Create a worm farm so that these hard-working burrowing beauties can improve the health of your soil and cultivate your garden. Soil rich in worms is full of healthy life.
Earthworms are headless, eyeless, underground animals that devour soil and vegetable matter and excrete castings’, which are a valuable soil additive.
There are many varieties of earthworm, including those specifically used in worm farms and for making garden compost.
Soil that is rich in organic matter should also contain plenty of worms. Worms help to increase air movement through the soil by burrowing and creating air pockets, and they also add nutrients to the soil through their castings.
Soil that is heavy and difficult to cultivate can be improved by adding worms as well as organic matter, to make it lighter and more friable.
Soil that is very sandy and lacking organic matter can also be improved if worms are added in conjunction with compost or well-rotted animal manure.
Worms can be added directly to the soil, which should be lightly turned over and mulched after the worms have been added. Worms can also be kept in a worm farm, whether it be home made or in a purchased kit. A worm farm is the perfect way to use up all the kitchen scraps as food for the worms.
Every few months the worm castings can be removed, and added to the soil as an improver. Worms can also be added to the compost heap, where they will help the organic ingredients to break down more rapidly.
Worm castings are even better for the soil that well-rotted animal manure. This is because worm castings can be applied safely, without any fear of burning the delicate roots or stems of plants.
How to establish a worm farm
A home made version of a stacking worm farm can be created at no cost, by using polystyrene boxes covered with old hessian bags for lids. Follow the same basic steps as for setting up a kit worm farm, and make sure you keep the boxes in a shady position, watering them once a week if necessary.
Worm farms can be bought in kit form, and should be set up in a sheltered, shady situation within easy access from the kitchen. The base of the container should be covered with a 10 cm deep layer of soil that has been enriched with some well-rotted compost. Add the composting worms, covering them with a 1 cm layer of soil and manure. Lightly water with a fine spray. Add kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings. Worms do not eat citrus skins or onion peelings, so these should be avoided.
To use worm castings
Sprinkle the castings around potted plants, lightly digging them into a depth of 3cm and then topping them with mulch.
Add castings to the compost heap, turning them over lightly with a fork. It is important to keep the compost heap well watered.
Use castings in combination with mulch as a method of feeding plants. They can be layered with bark, pine chips or grass clippings.
Collect worm favorites’ such as lettuce and cabbage leaves, and layer them on the soil surface. Remove excess castings every four months, making sure that the soil mix is not watered for a few days beforehand, or it will be a very messy task.
More worms can be added if necessary, as some will be discarded with the castings. In a well-managed farm the worms will multiply naturally. Activity slows down when the weather is cold, and the worms require less attention.
However, check to make sure the soil does not dry out, and add water if necessary.
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