Worm Compost Tea

Last Christmas 2012, my hubby and I gave each other worms.

Yup.  We did.

A worm farm, of course!   I thought some of you might like to hear how it’s doing and how we have used the worm composted …. um….. well…… stuff.

Vermicompost tea

The top tray where I am adding the worm food – bits of fruits and vegetables, paper, coffee grounds, cardboard, egg shells and dried leaves.

If you didn’t get a chance to read about our worm farm and how we set it up, you can read about it HERE and HERE.

I have been rotating the trays – mine has four – but unfortunately I haven’t kept tract of how many trays of finished worm compost we have harvested. Lets just say we have used up several trays so far.

Red wigglers for worm farm

Here is a picture of the worms. The picture is a bit blurry because I couldn’t get them to stay still and say “cheese”!

We have used the worm compost to re-pot quite a few of our house plants, I potted up the two stevia plants growing in the garden with worm compost to bring them inside for the winter, and I have also made worm compost tea for watering. The plants seem to be greener and grow faster with the worm tea and soil, and I certainly don’t miss having to buy expensive fertilizer for my house plants.  Honestly, there’s nothing better!

How do you make worm tea?  Easy.

Worm Farm Composting

The bottom tray with the “finished” worm compost.

I just take about a cup of worm compost to two cups of water, let it steep overnight, strain off the liquid and – voila – worm compost tea!  I add just a bit more water (no chlorinated water – please) because a little seems to go a long way.  I haven’t had any problems with burning any plants – it seems this stuff is pretty mellow and yet chock full of the good stuff! I have very happy and healthy plants!  🙂

And the worms?  Well, lets just say if they could smile they would be grinning from ear to ear!  I think I finally got the moisture balance right after the “great worm exodus” I had when I was first learning how to compost with worms.

Vermiculture

One of the red wigglers! Anyone want to go fishing?

Really, you want the top layer – the one you are adding vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds (with paper filter), paper egg cartons, crushed dried egg shells, etc. to be the wet one.  The next one down, the one most of the worms will be in, should be pretty moist, but not sopping wet.  The tray underneath that one is usually a bit drier – not dry but not really wet either. There might be a few worms in this layer also.  The bottom tray (of mine, at least) is like the fluffy compost or potting soil that you get from the store.  This is the tray that you harvest the worm compost from to make tea or to pot up your plants with.  This balance of moisture in the trays seems to be the best for the worms.  If it gets too wet, they migrate down.  If it is too dry, they migrate up!  The worms aren’t too particular once you get a few trays up and running.

Worm Tea from Compost

A pint jar of freshly “brewed” worm compost tea!

We will probably start harvesting some of the worms this spring to use as fishing bait!  I know they have been making babies, because there are worms of all sizes in the trays.  I have even found a few of their eggs!

If you decide to try your hand at worm farming, and I certainly hope you do, spend some time doing a bit of research first!  There are several companies that make worm farms and lots of retailers who sell them.  Check out all of them to get the best size and price for your needs.  I have listed a few below:

Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply   This is where I got mine at 20% off

Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm    This company also sells the worms

Woodland Direct       This company offers three different brands:  Can-O-Worms, Vermi-Hut, and Worm Chalet.

If you would like to try worm farming (it’s actually called vermicomposting) but don’t want to fork out a lot of money for a commercial worm farm, you can google for “DIY worm farm” and come up with a lot of results.  Here are just a few:

Modern Farmer,  Happily Ever Crafter and Kiwi Urban Homestead

There are a lot of other blogs that cover the DIY subject of building your own bin, but these will give you the general idea.

I have truly enjoyed worm farming.  My grandchildren take pleasure in checking on their progress every time they come over and I think they are learning a lot about composting and permaculture because of the worm farm, even though they don’t know it yet! And let me tell you – the worms are almost like having pets!  Of course I can’t name them all, but the level of attachment I have developed for my worms is quite strange – perhaps unnatural.  😉    Ah well.

 

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24 thoughts on “Worm Compost Tea

  1. I tried vermicomposting years ago when I lived in an apt. I couldn’t get the moisture/dry ingredients ratio right and ended up with dried worms all over my kitchen floor. LOL I’m sure I’ll try it again some day. Great info. Thanks for sharing. Gammy/Tammy

    • Yes, it was touch-and-go for us in the beginning. It wasn’t until we had at least three trays going that we didn’t lose any worms. We had a mass exodus once with lots of the little darlings turning into worm jerky because I had watered them too much. Once you have three trays going, they can migrate up or down to get more or less moisture. In fact, if I were to begin another worm composter (I have been thinking of building my own), I will start with two layers instead of one, just to help the little wormies with the moisture issue! Thanks for your thoughts Gammy/Tammy!

  2. I have a large (3×4) vermicomposting box that I made several years ago from plans I received at a gardening class I was taking. You use wet shredded newspaper as the bedding and bury your kitchen scraps in it. I was never able to get the moisture content right, and the worms always died, but this post give me the inspiration to try again. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hello, Shelle! Yes, I believe at least two levels or even three are almost a necessity to get your worms started. It gives them an opportunity to move around to the moisture level they are comfortable with. Then, once they start composting and you start adding more trays and/or rotating, this becomes more of a non-issue. At least that is the way I see it. I know some other people who were successful with the one tray method, but they probably have a lot more time to spend monitoring and adding moisture or dry paper to balance the mix. I prefer to feed my worms once a week (sometimes more, sometimes less) and not worry about it too much – and having several levels or trays seems to let me do that.

