We moved into our new home at the start of 2012. It’s got a courtyard, too small for a compost bin. Well, that was my excuse. Other excuses included a sensitive pregnancy nose that made carting around decomposing food an underwhelming prospect. To be honest, compost has always grossed me out. I get that food is bad news in landfill, so in most places I’ve lived I’ve used one of those giant bins at the back of the yard which I flung food into while trying not to look or smell. I never turned it or actually used it.
But after a few months (okay, eight), I felt crappy about the sheer amount of peelings, old limp vegetables and off food from the fridge that we were sending out with the garbage. Watching a whole lot of ABC IView while feeding/cuddling the baby meant watching a few gardening shows, and so getting compost on my mind (not literally, ew).
I went and bought a commercial worm farm from a hardware shop, and a thousand worms, made their little bed of coir and cardboard, and spread on about five kilos of food scraps I’d stockpiled in the fridge. Whoops, that wasn’t in the manual. But there was a heap of instructions, in fact the amount of information that came with the kit was a little overwhelming. The worms like their chow minced finely, not to have too much of it, don’t like certain foods, need to be tucked in a blanket (or soggy newspaper), regularly watered, conditioned with special powder, etc, etc.
Once the worms eventually got through the initial food overload, they contentedly munch through about a third of our household food waste. A couple of times a week I tip a bucket of water in and use the resulting worm tea in the garden.
The worm farm has had a lot of ant infestations, which I’ve fended off with some success by adding worm conditioner, more water, and sometimes scraping them out. It’s also had some dark grey maggots which appalled me at first but are apparently vinegar fly larvae and a ‘good sign’ (I can’t think of many other instances where maggots are a good sign, can you?). Smearing vaseline around the legs is one way of keeping ants out, however didn’t work for me.
So, I reckon the pros and cons of worm farms are:
- worm tea and worm casings to use in your garden
- no revolting smells (really!), assuming regular flushing
- it becomes strangely enjoyable to have a look and see the worms wriggling about (though my husband may not agree, this depends
on your baseline tolerance for small crawly things)
- expensive to get started, if you use a commercial worm farm contraption, buy worms and worm conditioner – around $100
- fiddly to get established and trouble-shoot
- worms don’t like some food, e.g. onion and citrus, and it is recommended you don’t add high protein food (I think this is to avoid attracting other creatures)
- don’t get through the volume of scraps we generate
- occasional angst about worm welfare, e.g. on hot or cold days
The next step for our worm farm is harvesting the castings from the tray we are currently using, and enticing the worms to a new home tray. This feels like an advanced worm farming move!
I’d love to hear any pointers about harvesting the castings, so if you have any tips or other comments about worm farms, please let me know below.