When you think about all the vibrant life in your back garden, you might focus on the fruit and veg you're growing or the lush ornamental plants that adorn your outdoor living space. But what about the little creatures that contribute to your garden's ecosystem?
Creating a worm farm at home is an easy way to transform your food scraps into rich, nutritious fertiliser for your flower pots and veggie patch. Plus, it's a fun way to get the kids involved in the garden as they witness the food chain in action.
Here's how to prepare a worm bin and start vermicomposting at home.
Create a bin structure for your worm farm
You can pick up a purpose-build worm farm bin, or build your own. Here's what a homemade worm farm should look like. To make one, you'll need two plastic bins. The top bin will hold the worm habitat, while the bottom bin will catch all the solid castings and liquid "worm wee" (leachate) that you can use as fertiliser.
Drill some holes into the base of the top bin. If the holes are large enough for the worms to fall through, line the base with window screening. Then, nest this inside the bottom bin, but make sure there's a gap in the middle. One or two upside-down flower pots can keep the top bin elevated, or you can choose a container with slightly shallower depth for the top half of the worm farm.
For ease of accessing your vermicompost, you can raise up the bins by setting it a low table or attaching legs. Then, you can add a tap or spout that allows you to collect the runoff. If you choose not to do this, you'll just need to lift out the top bin and extract what's dripped down into the bottom.
Purchase composting worms
Composting worms are a specific type of earthworm that thrive in worm farms. They're surface feeders, meaning they'll process the food scraps on top of the pile, and they won't burrow down into the soil like the earthworms in your garden.
You can buy composting worms from a local nursery or even order them online. One pound — about 1,000 worms — should do the trick for a small to medium-sized worm farm.
Prepare your worm habitat
With your bin structure put together, it's time to fill the top bin with materials your worms would consider all the comforts of home. Line the base of the top bin with shredded newspaper as well as about 7.6 centimetres of soil or peat moss. Soak this worm bedding until it's completely moistened, then drain it to remove any puddles.
Next, introduce the worms to their new environment and give them a day or so to adjust before you start feeding them.
Feed your worms raw kitchen scraps
Start by placing a small amount of food on one side of the worm bedding. Then, cover it with another sheet of newspaper or a layer of hessian sack to create a cool and dark environment. Top the bin with a perforated lid to allow air to circulate.
Once the worms consume the food, add more to the opposite side. This leaves a bit of space for them to move away if they're not keen on the latest food offering.
Composting worms will eat a wide variety of food scraps, including fruit cores and rinds, vegetable peelings and even eggshells and biodegradable tea bags. However, you should avoid giving them meat, oils and animal fats, dairy products and acidic foods like citrus and onions. Cooked foods prepared with oils, salt and seasonings can also harm your worms, so uncooked kitchen scraps are preferred.
Avoid overfeeding your worms as the food will start to rot before it gets eaten. But you'll soon start to see just how much your composting critters can process in a day!