  3. This is one thing I did not think when we started our organic garden, but after reading your post I’ll be talking to my southern man about it. Pinning to my organic gardening board, followed you here from the Flash Friday blog hop.

    • Yes, this is one of those wonderful organic fertilizers that are cheap yet very effective! And it is a wonderful solution for some of that junk mail – the worms eat it! I encourage you to try it! Thanks for your thoughts, Joyce.

  4. Hi Vickie, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    I have read about these and have seen it done, but I haven’t done it myself. What we did was throw some worms into our revolving compost bins, and I now use the rich dirt underneath the afore mentioned compost bins for potting, plus the worms and their offspring are happy, and what’s in the bins is ….organic? Yeah, we’ll go with organic, that’s a nice, safe, word.

    • I agree – organic sounds better than worm poop, but it is what it is! Hahaha! That stuff is like liquid gold, isn’t it! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and I pray that you enjoy health and happiness in the New Year!

  5. Thanks for this Vicki. We have been considering vermicomposting for awhile and this just got me excited. I can’t wait now to get my hubby out in the yard building that bin, but I guess it will have to wait a couple of months. Winter in Maine is not the time to bed starting this outdoors. Although we have talked about doing one in the basement. Any thoughts?

    • Oh my, those Maine winters can be brutal! But no worries – my worm composter is tucked away in a corner in my kitchen! It is so convenient – I peel a carrot and put the peel in the worm bin. I have some junk mail, I soak it in water, then put it in the worm bin. The only problem I had was last month I had some fruit gnats that apparently came from the worm bin. Funny thing, right above the worm bin in the corner was a daddy long leg spider who had some of the gnats in the web. I decided the spider was as good a gnat catcher as any, so I let him (or her) stay! I named him George. Hahaha. Really, I’m not a bad housekeeper, I just thought it would be fun to let nature take it’s course! 🙂 I haven’t noticed any fruit gnats in a a few days, so I guess George will have to go outside. Of course, a basement should work, as long as it is warm enough and you don’t forget about it!

  6. I had worms for quite some time, but sadly pregnancy did terrible things for my brain. While pregnant with my first child, I cleaned out the garden at the end of the fall and threw everything that was left over in with the worms. Apparently they couldn’t handle so much onion skins and stalks and such, since they died 🙁 They are fun, though, aren’t they?

    • Unfortunately, as you found out, onions are not the best thing for worms. Citrus isn’t so good either. Funny how the brain goes to mush when we are pregnant, isn’t it?! Anyway, you should try again!

    • Yup – that’s one of the reasons I needed some natural, organic compost – we have clay soil! So far the worm poop compost has done wonders for the house plants and some of the potted plants outdoors. Next spring we will start adding it to our small vegetable garden. You should try it!

  7. I had a go at a worm composter last year. I think I may have killed every worm in there so I don’t think it would be fair for me to give it a go again. Such a shame because I really wanted to do this, but I’m not sure what I did wrong so I think I will check out some of your links and see if I can work it out.
    Thank you for sharing

    • Thank you for stopping by, Linda. Personally, I think the problem is always in the beginning – getting the moisture levels correct – which is almost impossible with only one tray! I think it is almost a necessity to start at least two trays, maybe even three, before you get your worms! They also seem to be sensitive to some foods, such as onions or oranges, and so reading the recommended “foods” to place in the worm trays before you put something new in them is very important! Of course, I have babied my worms and run a lot of vegetables and fruits through my blender so they break down faster, but this isn’t supposed to be necessary. I hope you try again!

  8. We discussed trying a worm farm but our hubbies didn’t want them in the house. Instead I made a compostable garden in my garden boxes in an attempt to encourage worm health and growth. Not as affective and, of course, no tea from them lol. This is a great article, especially with the link back to your how to. Great info! Thanks for linking to Snickerdoodle Sunday!

    • Happy New Year Kristina and Millie! Husbands can be funny that way! Actually, you wouldn’t know I have a worm farm in my kitchen – well, breakfast nook. It’s covered with a pretty cloth and is decorated sort of like a side table with a vignette on a tray (a ceramic rooster, a candle and some flowers with a few decorative orbs). The tray makes it easy to set aside to get to the worms. The cloth hides the worm farm. The best thing about it is that the kitchen area is usually pretty warm and worms do their best work in warm weather! 🙂 Besides, there is really no odor and the worms don’t bark. My hubby was also a bit “put off” having a worm farm so close to his food, but now he doesn’t even think about it!

  9. Love your website. Thanks. I have been raising worms for a couple of years and love the compost they make. I make my “tea” by putting a couple cups of compost into a bit of cheese cloth and fill a 5 gallon bucket of water. Then I use an aquarium bubbler to aerate it to give the bacteria the right aerobic environment and then add a teaspoon of black strap molasses to put the bacteria on a sugar high. I let it run overnight and try to use it within 24 hours. Also, i make sure to water my garden’s leaves as well. I know this is typically a no no, but the bacteria in worm poo is so great that it can help fight disease on the leaves. works great on tomatoes and peppers. Thanks for the site.

    • This is great information, Steve! If you don’t mind, I think I will include your suggestions in a future post! I suppose aerating the bacteria and feeding it would make it VERY happy, so I am going to try this the next time I make worm tea. Thanks again, Steve.

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