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Worm Farming

 

Worms are crucial for sustainable gardening, which I prefer. There is more to worms than eating the scraps from the kitchen (in worm farms) or keeping the soil in your garden nice and friable. Worms in farms will produce free fertiliser, help reduce landfill, produce the best soil conditioner in the form of compost (which helps the improve water retention in the soil) and add nutrients and humus for the plants. So, bearing this in mind, let me ask you, are you interested in utilising the benefits of worms, which are nature’s own recyclers?

 

Will any worms work in a worm farm?

No. Worms can be divided into two broad categories –composters and earthworms. Composters are mainly ‘Tiger’, ‘Red’ or ‘Dendras’ worms. They live and breed happily in an organic environment like a worm farm. Composter worms will not survive if you transfer them to the garden unless it is heavily mulched. Earthworms are the many other worms that prefer soil and humus rather than food waste, which they do not like.

 

Worm Farm Set Up

The benefits of the worm farms sold by Oderings is the system of levels. Level one is the collector tray that catches the liquid fertiliser draining from the upper levels; no food scraps or worms should be in this level. Level two is a working tray with the bedding material for the worms - a coir block soaked for 15 minutes in water. A piece of cardboard lines the bottom of the tray, the coir bedding is laid evenly on top and the worms are spread over this. I would recommend 1000 worms to start with. However, we sell containers that have roughly 200 worms if you require smaller numbers of worms. Worms hate direct light, so to settle them into their new home the lid is left off until you can no longer see any worms. The final layer in this level comprises strips of newspaper that have been soaked in warm water. Alternatively, you can use a soaked natural basket liner. The worms settle after the lid is put on. One week after installing the worms it is time to feed them some partially decomposed food scraps – see below.

 

Level three is used once the food is up to the top of level two. To do this the bedding needs to be touching the bottom of level three, otherwise the worms cannot climb up. From the second level take a couple of handfuls of soil and worms with some food and incorporate some more fresh kitchen waste.

 

Generally, it can take a few months for all the worms to reach level three. For level four – repeat steps in level three. By the time the farm is at level four, the worms from level two will be in the working trays of levels three and four so you can then tip the contents of level two into the garden or use them to make your own seed raising mix. Level two then becomes the next level four.

 

To read our tips and tricks please view this article in full at www.oderings.co.nz gardening guide.

 

Tips and Tricks 

  • Good worm menu – chopped vegetables, coffee grounds, teabags, ground up egg shells, rotting leaves, aged horse manure (make sure you do not give them any manure from recently wormed animals). If you are going on holiday give them half a pumpkin – well chopped up. When you are feeding your worms fluff up the soil they produce to allow the air to flow through it.

 

  • Exclusions from the worms’ menu - citrus, meat, cooking oil or fats, rice, potatoes, onions, human waste, grass clippings with pesticides.

 

  • Once a month add ‘Garden Lime’ when feeding the worms. This helps to stop infestations of very small white worms that indicate that the pH is not neutral. Lime will also speed up decomposition of the food. Do not use ‘Dolomite Lime’ as this contains magnesium that can burn your worms.

 

  • Set up your worm farm where they get morning sun and afternoon shade; you can keep the farm under cover or inside.

 

  • To harvest the compost take off the lid and make a pyramid of the soil, the sunlight will drive the worms down and you can carefully take the soil while avoiding removing the worms.

 

  • You can make your own seed raising mix by using 20%-30% of the soil from your farm with sand or peat.

 

  • Drain the liquid fertiliser from the tap on level one and dilute it at a rate of 1:10 (1 part fertiliser, 10 parts water). This is an excellent natural fertiliser for use as a foliage spray or soil drench.

 

  • Do not overfeed your worms, as a general rule have 2cm of food over the soil surface of the working tray.

 

  • It generally takes 12 months to have all four levels of the farm working efficiently.
    Worm populations normally double every few months. Half a kilo of mature worms will eat 250 grams of food a day, however, baby worms take three months to mature, and don’t eat much in this time.

 

Happy Farming

 

 

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