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Compost Worms

https://www.sustainablebrisbane.com.au/how-to-make-a-bathtub-worm-farm/

Compost worms benefits

Plants need food, just like animals do. To have a productive farm, you need to focus on feeding the soil in which the plants live. Luckily we can make our own plant food cheaply with compost, worms and mulch.

Compost worms are super cool little creatures that help turn our kitchen scraps and other organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for our plants. They’re like tiny recycling superheroes in the garden! Let me break it down for you:

1. The Use of Compost Worms:

Compost worms are used to create compost through a process called vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is a way of decomposing organic materials, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and paper, using worms to break them down into nutrient-rich compost.

Instead of throwing away kitchen scraps, we feed them to the compost worms, and the worms eat these scraps. Then, the worms digest the organic waste and turn it into nutrient-rich worm castings, or vermicompost which is a fancy name for worm poop! These worm castings are like gold for our plants because they contain lots of nutrients that help them grow big and strong.

The worms also produce worm pee, called worm tea, with can be used in organic insect sprays and as fertiliser.

2. Caring for Compost Worms:

Taking care of compost worms is pretty easy, and they don’t need much attention. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Worm Bin: First, you’ll need a special container called a worm bin. It can be a big plastic container with a lid or a wooden box. Make sure it has small holes for ventilation. You can also use an old bathtub to make a worm bath.
  • Bedding: Add some moist bedding to the worm bin. Bedding can be shredded newspaper, cardboard, or coconut coir. This gives the worms a comfy home to live in.
  • Food: Feed your worms with kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, and crushed eggshells. Avoid giving them meat, dairy, citrus, onion or oily foods.
  • Moisture: Keep the bedding moist like a wrung-out sponge. Worms breathe through their skin, so it’s essential to keep their environment damp but not too wet. A DIY worm farm with multiple trays has a tank at the bottom which keeps the bedding moist.
  • Temperature: Worms prefer temperatures between 13°C to 25°C. Keep the worm bin in a shady spot or indoors where it’s not too hot or cold.

Do’s and Dont’s

Starting a worm bin is a fantastic way to recycle organic waste and create nutrient-rich compost for your garden. Here are some do’s and don’ts, along with guidance on managing the tasks associated with a worm bin for a beginner gardener:

Do’s:

  1. Choose the Right Worms: Red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) are the most commonly used worms for composting. They’re efficient at breaking down organic matter and thrive in confined spaces like worm bins. You can get worms on the NOA Whatsapp group.
  2. Select a Suitable Bin: You can buy a ready-made worm bin or make one yourself using plastic containers or wooden boxes. Ensure the bin is well-ventilated and has a lid to control moisture and temperature. You can also use an old bathtub to make a worm bath.
  3. Provide Bedding: Start with a bedding layer made of shredded newspaper, cardboard, coconut coir, or a mix of these. Moisten the bedding to the consistency of a damp sponge.
  4. Add Food Scraps: Feed your worms kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, and crushed eggshells. Cut or blend larger items to help worms process them faster.
  5. Balance Green and Brown Materials: Aim for a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in your bin. Green materials (food scraps) provide nitrogen, and brown materials (bedding) provide carbon. This helps maintain a healthy environment.
  6. Bury Food Scraps: Avoid placing food scraps on the surface. Bury them in the bedding to prevent odors, fruit flies, and other pests, then cover them with wet cardboard.
  7. Monitor Moisture: Keep the bedding moist but not soggy. Squeeze a handful of bedding to check for proper moisture – it should hold together without dripping water.
  8. Harvest Worm Castings: Once the bedding has been thoroughly processed, you can harvest the dark, nutrient-rich worm castings. Separate the worms from the castings using methods like the “light harvesting” technique where you have half a bin dark and the other with sunlight. The worms move to the dark side and you can harvest the other side. If you use a worm farm with multiple trays you can put food in the top tray and the worms will move up into the top tray, then you can harvest the bottom tray.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t Overfeed: Worms can only process a certain amount of food. Overfeeding can lead to unpleasant odors, fruit flies, and stressed worms.
  2. Don’t Use Harmful Materials: Avoid adding dairy, meat, oily foods, citrus fruits, and processed foods to the worm bin. Also, avoid adding materials treated with pesticides. Watch out for mold. Mold will kill your worms so ensure everything you feed them is fresh. Gather food scraps in the refrigerator if you only feed your worms once a week.
  3. Don’t Let It Get Too Hot or Cold: Worms thrive in a temperature range of 13-25°C. Extreme temperatures can harm the worms.
  4. Don’t Neglect Aeration: Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent anaerobic conditions. Make sure your bin has enough holes for airflow.
  5. Don’t Drown the Worms: While it’s important to maintain moisture, overly wet conditions can suffocate the worms. Ensure proper drainage and adjust moisture levels as needed.
  6. Don’t Introduce Invasive Species: Avoid introducing non-native worms to your bin, as they can disrupt the ecosystem.

Managing Tasks

Daily:

  • Check the moisture level of the bedding. If it’s too dry, lightly mist it with water.
  • Look for any signs of problems like foul odors, excessive moisture, or pests.
  • If you are using a proper bin with a water tank at the bottom then you don’t need to do anything on a daily basis.

Weekly:

  • Monitor the amount of food left in the bin. Only add more when the previous batch is mostly gone. You can collect your food scraps and coffee grounds in a plastic container until the worms are ready to be fed again.
  • Turn the bedding gently to help with aeration and distribute composting material.
  • Smell the worms. Your worm farm should smell like fresh rich forest floor. If it get’s smelly something is wrong. Then check up on your worms and ensure everything is fine.

Monthly:

  • Sprinkle some sand or soil on top of the bedding/food mix and wet it with water. Adding sand or soil ensures that the balance in your bin is always right.
  • Check the progress of composting. If the bin is getting full, consider harvesting some castings.
    • If you use a worm bin with multiple trays simply remove the bottom tray switch the trays. Your worms will move into the top tray as you add food there.

Every Few Months:

  • Harvest worm castings once the bin is mostly filled with dark, crumbly material.
  • Refresh the bedding by adding more shredded newspaper or cardboard.

Starting a worm bin can be a rewarding experience for a beginner gardener. With proper care and attention, you’ll soon have nutrient-rich compost to boost the health of your plants and reduce your organic waste.

Worthwhile videos

A bit shacky but this video is chock-full of great info and instructions to build three types of worm farms here in Namibia.

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