If you have a vegie garden at home but don’t have much space for a large compost heap, there is an alternative; you can start a worm farm and use the worm castings and liquid as a nutrient rich fertiliser.
Here are Paul’s tips and tricks for starting your own worm farm at home:
Choosing a Worm Farm
• You can make your own worm farm by recycling materials around the house such as plastic tubs or containers, polystyrene boxes or even an old chest of drawers. Just don’t use any treated woods as the chemicals will leach and might poison the worms.
• You can also purchase ready-made worm farms from a garden centre or online.
• Before buying check with your local council for information on rebates and worm farm giveaways, as well as free workshops and information.
• The worms need to be special breed composting worms like Red Wriggler, Tiger, and Indian Blue. Normal earthworms found in the garden bed aren’t suitable for a worm farm. You can purchase your compost worms at your garden centre, hardware stores and even online. They usually come in batches of one thousand to five thousand.
• Once you’ve got your worm farm and worms place it in a cool shady space; worms don’t like heat or direct light.
Prepping a Worm Farm
• First you need to provide a bed for the worms. This needs to be a combination of soil or ready compost, shredded newspaper and leaves. Place them in the top layer of your worm farm so that the bed is about 15cm thick.
• Add a little water to moisten the mixture but don’t soak it.
• Spread the worms evenly over the bed; you’ll see that they’ll start to burrow immediately.
Feeding the Worms
• Now that your worms are happily burrowed, you can start to feed them.
• They love a diet of your kitchen scraps such as left over fruit, vegetables and peelings, tea leaves and tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, crushed egg shells as well as moistened newspaper, cardboard such as empty toilet rolls and kitchen paper rolls and even egg cartons
• Try to chop up or make the smallest pieces of food you can. The smaller the food, the quicker they’ll get through it and the quicker the harvest of castings and liquid
• Also, feed them smaller amounts at a time and only feed them again when they almost finished their last batch. This will stop food from rotting and attracting pests and vinegar flies.
• Every time you feed the worms, cover the food with a little soil or ready compost; a handful or two is enough.
• Don’t feed the worms any dairy like butter, cream or cheese and stay clear of feeding them meat, fish bones and any type of fat. Worms also don’t like citrus fruits or peels, onion or garlic.
Roation and Harvesting
• The worms will eat the organic waste and turn it into liquid fertiliser as well as worm castings which is the organic material, digested by the worms; in short – worm poo and wee.
• The worm liquid will be trapped into the lower container and the worm castings will stay in the upper containers.
• When the top container is full you can swap it with the middle container and start all over again. The worms will travel up through the perforations in the bottom of the container to get to the food.
• Once a container is full with the worm castings, this is now ready to be used to add to your vegie garden and the worm liquid can be used anytime; just dilute it with water at a ratio of 1:10 in a watering can and it’s ready for use.