Reduce waste in the family home with a worm farm
March 7, 2017
A number of years ago when my eldest son was in kinder we were given a worm farm. We gave worm farming a try but it was not a great success, mainly due to the fact that I transferred worms from the garden to the unit and it was not well maintained. You can read about our first attempt here.
Since that time the worm farm has been sitting next to my compost pile and lately beginning to creep further and further into my mind. This week it made it to my to do list. I find it fascinating, the tipping point that makes people take action. For us it was a combination of these things listed below.
Increased demand for compost experience
I am working with an increasing number of customers each month, setting up their vegetable gardens. I have been adding compost tubes to many of these set ups and I then gift some of the worms from our compost to get the units started. I am now at the point where I am not keen to continue to remove many more worms from my compost. My customers are keen to hear my experience with worm farms, including how to start one. It was time to re-establish our own and begin to share our experiences with it.
Sourcing great quality manure that is guaranteed to be free from hormones and chemical residue and does not come from a feed lot is a real challenge. I use the manure in the very base of the garden beds and add it to our own garden periodically. I have found a reliable local source now at a friend’s organic farm. As a result of a great supply I need the ability to age the manure before it is suitable for use in a garden. I am changing our compost heap to a manure heap and will use the worm farm to process our household waste and create a wonderful worm juice tonic for our garden, and my customer’s gardens in the future. One of the comments I had on my Instagram post about sourcing this compost was from someone who had added horse manure to their worm farm. All of the worms died because horses are routinely wormed. A good reminder to not add anything other than food scraps to your farm, or potentially to your vegetable garden unless you can 100% verify the source. This made me think hard about finding alternatives to animal manure for compost. It has many benefits for the soil but I think plant waste from the garden is a more suitable alternative.
I am keen to continue to reduce our household waste via the use of a worm farm. I find it fascinating that a food item that is grown and harvested from the garden can then be prepared to add to a family meal with the scraps going to the worms and turned into a wonderful compost to add back onto the garden to encourage more growth. I have also seen an increased interest in offers from the kids to take the food scraps out after dinner, an unexpected benefit not to be ignored.
My children helped me set up our farm again this time. We established a base of newspaper, straw, eggshells, some food scraps and watered it until it was damp. The worms were added next and then some more food scraps from dinner and a damp mat over the top to keep the farm cool and dark for our new garden helpers.
A worm farm is a wonderful way to significantly reduce food waste while producing a valuable by-product that will in turn help your vegetable garden to produce more.
Avoid adding the following types of food to your worm farm:
I like to chop large pieces of food waste into small bits for a faster decomposition.
If your scraps start to smell in the worm farm you are adding too many for the amount of worms – either add more worms or reduce the amount of scraps added. Add additional dry ingredients such as straw or shredded un-dyed paper.
If you are not keen to add more worms to your farm, add the extra scraps to a compost pile, dig straight into the garden or add to a compost tube inserted directly into garden beds – in other words – spread it around
I like to avoid adding a lot of any given item, for example I used 5 kg of strawberries on the weekend to make sorbet, fruit wraps, ice blocks and strawberry jam. Dumping all of the tops and waste at the one time into the worm farm would be excessive I think. Spread it out as described above.
Add lime occasionally and crushed egg shells to keep acidity in balance.
Keep the farm atmosphere balanced with the addition of some dry ingredients such as un-dyed paper, straw and leaves.
Keep an eye on your little workers – they need to stay cool and damp, not wet. Don’t allow the farm to dry out and ensure it is in a shaded location in your yard. We have added a hessian mat to the top of ours this time around to assist with this. I am hoping that commencing in Autumn and getting into the swing of things before the heat returns again at the end of the year will help too.
The box of the worms we have started with stated that 1000 worms are recommended when beginning a farm, with more to be added at a later date.
Add more worms in batches of 500 or 1000 as the farm settles and all is well. As with any organic matter in the garden, use gloves when handling the soil, don’t inhale or place your face near the soil/ castings when setting up, or moving the farm. This is to be noted for children who are more likely to have their little faces at that level.
This resource sheet provides a great overview and detail on harvesting your worm castings. I will hopefully be referring to it in a couple of months when we are at that stage.
Happy worm farming, it is a sustainable, eco-friendly way to reduce your household waste, turning it into a valuable resource. It also provides a wonderful environmental study for your children to review the cycle and work of the worms as they digest the household scraps that were last night’s dinner.
Do you have a worm farm? Please share your top lessons learned in the comments below to help others starting their own farm.
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