Worm Farming Basics

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Why worm farm at home or garden?

  • Its organic! No need to use petrochemical ferts or guano shipped from another continent - high quality fertilizers can be made available at your home with no effort!
  • Its easy! With very little effort kitchen waste can be converted into nice life-giving & disease-supressing fertilizer juice and worm casting-media.
  • Its fun! If you enjoy growing plants, worms fit in nicely. They require very little attention - but do develop like plants or pets do! I harass mine daily, looking at what they eat, how they grow, if they've made offspring...



What benefit do castings have over any other type of fertilizer/compost?

Worm castings are basically the same as 'normal' compost. However, it is thought that worm castings have several benefits over plain ole' compost.

The nutrients in worm castings have exceptionally high availability for the plants, so that while the numbers on analysis sheets may appear low, worm castings make for nutrient rich diet for plants.

Worm castings provide a very good structure to the soil, thanks to the mucus coating that the worms provide and because of high humus content. Thus mucus coating also keeps the nutrients available, providing natures own slow-release nutrients. Worm castings also retains water very well.

Worm castings are thought to contain a chitinaze-enzyme, a enzyme that melts the chitin that most insects exo-skeleton is made of. This means worm castings acts as a pest repellent/pesticide, and possibly can even trigger chitinaze production in plants, too.

Worm castings also have strong and live beneficial bacterial populations. These bacterial populations will act as a line of defense against pathogenic bacteria and fungi.


Is it easy to make them (worm bins/farms), or should you buy them?

Worm farming is set-and-forget easy. A worm farm or a bin is basically a plastic or wooden box or bin or bucket of some kind with ventilation holes on sides and top and drainage holes or a spigot on the bottom.





What nutrient content does worm castings contain (roughly)?

Worm castings' nutrient content depends on the diet the worms have been fed with.

To answer with a quote:
"Analysis of earthworm casting reveals that they are richer in plant nutrients than the soil, about three times more calcium and several times more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium." (K.P. Barley, Advances in Agronomy, Vol. 13, 1961, p. 251)

Usually plain worm castings made from variety of organic waste will support plant growth without additional nutrients for some weeks (3 to 5 weeks), although my experience is nitrogen and magnesium supplement doesnt hurt (with a N & Mg greedy plant).

The worms will consume nutrients from the waste, naturally, into their bodies. This is not lost however, as the worms themselves make an excellent fertilizer (NPK 10-1-1 with high calcium and magnesium).

Worm casting NPK numbers found on the internet range from NPK 3-2-2 to 0.5-0.1-0.1. Worm castings also usually contains high levels of other macronutrients and micronutrients, and while the three main nutrient levels may appear low, there is usually plenty of micronutrients in worm castings, and the general nutrient availability is high.

But again, this depends on what feed the worm castings was made with.

Here are two analyses of different vermicomposts:

Parameters: Eisenia foetida - Perionyx excavatus - FYM
pH: 7.40 - 7.00 - 7.200
Organic Carbon (%): 27.43 - 30.31 - 12.20
Total nitrogen (%): 0.60 - 0.66 - 0.55
Total phosphate (%): 1.34 - 1.93 - 0.75
Total potassium (%): 0.40 - 0.42 - 2.30
C: N ratio: 45.70 - 45.90 - 24.4


How long does it take to make worm castings?

The rate at which organic waste is converted into plant-usable form depends, again, on the waste and feeds the worms are being fed with. If the waste is juiced into a soupy pulp or ground up, it will take about 8 weeks to finish. On the other hand, woody stems and large chunks of hard plant tissue will easily take more than 6 months to decompose.

I find 7 months is a good cycle for a worm bin, with 5 months of feeding, and last month with no feed.

To complicate matters, the worm produce is divided into two cathegories: partially decomposed worm-compost and completely decomposed worm casting. Worm compost is usually 'wormed' for some weeks, when worm castings take months.

I recommend only using worm castings. Worm compost can cause problems, provide inadequate nutrient content, and attract pests and transmit plant diseases.


I reuse my soil, would it be worth putting some worms in there, while it sits? - TheHerbalCultivator

Yes. Very much so - extra beneficial. Worms will make the breaking down process much faster. Rootballs disappear in some weeks. Throw in any useless veg-matter, too. Allow four weeks minimum, I prefer 8 to 12 weeks for old soil. Of course, one needs to supplement the soil with (some) nutrients and whatnot before use.