Yesterday I constructed a worm farm. A worm farm is handy because it’s smaller-scale than compost – compost needs more organic matter than our house generates. Worms are also easy to maintain and produce usable fertiliser pretty quickly. I’m planning to use the worm juice on my new veggie garden…
You can buy worm farms from Bunnings, but I made mine without buying anything at all – I found all the materials for free, or already had them. A worm farm consists of two boxes: the top one holds the worms, as well as some soil/mulch for them to live in – this is where you put the food scraps; the bottom box collects the ‘worm juice’, which you collect through a tap in the bottom of the box and use (diluted!) as fertiliser.
Disclaimer: I’ve never had a worm farm before, so it’s probably a good idea to do some reading if you’re interested in setting up a worm farm of your own! I might be doing it wrong…
So, here’s how I made my worm farm:
- The supplies, approximately:
- Two polystyrene veggie boxes,
- Some newspaper to cover the worms and keep it nice and dark in the box,
- Some fly-screen to stop the worms falling into the bottom box – mine was falling apart so I replaced it with some cotton voile,
- A bottle to cut up for the worm-juice tap,
- Some tape to hold the boxes together,
- Some soil, much, old leaves, etc – enough to fill the top box 10cm deep,
- Tools: scissors, a skewer to punch holes, Blu-tak. I didn’t need the hammer after all – it’s really only there because I had it out from punching drainage holes in a planter.
- Prepare the Top Box
- Use the skewer to stab a bunch of holes in the bottom of the box – about 1cm apart. I hadn’t read the instructions in detail, so my first holes were bigger than skewer-sized. I switched to the skewer and made some more holes, but spaced them much more widely. Hopefully the drainage rate will be fine…
- So that worms don’t fall down these holes, cover them with a sheet of flyscreen. My flyscreen was really old and not in good condition – it came off the house in the Big Storm a few months ago. When I noticed that it was constantly shedding fibre-glassy bits, I decided I didn’t want it anywhere in my food chain. I cut a piece of cotton voile from my sewing stash instead. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, though – I’ll have to regularly check how many worms are falling through…
- Tape your screen down to keep it in place.
- Prepare the Bottom Box
- Cut the lid off a plastic bottle, about 5cm up from the lid. I started with the orange juice bottle in the top picture, but it didn’t have a long enough neck. A two litre soft drink bottle works better, and luckily a friend had left one at our house (we don’t really dring soft drinks),
- Cut strips in the neck of the bottle, so that you can fan it out and stick it down (you can see the strips in the image below),
- Make a hole in the bottom of the box. Sticking out at an angle at the corner would probably work better than a hole in the actual base of the box – the lid is going to stick out, and this would let it sit flat instead of having to hang over the edge of something. But I realised this too late…
- Stick the lid through, far enough that you can get a grip above the lid when you try to open it,
- Fan out and stick down the inside parts,
- Test it for water-tightness. Use Blu-tak to fill the area between the box and the lid to stop leaks (Note to self – buy some Blu-tak).
- Put It Together
- Put a brick or a rock into the bottom box, as an island for worms that fall through,
- Put the top box on top of the bottom box and tape to hold it in place. Don’t go overboard with the tape, because you might want to check for fallen worms…
- Put 10cm of mulch, dry leaves or soil into the top box, and cover it with newspaper to keep out the light,
(I’ve since seen something that says not to use coloured pages – Mr Turnbull might have to be saved from his wormy fate)
- Stab a bunch of holes in the lid, to let rain in – but not too many, because you only want it moist, not soggy. But the lid on. You might want to put a rock on the lid to keep out worm predators.
- Add worms
- Note that the worms are special worms for worm farms – normal worms won’t do well in a worm farm, and worm-farm worms won’t do well set loose in the garden. You can buy the worms from garden shops, or online. I’m yoinking some worms from my work’s worm farm – they’ll soon multiply.
- Before you add the worms, moisten the bedding for them. I put some water in yesterday, and when I bring home my worms I’ll see how it is…
- Add worms,
- Give them something to chew on. I’ve got a collection of lettuce leaves, etc, started in the kitchen,
- Don’t give your worms citrusy or oniony things!
- Wormy Goodness
- Keep an eye out for worm juice in the bottom box – I’ll be able to see it through the bit of bottle that sticks out the bottom. Dilute it with water, 1 part worm juice to 10 parts water, before you put it on the garden,
- When the worms have been going for a while, you can collect the ‘worm castings’ (aka worm poo) that they’ve turned your veggie bits and bedding into.