Although it looks like dark and rich compost, it is even better. It has far more potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous than ordinary soil, so it feeds your plants way better and it is also cheap to produce and it is easy – if you know how. It may be hard to believe that the humble earthworm can be such a wonderful asset to the organic farmer, but it really is. Vermicompost increases yield, drastically improves soil and can even improve the taste of fruit and vegetables. It is so good that it is known as the black gold of farming and gardening.
All you need is millions of employees
No chemicals are required with this method, just millions of workers – and they all work for free. To start your worm farm, you first need about 1,000 worms and two dark plastic storage boxes. The most common type of worm is Eisenia Fetida, which is a fancy word for those reddish earthworms most of us used to play with at some stage when we were kids. You should be able to buy the little suckers from a gardening centre or a bait shop. They reproduce really quickly so this should be a one-off purchase. Once you have your little workers, follow these steps:
• Drill about 20 evenly spaced holes at the bottom of each box.
• Drill ventilation holes on either side of each box and about 30 small holes at the top of each box.
• Shred newspaper for bedding for your worms.
• Cover the bottom of the box with about 10cm of moist paper – make sure the paper is moist but not soggy and add some leaves and soil so the worms can digest their food nicely.
• Add the worms to the bedding.
• Cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the bedding and moisten that too.
• Put the second box’s tray down, put bricks on that and place the box on top of the bricks – the idea is for excess moisture from the box to drain onto the lid (this ‘worm tea’ can be used as fertiliser).
• Feed your worms under the cardboard– they love bread, coffee granules, tea bags, fruit and veg peels and they don’t like oil, meat or dairy products.
• When the box is full and the food is eaten, place the second box on top of the first box after also putting bedding and cardboard in it.
• Start putting food in the top box instead of the bottom box.
• In a month or two most of the worms will have moved upstairs and what you will find in the bottom box is the black gold your little workers have been cultivating.
Keep it going
You can keep rotating the bins every few months for an endless supply of the best compost money can’t buy. Remember to keep feeding your workers, and remember they are vegetarians!