Good Morning, Dr. Worm Ranch
Here’s a picture of my worm ranch. It came from Charley’s Greenhouse. It’s basically a stack of plastic trays with a bunch of holes for the worms to crawl through. The bottom is a catch tray with a spigot, in case it fills with too much water. Chris Johnson brought me the machete back from Brazil and I use it to cut up worm food.
These are not regular earthworms, nor do I think you can ranch regular earthworms. These are Red Wigglers, a variety of worm that feeds on organic material. Their diet requires equal parts nutrition, such as vegetables scraps from the kitchen, and roughage from paper. Of the former, their favorite treat seems to be any variety of melon, and of the latter, surprisingly, they prefer four-color glossy paper to newsprint. I generally soak a catalogue in water for them about once a month, then sneak some vegetables under it a few times a week.
The compost (or “castings”) they produce are supposed to be wonderful in the garden, however mine have never produced enough compost to be useful in a reality-grade gardening project, so I just keep them as mildly interesting pets and fishing bait.
Now, if you wanted to start a worm ranch on the cheap, you wouldn’t have to have a fancy rig like mine. I know people who raise them in a plain-old box under their kitchen sink (hi, Joe and Jean), but if you wanted something in the middle, I have a plan. Just get a couple of five-gallon buckets from Home Depot and have a neighborhood kid drill a bunch of holes in the bottom of one. Why a neighborhood kid? An eleven year old would actually enjoy doing that, unlike an adult.
So, then you would put your worms and some food stuff (vegetables, wet paper and maybe some coconut fiber like you can get a Clark’s Pet Emporium) in the bucket with the holes, then nestle that bucket into one without holes. The bottom bucket would collect any excess water. You can actually make several levels of hole-filled buckets (which is what you’re supposed to do) and the worms will always migrate through the holes up to the higher level, where the food is.
You’ll also need a plate or something to put on top, so they don’t dry out. Worms like everything dark and moist and room temperature. I’m sure you can buy Red Wigglers locally, too, and don’t be surprised at the price. I’ve seen them at Osuna Nursery: 100 worms for $10 in a styrafoam cup. That’s not a bad deal. They multiply like you wouldn’t believe.