Those green fingered individuals lucky enough to have access to a garden of their own will often tell you how owning a worm farm is a great way to reduce the amount of food waste you send to landfill, whilst simultaneously providing a way to produce your own super strength fertilizer.
But what about those of us who live in apartments and other urban dwellings? Well luckily, there are a range of manufacturers from whom you can purchase an indoor worm farm. There resemble plastic bins which have holes in the lids to facilitate air flow and taps at the bottom so the liquid that the worms produce as they feed (which is the aforementioned super-strong fertiliser) can be drained off.
Whilst keeping an indoor worm farm isn’t particularly labour intensive, there are a few dos and don’ts you need top be aware of from the get go. Here are some of the key principles to bear in mind before making your first foray into vermiculture;
- Don’t overfeed your worms. As with any other creature, should your worms take on more nutrients than they need, the effects can be harmful. On top of this, by placing too much food stuff in you worm farm you can end up making the environment inhospitable for your worms. Certain foods, for example, will increase the acidity of the soil.
- Don’t add food in big chunks. It’s generally better to cut food stuffs into smaller chunks with a larger surface area (in relation to their size.) This will help the material to biodegrade quicker, making it more worm friendly.
- Don’t let your worm farm become overly moist. Whilst, on the other hand, you don’t want your worms to completely dry out, too much moisture isn’t a good thing. Remember that the worms will produce liquids as they break down their food, much of which will already have a high water content. A good way to regulate moisture is to add shredded paper and torn up cardboard which will soak up some of the liquid present and provide the farm with some fibre. Always remember to drain off the liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the bin.
- Don’t allow the soil to become to clumpy. You need to make sure the mix is aerated as worms, just like humans, need oxygen to survive and will die in anaerobic conditions.
- Don’t feed your worms dairy products or meat. Of course, in the wild worms will eat these sorts of food, but it takes a long time for them to break down to the level where worms can handle them. In the mean time you will have rotting food stinking out your home.
- Don’t feed your worms salty or oily foods. Worms breathe through their skin and in order to be able to do this they have to maintain a certain level of moisture. Salt will take moisture out of their bodies, whereas oils will inhibit them from taking in air, leading them to suffocate.
- Don’t worry about mould. Worms aren’t too choosy about that sort of thing!
- Do think carefully about where you place your bin. This is an especially important consideration if you’re not going to be around in the house for much of the day. You’ll need to think about where your farm is in relation to the windows in the room and try to make sure that it will not be sat in direct sunlight at any point during the day, as this may end up leading to your worms being cooked!
- Do drain liquid from the bin frequently. If you don’t notice any liquid forming be sure to check that the tap isn’t blocked.
- Do keep acidic foods to a minimum. You need to regulate the PH levels of the soils and adding to acidic fruit and vegetables, such as onions, lemons and oranges can have an adverse effect on the living conditions for your worms.
- Do bury the food you add under a top layer of soil. This will reduce the risk of flies being attracted to the worm farm.
- Do balance your worm’s diet. Things to feed your worms include; fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee grounds, egg shells, paper, card board, bread.
- Do feed in moderation. Adding to much food can cause a number of problems, the chief one being that it can heat up the farm and make conditions untenable for your worms. Secondly, uneaten food will lie around rotting producing unpleasant smells, which, worms aside, isn’t going to be too pleasant for you.
- Do increase the amount of food you add with each feeding as you notice your worms multiplying in number.
Steve Waller writes is an environmental blogger who knows the ups and downs of keeping a worm farm all too well. He is now on his second attempt at keeping a worm farm (the first didn’t go so well.)