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Worm farming – Waste not want not

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Compost worms

Did you know Victorians toss the equivalent of one in every five bags of groceries they buy? Instead of throwing away your waste that will end up in landfill, why not consider starting your own worm farm?

These wriggly, squiggly munching machines will ingest most kitchen scraps (but avoid meat, dairy, citrus fruit and onion), and provide you with an amazing fertiliser and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

What type of worm farm should you get?

There are many suitable containers for keeping worms, from ready made farms to basic wooden boxes or plastic stackable ones. If you are a ‘beginner’, polystyrene foam fruit boxes are ideal for your first worm farm.

The most common composting worms are Indian Blues, Red Wrigglers and Tigers and you will find them at most garden centres typically being sold as ‘composting worms’. Or simply collect them from an active compost bin. Start with 1000-2000 to get your worm farm going.

Worm farm diagramHow to make your own worm farm 101

Step 1

• Ask for a couple of polystyrene boxes with lids at your local fruit store.

• At home, punch some holes evenly in the base of one box about 10cm apart.

• Line the base with shade cloth to keep your worms from falling through.

Step 2

• Store the lid of the second box as it’s not needed for the worm farm.

• Punch a small hole in the side of the second box, approximately 12cm from the base.

• The hole should fit a 13mm in-line irrigation tap snuggly. These can be purchased at a hardware store.

• On the inside of the box, attach the end of the inline tap to a 15cm length of 13 mm poly pipe. This will allow you to drain off your liquid worm fertiliser as you need it.

Step 3

• Fill the top box (with holes) one quarter full with “bedding” materials which can include shredded newspaper, finished compost or leaf matter that is moist but not soggy.

• Punch some holes 10cm below the rim of this top box for aeration.

• Place this box on top of the box with the tap fitted and then pop both boxes onto a couple bricks for good support.

• Position your worm farm in a sheltered spot.

Step 4

• Place the worms into the top box and cover with a layer of hessian or old coir matting to regulate the worm farm temperature.

• Spray a little water to moisten the matting and place the lid on top.

• Wait a couple of days and then add some food waste under the hessian layer.

What to feed your worms

Scraps include:

• vegetable and fruit peelings cut up as finely as possible.

• small amounts of left over cooked vegetables.

• small amounts of grass clippings and fresh leaves.

• small amounts of tea bags and coffee grinds.

• small amounts of stale bread and cake.

What to avoid

• citrus, onion peelings and corn cobs. Chop up everything beforehand and feed your worms only small amounts as needed once or twice a week.

Worm waste

In a couple of weeks, worm “castings” will collect in the bottom of the top box, making a terrific fertiliser. Worm ‘wee’ or leachate will collect in the bottom box. Dilute the “leachate” until it looks like weak ‘tea’, one part leachate to eight parts water in a nine litre watering can. This can be used as a plant fertiliser and is excellent for your veggie patch. Every now and then you can collect worm “castings” from the top bin and scatter a walnut size ball into your pots where it acts as an excellent fertiliser. To do this:

• tip over the top box onto a hard surface or pavement to expose the castings that have collected at the bottom of the box.

• scrape off the crumbly castings but allow any worms exposed to wriggle back into the centre of the mound where the partially decomposed materials are.

• if you find any worms have fallen out, return them immediately as composting worms will not survive in your garden beds or pots.

General care of worm farms

• Monitor moisture levels and add some water when needed to avoid the worm farm drying out.

• Don’t feed them meat or dairy as this may attract vermin.

• Worms like cool, moist and dark spaces so in summer keep them in a shady spot.

• Don’t over feed your worms.

• On extremely hot days, to keep your worm farm cool, cover with a moist blanket.

• When going on holidays put some shredded newspaper soaked in water under the hessian layer to keep your worms going while you are away.

One Comment

  1. Posted 22nd December, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
    My own garden patch
    My own garden patch says:

    I didn’t know there were different types of worms for worm farming. I thought you used the standard garden variety. Thanks for the information.

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