Worm Farming

We are many things and one of those things is worm farmers.  We don’t eat them or harness them to a wagon to drive us around the yard. PHiSH!  Come now!

Worm farming is dead simple, just the way we like it.  You place worms in an enviroment where they can thrive and feed them.  They eat food scraps from the kitchen, garden leftovers and other organic matter  (like paper!). In return you get worm castings for your garden.

Mike and Molly Worm Farm

Here's our worm farm

Molly:  I spent almost a year looking at different worm farm designs, listening to podcasts about worm farming and looking at my friends’ worm farms.

Mike:  And then one day I grabbed some hay bales from the pile and made a worm farm. A few weeks before a friend had offered us some of his worms so I took him up on it and tossed them into the worm farm.

Molly:  Mike’s farm has worked out great.  It’s easy to access and we’ve had little maintenance issues with the worms.  I’m thinking that New Mexico may be the perfect climate to farm these little guys. What do you think, you little wrigglers you?

Why worm farm?

Getting rid of your kitchen scraps and turning it into wonderful fertilizer is the main reason.  Castings (AKA worm poop) is expensive to purchase.  Making your own is not only frugal but your garden will love you.  Worm castings are like superfood to plants.

Do I need special kind of worms?

Sorta but not really.  We got red worms that are supposedly specifically for worm farming but all worms eat organic matter and poop.  As long as you give them food they’ll stick around.  Here in Santa Fe you can purchase red worms at the Railyard Farmers market.  Yep, you buy them from the ‘worm guys’!

So you say you want to make your own worm farm?

The one Mike built is great but if we were to build it again we’d make some adjustments. The farm we will show you has two sides.  This makes it simple to get the castings.  When one side fills up add food to the other side and the worms will move next door.  Once they’ve moved over you can dig out the castings.

Materials:

6 hay/straw bales

1 pallet

2 pieces of 1/2″ plywood- size will depend on your opening of the top of the worm farm

Optional:

4 hinges to hinge the doors

2 blocks of wood (aprox. 3″x1″) for door latches

Worm Farm

Set three hay bales in the configuration above.  Set a wood pallet vertically and then sandwhich the pallet by laying down the next three pallets.

Door and latch

Each side needs a door to keep moisture in and animals out.  A piece of plywood that overlaps the opening by a few inches will do.  If you want to get fancy attach hinges to the plywood and the pallet.  A door latch is very convenient too.  Screw a block of wood to the end of the pallet.  Make sure it’s loose enough so that when you open the door it can turn 90 degrees and hold the door up while you are dumping worm food in.

Your worm home is done.  Now it’s time to start farming!

Step 1:

Step 1

Add a few inches of dirt to both sides.

Pick a side that where the worms will live.  We’ll call it ‘side A’.

Add your worms to side A.  On top of the worms go table scraps and some paper.  Don’t be skimpy.  You don’t want your worms starving.  On top of the scraps add a few inches of hay.  The hay will insulate the worms and help keep things moist. They like a cool moist environment to live in.

Side B stays empty.

Step 2:

Step 2

Keep feeding side A.  Pull the hay back and dump food scraps and paper on the worms then replace the hay on top.  Check them every few days to make sure they have enough to eat.  If their home seems dry, water it.  They like damp but not soaking.

Step 3:

Step 3

Over time you will notice that there is more ‘dirt’ in side A.  This is the worm castings pilling up.  How fast it goes all depends on how much you are feeding them, how many worms you have and how healthy they are.  It should smell like fresh dirt and be full of wriggling worms just under the surface.

When the castings fill the area 3/4 of the way you are ready to move them over!

Step 4:

Step 4

The worms will move from side A to side B on their own if you stop feeding side A and begin to feed side B.

On side B put a layer of food scraps and a few inches of hay.

Step 5:

Step 5

Continue to feed side B.  After a week or two side A will be ready.  Check to see if the worms moved over then get a shovel and start scooping poop!

Step 6:

Step 6

Once side B fills up start feeding on side A again!

 

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8 Comments

  1. Doglover1918
    Posted November 29, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Love this idea, but beware if you live in an area with bears. They’ll rip the bales apart to get even a tiny food snack. Dang Bears!

    • Posted November 30, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      We do have an occasional bear siting within a mile of our property but they seem to stay away- the raccoon on the other hand! I’m surprised the raccoon haven’t opened the worm farm and eaten the food that’s left on top.

  2. Posted December 1, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Love the diagrams.  I tend to chuck worms into my compost bin when I find them.  Does that count?  You know, babci hates worms in her garden. She claims they eat her seedling roots.  She’s always wants me to kill them when I see them in her yard, but I don’t.  She has some big fatties in her yard. I wonder if there’s any truth to her claim?  I guess if they don’t have compost to eat they have to eat some other vegetation right?

    • Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:11 am | Permalink

      Hi Sandy, big nightcrawlers will come up to the soil surface and drag down rotting vegetation back down into their burrows. They don’t eat the vegetation, just the fungi, bacteria, and other little nano-critters on the organic matter itself.

      • Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        I’ll second that.  Worms are actually a sign of healthy soil.  Tell her to think of them as little rototillers working for the team.

  3. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Worm poop is some mighty fertilizer. I used it lavishly out at the hacienda, and the tomato and pepper plants just went berserk with production.
    I do like the idea of the hay bales!  In my back yard and even out at the farm, I’d have to armor the bottom with hardware cloth.  Moles sure love them some fat worms.  My own worm farm is upstairs now, I had to move them out of the guest room/study (under duress).  I was thinking of colonizing another bin, but two is plenty.
    This past thanksgiving, I sent a pound or so of them back to Georgia with my Mom, to start her own worm farm.
    Nice sketches!

    • Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      I do remember seeing a pic. of your indoor worm farm next to your seed station.  You should do a post on it.

  4. Richard A. Sandoval
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    This looks like a good idea, I use cinder block  for the sides and cover the top with aspen pads form my swamp cooler it retains the moisture very well. Buffalo

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