Worm farming isn’t a very complicated undertaking, but the worms do benefit from a little care and attention if you are to gain the greatest benefit from them.
We call it worm farming but this is not like farming sheep or cattle for their meat. What we farm is the worm’s excreta – worm wee in liquid form and vermicast (or more colloquial, worm poo) in solid form. Both are highly concentrated mineral and nutrient sources for plants and need to be thinned when applied to the garden.
How to keep your worms happy
- Don’t overfeed.
Worms like a little and often if they are to maintain a stable population. They will grow in numbers if there is lots of food and then die off when the food supply dries up.
Feed them in strips and let them manage how they consume the nutrients. But don’t feed them citrus, onion skins, oils or milk. And liquids should be kept to a minimum.
- Chop up your food scraps.
Worms will consume any organic matter but generally, the greater the surface area the happier the worms are.
- Try a little lime.
To keep the pH in balance (that is, not too acidic or too alkaline) sprinkle a little lime on to the worm farm once every quarter.
- Worms do not like to be cooked or frozen.
Shading the worm farm in summer is good as is exposing it to a sunny spot in winter.
- Damp not wet
Worms do not like it when the soil is too dry so check moisture levels each time you feed them. The worm farm should be moist but not wet and in the summer time, may benefit from a light watering. The worm farm should also be protected from rain getting in.
- Keep pests out
Rats and mice love the food that goes in to worm farms, so ensure yours is vermin-proof. Set traps if required.
Fruit and vinegar flies can be a problem so cover the worms with old carpet or cardboard if they get out of hand.
The farm house
This can take many forms, from the old bath tub I use (we have a lot of garden to apply the vermicast to), through a medium sized wheelie bin, to a smaller set of bins.
For most suburban households, the set of bins is the best way to go.
The bottom bin is where the worm wee goes and can be drawn off from there. The middle bin is where the worms are started off in and once full, new scraps are added to the upper bin. When the lower one is fully worked over by the worms, they will migrate out of there and the vermicast can then be distributed to the garden.
Other household composting systems
Bin composting is a simple way to add nutrient and mineral-rich humus to the soils that fuel plant growth and the microbes that restore vitality to depleted soils. It’s also free, easy to make and good for the environment are the added benefits.
Bokashi is Japanese for “shading off” or “gradation” and is derived from the Japanese farmer’s practice of covering food waste with rich, local soil that contained the microorganisms that led to the waste being fermented for a few weeks, and then buried in the garden.