I’ve Got Worms

IMG_6871

It takes effort to keep the soil fertile when growing food organically.  That’s especially true for us, as we don’t use any off-farm inputs for fertilizer, even those approved for organic use.

With 10-10-10 not an option, we have a fertility toolkit that might seem strange to a conventional farmer these days, but would have made perfect sense to a farmer a couple of generations ago.  We use cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, manure and chicken litter–as farmers have since the dawn of agriculture.

And now we’re also using aerated “worm tea,” taking advantage of our composting worm bin.

We start with an old chest freezer in the basement, which serves as our worm bin.  Of course it’s not necessary to have an old chest freezer to have a worm bin. Simple directions for making them out of plastic bins are HERE. (We have this kind of bin too).

Our bin isn't pretty, but it's functional.  This can be done on a small scale in an apartment or home.  No big ugly freezer needed.

Our bin isn’t pretty, but it’s functional. This can be done on a small scale in an apartment or home. No big ugly freezer needed.

We dump our tea leaves and coffee grounds (with filters) into the bin.  The worms eat the tea and coffee and turn it into worm castings–nature’s finest plant food. Of course the worms will eat anything that decomposes, but we just limit ours to tea, coffee, paper and some occasional eggshells. It’s a good way for us to get rid of those items and we don’t have to worry about smell or attracting flies.

To make the tea, you’ll need an air pump, air stone and a piece of piping to connect them.  These are inexpensive and can be found anywhere that sells aquarium supplies.

Put the stone into a bucket (I use a five gallon bucket) and connect it to the pipe and pump. You’ll have to weight the air stone down with a rock.

Add water to the bucket along with worm castings.  You can either put the castings into an old sock or stocking tied off at the top, or just dump them into the water.  I’ve done it both ways but you’ll have to strain it either way if you’re going to use a sprayer, so I don’t see an advantage to the sock method.

Add a couple of spoonfuls of molasses and let the concoction brew for 24 hours or more.  The beneficial aerobic microbes will be activated and will multiply during the process.

Tea brewing in our shed.

Tea brewing in our shed.

Then just feed the tea to growing plants.  I strain ours and apply it with a garden sprayer. The plants love it.

It’s a win-win situation.  We provide a worm-friendly living environment and in exchange they give us worm poo to fertilize our gardens. For more info, just google “worm tea” and you’ll find lots of websites with all the info you could ask for.  One of many examples is HERE.

 

Advertisements

32 comments on “I’ve Got Worms

  1. BeeHappee says:

    Thank you, great info.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanna says:

    I love turning over the soil to discover an abundance of worms. It helps me know we are moving in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bobraxton says:

    every time I add to 31 years of compost pile, the earthworms wave to thank me / us.

    Like

  4. rhondajean says:

    Excellent. We don’t have worms now but they used to be a constant part of our garden management. It’s incredible how much difference the molasses makes. It’s great sprayed onto the compost heap too, increasing the microbial activity there as well.

    Like

  5. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, good soil just seems to attract worms. When I started Terra Nova Gardens three years ago, I didn’t see a single worm only garter snakes slithering through the tall weed mess. After the first year, I saw an occasional worm but not many. I dumped almost 1000 bags of fall leave grass mixture over a 90 X 30 foot area to smother weeds and let compost down. That foot deep covering of mulch has composted down and worms now abound in the soil. Even my backyard urban compost pile has a few worms in it. I suspect the limited worm population is because of all the chemicals used on the lawns surrounding my yard.

    Have a great worm poo day in the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      There were no worms here when we started either. The soil was poisoned and dead. It took us a few years, but now the soil is alive and teeming with worms.

