Earthworms have been on our planet for millions of years. Their function in nature is to recycle dead plant and animal material and return the nutrients contained back to the earth. This enriches the earth and helps to create new soil.
Worm Composting is our effort to encourage and promote this natural ability of the earthworm and enable us to significantly reduce the amount as organic garbage presently being buried in landfall. Organic material mixed with inorganic materials in landfalls, with the absence of oxygen produces harmful leachates that pollute our water ways and produce methane gas.
Up to 30% of our household rubbish can be consumed by compost worms. The compost worms live in decomposing matter such as kitchen scraps. The compost worms consume their own weight in food daily producing an earthy smelling product called worm castings to fertilise your garden soil.
The Worm Bin can range from old baths, tubs, tyres, corrugated iron or you can select from the commercial worm bin range that are on the market. Drainage however must be provided, either by drilling holes in the bottom of the container or to collect the run off for a liquid fertiliser drill one hole covered with fine scoria or old carpet. Make sure you place your worm bin on an angle to assist with draining the liquid into a catchment container.
Position your worm bin in a place that will get winter sun but shaded from the summer sun. Ideal temperatures for worms are between 15-25 degrees C. With colder temperatures the worms slow down their activity.
Bedding material is necessary to start your worms off. The bedding should not produce heat, as this will kill the worms. Bedding suggestions are shredded paper, aged compost, peat, cardboard, even coconut fibre. About 7 cm of bedding is required and wet this bedding enough so that when squeezed only a few drops are produced.
Cover the bin with old sacking, carpet or under lay. This will retain the moisture and provide the darkness that is needed for worm activity. A lid is recommended if you are making your own bins, as this protects against the natural elements, ie. rain and sun.
It is said that worms will eat anything that was once alive, although the food needs to be soft or wilted for the worms to break it down. Cutting or shredding allows the food scraps to soften faster for the worms. Worms also eat wet shredded egg cartons, hand towels, bags, vegetable peelings etc. a fortnightly sprinkle of garden lime helps keep the pH balance neutral.
Avoid too much citrus peel or onions. Fats, cooking oils and oily foods interrupt with the worm’s ability to breathe through their skin.
Harvesting the castings means to empty the worm castings out of your worm bins. In some commercial worm bins you need to remove the lower level trays where the worms have finished eating and have moved up to the higher levels for more food. However, in a single level worm farm you need to scoop off the top 15-20 cm layer, this being your worms, put this aside. Remove the remaining rich material, which may still contain some worms to the place of your choice, replace the layer containing the worms back into your container ready to start the process again.
Any smells? Only if the worms are overfed and the food becomes mouldy. This can happen when you first start off your bin. 250 worms will eat about 250 grams of food in a day and a half. As the worms increase so will the amount of food they eat. Do not have food more than 5 cm deep.
If I go away? If the worm farm is covered to reduce moisture loss then the worms can be left up to three weeks. More harm will be done by your worms drying out than not having fresh food for three weeks. If you are going away for longer, it maybe advisable to get someone to feed and water them.
You may find other organisms living with your worms, but few of these are harmful.