If you have a garden, a kitchen, kids, a concern for the environment or any of the above then a worm farm is for you. Here’s one you can DIY in under half an hour and feel smug about for years.
Get wriggly with a
DIY worm farm
Okay, so worms might be just a little bit gross. But there’s no denying that they’re a huge benefit to the environment. Those carrot peelings you just threw in the bin? They’re going to rot in a huge big ugly dump of landfill. But they could be recycled into nutritious worm wee that your plants will drink up like it’s liquid gold.
If you have kids, a worm farm is a double bonus. Not only will you be doing something great for your garden and the environment but you’ll get to teach your kids about taking care of their world in a fun way every day as well. Kids — especially boys — love gross things and worms make a great first pet. They can be fed almost every day on those vegetables your kids didn’t eat the night before and if they are forgotten for a few days they’ll just get on with composting.
While worms are easy, they will need some care. They need a proper home, to be kept moist and cool and, like a goldfish, if you feed them too much you’ll have a mess on your hands. But follow a few easy steps and you (and the planet) will be well rewarded.
DIY worm farm
- 3 styrofoam broccoli boxes with lids (available from your local fruit market)
- A newspaper
- A small bag of mushroom compost
- A box of red composting worms (available from gardening centres and hardware stores such as Bunnings)
- A handful of food scraps
- A worm blanket (optional)
- First, gather your equipment. You may want to use gardening gloves for this if you’re a bit squeamish.
- Drill holes in the bottom of one of the styrofoam boxes. You can use a pencil to punch holes in the box and, while this may be hugely satisfying, don’t go overboard. The box needs to hold up under the weight of some soil and your worms so 12 holes evenly spaced should be enough.
- Find a shady spot in the garden. Place the styrofoam box without the holes in the shady spot and top it with the box that has the holes punched in it.
- Place a few sheets of newspaper and a thin layer of mushroom compost in the bottom of the box with the holes in it.
- Put the worms on top of the compost then cover with shredded newspaper. Lightly water the worms and the newspaper so everything is moist but not soaked. Cover with a damp worm blanket if you have one.
- Let the worms get used to their new home for a few days before you start feeding them.
Feeding your worms
Worms are voracious eaters but remember they have small mouths and sensitive skin.
You can feed your worms:
- Kitchen scraps (no meat, onion or citrus)
- Coffee grounds and tea leaves
- Small amounts of leaves, weeds and grass
- Shredded paper and cardboard
- Vacuum cleaner debris
- Stale biscuits and cake
Just make sure you chop everything finely (use a food processor if you can) and avoid overfeeding.
To find out how much your worms need to eat, simply bury one cup of food in your worm farm and check daily to see when the worms begin feeding. When they are actively chowing down, bury another cup and repeat the process. If you notice food piling up, stop feeding them until they’ve started to break some of it down otherwise it will start to rot and produce a smell that is in no way pleasant.
Keeping your worms happy
If your worms are unhappy they’ll try to escape. Make sure they’re keeping cool and moist and not being swamped with food. To help keep them happy you can add a handful of dolomite lime (available at a hardware store) every couple of months to keep the acid levels down.
Using your worm waste
As your worms work their way through your scraps their poo will pile up in the tray. Eventually you’ll need to move the worms to the next tray. To do that, take the third styrofoam box and punch holes in it like you did with the first one. Place a layer of soil and food scraps in the bottom of the box to encourage the worms to move on up. This process should take a few days and once your worms have vacated the box below you can use the mix as a compost on your plants. The bottom box will have collected worm wee which you can use diluted in 10 parts water as a super-charged fertiliser.