      Like

  6. Laura says:

    Very cool! I may have to add this to the list one of these days. You make it look so easy

    Like

  7. avwalters says:

    And they can go all winter? Hmmm. Another thing for the to-do list.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I have a friend who kept his in an old chest freezer too, and he kept them outside. To keep them from freezing in the winter he just laid some heat tape on top. I originally set ours up outside, planning to use the heat tape. But now we’ve moved it into the basement where that isn’t an issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    I’m curious, how long you have had your worms? I assume they procreate and produce new worms if cared for properly? Which makes me wonder what the life expectancy of an earthworm might be, especially one in ‘captivity’? Hmm… off to google these questions now…
    I might add this to our homesteading “to do” list…

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We started with just a handful of worms. They reproduce like crazy. I’ve heard the more food you give them, the more worms you’ll have. These are red wigglers. They do a great job. I’d highly recommend you get worms. Follow the link in the post for an easy way to make bins. If you can’t find someone who will give you some worms to get started (we would if you were closer of course) you can buy them inexpensively on line.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your setup is perfect. Come winter those wigglers will be comfy and won’t freeze. One thing we’ve noticed is that mice manage to get up and into our buckets and drown in the tea. Sad but we have a lot of mice. Guess who has to fish them out and bury them in the compost pile.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I hadn’t thought of mice doing that. Hasn’t been a problem for us yet. I did read somewhere that cats sometimes like to drink the tea and it’s harmful to them. We haven’t had that issue either.

      Like

  10. daphnegould says:

    I love that you don’t have to buy fertilizers. I wish I could do that, but living in the city I have no space to grow my own carbon or nitrogen. I do get my carbon from the neighborhood though as I collect leaves from the neighbors in the fall. I don’t do any worm composting as such. My compost piles are the stack it and forget it type – slow but not so much work. Since they don’t get so hot the worms love them. It is amazing how many I find in there. One handful of compost could have a whole bunch of little worms. I tend to find big worms in my garden beds, but smaller ones in the compost for some reason.

    Like

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      As e-coli and other nasty bacteria thrive in a non-oxygenated (anaerobic) environment, I would never recommend using the first method described here.
      But I LOVE how you’ve improved the original aerated tea recipe by using coffee grounds (++nitrogen) and egg shell (+calcium) along with the tea leaves… A touch of Epsom Salts probably wouldn’t hurt either (+magnesium, sulphur & oxygen – also REALLY good for your micro biota: )
      Sounds like we all (us and the chickens; ) should be using eggshells for calcium [bone health, ++]
      http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=114358
      Great info Bill – you’ve got me thinking again – thanks!: )

      Like

    • Bill says:

      I worry every year if we’ll be able to fertilize well enough without off-farm inputs. Most people who farm with out ethic use organic-approved fertilizers. I’m not ruling it out–just trying to make it without them as long as I can.

      We let our compost cook a long time too. From starting a pile to first use is 18 months. I have a tractor with a bucket so I do turn the pile from time to time, but not enough to shorten the process. Our compost often has worms in it too. I love to see soil alive.

      Like

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Wow! Well if there was ever a reason to stop the use of Glyphosate (roundup) and NNIs(Neo Nicotinoid Insecticide-treated seed), then this is it!
      Hmm… So, what if the use of these products is already causing trouble with soil microbiota and resulting in the climate changes already being observed by those who spend time outside? (that was a poorly worded thought; but I didn’t want to fiddle with the language, just spit it out):

      Like

    • Bill says:

      Interesting. I had not seen that. More reason to create environments favorable to worms. Worms are evidence of healthy soil. As soil health improves, the number of worms increase.

      Like

  11. rhenryowen says:

    Great post! Thanks for the shout out to my http://www.wormcompostinghq.com website

    Like

  12. EllaDee says:

    Garden worms are always a good thing… if you’re interested in another for of garden tea, my friend Kate has a recipe she swears by https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/the-gardens-of-chiconia-31-hubble-bubble/ 🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I like her recipe. I’ve made compost tea from manure before, but my method wasn’t as sophisticated as hers. I’ve made a note of this so I can come back to it. Thanks!

      Like

  13. And such handsome worms you have. 🙂 Look like fish bait to me. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  14. rhenryowen says:

    Great set up, love the old freezer worm bin. They work great. Thanks for the shout out to my http://www.wormcompostinghq.com website. Let me know if you have questions

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s