We do not have a big backyard, quite average sized for a New Zealand house. Yet, we have managed to cram in a garden shed, an outside guest room, a plastic hothouse, a huge 3 bay compost bin, a 2000L and a 250L rainwater tank, 8 separate raised veggie beds and about 70 fruit trees and bushes. The feature that I want to highlight though, takes up the least amount of space. It’s our worm farm. A square plastic bin, which drains into a lower plastic receptacle, probably 50cm squared. This bin does however house about a couple of thousand tiger worms (so named because of their striped thin bodies. They are voracious feeders and a great accompaniment to the home backyard farmer.
Mike is the Worm Farmer. Which means he basically takes care of them and feeds them once weekly, from a small bucket of kitchen scraps. Worms are an addition to the waste recycling system of compost bins, as they can deal to the cooked food, while the compost bin deals to any raw food fruit and veggie scraps. However, Mike declares he wants to maintain worm health by feeding them a good diet of raw food, so his worms only get raw fruit and veg scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and bedding material. Once a week, he feeds them, alternating each consecutive corner of the bin so that they feed in a circular motion. He then fills the empty food bucket with water and pours it over the “farm”, to wash through all the worm poos (vermicast).
Vermicast is a highly nutritious plant food. Dilute it to the strength of a herbal tea and pour around all veggie plants to promote health and growth. Which means we are actually eating worm poos when we eat our veggies! Yum, yum! But then, we’re eating worm poos anyway, from the earthworms in our soil we grow our food in!
Our old recycled plastic bin (from Bin Inn) we were using eventually gave in to the ravages of UV light, and cracked and leaked out all the goodness it was charged with keeping safe, so we have just recently been able to set up another one in a container given to us from a friend. It’s supposed to be UV resistant, so it should last more than the 5 years the last one did. The trick when decanting the liquid from the washed out castings, is to dig out a handful or two of the solid castings in the worm bin (the poos, basically), discarding the worms, bedding (layers of newspaper or cardboard that are used as a nesting site and baby worm nursery) or old undigested food, and mix into the liquid vermicast to make it a stronger consistency. If I have time, it is good to aerate the vermicast for 24 hours before using. I do this by placing it in a deep bucket and immersing an old fish tank aerator in and allow it to bubble away in the mixture and activate the millions of beneficial bacteria found in the vermicast.
So if you ever have a chance to do worm farming, whether you live on a large or small piece of land, or even if you have no space for a large composting system, perhaps worm farming is your thang! To get started, buy a worm farm kit, and there are online sites selling tiger worms (our tub of worms came in the post!). The addition of vermicast diluted and sprayed over plants will even reduce the fungal infestations as they power up your plants resistance and good health.