Creating Loving Worm Farms: For Optimum Breeding

Thank you to Paige Willoughby for creating this document and many thanks to Paige and Kerry for being the ‘keeper of the worms’, correcting and setting the worm farms up lovingly during ‘Summerfest 2012 Project’. Our many thanks for all your time and efforts!
 
This outline is designed to help you develop an appreciation for the worm and its role in land restoration and repair. It will step you through the process of creating a Loving environment for rapidly breeding worms, with the
view of recycling organic matter and incorporating these intelligent creatures into other Loving Eco-Systems, such as fertility holes, veggie gardens, food forests, native forests or planting beds- just to name a few.

Some Facts About Worms:
  • The worm is one of God’s “soil scientists” AND a fertiliser genius
  • Worms are integral in the restoration of damaged or degraded land, particularly as a result of mining, stock-carrying compaction, clear felling, and plantation agriculture
  • Through a life spent burrowing, eating, excreting, copulating and reproducing, worms fertilise the soil, increase nitrogen availability and microbial activity within the soil
  • The Worms burrowing action help to open the soil structure, therefore increase the amount of aeration and drainage in the soil, where water absorption and infiltration can be 4-10 times greater in paddocks with worms
  • Worms ingest half their body weight per day in organic matter – 1kg worms will consume 500g of food
  • Worms break down organic matter; food scraps, manure/excrement, leaves, lawn clippings, grass/hay, peat moss/coconut shavings, cardboard, paper, wood, ash/coals, even sand and clothes!
  • When the worm excretes the digested organic matter, in the form of casts, they significantly increase the amount of minerals available and accessible for uptake by plants and other intelligent creatures in the eco-system
  • These minerals include Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc- creating ideal planting and recovery conditions

Creating The Worm Farm

Basic Materials Required:
  • Container  
  • Star droppers, bricks, rocks or crates to elevate container for clear drainage and worm liquid collection 
  • Bucket or Container for collection and storage of Worm Liquid Fertiliser 
  • Shade Cloth 
  • Rocks for drain hole  
  • “Bedding”- Peat Moss or Straw/Hay 
  • Starter worms, approx 1 kg (compost worms optional) 
  • Soaked Manure- sheep, horse, cow, human (vegetarian or vegan diet only) 
  • Moist Newspaper/paper, sheets or shredded
  • Soaked Cardboard 
  • Food Scraps (no citrus, pineapple, large seeds, or onion family
  • Covering- Carpet or cardboard blanket plus Hessian or Shade Cloth
Optional Extras:
  • Lawn Clippings, or finely chopped green waste 
  • Decomposed straw or hay- must be easily digestible, therefore easily broken or pulled apart by hands
  • Once well established, clothing made from organic matter may be digested by worm farm
Construction:
Thank you to the internet for this
image
Thanks to the internet for this
image
1. Choose a container, with adequate drainage: Bath Tub, Old Fridge (de-gassed), Wheelie Bin, 44-gal Drum, Wooden Box, Feed bin, plastic tub, old suit case, old eski/chillibin, car tyres or draw…be creative. As a guide, minimum dimensions to accomodate 1kg of worms: 30-60cm deep x 80cm long x 30cm wide

elevation & gradient – liquid collector
 
2. Elevation and Gradient: Allow enough clearance, and gradient for a bucket or water container to collect the liquid that drains from the farm
– Worm Liquid Fertiliser is fabulous for giving new plants and gardens a nutrient boost
 
Drainage

3. Drainage:                                                                                                                             
 Place rocks over and around drain hole to prevent weight of worm bed contents block in the drain                                                                                                                    
shade cloth lining
Line Container with shade cloth which acts as a filter preventing worm bedding and castings from washing down the drain                                                                             
newspaper
Lay wet newspaper two sheets thick over the shade cloth- also a filter
peat moss
 4. Bedding:                                                                                                                                 
One block of Peat Moss or Coco Peat when hydrated should expand and fill one entire Wheel barrow (approximately 90L)                                                                                  

Lay the moist peat moss over the newspaper to a depth of 4- 5 inches, or a hand span (finger tips to wrist)   

Options: Straw, hay or shredded newspaper may be used if peat moss is unavailable            **Worms may be left, covered, on top of peat moss without additional food for a couple of days to de-stress, acclimatise and develop an appetite          
                                                                                         
worms
worm layer
5. Worm Layer  
If possible spread 1kg of worms on top of peat moss                                 
** If intending to acclimatise worms for few days, cover with wet Cardboard Blanket, Carpet and Shade Cloth (Step 9&10)
 
manure layer (sheep manure in picture)
6. Manure layer                                                                                                                             
If fresh manure is used, mix with chopped up hay or chemical free sawdust                
If dried, soak in water before layering over worms                                                            
Use preferably aged manure
– depending on its source, it may need time to release any emotion stored in it from the associated animal or treatment the animal has received in its life. Allow it to rest in the weather for a month or so, and take note of any plants that seed from it. For Example, Stinging Nettle releases the emotion of rage. Allow the plants to cleanse the manure before feeding it to the worms- would you wanna eat angry food???                                                                                                                        –Human Faeces may be used, only in the circumstances of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Flesh eaters have many bacteria that are not safe or suitable for such a process.
food scraps
 
