Alabama, United States
Posted Feb 28, 2014
Years ago, I dated a man who had two school-aged children. As he worked at night, I often watched the children from after school til time to leave for school in the next day. One day only a few weeks of this arrangement, the younger boy came for a snack before heading out to play in the backyard. I had seen him working out there every afternoon I had cared for him, and I had noticed,too, that he always changed into overalls and a straw hat before heading out.
"What are you up to out there, J?" I asked.
That adorable kindergartner beamed to answer, "I'm a worm farmer, N!" And with that, he grabbed my hand to lead me to the grounds. What I found there was a very well-designed worm bin buried in the ground. Constructed of an old deep freezer, this bin, had the lid removed and a piece of plywood had been cut to replace it.
"Only problem with keeping worms is the moles get them," J kicked at the dirt beside the bin.
That was over 15 years ago, and that worm farm has gone through various phases. From the knowledge J and his father shared with me, I have come through various earthworm farming phases, too. My bins are smaller, each constructed of a large plastic tote with secure lid, drilled holes for ventilation and drainage, and a spigot (made from an upcycled detergent pump).
These bins are filled with various types of compost: shredded newsprint, cardboard boxes, dried leaves, and veggie table scraps. Worms dig in, eat, and turn waste to excellent fertilizer. From time to time, some of these worms are moved to garden plots in my backyard, at community gardens, and to the edible forest garden friends and I manage. Their cases are incorporated into natural fertilizers we use at each of these places, and we make a "worm tea," to from liquid pumped out of the bottom of the bins, mixed with water, and allowed to steep.
Another way that we have been able to incorporate worm farming into the overall garden plot design is through worm towers constructed of 10" wide portions of upcycled PVC pipe. Best if made in cuts of at least 3 ft long, these are drilled to allow ventilation/ earthworm passage/moisture run off, decorated as folks see fit, placed about 18" into the ground, filled with veggie compost/scraps, and capped with a pretty plate or an attractive bowling ball (our favorite). Earthworms are attracted to the tower for food, move in and out at will, and fertilize and aerate the soil as they move back and forth.
Our organic fruits and vegetables are just about the best you'll find, and we owe much of our success to our creeping earthworm buddies.
Of all the pets I have ever recommended to children, the common earthworm is among my favorite as they offer such much to the idea of self-sufficiency through gardening and true sustainability AND keeping them allows for much scientific observation and enlightenment.