Hi everybody. My name is Joe Bartmann. I'm a Worm Farmer. Except when I'm trying to be fancy--then I'm a vermiculturist. Vermiculture is composting with worms. Yup, I work with thousands of them.
I collect food scraps and put them in their house, and they turn that rotting food into magic poop for my garden.So my big goal for this evening is to show you just how simple and amazing it will be when you start your very own worm farm.
It all started for me when my uncle Carl, a former hippie from Colorado, brought me a couple handfuls of his red wigglers. It was the running joke in our family--these worms in Carl's basement. He's definitely a worm groupie—pretty obsessed.
I'm pretty sure he brought some to me just because he thought it'd be a great way to take some heat off his own back. Anyway, We made some bedding from old newspaper and some compost from my backyard, and I was a start-up worm farmer.
Composting with worms might be the easiest way ever to jump-start your green lifestyle. Going green is all the rage, and it should be--we are totally kicking Mother Earth right in the teeth. So I'm here to make your next green step an easy one.
Look, one third of the garbage in our landfill--that big mountain of trash we're building west of Sioux Falls—one third is stuff that could have been composted instead. Think about your kitchen garbage can. When it's full, how much of it is food?
You’ve got banana peels, that lettuce that got old, leftover green beans, those roses from ‘the incident’... Right?Well, most of that food can be fed to your new worms instead of sent to the stinkin’ landfill.
Life is one big circle, right? Everything natural is food for something else. Carrots eat the good stuff in soil. You eat some of the carrot. Your worms eat the parts you throw away. And the garden eats the worm poop. All Food.
Now these little guys are all vegans. Feed them stuff from plants—fruit, veggies, paper, yard waste. No meat, no dairy, no grease—that stuff will stink, and before you know it you’ll be hosting your own little rodent party.
Your worms will live in a container, there are plenty of options out there. From simple to fancy and cheap to expensive. The main idea is to allow air to circulate, and let the juicy stuff drain out. Stackable systems make it easier to harvest the compost.
‘Cuz the worms keep travelling up and leave the magic stuff behind. Most worm farmers I know go the Do It Yourself route. It’s pretty easy. Some are made for the back yard and some are for indoors. For me, I am lazy. And cheap.
So, I went to Hy-Vee and asked the helpful smile behind the counter if she could save me a couple styrofoam containers. She gave me these fruit boxes. I stack these things and catch the drainage in a plastic tub. They let plenty of air in, and regulate the temp pretty well.
Your worm bedding should be moist, but not wet. I start by mixing a little soil with some peat moss and shredded brown leaves or newspaper. You mix it up with a little water, and start with an inch or so in the bottom of the bed, then let ‘em go to work.
Now, the whole point of this is to harvest that magic for the garden, right? The easy way is to lure the worms with food into one corner of the bed for a week or so. That way they’ll all pile up into a big worm ball, and I can scoop them out with no trouble.
Uncle Carl does it this way. He makes a bunch of small piles and puts them in the sun. The worms hate the sun, so they high tail it to the bottom of that pile, then he can harvest the compost without any hitch hikers.
Don’t forget to harvest the compost tea—it’s the juicy brown stuff that drains from your worm bin. Yes, you want to catch this stuff—it is magic potion for plants. Spray it on house plants, feed it to sick tomatoes. It’s powerful stuff.
So you have some worm poop, now what? It’s just great compost, so do all the things you do with other kinds of compost. Add it to your garden soil, mulch your potted flowers, or spread a layer across your whole back yard. You can’t mess this up.
I’ve made a habit of giving some of my composting worms away. My worms are in classrooms, offices, under kitchen sinks and even in a radio studio. I only want three boxes anyway, and those things reproduce like Catholics.
So this whole time I’ve been prepping you for your worms. Now I’m pushing you out the nest to start your own worm poop revolution. I brought a couple starter packs with me tonight for you adventurous types. They’re in the back, and there are more where those came from.
In case you have questions—here is my help line. I’ll meet you in the back if you want some worms. I’m Joe Bartmann, worm farmer. Thanks for listening.