Thursday, December 16, 2010

Separate Worms From Compost



"How do I separate my worms from the compost?"  One of my customers ask me this question recently.  It's been asked frequently throughout the years.

There a several ways to separate your worms from the old bedding (vermicomost or worm compost) and I'd like to discuss some of them today.  The amount of worm compost and worms you have will determine the method you use.

1.  Hide and Seek:  If you just have a worm bin or two that you use for vermicomposting, you can use this method of separating out your worms from old bedding.  It also works suprisingly well for large amounts of worms and bedding.

Set up a table near your worm bed, out of the sun but in daylight.  Scoop out your  bedding/worms into several small pile beside each other on the table top or board.  The worms will instantly crawl towards the bottom and center of each pile to escape the light.

Going from pile to pile, dust off the empty bedding into a container as the worms dissapear.  As you move along, the worms in each pile will have time to move further into the bedding.  Eventually, the worms will form into a squirmy ball. 

Don't try to remove every last bit of old bedding, since exposure to light and drying air damages the worms.  You're just trying to remove the majority of it without hurting your worms.

Once you have removed the bulk of the old bedding or vermicompost and castings, place your worms into fresh, moistened bedding (which you should have prepared in advance).  Cover your worms to protect them from drying out and UV damage.
2.  Shaken Not Stirred:  For this method of separating out worm compost, you need to build screens with which to "shake out" the worms. 

Build two screens, one with 1/4 inch hardward cloth, the other with 1/8 inch hardware cloth.  The smaller grade of screen allows you to separate out the smaller worms and eggs.  Build the larger grade screen to fit the top of your worm bed.  Add a lip to the bottom to hold it in place as you slide the screen back and forth across the worm bed. 

Prepare a container with some moistened peat moss to hold the harvested worms.  Remove any uneaten food from the top of the bedding and place your screen at one end of you bed.  Scoop out some worm/compost, place in the screen and slide it back and forth.  The compost will fall through leaving the worms in the screen. 

If you want to harvest all the worms and eggs, shake the compost into a separate container.  Harvest the larger worms with the larger grade screen, then run the compost back through the smaller grade screen to get the smallest worms and eggs.

Remember to place your harvested worms into fresh bedding A.S.A.P., since worms are very sensitive to light and will dry out very quickly.  Work only small amounts at a time and get those worms recovered pronto.

We'll discuss other harvesting methods in upcoming posts.

Find complete details about this post and comprehensive worm farming business instructions in my "Worm Farm Manuel - A Step-By-Step Guide To Raising Earthworms As A Home Based Business".

Worm Resources:

Red Worms
European Nightcrawlers
Worm Farm Manuel

Monday, November 1, 2010

"How can you tell when and earthworm is mature?"


This question was sent to me recently and it's an important one.  A mature worm is a breeding worm and is laying eggs filled with baby worms, making the worm farming business a truly "sustainable" one.  Once you have a "breeding stock" of worms, you will be replacing worms that you sell or use for bait and (hopefully) never have to buy another worm.

Size:  Any large worms you see are, of course, mature.  The bigger the worm, the bigger the egg capsule, the more babies per capsule.  The bad news: it generally takes up to a year for a newly hatched worm to reach it's full size.  The good news:  they are laying eggs as they are growing up. 

At some point in your worm farming business, you will establish "breeding beds" with these big fatso's I call "butterballs".  It's possible to encourage these guys/gals (they are both, you know) to breed more and lay more eggs.

Banding:  When worms become sexually mature, they will have a band about 1/3 or less down from the top.  Worms usually form these bands when they are three months old.

So, even though the worms are small in size, they are laying egg capsules.  These capsules from small worms are very tiny, even microscopic, but they do contain worms if only one or two.  Because these egg capsules are almost invisible, you should always wear rubber gloves when you are handling the worm bedding, since the oil from your skin will render the eggs infertile.

Worm Resources:


European Nightcrawlers: The best fishing worm bait.
Red Worms:  The premier composting worm.
EarthwormWorks:  Learn more about caring for earthworms.

