Worm farms are basically just containers where compost worms are doing the work for you and breaking down your organic waste more quickly than a compost bin usually does. So, for impatient gardeners (like me), worm farms are the way to go :) (I generally only use compost bins/heaps when I have A LOT of materials, or materials that need a bit more time to breaking down (such as leaf/twigs/woody clippings and manures) before being used in the garden)
There are a few do’s and don’t’s: worms like a cool, dark space that is moist but not wet (ie free-draining); don’t put them in a hot, sunny place where they will cook. Unlike chooks, they can receive any food that has gone mouldy, but not avocado as it contains a natural fungicide, and its actually the fungus on the decomposing food that the worms eat, more than the food itself. As such, it’s also helpful to cut up the scraps into small pieces so that the surface area is maximised, and the fungus and worms can break it down more quickly (a quick turn-over rate will reduce the likelihood of flies and rodents getting in there). They also don’t particularly like citrus or onion scraps as these are quite acidic, and I personally also avoid giving them any bread, dairy or meat as this can attract rodents, who not only bring disease, but will also eat the worms.
-Provide a cool, dark, moist, free-draining place to live – under a tree or awning is ideal
-Cut food scraps into small pieces
-Soak paper and cardboard before giving it to them – I usually just lay the soaked sheets over the surface and this helps to retain moisture too
-Organic manure – cow, horse, sheep etc manure is perfect but make sure that it is organic (you don’t want any worming treatments that the animal may have received to kill your worms) and soak it in water first, if it has dried out
-Give them too much in one hit; it will go rancid, stink and attract flies, which you don’t want. One of my friends often drops off extra vegie scraps because her larger family produces a lot more than her little worm farm can process. So if you also have this problem, find an obliging friend, or start a compost bin/heap as well, for the excess.
-Avoid avocado, citrus or onion
-Also avoid bread, dairy and meat unless your farm has a nice secure lid
Once your industrious little worms have done their thing, the castings can be collected (being careful to not remove too many of your worms – usually leaving the lid off for a little while will make them move further down into the mix to get away from the light, then you can carefully scrape the castings off the top) and spread around your vegies and fruit trees/shrubs/canes/vines. Your worm castings should have very little smell and are safe enough for even the newest plantings and seedlings (ie they won’t cause nutrient ‘burn’ like synthetic fertilisers can). The worm ‘juice’ that drains out the bottom of the farm can also be diluted 1:10 (or 900mL in a 9L watering can) and used as a ‘tonic’ on your plants every few weeks.