If you want to breed earthworms to loosen your garden soil or to compost organic waste, you can do it yourself with ease and fun. What to consider when building a worm box and what makes the worms happy
That’s where the worm comes in, they say, when something just doesn’t work properly. The worm box shows that something can work – precisely because of the worm in it. With it, kitchen waste can be used sustainably and valuable hummus can be produced – with the help of the hard-working earthworms in it.
Say and write There are 670 different types of hard-working garden helpers worldwide – 46 of them live in Germany and Switzerland alone. Somehow the soil in Austria must taste better, because 62 species of earthworms live there. That the slender worm with no visible bristles has that name makes sense.
After all, the blind worm lives in tunnels in the earth. If it rains too much, the aisles fill up and the worm comes to the surface like a freediver to get some air: the earthworm is ready.However, there is another assumption as to where the name comes from: from the old German for “reger worm” – after all, the earthworm works non-stop through the earth.
Breeding earthworms for worm castings
The more of these worms a garden has, the better for the soil. With their work and their appetite, earthworms loosen up the soil, aerate it, ensure better fertility and produce small crumbs as a humus supply through their digestion. One of the reasons for this is that earthworms actually eat incessantly.
Self-experiment with compost box
Why I voluntarily bring worms into the kitchen
Worm boxes are designed to easily turn organic waste in your own four walls into valuable compost. But does animal recycling really work?
Worms are gluttons and produce compost
An earthworm consumes a good half of its body weight in food per day. For a 70 kg person, that would be 35 kg of food every day. At the top of the earthworm menu are:
- plant remains
- organic residues
Worm box for garden and balcony
But how do you now manage to breed the natural garden aerators on a large scale? Fortunately, this is very easy, because earthworms are quite undemanding. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can breed the worms on the balcony, for example. The solution to the riddle: the worm box.
The breeding container for earthworms can be made of wood or plastic, requires minimal interior design and can also be easily built yourself if necessary. For this you need:
- Wooden or plastic box
- lid for the box
- Garden fleece or insect screen
- unprinted corrugated board
- mature compost
- unprinted egg cartons
- Food for the worms: leftover vegetables (uncooked)
There are basically two types of worm boxes: the solo box or several boxes on top of each other. Wooden boxes are generally better than plastic boxes because wood is breathable. This creates an ideal climate in the worm box.
If you use plastic crates, you should pay attention to increased moisture formation, provide drainage holes and install a drip tray under the crate.
Animals need adequate ventilation in the worm box
It is important that the worm box is sufficiently ventilated through side vents or an open structure in the plastic box. If you use several containers on top of each other, it makes sense to install a drain valve on the bottom container, so liquid can drain and your earthworms don’t drown.
If you don’t want to try it out yourself, you can also order ready-made worm boxes from retailers – both made of wood and plastic. The single box is practically a double room. A dividing grille is installed in the middle the box divided into two chambers. In one half the earthworms are housed together with the organic material and the organic waste.
Humus production as fertilizer for the garden soil
Once the entire substance has been converted into humus by the worms, they simply migrate through the coarse-meshed separating grid into the second chamber, where you, as the earthworm breeder, have already started to create the next material basis for breeding and humus production. You simply remove the finished compost in the first chamber.
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Compost Worms move back and forth between boxes
If you use multiple boxes on top of each other, simply drill a few holes in the bottoms of the top boxes. In this way, the earthworms can move back and forth between the individual boxes if necessary and liquid can drain downwards. Here, too, a drain valve and a drip tray on the bottom container are useful.
Four boxes on top of each other are sufficient for a four-person household. Up to three kilograms of organic waste can be recycled in this way per week.
Distribute material and create soil layers
But how does the structure of a worm box actually look like? The good news: Extremely simple. Take blank paper and tear it to shreds. Corrugated cardboard, egg cartons (unprinted) and other paper mache items are also very popular with earthworms. It is best to soak the material brieflybefore you distribute it as nesting material in the box.
Mix in a few handfuls of garden or forest soil – not sterilized potting soil – to create different layers of soil. Depending on the box format, this layer should be up to 15 centimeters high.
Kitchen waste provides food for the worms
Then distribute the smallest possible cut material such as vegetable cuttings from the kitchen, leaves, fruit, crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, also in filter bags, used tea bags or crushed cut and potted plants – as food for the earthworms.
kitchen waste? No, you can still eat that!
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Only the worms themselves are missingto produce the desired compost – but where do you get it from? Either order from your own garden or from specialist retailers. In fact, there are earthworm eggs made to order – in so-called cocoons. Earthworms are hermaphrodites and mate with each other. The fertilized eggs are laid in cocoons, which the earthworm forms from a secretion. One ovum is usually laid in each cocoon.
A sexually mature animal can produce up to 300 offspring per year. Depending on the type of worm, the offspring hatch out of the cocoon after just 16 days. You can buy earthworm cocoons in specialist shops or ready-made worms. These are mostly so-called compost worms, which turn organic material into usable worm castings in record time – the perfect fertilizer.
Correct temperature in the soil is important for earthworms
It is important that you place the box covered with a lid in a spot in the garden or on the balcony, for example, where the temperature is right. Earthworms like it dark and feel particularly comfortable between ten and 25 degrees. In the winter you should bring the worm box in and put it in the basement to keep your earthworms from dying.
If odor or mold forms in a worm box, this can be due to excessive ventilation, waterlogging and too much food, but also not enough food.
What earthworms don’t like at all:
- onions and citrus fruits
- sprayed foods
- strong spices
- Meat, fish, dairy products
- Oils and fats
- Vibrations (lead to worm escape due to suspected rain or thunderstorms)
- light and overfeeding
Breeding earthworms for humus and fertilizer
It usually takes about three months before you can “harvest” the first self-produced worm castings from your worm box as fertilizer for the garden soil – apart from the earthworms themselves, of course, if you are an angler, for example.
But be careful: Don’t remove too many of the hard-working animals out of your worm box, because there is one thing you want to prevent at all costs: that the earthworms, due to a lack of partners, will stop reproducing and thus eventually stop production.