Worm Farm Manual: Step-By-Step Guide To Raising Earthworms.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"How do I make my worms grow bigger?"


This is a question we get quite often.  Recently, one of our customers, Judith, emailed that her vermicomposting European Nightcrawlers weren't getting any bigger.  She not only uses the worms for vermicomposting kitchen waste, but she also uses the worms for fishing.  She's had these worms for over a year now.  Even though she's not into worm farming as a business, the answer to her vermicomposting problem is same.

There are several reasons that worms stay small and don't grow into  bait size.  Below is a summary of these reasons with remedies.

1.   The worms are too crowded.

In order for worms to reach maximum size, they need plenty of room.  This is particularly true for young worms.  In Judith's case, her worms have been breeding and laying egg capsules all along.  These egg capsules have hatched and her vermicomposting bin is most likely getting over-crowded.

My advice to her was to split the bed into two.  Since she's not interested in have more than one vermicomposting bin or in going into the worm farming business, she should give them away.  The worms must be divided and the population reduced in the existing bed for her worms to grow.

2.  The bedding is "too old" and/or compacted.

If she hasn't changed out the bedding recently, her vermicomposting bin bedding has undoubtedly been converted almost entirely to worm castings.  An over concentration of worm castings is unhealthy for the worms and eventually kills them.

The good news is these worm castings are an excellent source of fertilizer for gardens and flowers.  She can take her worms out of the bedding, transfer them into fresh bedding and broadcast the castings onto her plants.  If the worm castings aren't needed right away, they store very well and will keep until needed.

3.  There's not enough food to go around.

The more worms in a bed, the more food is required.  When worms are growing, they need an "all-you-can-eat" food supply.  In Judith's case, she wants worms to grow to bait size.  An option she could consider is to pull out the mature worms, put them into a separate bed and feed them a rich worm feed such as FRM's Worm and Cricket Food (you can find it at some feed and seed farm stores.

This option is one you will be using in your worm farm business if you are going to serve the fish bait business.  Feeding your worms in this way is tricky and can lead to problems (such as "protein poisoning") if not done correctly.  There are complete instructions on fattening bait worms in my upcoming "Worm Farm Manual".

In a nutshell, feed rich, grain based worm feed only in the amount that the worms can consume in a 24 hour period.  The trick is to give them all they need without overfeeding.

4.  Worm Farming Secret: Increase the microbe content of the bedding and added food.

One of the surest ways to not only grow big worms, but also keep your worms healthy, is to spray you worm bedding and added food with a weak mixture of VermaPlex® (a liquid soil inoculant fertilizer made from worm castings) and water (80 parts water to 1 part VermaPlex®).

Worms digest food by "following behind" microbes.  The microbes basically predigest the food, thereby facilitating the worms' digestion.  Worms absolutely must have a healthy amount of microbes in order to process food.

The good news is, microbes show up automatically in food waste.  By adding the VermaPlex® spray, you are speeding up this process and guaranteeing the worms have plenty of help with their digestion process.  Read about the application of VermaPlex® to your worm beds here "Worm Farming Tips #2".

In summary, provide amply room, food and microbes for your worms to grow big and fat.  Please post any questions or problems you may have about growing bigger, better worms.

Digger

Worm Resources:


VermaPlex® :  As a worm bed enhancer.
European Nightcrawlers:  By far the best fishing bait worm.
Red Worms:  The premier vermicomposting earthworm.
Worm Farm Manual: A Step By Step Guide To Raising Earthworms.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

10 Important Things To Do Before Starting A Worm Farm Business


Many folks start worm farming as a primary or second source of income each year. Some succeed while others fail.

As with any business, there's no one single secret to success. Worm farming is no exception.  Before you jump into a worm farm business (or any business, for that matter), there a a few important things you should do first.

1. Determine if worm farming suites you.

In this blog, we will be discussing the in's and out's of worm farming. You may want to follow "Worm Farm Business Blog" for a while to see if this type of business suites your lifestyle before jumping into the business yourself. Your success in this business depends on your being happy with what your doing and your level of enthusiasm.

