A worm farm is a self-contained composting system that retains most nutrients for reuse. The worm's digestive system imparts a stable crumb structure to the worm compost, which is a nutrient/rich humus material, consisting of partially decomposed organic waste, bedding material and worm castings (manure). If properly maintained, it is an odourless system.
You will need to get one or more suitable worm containers, which can be made of plastic, wood or metal, e.g. a wooden box, a plastic basin, bin, or crate. You can buy a commercially made worm bin from your local hardware store or garden centre, use an existing container, or make your own from recycled materials.
Commercially made worm bins may be preferable if you don’t have much room, and if you get one with a tap, you can collect the ‘vermi-liquid’ for use as a fertiliser.
Make a worm farm from recycled ingredients. Anyone can start a worm bin. All you need are the right ingredients.
Old carpet or sack.
Old phone books.
Corrugated iron – 60 cm x 60 cm.
3-4 car tyres.
Lid (use a piece of wood with a rock on it).
35 Saturday newspapers (or equivalent).
Step 1: First get your worms (see 'worm farming' in the yellow pages).
Step 2: Soak the newspapers in water and stuff the sides of the tyres.
Step 3: Raise one edge of the corrugated iron base with old phone books.
Step 4: Cut out carpet to the size of the base.
Step 5: Add bedding material and worms to the bottom tyre.
Step 6: Continue stacking stuffed tyres and bedding material.
Feed regularly and keep the mixture moist to touch.
You will need to get worms either from someone you know who has an established worm farm, or look under “Worm Farming” in the yellow pages. The species of worm most suited for worm composting is the Tiger Worm Eisenia fetida. For a family of 4, start your worm farm with about 1000 mature worms (450 grams).
Worms are voracious eaters. They don’t have teeth, so they like their food scraps small:
This depends on how many worms you have. In ideal conditions, worms can eat up to ½ their own body weight every day and can double their population every few months.
If you start your worm farms with 450 gms (about 1000) of mature worms (identify mature worms by a distinct ring-shaped swelling around their body) they will consume up to ½ a pound/225gms of food waste per day. The baby worms won't eat much and will take about 3 months to mature.
It doesn't matter if you are unable to obtain this number of worms initially – just reduce the quantity of food. If you provide ideal conditions, the worm population will steadily increase, doubling their numbers every 40 or so days.
Worm farms produce 3 products, all of which are useful. These are:
For more information, have a look at the Christchurch City Council’s brochure A Guide to Worm Composting (pdf 1.63 MB).
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