In February, Karen Barker from the LRFN and co-owner of Minglewood Farm in Laconia visited the daycare center at Laconia High School to help them set up a classroom worm farm. Here is her description of the project. This project is in support of the Early Sprouts Curriculum, initiated by Tammy Levesque from the Lakes Region Healthy Eating, Active Living program. The curriculum is being used to teach gardening through hands-on experience to pre-schoolers in several locations in the Lakes Region.
We selected a clear bin so that the children could more easily see the worms and the changes in the bedding. The bin has a drain hole cut in one end, covered by a piece of screening. This allows the water in the bin to drain, should the bedding become saturated. Worms can drown if it is too wet.
For bedding, we used shredded newspaper, coffee grounds, coffee chaff (thanks to Woodshed Coffee Roasting Company,) and soil. Worms eat cellulosic materials, basically the parts of plants that we humans can’t digest! They break it down, using the grit from the soil in their crops, like chickens, to help grind it up.
The worm poop, or castings, can be used as a soil amendment for indoor or outdoor plantings. They can be applied directly to the soil, mixed into the soil, or added to compost tea.
As the bedding is added, it is watered to ensure the proper moisture content. Worms do not like their bedding too dry or too wet.
They have sensitive skin and if it is dry it scratches them. They can even dehydrate and die if it becomes too dry. They also need air spaces in the bedding so they can breathe, so too much water is not good for them either. The bin is propped up at an angle to help it drain. The liquid that drains out is called “worm tea”, and can be used to feed plants.
Once the bedding was in place, we added some food waste – the leftover apple parts from applesauce I made last fall. It was stored in the freezer in anticipation of this project. Once that was mixed in, it was time to introduce the worms!
Worms for indoor worm farms are red wigglers, not night crawlers. They are not native to New England, so they need to be treated a little more carefully. They cannot survive freezing temperatures, so must be kept indoors. They thrive in the worm bin environment, multiplying rapidly. Worms can eat large amounts of kitchen waste, and there is no odor or fly problem if the bin is properly maintained. In a few months they will convert all their bedding as well as the food they have been fed into rich worm castings, at which point we will remove casting for the children to use in their garden, and add new bedding!
The worm farm is now complete, except for a cover. The worms like to be in the dark, so for now we covered the bin with a towel. Karen has a large piece of black cloth at home which will cover the entire bin, while allowing the bin to breathe.
To learn more about worm farming, visit the Cornell University worm farming page. It is loaded with information about worm farming and the care of worms.