For my 21st, James bought me a worm farm. Not the standard 21st gift I know, but an excellent gift for a girl like me. You can easily construct a worm farm in buckets or tubs, or in a hole in the ground lined with plastic and pierced to release delicious wormy juices!
I have a fancy one because I’m not too handy – perhaps lazy you could say? – its called a worm cafe. It comes with three trays, is raised above the ground, has a fancy little tap on the side to collect fertiliser.
Worm farms are a fantastic way to use food up that has expired rather than filling up your bin. You get fertiliser and you get castings to add to the soil long term, establishing a worm population in your beds.
When you set up the first tray, the kit comes with a block of soil that you’ll need to soak. Then add your worms. The box it comes with goes in with them to compost too, which is kind of cool and makes me a bit happy. After a few days you can start adding some scraps in.
I don’t recommend feeding your worms citrus, onions or meat. I have heard of people being successful feeding these but you have to be really good with controlling the pH – there is plenty of info online about this. I like my worm farm to operate on its own so I avoid these foods. Soft fleshy vegetables that you haven’t used up like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis are good choices alongside plenty of leaves. If i have lettuce or spinach in the fridge I haven’t used I often put these in, but when I’m wandering around the garden I might add leaves from weeds, dying leaves from sunflowers, nasturtiums and comfrey for my worms to feed on. I just took a whole pile of mustard plants out and the worms absolutely loved them. I add some egg shells every now and then too.
In the beginning while you don’t have too many worms and the soil isn’t healthy just yet it’s really important that you chop up the scraps and leaves to help them be broken down sooner and not start rotting. Now I have a pretty good population so I just throw the leaves in whole, sometimes I might tear them if they are a bit bigger but nothing drastic. If you don’t like growing things you didn’t plant, be sure to de-seed the veggies you put them in. This stuff is really good so everything will grow out of it!
I made the mistake of putting brussell sprout scraps in my farm once and now have a slug problem I can’t fix. Not to worry as I have a pile of salt near the farm so I pluck them out and kill them whenever I’m opening it up.
My farm is under the eave in an area out of the sun, wind and rain. Come winter I may have to move it as it might get too cool where it is. To keep the temperature consistent it’s important to give your worms a rug. Again, I bought mine at Bunnings! James’ granddad uses a thick layer of newspaper. Either way your worms will eat it and you’ll need to replace it eventually.
Another mistake i made was soaking the farm. This leached the soil too much and when I harvested the wormy juice I would often get worms in my juice too. Keep the soil damp, moist, but certainly not wet. These days i sprinkle some water in once a fortnight or so.
I do also add some conditioner to the farm every three months to keep the pH in check. If I’ve been putting a lot of fruit scraps in lately I might do it more regularly as these are more acidic.
Once the tray is full you can add another. This took me a solid 12 months to do. Once the third layer is full, take out the bottom and dig the castings in to your soil. Then move this tray straight to the top and keep going!
I don’t drain my farm completely so when its warm it keeps the soil moist and prevents it from drying out.
If your farm starts to smell, add some conditioner to adjust the pH and don’t add any more food. The worms might be struggling in the current soil so this will give them time to reestablish and catch up on all the goodies you are giving them.