Howdy, one and all! Starting a home worm farm is a very rewarding adventure if you love growing killer happy plants, including of course, cannabis plants. There is a bit of a learning curve here, and I have seen several peeps try, fail, and quit. So…
Today I am going to show you how to start up your own home worm farm. More specifically, a stacked type like mine. These really work out well for the home grower. You can recycle all your kitchen scraps through them, along with all the extraneous (plant) cannabis matter like stems—chopped up—and leaves. What you end up with is a way to power your cannabis gardens with a single source of goodness from both the worm castings, and the worm leachate that collects underneath the farm. This stuff is truly liquid gold for growing cannabis, like wow!
If you are also recycling your soil—and why wouldn’t you—get yourself a compost tumbler you can fill with used soil/root-balls and your preferred additions—like worm castings—to end up with some very stellar living soil for your plants. If you don’t have or want a worm farm, get a tumbler that has two sections. These work super good for recycling organic matter like kitchen scraps along with your used soil and root-balls.
Your Home Worm Farm Setup
Before the Worms Get There!
When you get your worm farm you won’t get the worms with it at the same time, and you absolutely want it that way because you need to get the worm farm ready for the worms, and this takes a couple of weeks. I have recently set up a couple growers near me with new stacked home worm farms using the same methodology I will show you today. Their worm farms are jamming along, and they are both wicked happy, along with their cannabis plants—yeah buddy.
Okay then, first things first, choosing a location for your new home worm farm…
You will not want to set your worm farm up in your house proper. The reasons are three-fold. First of all, your worm farm is a living biosphere and will not only contain a lot of life, but it will also attract it as well. Gnats, and spiders both really like hanging out around worm farms. Second, when feeding your worms things like broccoli, or asparagus scraps, it can get a little stinky. Third, the worm farm cannot be exposed to rain, or direct sunlight, and temperatures must not reach freezing (below 38 deg. F.) or get too hot (above 85 deg. F.).
Figure out where you are going to put your worm food collection container(s) as well. One in or near your kitchen is great for collecting kitchen scraps. I use like a large Halloween candy bowl in my kitchen (see above photo), and a 5-gallon tote out in my shed to dump that bowl into, and for more stinky additions like broccoli etc. (see below photo).
A Few Things You Will Need to Get
- Perlite. You will want this to mix with your worm food before feeding it to the worms. It not only aerates the organic matter but helps to keep it a bit dryer. If you have a lot of smaller stems, you can chop them up and add them to your worm food and they will help aerate it a lot as well.
- Ground oyster shells. This stuff (by Down to Earth brand) makes for super happy worms by keeping the pH up a bit higher, where both the bacteria and the worms love it. If you can’t get the oyster shells, fully rinsed/flushed coir will work. Shredded bark mulch is also helpful here. Egg shells are also pretty helpful for this.
- Organic corn meal. A little bit of this added to your worm food will go a long way towards making your worms super fat and happy. Not to mention, a great nutrient addition as well.
- Worm food collection containers. You’ll need smaller plastic totes or trashcans for this. Everyone will do it different, but I use a large bowl in the kitchen, and a small tote out in my garage/shed to hold all the collected worm food, on a per-worm-farm-tray basis.
- Bagged earthworm castings. You will want at least 5 or 6 gallons of this (1 cubic foot) to start out your worm farm with. Do not get sterilized castings. Optimally you want some worms still alive in these castings, but it isn’t a deal breaker if there isn’t.
- Alfalfa meal. Or homemade cannabis leaf meal works great, kelp meal is also good here. This is just a standard addition I always add as a high nutrient source.
Your 3 Biggest Worm Farm Concerns
Aeration: A gigantic part of having a happy healthy worm farm is aeration. The microlife you want breathes air (aerobic) and so do the worms. The perlite does some of the job here, along with not packing down your worm food in the trays. The biggest thing you need to remember here is to leave the valve at the bottom of the farm OPEN always. Not only does this drain out the leachate it also drains out CO2. Your worms will die if you neglect this!
Moisture Levels: Your worm food and castings don’t need to be as wet as you think they do. The worms prefer it just moist and not fully wet. I normally add dry cannabis leaves along with letting the worm food itself dry out a little bit in the outside tote to keep from adding everything too wet. Your worms will die if the farm gets too wet.
Worm Food: There are things you definitely don’t want to add. Like diatomaceous earth (DE), citrus fruits, onions/peppers, meat, cheese/dairy, salt/sugar/spices, and butter/grease/fat. Also, never add any cannabis matter that you have treated foliar style with anything to fight mites or powdery mildew. However, you can for sure feed them plants that have been infected (but not treated for) parasites or mold. No worries, it won’t infect any new crops you use the castings on.
