Ever fancied yourself as an urban farmer? Worm farms are a wonderful way to start, particularly when your space is limited. You’ll turn those food scraps into rich organic fertilizer for your garden, and do your bit in diverting waste from landfill. Here’s our top ten worm farming tips to get those wigglies working for you.
1. Shady customers
Make sure you set up your worm farm in a cool, shaded spot. Remember, they don’t like the sun! 24 degrees is ideal.
2. Choose the right worms for the job
Earth worms and worm farm worms aren’t the same – fill your worm farm with compost worms (also known as red or tiger worms). You usually need about 1,000 to get you started. You can buy them at your nursery store or online.
3. Toothless vegetarians
Worms don’t have teeth or eat meat. They’ll thrive when you feed them fruit and vegetable scraps and be especially grateful if you cut their food into pieces first.
4. A juice and coffee
Most of us enjoy a juice and coffee in the morning – so when you’ve finished, treat your worms to the coffee granules and the pulp from the juicer. They’ll even eat your discarded teabag. But remember, they don’t like citrus or other acidic foods, so orange pulp is a no-go.
5. Keep the garlic away
Worms aren’t fond of onions and garlic, so if you’re cooking up a rich Italian feast, don’t invite them to share the meal with you – and don’t throw the garlic and onion scraps their way.
6. Paper and egg shells
Although they’ll turn up their noses at strong flavours, worms don’t mind a bit of shredded paper and eggshells (if you crush them up).
7. Don’t be a feeder
Don’t add too much food at once. Worms can only eat half their body weight. It’s also a good idea to make sure the worm farm is well drained. They’re not good swimmers and you don’t want them to drown.
8. Cover ‘em up!
Not because they’re ugly – you may well become quite fond of your worms – but because it keep the moisture in and the light out, encouraging the worms to come to the surface and feed. A black plastic sheet is good in cool weather and in warmer weather, damp hessian or newspaper works well. And always remember to put the lid back on!
9. Patience is a virtue.
Castings are – yes – worm poo. But it’s a wonderful soil conditioner that makes your plants thrive. Fruit and vegetables are around 80-90% water and so the liquid waste from worm farms is produced in much greater quantities than solid waste or worm castings. You should expect that it will take a few months before you need to empty the working box or add a new one. Try to leave the castings in as long as you can – until you actually have to empty one of the trays.
10. Time for an extension?
It will usually take at least 4 – 6 months for a working tray to fill up. Once it does, grab one of the spare trays that came with your kit. Take the lid of the farm off and the worms in the top tray will burrow away from the light. After 10-15 mintues, scrape a shallow layer out of the tray then scoop this worm-free material out and place it in your new tray with some food scraps and cover with the hessian worm blanket. The worms will love the extra space and will crawl through to eat the food – but make sure the bottom of the top tray and the contents of the tray below are touching so they can move through the levels!
11. Change it up
If you have already used each of the trays in your worm farm and they’re getting awfully full, bring the bottom working tray (not the liquid collector) to the top to rotate the system. Take the lid of the farm off and the worms in the top tray will burrow away from the light. 30 minutes later, scrape a shallow layer into a trench at one end and then scoop this worm free material out and place it into your garden. Harvest out about two thirds to three quarters of the tray’s contents by digging small trenches next to each other. We call this ‘the trench method’. Repeat this each time the top tray gets full!
12. The rains are here!
The contents of a wormfarm needs to be as wet as a kitchen sponge, otherwise the worms stop moving and eating. That said, they can’t live while underwater either! If the bedding is too wet you can add some dry material like shredded newspaper or cardboard to soak up the free water. The water you add will run through and come out as nutrient rich worm tea.
13. Your garden will love you
You can use castings or worm tea (the water that comes out of your farm) in your garden whether you have a plot of land or pots – it will make your plants very happy. Remember to dilute the tea to a rate of 1:10 when watering – it should be the same transparency as a cup of black tea.
13. Find out more
Come along to a free Green Villages workshop and find out how to get the most out of your worm farm.
Got a better tip? Great! Tell us in the comments below.