7. Food Scraps                                                                                                                         
Press the food down firmly, so it starts to decompose in contact with the manure                                               –Remember not to over feed                                                                                             
Store excess food scraps in a sealed container until needed
shredded paper with air pockets
8. Shredded Paper & Shredded Cardboard                                                                            
Soak the newspaper, paper and cardboard- particularly densely coloured pieces, weather them for a time if possible                                                                                  
Tear the paper and cardboard into strips that can be scrunched to create air pockets
cardboard blanket
carpet
9. Carpet or Cardboard Blanket
– Carpet and/or two-three layers of soaked flat cardboard will created a nice blanket. Keep an eye on its moisture during the warmer months
-Creates a dark, moist, cool, safe environment
-Worms are shy creatures, if threatened or stressed or starving, they will not reproduce
shade cloth
10. Shade Cloth or Hessian Cover
-Helps to reflect the heat, if no shade
-Prevents Birds eating the worms
 
Worm Care:

Living Conditions:
  • Happy worms live in a Cool, Dark, Moist environment
  • The worm farms should not be smelly, if anything they will emit a sweet smell similar to the decaying forest floor.
  • Worms are living intelligent creatures; they are okay sharing their home with other living intelligent organisms (as they do in nature). Insects, beetles, flies, maggots, fungus, moulds etc only feed on dead, decaying materials. In fact these organisms’ help to decompose harsher organic matter, as worms don’t have teeth!
  • Maintain air spaces in the bedding, scrunch the moist shredded paper
  • Keep bedding moist, but not wet- worms don’t like swimming
  • pH is important, worms prefer neutral conditions- avoid citrus, pineapple, onion, garlic, leek, spring onions in food scraps
  • If too acidic (sour smell), add a hand full of garden lime (calcium CaCO3), ash from fire place (Carbon), or cardboard THEN reduce food scraps for a couple of days
  • Crushed egg shells or sea shells are also a form of slow release calcium
Food Supply:
  • Only add enough food scraps that the worms can eat in a few days When there is evidence of worms eating the Cardboard Layer, it is an indicator that more food scraps can be given
  • Chop the food into finer pieces so it can be digested faster (optional)
  • Just like we may have tendencies to overindulge, thereby avoiding our emotions, so too can the worms in our care be overfed. Give them enough that they have a little more than they need, but don’t create “Food Coma” as they will not reproduce optimally in this state. Also look at why you feel you need to “Love” the worms with food
  • Worms tend to reside within the top 2-3 inches of the worm bed. Therefore ensure the depth of the food supply does not become too great. Worms will eat to the surface, in preference to deeper. Too much food supply may result in undigested food remaining in the middle layers of the worm bed- contributing to possible souring of the environment
Reproduction: 
Thanks to Wikipedia for this image
  • Worms are hermaphrodites, meaning each worm has both male and female sex organs, therefore are neither male nor female, but both. Another awesome example of God’s true nature in our environment.
  • When a worm is approximately 4-6 weeks old, a white band forms around their head called the Clitellum, which contains sex organs, sperm and ova (eggs)
  • Worms require a mate to reproduce, even though they have both sets of sex organs
  • Worms join head to head, where the sperm can pass from each worm to the other and is stored in sacs
  • Cocoon is then formed on each of the worms Clitellum. As the worm backs out of the developing cocoon, eggs and sperm are deposited within the cocoon, where fertilisation takes place.
  • The tiny yellow, lemon-shaped cocoons require the right conditions to hatch. If it is too dry, they lay dormant for years in the soil and hatch only when conditions improve- very cool!!
Thanks to kingstonwormfarm.com
for this image
  • Baby Worms are a whitish colour, about half an inch in length. They are independent of their parents and begin eating as soon as they hatch.
  • Fed optimally, within 21 days, each adult worm will lay an egg cocoon containing 17 worms, predominately within the superficial paper layer of the worm farm

Harvesting:

  • When it comes time to harvest castings, about a week before its needed, layer food only on one half of the Worm Bed. The worms will migrate to that side, leaving a worm free section of castings that can be removed and used in the garden as fertiliser.
* This is an on going project begun at ‘Summerfest’ Nov/Dev 2012