2. Calculate the Start Up Cost.

Worm farming generally requires minimal capital compared to other types of businesses. But it does require some cash up front for materials to build beds/protective coverings, harvesting tools, starter worms, bedding materials, and worm feed, etc.

Consider how big you want to start and what materials you will require. Get worm prices from several worm growers and visit hardware and home improvement stores to calculate material costs. Budget enough cash to fund your business until you reach the point where your worm stock allows you to sell and create cash flow.

3. Write a business plan.

Once you've decided that worm farming is right for you and you've determined you have the cash to follow through, write a detailed business plan. Detail how you intend to operate your business, your financial forecast and your growth expectations.

A well-thought out business plan helps you avoid pitfalls and keeps you on tract. Write it and follow it, making adjustments along the way as needed.

4. Get organized.

Once things get rolling, you'll have less time to devote to organization. If you start out organized and keep it that way, you'll save time and money in the long run. Not to mention lowering stress.

5. Set up the right legal structure.

Weight the pros and cons of setting up a sole proprietor, LLC or corporate entity. The cost and ease of implementation as well as legal protection should be considered carefully.

6. Choose a business name.

Make sure your name is unique and won't be confused with any other company. Check out Internet domain name availability at the this time, should you expand to Internet sales. Doing it now will help in your search rankings later.

7. Open a business bank account.

Avoid accounting and tax nightmares by keeping personal finances separate from business finances. I recommend Quick Books for keeping track of income and expenses.  It's fairly easy to use and will make your accountant happy.

8. Prepare a marketing plan.

Research markets, potential customers - wholesale and retail - , analyze competitors, and create price structures. Modify and update this document regularly and follow it religiously.

9. Understand who your customer is.

You customers may be any combination of: vermicomposters, fishermen, other worm farmers, municipalities, and local governments (many are starting vermicomposting to process waste). Determine if you have the possibility of any of these types of customers and to what degree. This knowledge will help you in determining the type of worms and how many of each type you will grow.

10. Join local Business association.

Joining gardening clubs, fishing clubs, and other local associations gives you access to customers and retailers. Whether you specialize in vermicomposting, fish bait, or both, networking will help you build your customer base and get referrals.

In summary, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail".  Getting started on the right foot makes a big difference in the success of your worm farming business.

Resources:


Red Worms and Red Wigglers:  Premier vermicomposting earthworms.
European Nightcrawlers:  This fairly new worm is rapidly becoming the most popular fishing bait worm.
Worm Farm Manual: A Step By Step Guide To Raising Earthworms.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Start a Worm Farm Business


Worm Farm Business Plan

Want to start a worm farm business? When writing a detailed business plan, here are some important things that have to be considered:

  • How to set up worm beds,
  • Where to locate the worm beds,
  • How to prepare worm bed bedding,
  • What materials to use for worm bedding,
  • How to feed worms,
  • What kind of food TO feed and NOT feed worms,
  • How to keep worms healthy,
  • How to avoid potential problems BEFORE they happen,
  • What tools and equipment are needed for worm farming,
  • How to market worms.

Where you live and the climate in your area plays an important role in establishing a worm farm business. Temperature, humidity and even noise levels should be taken into consideration when planning your worm farm location and bed types.

Free food is often available. Once you know what foods are good for worms, you can scout out your area for any free food and make arrangements for pickups The savings can be enormous and will increase your profit margin considerably.

Because you are dealing with living creatures, making a careful plan and considering all the above aspects before you start your worm farm business will save you both time and money.

Check back for upcoming blog entries addressing these and many more important aspects of worm farming. If you have any special concerns, please post them in the comments below.

Worm Farming Resources:

Worm Farm Manual: Step By Step Guide To Raising Earthworms
Red Worms:  Raise the premier composting earthworm.
European Nightcrawlers: Grow for fishing and vermicomposting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What if you started your own home-based business?



