Of all the creatures on our planet, worms are the best natural recyclers, by starting your own worm farm you will turning your food waste into 100% organic fertiliser to use on your garden, potted plants or lawn.
Before starting, decide whether you would like to:
- Build your own worm farm-This can be great if getting kids involved as it will help them understand how the worm farm works.
- Purchase one of the many products available on the market today-The quickest way to get started, plus many products have gone through years of testing to produce a worm farm that will achieve the best results.
Next it is best to work out where you are going to put your worm farm. Look for a cool shaded area which will determine the size of your worm farm. A well maintained worm farm will not smell so there is no problem with having them on a balcony or laundry if living in an apartment.
For the purpose of the article I will run through setting up a Tumbleweed Worm Cafe which uses the three working tray system. The main reason I have chosen the three tray system is because of the size of our household (2 adults and 3 kids) which produce enough food waste to maintain a system of this size. With smaller house holds there are the Tumbleweed Worm Factory (single tray) and the Tumbleweed Can-O-Worms (two working trays). I decided to use Tumbleweed products as they have been a leader in worm farms for sometime, they are an Australian company and a big plus is they use recycled plastic to produce their worm farms, again helping the environment.
Setting Up Your Worm Farm
To get started you will need:
- Worm farm-we will be using the Tumbleweed Worm Cafe.
- Worm blanket-this helps keep the tray moist and dark.
- pH conditioner-will help balance the pH levels in your worm farm (there are natural products you can use also)
- Worms-usually when starting out it is best to get 1000.
- Lay all the components out to make sure everything is there.
- This particular worm farm comes with base tray, 3 composting trays, tap, 4 legs and worm bedding.
- Attach the legs to one side of the base tray. Depending on your model, not all worm farms have legs, some are just free standing units that do not require any assembly.
- Attach the remaining two legs.
- Screw the tap into the bottom of the base unit, this is how you will train the collector tray with your worm tea. Worm tea is a bi-product of worm farms an is a nutritious tonis which is great for when your veggies and plants are flowering or fruit is ripening.
- Place the worm farm bedding block into a bucket with about 7 litres of water. As the bedding absorbs the water and expands, break it up into an even mix. The worm farm bedding block is 100% compressed coconut fibre (also called coir) produced in the coconut plantations of Sri Lanka.
- The cardboard packaging that the worm farm comes in can be used to line the bottom of working tray 1 and is designed to be worm friendly.
- Once the worm farm bedding has broken down (about 15 min) spread it evenly over the cardboard in the base of working tray 1.
- Remove the earthworms from their packaging and spread evenly over worm farm bedding. it is best to be as gentle as possible as when purchasing worms there are many young which can be squashed very easily.
- Once all the worms are in, place the worm blanket over the top and fit the lid. This is the worms “home tray”. Feed your worms in this tray first.
- The worm farm is now complete and ready to start recycling your organic waste. It is best to wait 1 to 2 days before feeding the worms, to let them settle into their new environment. With the three working tray system, the other two tray can be put aside and ready to use when the first tray is full.
Worm Farm Menu
As a guide worms will eat anything that was once living. This includes:
- Left over vegtable scraps, fruit and vegtable peelings.
- Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds.
- vacuum cleaner dust or hair clippings ( also animal ).
- Torn up newspapers, egg and milk, or soaked pizza cartons.
- Crushed egg shells ( these will help with pH balance ).
The greater the variety of material you use, the better the castings will be. Sprinkle a handfull of soil on top of the food scraps every time you feed your worm farm.
Harvesting Your Worm Farm
It will take about 3-6 months for the 1 working tray to become full. When the compost level in the home tray is high enough to touch the base of the tray added above it, you may add working tray 2. Once again when working tray 2 is full you can add working tray 3. if ever a gap appears between the trays you must top up the lower working tray with some extra organic compost or coir. This allows the worms access to move up into the trays above.
If you have a worm farm with only on e working tray, when it is full, you will need to move the top 50-60 mm of the surface material from one side, across to the other side, and then remove some of the rich black worm castings from lower down in the tray.
Sprinkle a teaspoon full of worm farm & compost conditioner on a weekly basis.
You can purchase a commercial worm fattener or worm treats or make up the following recipe to fatten and grow your worms:
- Chicken layer pellets 50%
- Wheat or corn flour 10%
- Powdered whole milk/skim milk 10%
- Bran or wheat meal 20%
- Agriculture lime or dolomite 10%
Mix the ingredients and sprinkle lightly on the food scraps about once a week.
After several months you will have fat, tough worms in ready supply who will eat more food, converting to compost quicker for your worm farm.