Worms are amazing creatures, eating our food scraps and transforming them into some of the best plant fertiliser known to gardeners.
One way to host some worms in smaller spaces is by using discarded polystyrene boxes from the green grocers.
It’s a cheap, easy way to build a worm farm that will fit in the smallest of gardens.
Worms need cool, moist, dark spaces so planning a sheltered spot out of direct sun for your worm farm is important. Yu can even keep them indoors!
2 or 3 polystyrene fruit boxes without holes plus 2 lids (ones that are the same size so they can be stacked)
A small length of garden hose or a tap to drain the worm leachate
Shade cloth or flywire offcut (large enough to cover the bottom box)
Some well-rotted compost or manure
An old coffee bag/piece of hessian if available, or more newspaper
What you do:
STEP 1. Grab your polystyrene fruit boxes (You can prolong the life of the boxes by painting them with a water-based paint – this stops chooks pecking them too!).
STEP 2. Punch some holes in the bottom of one of the boxes with a screwdriver. This will become the “top box” in the worm farm, where the worms live. Line the inside base of this box with the shade cloth or insect screening, to stop the worms falling through the holes.
STEP 3. In the box without holes (the bottom box), punch a single hole at the bottom of one end, as close to the base as possible, to insert a small length of garden hose or a tap to collect the worm leachate. Put the ‘home’ box (with holes in the base) on top of the ‘wet’ box, and you’re half way there!
STEP 4. Add the bedding material (shredded newspaper plus aged compost or manure) into the top box and lightly dampen the contents. The box should be about ¼ full of the bedding material.
STEP 5. Buy/borrow some worms; 1,000 worms is ideal for a DIY worm farm. Pop them in the top box, they will soon wriggle down into the bedding.
STEP 6. Cover the worm bed with a thick layer of newspaper or a piece of hessian to help maintain a constant temperature and moisture level in the bedding material. Put the lid of the box on the top.
Let the worms settle for a couple of days, then add some food waste to a small area of the top box, under the hessian. This could include:
•Kitchen scraps (fruit and veg, avoid citrus and onion and no meat or dairy),
•Grass clippings (not too much),
•Autumn leaves (small amounts)
•Hair clippings and vacuum cleaner dust
•Crushed egg shells (excellent to help maintain the pH of the bedding and provide grit that aids worms’ digestion)
Worms don’t have teeth so chopping up the food beforehand helps them eat it and makes it less likely it will sit around and get smelly.
Keep an eye on their appetite as they grow and breed; if you find there is a lot of food left a week after feeding, you’ve given them too much; if it’s all gone in 2-3 days they need more! The #1 trap for new worm farmers is overfeeding, so check them often until you get a feel for their needs. And don’t overdo any one item.
After a couple of weeks your worms should start producing worm leachate – you can siphon this off from the tap or, if you have garden hose, just keep a container underneath to collect it. It’s potent, so dilute it before using on the garden; garden – it should be the colour of beer or weak tea.
Keep an eye on the moisture of the worm bedding – it should be moist like a wrung-out sponge but not soaking. If ants appear in your bin, you know it’s too dry.
If really hot weather is forecast, consider moving your worm farm to deeper shade or putting an ice block in the top box to keep them cool.
One way to collect your castings, remove the lid and pile up the castings into a dome, exposing it to sunlight. The worms will naturally move down out of the light after an hour or so, then you can scoop out the castings (checking for any leftovers) and spread this on your garden – use sparingly as it’s powerful stuff.
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