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Worm Farms

Worm farms are a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps. The basic worm farm is a black plastic container on legs, with a tap in the bottom tray. They come with several slotted trays, which sit above the bottom tray. To set up, the bottom tray is for drainage, and a spare bucket should be kept under the open tap. If you keep the tap shut it the bottom tray will fill up and drown worms. If the tap clogs hose the contents until it runs freely. The first slotted tray goes on top, and into this place your worms (I recommend at least one box available from a hardware or garden store or wherever you purchase your farm), with a soaked peat block. You can feed them straight away, just build up the amount slowly until the worms breed up enough numbers to cope with your weekly output. There is a lot of advice about cooking or cutting up scraps, but this would be a tedious task. It have found the size makes no difference, it all rots down or gets eaten.

Generally, a worm farm will eat up about half a 10L bucket of kitchen scraps each week, although some things obviously take a little longer. They don’t like citrus or onion/garlic, and have trouble with eggshells and avocado skins. Some things may sprout (corn cobs and potatoes mostly) but this doesn’t appear to cause problems, and can be squashed back down. We have little black files every so often, and some fat black spiders that live in the corners, but generally cause no problems. If the farm is left outside, it should be sheltered from hot sun, and given a bit of water every so often if it looks a bit dry in summer. I have found a hessian bag kept wet on the cover helps, but the best has been a sheet of light coloured colour bond. This has kept them alive in the hottest Summer days. A dead worm farm is a sad and unbelievably smelly thing.

Once the worms fill up a tray with castings, you can place another on top with food to encourage them to move up. Once they have moved up, scoop the bottom layer out, and you can use it like compost and dig it into the soil, or throw under mulch. It can be diluted in water and poured onto soil that is generally lacking in organic matter. The worm juice in the drainage bucket from the bottom tray is great for the garden, especially potted plants. It generally needs to be emptied each week to stop it going too smelly. It can be diluted, although most exotics accept it straight without any problems. It is a good tonic for any sick potted plant, or anything that is struggling a little. I have used it on natives, fairly diluted (to tea colour) with liquid wettasoil in areas of poor clay, and it has worked well. If used on edible crops, it would be wise to wash the produce well. I personally think it is equivalent or better than products such as fish emulsion- and it’s free! Once set up, the worm farms need little maintenance, and can introduce children to the basics of the biological cycle. As kitchen scraps are a reasonable proportion of waste to landfill, it is also an easy green thing to do, and your garden will thank you for it.

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