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Wonderful Worms: Establishing a worm farm is easy, and a great way to save kitchen scraps from going into landfill.

In fact, worms can eat anything that was once living - including cotton fabric, dog hair, vacuum cleaner dust, paper - etc! It is recommended not to feed worms meat or bread, simply to prevent flies and prevent the waste from turning rancid.

Composting worms as sold for worm farms are different from the earthworms you find in your garden. Composting worms (usually red wrigglers or tiger worms) are more suited to devouring animal waste and are surface feeders. Their voracious appetite make them particularly suitable for converting waste into wonderful worm castings!

Generally, composting worms do not survive if released into garden beds - unless you can ensure a constant supply of food (eg. manure or compost). If you don't provide it they may move on - worms are happy to migrate next door if your neighbour seems to be providing a better diet!

You can make your own simple worm farm from a polystyrene vegetable box. Other great recycling ideas include an old fridge turned on it's back. Or you can make your own timber or tin construction - whatever floats your boat! Many good information sources are out there with instructions on how to do it - assuming you have the time and the space.

Commercial worm farms have been developed as an easy alternative. Whilst there are several options on the market, we recommend and sell the 'Worm Cafe'.

The Worm Cafe is a simple tiered system. The bottom layer is simply for drainage. Worms like to be in a moist environment (like a wrung out sponge) but will drown if too wet. The drainage tap should be left open to prevent flooding. Temporarily running the hose through the worm farm in order to collect liquid castings is fine - providing the water drains through and is not allowed to sit.

The next tier is where you introduce the worms. When worms are purchased, they come in their 'bedding' material. This usually comprises aged manure and newspaper pulp. This bedding keeps them protected, moist and provides their food at the same time. So all this material goes into the worm farm, and the scraps you provide for food are placed on the top. Worms will go up to feed, and retreat to their bedding to do whatever else worms do!

Eventually, the food scraps are converted to castings and the tier is full. So then the next tier is added and food scraps are placed in this. And so on until the next tier is added. By the time the very last and top tier is full, the bottom tier will be lovely, aged castings and the worms will mainly be closer to the top and their food source.

At this stage, you can empty the bottom tier into the garden to harvest the castings, and this tier goes back on top next time - so you have a constant cycle going around and around.

The Worm Cafe does come with comprehensive instructions to help you get started, but here are some other tips to consider:-

  • Worms can eat up to their own body weight of waste per day. Worms are usually sold in 1000's which equates to 0.25kg of worms (and yes, we have counted!!). So 1000 worms can get through up to 0.25kg of waste per day. Of course 1000 worms will breed up providing they are happy - so the amount of waste they consume will grow accordingly. In order to really get off to a flying start, we recommend a starting number of 2000 worms or 0.5kg, which allows a more realistic amount of waste to be disposed of.
  • Worms don't like light or heat. In summer, it is vital to ensure the Worm Farm is kept in shade. Check the moisture content and if it is drying out, add enough water to ensure castings are moist but not dripping wet.
  • Worms don't have teeth. They can only eat the waste when it decays. Some people feed the worms compost (after composting the food scraps) to speed up the process. Otherwise, try to cut scraps into small pieces rather than huge chunks for the same reason.
  • Worms cannot survive in acidic conditions. It is preferable not to add citrus or onion scraps which are particularly acidic, or at least only in very small quantities. Regular addition of dolomite lime (a pinch a week, sprinkled on top) is a good way to help prevent acidity.
  • Worm castings (which you use around your garden) will contain worm eggs. As they hatch - again assuming conditions are right - they will increase the worm population in your garden and do all the good things worms do - increase soil fertility, improve aeration and root penetration, and making nutrients more available for plants.
  • Worm castings are pH neutral, safe to use as a soil improver for all plants, and make a particulary wonderful seed raising mix (particulay used 50:50 with cocopeat). If using as a soil improver, dig the castings into the soil. Its benefits are lost if it dries out and goes crumbly on the surface.
  • Worms don't need feeding everyday. They make easy 'pets' to look after. If you are going away, they can happily survive for several weeks without additional feeding.

So have we convinced you of all the benefits yet?

Our Worm Farm Starter Kit contains:-

  • A Worm Cafe, 2000 live worms, a bag of activated cocopeat (for worm bedding) and 1kg of dolomite lime. Everything you need to get you on the road to success!

Garden Products OnlineWe also sell items separately.

See our FREE "How to Keep Live Worms" gardening fact sheet or purchase worms online in our online store.

And our second wormy fact sheet - "What to feed worms, how to harvest worms or castings from a worm farm, and what are castings good for?"

Visit The Green Life Soil Co for a range of quality garden supplies and organic garden products.
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