction. Worms are both male and female and they do breed with each other. Breeding usually occurs in fall. It is important that you wait a whole year before beginning to harvest them(unless you wish to purchase more). In the springtime, tiny white worms will hatch out of clusters of eggs. Over time, they will grow. After two years, they will become full size and be available for harvesting.
- Harvesting worms or dirt. Harvesting dirt can take place easily and quickly after about three weeks. The soil will be rich with nutrients and very good for plants. You can carefully sift through it looking for worms and throwing them back in with the others. Fill the container with new soil and food (or just food if you are looking for lots of new soil). The longer you wait, the richer your soil will be. Harvesting worms can be done in the spring and any time thereafter (if the farm is at least one year old). You can harvest the largest ones. However, if you have not stocked your farm really well, you may find you run out of adults before the babies are large enough for bait. Stocking it well at first, or throwing in new worms every now and again, can help with this problem. To find new residents, simply turn over your soil and pluck them up. If your container is well stocked, you won't have to look hard.
Hopefully this article has provided some interesting facts about earthworms along with some farming tips. Keeping a worm farm can be well worth it. Raising them can provide bait, great soil, and even enjoyment (if you like to dig in the dirt and see what is going on). You can watch your baby worms grow up and see the changes in their appearance and their structures. Or you can just use them for what you need, whether that is as soil improvement or bait. Either way, with just a little work, you can have a great project.