A worm farm is a simple thing.
If you’ve never heard of one, a worm farm is like a like a glorified composter, but with added benefits. A worm farm takes your unwanted organic compost and returns a great supply of liquid fertilizer and rich worm castings for your garden. The best part is they are extremely simple to make and use!
What you’ll need:
- At least 2 Styrofoam broccoli boxes
- A screwdriver or knitting needle or sharp tool for making holes in the Styrofoam box
- Shredded cardboard
- Straw or grass clippings if you can get some
- A piece of old fly screen
Broccoli boxes are easy to acquire at your local supermarket or green grocer. They usually get thrown away daily. Ask the produce department and they’ll usually bring them out for you.
To start your worm farm you will only need two boxes. First you will need to poke holes in the bottom of one of the boxes. Trim the fly screen into a rectangle and lay it in the bottom of the box to stop solids going through the holes. Fill it about half way with bits of damp shredded cardboard, straw, damp shredded newspaper and a hand-full of dirt mixed through. This mixture is where the worms will live. They like a dark damp place – but one that’s not too wet because they breath through their skin! Place this box on top of the box that doesn’t have any holes. This lower box is where the liquid fertilizer will drain into.
Now you will need to acquire some worms. You need the thin red worms found in garden soil (not large earth worms). In a pinch you can buy them at a nursery or garden store, but if you know someone who already has a worm farm you can just ‘borrow’ a bunch. You will need about 500 worms to get you going. Eventually they will multiply. Place the worms into the living area of damp cardboard etc.
Place your organic waste such as kitchen scraps into the box. The worms will crawl up through their living area to eat the organic waste. Be careful not to put in too much too soon. Watch to see that the waste is getting eaten before dumping in too much. When you have more worms and they are eating a lot of waste, you can add more boxes. Make sure you put holes into the bottom of these additional boxes (these upper boxes don’t need the fly screen). The worms will still crawl up into the boxes to feed and then return down to their living area.
In the beginning when there is only a small amount of food scraps, you may need to lay a piece of wet newspaper just in the top of the box to keep the worms living area damp. If it’s too dry, they will vacate the boxes all together or even die. Eventually, the moister from the organic waste that you put in will be enough – in fact it may even get too wet! If this happens, just add a few more bits of dry shredded cardboard. This will ‘soak up’ the excess moister.
As the worms wee, this drains down into the lower box. This is excellent liquid fertilizer. It will do amazing things or your vegetables. I usually put mine right onto the soil around my tomatoes! Check your lower box often as you will probably have enough of this liquid fertilizer to use every week. Just lift the upper boxes off, drain the liquid off into a bucket, and replace the upper boxes. It is too strong to use directly on plants, so add plenty of water to the bucket before using it on your garden.
As the worms poo, these dark rich castings are a wonderful amendment to garden soil. They will help add nitrogen and mineral rich nutrients to your beds – which will make your veggies tasty and nutritious. Eventually the cardboard and straw living area will fill up with these castings. To remove them, we first have to give the worms a new living area so they will vacate the old box. Just start a fresh box with new bits of damp shredded cardboard etc. and place it directly on top of the old one. The worms will happily move into the new one in a few days. Now the old box is free to get the castings out and use on the garden bed. If there are a few worms in there that’s OK because worms are great for the garden too! But if there are too many worms, you probably didn’t wait long enough for them to vacate the old box. Just put it back and wait another couple of days.
1. To start you will probably only need two boxes. One for the worms and compost and one to catch the liquid fertilizer. The worms will crawl out of their living area and up into the compost to eat.
2. If you find that your compost is backing up too quickly, you can keep the worm’s living area in the lower box and add boxes on top for your organic material. Make sure you poke holes so the worms can crawl up to eat (no need for the fly screen).
3. When the worm’s living area has filled up with their castings, it’s time to change the boxes over. First fill a new box with fresh material (damp cardboard, straw etc.) and place it above the old box. The worms will happily move into the fresh material. You can empty the old worm castings into your garden as a great soil amendment.