Vermiculture or worm farming is the science of raising and managing worms. There are a number of applications for vermiculture, with a wide variety of worm species being raised. This activity is practiced on a large-scale commercial level as well as in private homes and vermiculturing supplies are available at some garden supply stores and occasionally through waste management companies.
People have been encouraging and cultivating worms for centuries to improve soils. Worm composting involves using worms to break down organic materials to create a nutrient-rich compost which can be used as a soil amendment. When done in a bin designed to collect water, worm composting also generates compost tea, a nutritious fluid which can be used to fertilize house plants and plants in the garden. Worms are also good for general garden soils, as they promote soil aeration and leave nutritious castings behind, and gardeners may add worms directly to their soils to improve them.
The use of vermiculture to raise worms which can be used in composting is one of the most widespread applications of vermiculture. Commercial composters may use worms to process organic material, and companies also raise worms for sale to gardeners. Gardeners can order large batches of worms to add to compost bins, maintaining a worm population with a healthy assortment of organic material such as food scraps and garden clippings. Some waste management companies may actively encourage vermicomposting as a way to keep organic materials out of the waste stream, thereby cutting down on the amount of garbage which needs to be landfilled.
Companies may also practice vermiculture to raise worms for fishing. Fishermen like to use worms as bait for some fish species, and they may opt to raise their own, or to purchase worms from companies which supply them. Some fishermen use worms from their worm composting bins, using the bin to process organic materials and to provide a steady supply of worms which can be used for fishing trips.
People who are interested in practicing vermiculture at home do not need very many supplies. A well-ventilated worm bin can be purchased from a garden supply store or built at home, and worms can be obtained from gardening companies or friends with active worm bins. The bin should be filled with food waste and amendments like straw or newspaper if garden clippings are not available. Worm bins with trays to collect water can be kept almost anywhere, while worm bins which drain directly onto the ground should be kept outdoors or over a water collection tray. A healthy worm bin should have a slightly earthy smell, without a strong odor of decomposition.