Starting a Home Worm Farm, Your First Two Trays
Two weeks before any worms get added to your worm farm, you will want to fill the bottom tray with bagged earthworm castings with about 15% perlite added/mixed and place it on the worm farm’s base. One week before the worms arrive make up another tray exactly like the first tray, but also mix/add in ¼ cup oyster shell, ¼ cup alfalfa meal, and 2 tablespoons of corn meal. Keep this tray off to the side and don’t add it to the farm yet.
Once the worms arrive, dig a small hole in the bottom tray castings and place the worms in it—usually they are in a big ball—place a little bit of castings back on top of them, then place the second tray with the castings, alfalfa, and oyster shell added gently on top. Everything should be moist but not wet. Let them hang out undisturbed for about a week before doing anything else. You will also want to place a smaller catch container underneath the (open) spout of the worm farm to collect leachate.
Your First Real Worm Farm Trays
You can feed your worms a lot of things. There are also some really good, like especially good for cannabis growing additions. Here is a short list of some of the best I have found for your worms and plants targeted nutrient needs.
- Used coffee/tea grounds and filters
- Cantaloupe and/or rinds
- Bananas and/or peels
- Broccoli, spinach, beans, peas, or any green veggies
- Leftover rice or pasta
- Corn on the cobb cobbs chopped up
- Untreated hair or fur
- Apples and/or cores
- Seeds, basically any seeds
- Tomatoes, or Potatoes, and/or skins
- Melons, gourds and/or rinds
Food that gets too old is fine. Whenever adding meal leftovers to your worm food collection zones, make sure to rinse them off with hot water first to remove any salt, spices, butter, oil, or fat. Let’s look at your first real tray additions.
Standard Tray Recipe for Your Home Worm Farm
Here’s how we build a tray before adding it on top of the worm farm…
- Get together a tray’s worth of collected worm food. I use a rubber trough to mix it all together in. First, I put on heavy-duty gloves, I add about a 10% cut of perlite, then start tearing and mixing the stuff together. I chop up anything that needs chopped, but you really don’t need to get everything into small pieces, only stems, the worms will handle all else, LoL.
- Add ¼ cup corn meal, ¼ cup oyster shell ground, and ¼ cup alfalfa meal. Mix well, fill tray and place it on the worm farm.
That’s really all you need to do right there above. Here’s a list of some other things I like to add when I make up my trays.
- 2 tablespoons of greensand
- 1 tablespoon azomite
- 2 cups shredded bark mulch
- 2 tablespoons kelp meal
- 1 cup raw rice
You don’t need to do any of that extra jazz, but it does kick your castings up a nice notch for cannabis growing, I think. You want to add a new tray about once every 2 weeks. Once you have 4 trays full and stacked on the worm farm, the next time you add a tray (the 5th tray) you can remove the bottom tray and harvest the castings from it. From then on you can harvest a tray every time you add a new one.
If your worm food is too wet, add dry matter. If it’s too dry you can sprinkle on about ¼ cup of dechlorinated water on it. The worms feeding on the new food tends to moisten it up quite a bit. So, again, the farm food doesn’t need to be wet at all, just moist. This is huge! You’ll get the hang of this.
If you discover the food and farm is too wet after the fact, you’ll need to add another tray that is fairly dry organic matter. I always have a small plastic trashcan full of dried pot leaves and chopped up stems just in case I need them to make a dry-ish tray full and add extra perlite to the dry-ish tray as well.
If you do mess up and kill your worms somehow, just get new worms and toss them in the farm after a couple weeks of it sitting, and everything should jump right back into operation.
Like I said the leachate is magical, but it may be a while before you get any of that so be patient. It is some super-high PPM chit, so check your PPM after adding just a little to your plant water. Castings are fantastical for using as a top dressing for your plants about every two weeks or so, lightly. Between the leachate (used very lightly) and the castings, that is truly all the nutrient bang you will need for a living soil to make your plants uber healthy and happy.
You can DIY your worm farm if you wanna, check out Worms Eat My Garbage on Amazon for more good info on that subject. Grab a copy of my True Living Organics book that is also on Amazon, to learn the ways of the artisan druid cannabis grower, including recycling your soil. Another cool article by yours truly here at SKUNK to check out as well, Five Biggest Mistakes Germinating Cannabis Seeds – Skunk Magazine.
I’m outty for now amigos, busy as all hell trying to finish my newest book, whew. Pull the trigger and start your own home worm farm man, it’s a bit of a learning curve, but today’s article should help. I Hope you are all well, thanks for stopping by and I’ll catch ya all back here on the flip-flop next Tuesday for another article here at SKUNK. L8r G8rs…
- REv ????
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.