Earthworms work tirelessly beneath our feet to produce rich castings, called vermicast, which are the essential building blocks of soil.

We rely on them to mine the soil and recycle nutrients to provide the right environment for plants to grow.

Compost worms can also be used to recycle kitchen scraps, and farming worms is an ideal method of recycling.

This type of worm is different to an earthworm as it lives closer to the surface, eats fresher organic materials and likes wetter conditions.

1. How they work

Worms improve the structure of the soil and increase the air supply in it. This makes it possible for bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects and micro and macro-organisms to survive.

Earthworms burrow into the soil and break down root mats, opening up tunnels for oxygen and water to penetrate the soil.

Coated with nitrate-rich mucus, the roots of plants quickly take advantage of these tunnels, getting nutrition from the mucus.

Earthworm castings are far richer in minerals than the earth they ingest and, when deposited into the soil, act as a fertiliser.

Did you know Aristotle called earthworms the intestines of the soil and Charles Darwin wrote, ‘Of all animals, few have contributed so much to the development of the world, as we know it, as earthworms.’

2. Encouraging earthworms

It’s easy to naturally attract worms into your garden.

  • ENSURE the soil is moist but free-draining.
  • GARDEN organically and always use organic mulches like leaf mould, lucerne hay or pea straw. You get a twofold result, as organic matter not only keeps these workhorses happy, it also conditions your soil as it breaks down.
  • ADD compost and manure regularly to the soil.

3. Farming worms

Compost worms are the ultimate recyclers, and even apartment dwellers can make good use of their capabilities and receive fertile compost for their pot plants in return.

Just add all your vegie scraps to the bins and the worms do all the work, producing a rich concentrate oozing with nutrients that can be used as a fertiliser on pot plants and garden beds.

Feed your worms a handful of scraps twice a week for the first few weeks, then increase the quantity gradually as they multiply.

DIY TIP Add a trowel full of castings to a watering can, fill it with water and stir, then use it on your vegetables or pot plants.

4. How to care for compost worms

Place the bin in a cool area that doesn’t receive direct sunlight and keep the contents of the bin moist.

Worms eat coffee grounds, tea leaves, crushed eggshells, all fruit except citrus, cooked grains, bread, pasta, chopped fresh and cooked vegetable scraps and newspaper.

Don’t feed them citrus, onions, meat, cheese, oil or too much dairy.

If lots of worms are hanging out of the sides or lid of the bin, it means the contents are too soggy. Mix in some dry shredded newspaper to help dry it out.

The rich castings will build up and worm juice accumulates in the base of the box. It can be dug into moist soil or added to potting mix.

Mix the worm juice with nine parts water and use to water pot plants, flowers and vegetables.

Republished with permission of Handyman Australia.