Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creating a worm farm in your garden

Owning a worm farm is one of the most unique and interesting ways to do your part for the environment.

From breaking down your table scraps and saving you waste, to fertilising your garden, a worm farm is economically and environmentally friendly.

A worm farm is easy to maintain and gives you a myriad of benefits! Setting one up isn't too hard either.

Choose your type of worm farm.
The most common type of worms for worm farms are Red Wriggler and Tiger worms. Both can be sourced from a hardware store or your local nursery. They come in bags of 500 to 1000, and they will multiply over time. It's best not to purchase more than 2000, depending on the size of your worm farm.

Worms love a good worm bed. Worm farm bedding is usually made up of a nice soil, leaves and some shredded paper, and is generally 15 centimetres deep.

Simply spray some water over this mix, just so that it becomes moist, but not wet.

You can purchase ready made worm farms - or it's easy to make your own out of an old styrofoam fruit box. Make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom though, for the liquid fertiliser they will produce.

Gently spread out the worms for your new worm farm all over the bedding material and watch them settle into their new home.

Your worms may be a little uncomfortable after their journey to their new home, so give them a day or two to settle in and explore before you feed them.

A worm farm are best kept in the shade. It doesn't matter if it's inside or out, as long as they're not exposed to too much heat or sunlight. Under the house or in the garage is the perfect place to keep your worms happy.

Try not to feed them too much during the first week or so as they are still getting settled into the worm farm. Lettuce and small bits of mushy fruit such as banana is a good start. Throw some damp hessian or newspaper over the top to keep them moist, and keep this constant. After two weeks or so add a new layer on top. It's now time to start feeding them all organic waste.

Golden Rule: Don't Overfeed!
If the rate your feeding the worm farm is faster than they can eat, it can create an acidic environment and they will suffer. If you notice the food is being eaten slowly, stop feeding them and wait till they finish.

Your worm farm will eat its weight in food. So 1kg of worms will typically eat 1kg of food per day. But don't force them, they'll go at their own pace.

Worms are simple folk, vegetable and fruit peelings are ideal for their diet, along with tea and coffee grindings, egg shells, and small amounts of cardboard. Avoid feeding them dairy and meat, along with citrus, onion and garlic. These are quite acidic and will not do your worm farm any good.

Food disappears quickly in a worm farm if its size is reduced. Chop, mulch or grate their food first and they wolf it down quicker.

Give them food regularly in small amounts and cover this with a light dusting of soil or their bedding material. Feed them again only if they're close to finishing their last meal, or it could start to rot.

General Maintenance
Remember the worm farm needs to be kept moist. Some foods like fruit contain a lot of moisture, so keep that in mind when checking the soil.

Aerating the bedding won't do any harm. In fact if promotes a healthy worm farm population. Once a week or so, wait till the surface food is gone, and using a hand trowel lift the bedding gently.

Harvest for your garden!
If yours is the type of farm to capture liquid, empty this regularly. Its an amazing liquid fertiliser which should be diluted at least 10:1.

Worm farm castings, or vermicast, is pretty powerful too. There are several ways to harvest this. Move the old to one side and add new bedding. This will allow the worms to mostly migrate to the new bedding leaving you to take out the old and sprinkle it all over your garden. It doesn't matter if some worms get taken out as well. They'll just help improve your existing soil.

Another method is exposing them to light. The worms will tunnel to the bottom, allowing you to scrape off the top and surround your pot plants with healthy worm farm fertiliser.

So, now you're on your way to a happy and healthy worm farm and a fantastic garden - saving you waste and worry!

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