Like most of us, you’ve probably always had in the back of your head that you would like to work for yourself. Maybe, like me, you tried some ideas out, but found the product you thought would sell didn’t, cost too much to produce, or took too much time and effort to be profitable.
But what if you found a product to sell that is in demand; replenishes itself; and is, with the proper knowledge, relatively easy to produce? How would that affect your life? Consider this. You could:
  • quit the job you aren’t happy with,
  • receive all the rewards for  your efforts, rather than a set salary or small raises, 
  • set your own hours and work at your own pace, 
  • work from home and spend more time with the family.
In other words, you could be FREE. I feel the worm farming business can be the perfect home based business almost anyone can do and is almost guaranteed to be profitable.
Think about how you could start your own worm farm at home and how that would change your life. All you need is a little specialized knowledge, a little direction, and a little motivation.
This blog will be discussing the worm farm business and all its aspects in the coming entries, so bookmark this site now as your first step to freedom.
Let me know how starting your own business would affect your life. Thanks for stopping by,
Digger
Resources:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Answers to Common Questions About Worm Farming Business


Worm Farming Business Questions

In these difficult economic times, many are looking for a profitable home based business.  Maybe some unexpected expenses have blown the budget. Maybe it's a lost job. Or maybe they just want to work for themselves.

Whatever the reasons, this blog provides a blueprint for a successful worm farm business. Here are a few of the common questions I’ve been asked through the years about raising earthworms for profit:

Question:  Is worm farming a good home based business?

Answer: Yes. Because of the low start up cost and minimual space requirements, worm farming is an excellent home based business.  Most anyone who is a “self-starter” with common sense can become a successful worm farmer.

  • Tip:  Start small with your worm farm business and learn as you go.  You'll save money by taking your time to learn the ropes before risking too much of your hard earned cash.

Question:  Is worm farming hard to do?

Answer:  Worm farming isn’t rocket science.  It doesn’t require a degree.  It doesn’t require a lot of start up money.  It does, however, require a certain amount of work, particularly up front.  But, if you do it right from the start, using the knowledge I will be sharing with you here, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort.

  • Tip:  Look in your area for a worm farmer and “pick his brain”.  Caution:  Many old-timers hold their knowledge close to the vest.  But sometimes you’ll find one willing to share at least a few of his “secrets”.  Or, check back here from time to time. 

Question:  Can I make a good living worm farming?

Answer:  Yes!  Worm farming has always been profitable and recently the market for earthworms for vermicomposting (composting with earthworms) has seen a dramatic increase.  And that’s good news for the worm farmer.

  • Tip:  Diversify.  Grow worms for both  fish bait and vermicomposting.

Question:  Do I need a lot of room to raise worms?

Answer:  No!  You can raise a lot of worms in a small space.  Unlike other kinds of “live stock”,  worms don’t need acres and acres.  Equipped with the necessary knowledge, practically anyone can grow worms commercially.

  • Tip:  Go vertical.  “Worm condos” are a great way to maximize space.

Question:  Does worm farming require lots of money up front?

Answer:  No again.  There are ways to start your worm farm business on a shoe string.  A small number of worms will increase at an amazing rate.  Of course, the more worms you start with, the quicker you can start selling.  But start with whatever amount your budget allows and pretty soon you’ll have worms coming out the wazoo


Question:  Does worm farming take a lot of time?

Answer:  Actually, you can start your worm farm business in your spare time.  When you reach the point where you have a good supply of worms, you can consider if you want to go “full time” or keep it as a part-time business.  An established worm farm business shouldn’t take any more time than a regular job. 

Done the right way, you should spend much less time on a worm farm business than the typical job.  Considering the time you won’t be sitting in traffic on you daily commute, you should have more leisure time than with your current occupation.

  • Tip:  In the beginning, take the hour or two you spend “channel surfing” and get your worm business up and running. 

Check back often for practical tips on starting and running your own worm farm business.  If you have any questions of your own, please post them in the comment section and I'll answer them promptly.

Thanks for stopping by.

Worm Farming Resources: