Whether you've got a veggie garden or not, it makes sense to recycle your food waste, and a worm farm is the perfect solution for us city dwellers with balconies, courtyards and small back yards.
Normal composting is heat producing, whereas worms are cold composters.
They gobble up to their own weight in plant and animal foods every day, digest it, then poo out the good stuff. Nutrition Plus
The nutrients from worm castings are organic, odourless and more readily available to plants than chemical fertilisers.
Did you know that worm castings are:
5 times richer in nitrogen than the soil they inhabit
2 times richer in exchangeable calcium
7 times richer in available phosphorus, and
11 times richer in available potassium
I bet you didn't!
Charles Darwin and worms
Throughout his life, Charles Darwin was fascinated by worms, calling them the "unsung creature which, in its untold millions, transformed the land as the coral polyps did the tropical sea".
Darwin felt we "ought to be grateful" to these little recyclers, which he compared to "a man... born blind and deaf".
A year before he died, Darwin published his last book titled 'The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits'.
Can you believe this book triggered the study of soil biology!
Read more about Darwin's fascination with worms here.
Two types of worms
The typically damp, organic-rich conditions you find in compost heaps and worm farms is quite different to the soil conditions in your back garden. Look carefully and you'll discover that different earthworms occupy the two habitats.
The larger, soil-dwelling and burrowing earthworms help to aerate and improve soil structure but they're not very efficient at breaking down compost, so donâ€™t bother putting them into your compost heap or worm farm.
On the other hand, compost worms (namely Tiger Worms, Red Wrigglers and Indian Blues) are super efficient at breaking down organic matter, but their activity doesn't do much to improve soil structure because they are not burrowers like their soil dwelling cousins. So how to get started with your worm farm?
Buy a worm farm with at least 2 compartments (we recommend and sell vermihuts, supplied and installed with 1,000 worms for only $198 plus delivery to your home)
Place it in a shaded position, not too far from your back kitchen door
Buy a minimum of 1,000 worms (be sure to get composting worms)
Line the base of your middle layer with newspaper
Soak the bedding block that comes with your worm farm, then spread it over your newspaper
Add worms, cover them with damp newspaper, throw in some veggie scraps, replace the lid and that's it!
Remember to keep the worm farm moist or your worms will die. On very hot days, cover your worm farm with a wet hessian bag (or similar) so it stays cool.
Keep a small bucket in the kitchen for all your chopped up scraps and empty this into the worm farm regularly. Adding an occasional cup of soil will increase the microbial activity and make your worms happy little critters.
Although they're not fussy eaters, worms are not too keen on:
meat and fish
oil and grease
You'll be amazed at the rate your scraps get transformed into beautiful organic matter and humus, especially if, like me, you toss those left over brewed coffee grounds into your worm farm. I'm sure they speed up the worm activity.
Look after your worms, and their population will double every 2 - 3 months.
And then what? 1) Worm Wee
Collect the lovely worm wee regularly by turning on the tap and emptying the rich liquid into a container (if you don't your worms might drown). Dilute it by 1 part worm wee to 7 parts water and use it to fertilise your soil, plants and fruit trees weekly.
2) Worm Poo
Harvest the rich worm poo - it looks like dark soil - and add to the planting hole when planting your seedlings to ensure a rich source of nutrients and moisture to the roots.
It is widely proven through many studies at universities and laboratories that worm poo is not only a soil replenisher and fertiliser but also a pesticide and pathogenicide, which means it helps your plants build a strong immune system.
By turning your food scraps into worm castings you are preventing the release of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from landfill, and reconnecting the food cycle by creating a rich, free fertiliser to produce more nutrient dense food.