By GEOFF MIERS
Worms are the world’s best recyclers and every home should have a worm farm. This is the ideal time to set one up as they are breeding prolifically now.
Worms will consume all your kitchen green vegetable waste and much more, produce liquid fertiliser and nutrient rich worm castings and they are starting to breed furiously at the moment.
Establishing a worm farm at home now will see you quickly rewarded with an exploding population and before long enjoying the benefits as liquid worm fertiliser can be drained and worm castings collected and introduced into the garden.
With worms producing the best organic fertiliser known to mankind, it makes sense that every gardener should have a worm farm. Worms are only matched by fish poo for the title of best natural organic fertiliser.
A worm farm allows for the recycling of all organic kitchen waste products, will provide a weekly quantity of liquid fertiliser, will produce the best organic fertiliser and will supply the home gardener with quantities of fantastic soil conditioner.
All my kitchen waste including green waste, coffee grounds and tea bags and all my newspapers go into the worm farm although I leave out citrus peel, meat products and onion waste.
Worms are nature’s own recyclers. Worms eat their own weight in organic matter every 24 to 26 hours and each worm can produce 4.5kgs of castings a year. These castings contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, 11 times more potash, three times the exchangeable magnesium, 1.5 times more calcium and 40% more humus than is present in the top soil they are feeding on.
Worm castings are the most perfect plant food or manure known to man.
Composting worms live and happily breed in an organic rich environment or in a heavily mulched garden that is kept moist and has a readily available supply of food. Several options are available for the home gardener.
Purchase a ready made stand alone worm farm or make your own, introduce a worm composting bucket into the vegetable patch or simply introduce worms into a nutrient rich section of the garden.
A commercial worm farm costs from $100 to $165 plus the cost of the worms. The commercial worm farm has the advantage of being compact, neat and tidy, hygienic and takes up little room and it is easy to collect the liquid residue that can immediately be used as a liquid fertiliser.
You can of course make your own worm farm at little or no cost. I’ve seen many weird and wonderful designs using compost bins, polystyrene boxes, drums, sinks, baths and timber constructed frames.
A bath or sink makes for an ideal worm farm as with the drainage hole any liquid waste from the worms can easily drain into a container placed below. They are also large enough to accommodate the necessary 3,000 plus worms required to have a successful immediately highly productive worm farm.
My worms are housed in a bath that is supported by a stand so it stands a metre off the ground. This saves the back. A small square of shade cloth covers the bath plug hole so worms don’t escape and I used a peat brick soaked in water to produce a bucket of material to place the worms in.
On top I immediately placed vegetable scraps surrounded by cow manure. Worms love fresh cow manure and will quite quickly turn it into amazing fertilizer.
Actually once your worm population reaches 3,000 their population will increase dramatically and the production of liquid fertiliser and solid castings is rapid. It’s actually amazing how quickly 100 worms will multiply into the 3,000 worms you need to readily supply you with your garden needs. Most information suggests you start with 500 or 1,000 worms or more so your population builds up quickly.
Your worm farm should be placed in a warm but lightly to moderately shaded location (eg under a citrus tree / verandah) and if using a sink or bath tilt slightly to ensure the liquid residue drains easily.
Elevate the worm farm to ensure ease of collecting the liquid fertiliser and limit pest and disease problems that could impact on the worms health.
Worm farms left in the full sun as summer arrives will see your worms perish.
I cover my worm farm with an old towel to moderate temperature variations and to limit the potential of the top layer drying out. Periodically I have to replace the towel as the worms when hungry will quickly eat the towel.
Old cloths and newspapers placed on top of the worm farm insulate the worm farm, prevent it from drying out and provides another source of food.
Carpet under-felt, towels, old clothes, shredded paper, pea straw or a layer of soft leaves can all be used as a protective cover.
You must keep your worm farm medium moist (but not wet) as worms resent dry soil and will quickly die in a dry situation.
Ants can also be a problem. Place large tins under the legs of your worm farm and fill them weekly with water to prevent ants invading the farm. Alternatively place thick grease around the legs of the worm stand to prevent ants, slaters and other pests invading your worm farm.
Most commercial worm farms fail due to ants invading, the farm being over-exposed to sunlight or to simply the gardeners neglect with respect to keeping the farm moist and providing enough food for the worms.
Worms are ravenous feeders and need to be regularly fed. They eat kitchen food scraps, tea leaves, spent coffee, shredded paper, straw, cow manure and the contents of the vacuum cleaner.
With a good diet you can produce with little effort the best fertiliser known and reduce what would otherwise be going to the landfill.
In a single home-made worm farm to collect the worm castings simply introduce all new food items to one corner and the worms should within a few days move to this corner. Scoop out the worms and then clean out the castings and replace with more food material.
Compost worms can be introduced directly into garden beds being ideally suited for the vegetable patch, herb garden or the flowering annual garden bed. However it must be stressed that these compost worms like particular conditions. The bed where they are to be introduced must be kept reasonably moist and must be heavily mulched.
By mulching and regularly feeding the worms they will in a moist environment breed and continuously produce nutrients for the garden. Earthworms, like all living creatures need to eat and they are prolific eaters and it is on the organic matter / mulch that you supply that they will gormandize themselves.
Remembering that over the next four weeks it is the best time of the year to establish a worm farm as they breed prolifically at this time of the year and you are least likely to fail in your attempt.
PHOTO: Eco Parenting.