Week 11 of the winter semester is about to begin here at Green String Farm. The other interns and I are making plans for post intern life and cherishing our remaining time with Farmer Bob. In my time working at Green String Farm and attending lessons with Bob Cannard I have learned a tremendous amount that will be useful in my future farming endeavors. One of the lessons we covered that is extremely beneficial for a home garden or farm was our discussion on vermiculture.
Vermiculture is basically raising worms for their beneficial worm castings. Worm castings are a tremendous soil amendment that can be applied directly to your garden as compost or applied as a foliar spray when used in compost tea. Best of all, raising worms is quite simple and requires only occasional maintenance to ensure a healthy worm population.
Here is the worm bin in use at the Green String Intern House. To construct a similar worm bin, start by assembling a plywood bin or repurpose a wooden barrel. Fill the bottom third of the bin with rough compost or soil from your garden. Next add 100 worms to the bin, the best worms for this application are Red Wigglers which can be found at your local bait shop or grab some from your neighbors worm bin. On top of the worms add a layer of leaves, sawdust, or other carbonaceous material. You could also add a layer of straw or newspaper to help retain moisture in the bin. Grab a watering can and add some water to the bin until everything is moist but not soaked. Cover the bin with plywood or some other material to keep predators and the elements out.
As far as worm bin maintenance, the bin will need to be occasionally watered to keep everything moist. Also the worms need to be fed in order to keep them alive and continually generate worm castings. Essentially all food scraps and leftovers can be fed to the worms. While some things will take longer to be digested than others all food is useful in the worm bin including meat, bones, eggshells and vegetable waste. As long as the worms have food they will rapidly multiply and within weeks 100 worms will become 10,000.
To jump start your worm bin or revitalize an unmaintained bin a high protein broth of oatmeal leftovers can be added to encourage worm activity. Chicken feed would also suffice as a beneficial starter meal. As the worms digest the food material they move towards the top layer of the bin leaving worm castings in the space they just occupied. To access the castings, flip over the bin or barrel and remove castings until you see worms. Sprinkle these castings on your garden to inoculate your plants and increase soil biology.
Jesse S. Winter Intern '16