Earthworms are an important part of a garden’s ecosystem, also providing a tasty meal for birds who visit. As earthworms tunnel down, they aerate the soil, providing better water penetration and space for roots to grow.
Earthworms feed on decaying plant matter and micro-organisms in the soil. Their castings (waste) are a rich fertiliser which supply nutrients to plants.
Earthworms won’t stick around in poor soil, so encourage them to stay by improving your soil quality. Dig in organic matter such as compost, manure or leaf litter and add organic mulch to the soil surface.
Earthworms don’t like to be disturbed. Use a fork when you dig. Garden earthworms should not be confused with red wigglers (Eisenia fetida), the earthworms used in vermiculture to compost waste matter. These earthworms cannot live in garden soil.
Making your worm farm
There are many ways to make worm farms and many commercial systems available. We created a kitchen scraps monster based on the two-bucket worm compostor. This requires materials and processes that are easily accessible
This DIY experiment will show you how to make a worm farm and give an understanding of the decomposition of food waste. Making your own worm farm is a great project to do at home with your children.
You will need
• 2 (or more) 20 litre buckets (these can be old buckets you have at home – but ensure they are clean)
• 1 bucket lid (you can use the original lid or make a simple wooden top for easy handling)
• Mesh or shade cloth
• A drill
• 10mm spade bit and 5mm drill bit
• Waterproof glue (or glue gun)
• Fine sandpaper
• Spray-paint, craft paint, googly eyes, pipe-cleaners and polystyrene balls
• Kitchen scraps
• Red wiggler earthworms (about 100 worms)
1 Using the spade bit, drill holes around the outer top part of the bucket.
2 Use the sandpaper to roughen the surface around the holes in the inside of the lid.
3 Cut 8 squares of the screen or shade cloth (large enough to cover the holes).
4 Put glue around each hole and stick your squares or strips of mesh over each hole – ensuring they are completely stuck down. Set aside to dry.
5 Switch drill bits and then drill a series of holes in the bottom of one bucket.
6 Spray the buckets on the outside with a plastic adhesive spray-paint.
7 Have fun with your scraps monster and decorate it with googly eyes and pipecleaner hair and the painted polystyrene balls.
8 Place this bucket inside the second bucket.
9 Place the worms in the top bucket. If you have bought your worms from a worm farm supplier, they will come in a layer of peat moss – add all of this into the bucket.
10 Add a layer of wet newspaper and top with more vegetable matter.
11 Top with more wet paper, or cardboard (torn up pizza boxes work well).
12 Add more kitchen scraps each day and always top with a layer of wet paper or cardboard.
13 Cover with a lid and leave in a cool, shaded area, so that it doesn’t dry out.
14 Once the food waste reaches the level in the bucket where you can stack another bucket on top of the worms, without squashing them, you can add another bucket – with holes drilled into the bottom. Just be careful not to add more than ±20 cm of kitchen scraps, because the worms can get crushed under the weight.
15 Collect the “worm tea” after about 2 to 3 weeks from the bottom bucket and dilute 1:3 in water to use in your garden.