This is a simple guide for anyone interested in growing your own earthworms at home. As the demand grows for organic farming, earthworm castings have become more popular and appealing for home vegetable gardening and plant growers. Perhaps this article can help you make your own worm farm so you can begin growing earthworms, and save money if you do not prefer to use fertilizer.A little bit about the author first. My father had a successful earthworm farm in Florida for 25 years. He sold his Florida worms mainly to fishermen and gave away the castings to gardeners (before people started selling it). I worked for him part time over the years and picked up on his methods of how to grow earthworms that made him successful. My guess is that the reason you are reading this would be to learn how to raise your own earthworms and use the resulting castings or "worm dirt" for your own use and maybe sell some worms on the side.
Climate: Earthworms require a mild moist climate in order to thrive. Florida is an ideal area for growing earthworms but still has some pitfalls. Summer can be too hot and would require constant watering of the worm bed to keep them cool. If your worm bed is out doors then too much rain can flood the bed. Winters are mild in Florida but earthworms cannot survive if temperatures are too cold, and forget about freezing temps. If you live in a mild climate it would be safe to build your bed out doors, if not maybe you can use a garage or shed. On cold days you can put old blankets or pieces of carpet directly on top of the bed to help keep them warm. I will presume that you are building it out doors.
Building The Bed:You can put together a wooden square or rectangular box to raise earthworms in. Length and width will be up to you considering how large of a bed that you want or have room for. I would use 1x12 lumber. Do not use pressure treated lumber. If a board rots after awhile than replace it. So we will have a bed that is bordered on the sides and is 12" high. I do not put a bottom on the bed because I don't want to close it in too much and escape is minimal. If the earthworms dig into the ground they don't go very far because their food is always on top of the bed.
Preparing The Bed: Now that you have the four sides of the earthworm bed constructed, find a piece of level ground to put it on, preferably in the shade. You can also put a roof over the box to keep the rain out but leave room to water and feed the bed. Fill the earthworm bed with peat moss about 6" high. You can buy bags of peat moss at any garden store. My father used to order it by the dump truck load. Once you have the peat moss in the bed, water it with a garden hose. You want the bed moist at all times but not flooded. We are ready to start growing earthworms. Go to your local fresh water bait and tackle shop and see what kind of worms they sell. Do not buy "Wigglers" because they are more difficult to maintain. Look for regular "Redworms". Considering how large your earthworm bed is for example if it is 4'x6' I would buy maybe 600 earthworms to start out. Take them home and dump them out into the bed. No need to bury them they will find their way into the ground.
Feeding And Maintenance:After the worms are securely in your earthworm bed be sure to keep them watered daily. You can use a garden hose or set up a sprinkler system. They must stay moist at all times but remember never to over water. Worms feed on the peat moss in the bed but you still must feed then daily. You can use used coffee grounds or oatmeal. Just sprinkle it on top of the bed and they will come up to eat it like gold fish. I would highly suggest using feed made for earthworms. You can buy Purina Worm Chow on line. Just click the link. It is a powder and very easy to apply. Just coat the top of the earthworm bed with feed once a day. It will disappear in minutes. Do not over feed. All earthworms reproduce. There is no male and female, so if things are done correctly your first 600 worms will multiply pretty rapidly. If the peat moss level goes down, replace it with fresh peat. Simply add it on top of the bed. You don't have to mix it in. Stockpiling Castings For Compost:After about six months you will be ready to start rotating the dirt to use for composting. I use a stiff rake. Begin on one side of the bed and sift through the worms with the rake. Return the excess earthworms to the other side of the bed and take out the remaining dirt. You will use this dirt in your garden or by using a fertilizer spreader, you can fertilize your lawn with it, not to mention that worms are natural lawn aerators. Replace any dirt that you remove with fresh peat moss and start the cycle over. You may end up with an over abundance of earthworms. My only suggestion would be to try to sell them to a bait shop, (See Earthworms: Starting A Small Business) or give them away maybe to a youth group to sell. Either way too many worms is not a bad thing. This process will take time but in a year you should have a sizable stock of nutritious chemical free soil for your garden and the earthworms may help pay for it.
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