When an innocent nosey at the horses at Nerang’s Country Paradise Parklands led to meeting the worm farming extraordinaire, Warwick, I jumped at his offer of returning for a tutorial and help with our set-up. I nominated myself as worm-farmer last committee meeting at Joan Park Community Garden, so this was a very fortuitous encounter!
I ambled back there last Saturday, empty worm farm in the boot and enjoyed almost 2 hours of hearty hospitality from the gardeners at the Nerang Community Gardens.
Warwick generously shared much of his wisdom with me – which extends back 20 years – and helped to set up our worm farm by donating a generous heap of wormies. Warwick suggested I tend to the wormies exclusively for the next month or so, to get a feel for it and allow them time to get used to their new ‘digs’, down in Southport (!)
Our new resident wormies are tiger worms. These are what the CSIRO recommend as efficient devourers of vegetable waste and cardboard. Soon, they will be eating happily, pooping merrily and creating castings full of nutrients for our gardens, adding wonderful microcosmic goodness to improve aeration and water retention of our soil.
So we have hundreds of new residents now down at the Gardens… hopefully they like their new home and will be happy gobbling up our scraps, laying eggs, pooping castings and wriggling about as worms love to do.
Building up the worm farm a lá Warwick style is pretty straight forward.
First we picked up some horse manure from the paddock. We were looking for manure that was “cool to cold” – meaning it had sat there for several days already. The ideal manure is of course that of the cows’, but horse is probably second best. We were looking for manure that literally felt cold, the stuff that has dried out and is crumbly. For those familiar with composting, we don’t want the ‘heat’ of the manure to increase in the worm farm and begin to decompose – this would make the farm far too hot for our little wormies!
We manually broke up the clumps a bit then spread the manure to fill around 4/5 of the lowest tub of the farm. We are using one of those round stackable worm farms, but of course there are many receptacles worth considering – bath tubs (Warwick’s choice), wooden, polystyrene or plastic boxes.
On top of the manure, we filled the remaining 5th with shredded paper.
In the tray that sits above the base, we added 5 or so large handfuls of worms, castings, eggs and all (Thank you Warwick!) We then added some food for them, just a bit of shredded lettuce and grated carrot to keep them happy during the short drive from Nerang to Southport…
Once I got the farm back to Southport, I opened the farm’s tap and hosed the paper and manure mix till quite sodden. I left it to drain for 30 minutes to allow the bulk of the water to flow out, after having saturated the manure and paper. The worms can drown (oh, gosh!) so you need to be very careful with watering. In fact, Warwick suggests a watering can of only 3 SECONDS when watering the worms themselves – but I will get back to that soon.
After the dowsing I simply stacked the worm layer on the base and placed a (temporary – need to get a worm blanket) layer of cardboard on top. As the worms were already quite moist from coming directly from Warwick’s ideal conditions, I didn’t water them at all. I did however make sure I felt the moisture of the worms/casting mix in order to maintain the correct level into the future. When they do need re-moistening, I’ll be sure to follow Warwick’s advice of only 3 seconds with the watering can – around the sides and diagonally across the middle. This way the worms won’t get too wet – it’s a bugger fitting hundreds of worms with brollies and gumboots you know!
The worms will enjoy most vegetable and fruit scraps and it makes sense to feed them little more often, say every 3 days, then too much at times further apart. The wormies are such sensitive souls and don’t appreciate rotting food in their farm, they won’t eat it. Citrus and onion should be avoided, as well as bread, pasta and rice. Meat should not be added as to prevent the attraction of rodents or other beasties.
The trick is to keep the wee darlings happy enough so they keep eating, laying eggs and pooping. As more castings are created the volume will increase and extra trays can be added on top. The worms will migrate up to the next tray through the little holes and provided there is enough food for them and conditions are right, they will continue to do their thing, filling up the next tray with castings.
When the lower tray is empty of worms but full of castings, it is time to party gardener style by digging them into the soil. I will be recycling the ‘
beetle worm juice’ that collects in the bottom tray by tipping it back through the top layer. This way I will not lose any dear wormies or their beloved eggs. By this recycling I will be ensuring a grand population of worms in our farm for many moons to come!
I can’t wait to host the first Castings Party at the Gardens… it will be wormderful.