This is one of our favourite community workshops to host because they include our favourite friends: the red wiggler worms! The educational workshop is really fun to do with the children. Thanks to PPECB, an independent service provider of quality certification and cold chain management services for producers and exporters of perishable food products, we were able to run this workshop at the centre located in Gugulethu called Unakho who care for 30 orphaned children. This workshop included the donation of an earth worm farm that was placed in the kitchen area to further connect the kitchen to the on site vegetable garden as
Learn more about Unakho and our progress with this beneficiary by clicking here.
Earth worm workshop lesson plan
The workship that we completed was to showcase how to use the earth worm farm which consists of a 3 tier system. The earth worm farm consists of three tiers: 1) the bottom tier (the bathroom) fitted with a tap, 2) the middle tier (the bedroom) and 3) the top tier (the future bedroom). The second and third tier consist of small holes to drain all the liquid to the bottom tier (the bathroom).
We spent time together preparing the bedroom which is the middle tier by adding a bit of soil from the garden, coco noir, newspaper and hay which are fantastic living material for the worms. The bottom of the living area has small holes to allow the liquid gold to leave the bedroom into the bottom tray which has a built in tap. The top tier is only used once the middle tier has filled up to now "overflow" into the top tier. By placing food on top of the bedding area, you encourage the worms to move upwards until they eventually take residence of the top tier of the earth worm farm.
The workshop was spent highlighted the benefits of vermicomposting and covered what to feed the worms. As with all the workshops we facilitate, we include fun questions that we can test the children, which obviously included yummy sour worms as rewards.
What is Earth worm farming or Vermicompost?
Vermicompost is the product of the composting process using red wigglers to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste. The end result is soil rich in organic matter and worm tea (other wise known as liquid gold) that we use for all our gardens. The liquid gold acts as an organic fertiliser and natural pesticide.
What is the benefits of earthworms?
Earthworms offer many benefits which include increased nutrient availability, better drainage, and a more stable soil structure, all of which help improve farm productivity.
Improved nutrient availability Worms feed on plant debris (dead roots, leaves, grasses, manure) and soil. Their digestive system concentrates the organic and mineral constituents in the food they eat, so their casts are richer in available nutrients than the soil around them.
Improved drainage We love taking some of the worms that are grown in the bins and placing them within the garden boxes as they create channels to loosen and aerate the soil in order to improve soil drainage. Soils with earthworms drain up to 10 times faster than soils without earthworms.
Improved soil structure Earthworm casts cement soil particles together in water-stable aggregates. These are able to store moisture without dispersing. Research has shown that earthworms which leave their casts on the soil surface rebuild topsoil. In favourable conditions they can bring up about 50 t/ha annually, enough to form a layer 5 mm deep. One trial found worms built an 18-cm thick topsoil in 30 years.
What to feed your earth worms?
Worms will eat most organic matter but there are some exceptions.
What worms like to eat?
- Kitchen greens and vegetable scrapings from plates such as carrots, lettuce etc.
- Potato and other vegetable peels
- All fruits
- Egg shells (these should be ground up before adding them to the farm)
- Paper products and cardboard
- Cotton rags
- Leaves and hay
- Tea Bags and Coffee grounds.
What worms do not like to eat?
- Meat and dairy products: (the worms will happily eat the meat but it will attract pests and cause a foul smell)
- Citrus Fruits, onions and garlic
- Pineapple: Contains an enzyme that will kill your worms
- Fats or Oils.Salted or Pickled foods
- Toxic house plants
- Some hard wood sawdust is also toxic namely oak and cedar
- Spoiled swelled canned goods