When I started growing my own vegetables, I knew that I wanted to use organic gardening methods. And the best way to fertilise is to make your own compost. This has the added benefit of reducing kitchen waste as it is recycled back into the garden.
I tried several methods of composting, but nothing worked for me. This was a huge disappointment because I really wanted to make my own compost and grow organic vegetables. Finally I tried a compost worm farm and it was so much easier than I expected!
I’m not one to stick to the rules, so I’ve pushed the boundaries and discovered that much of what you read about compost worms is a complete myth. They are actually really easy to look after. Here’s what I’ve learnt from my compost worm farming adventures:
Myth 1: Compost worms are fussy eaters
You will find a list of things that compost worms apparently don’t eat, however I threw away the list and put anything organic (i.e. anything that was once alive) into the worm farm. This includes citrus peels and onion, I even given them the odd scrap of meat or cheese. Compost worms enjoy anything that is rotting, they actually feed off the bacteria, rather than the plant material. As long as you don’t fill your worm farm with acidic scraps, they will consume it eventually. You can also throw in a bit of lime and other minerals to help balance the pH and to make even better worm compost (vermicast). I also put shredded paper, weeds and cow manure in my worm farm. I find that the worms particularly enjoy hiding in avocado skins and eggshells.
Myth 2: Compost worms don’t live in your garden
At first I thought I had to be really careful to pick out all the compost worms when I wanted to use any of the vermicast in my garden. Most information about compost worms states that they will die in your garden. Then I got lazy and just scooped the compost out when I needed it, compost worms and all. Then I read that compost worms actually attract other earthworms in your garden! And as long as you are putting tasty mulch and manure on your garden, that will start to rot, the worms will have plenty to eat and will hang around.
Worms help to build great soil by incorporating nutrients and improving soil texture, so I am keen to attract all types of worms to my garden. I now make sure that I get some compost worms in every handful of compost, and I regularly see all types of worms in my vegetable garden.
Myth 3: Worm wee must be diluted and poured on the roots of the plant
How do you know how much to dilute it? I gave up and used in undiluted, no problems so far. Possibly this is because I flush the entire worm farm every few days and collect the fresh worm wee (vermijuice!) rather than just letting it drip out the tap naturally. That means it is not as concentrated to start with, and it is very fresh.
I also learnt that the main benefit from fresh vermijuice is the good bacteria, not so much the nutrients. It can actually help your plants to pour this over the leaves as well as into the soil, just be sure to rinse your vegetables before eating. This is why it is better to flush the worm farm and use the vermijuice right away, as you get maximum good bacteria and no time for anaerobic bacteria to breed.
Think big! It's easy!
I started with a small compost worm farm from the supermarket and a handful or worms. I now have an old bath-tub converted into a compost worm farm. I keep this topped up with kitchen scraps and cow manure, and I have a constant supply of both vermicast and vermijuice. All my kitchen scraps are consumed by the dogs, the chickens or the wormfarm, so my overall waste is reduced.
If you want to know more about compost worms, I reviewed an excellent book called Organic Farming with Worms which gave me the confidence to bust some of these myths and expand my own compost worm farming capability (you can read my full review here).
I really hope this will encourage you to try compost worm farming for yourself, its not as hard as it sounds!
Liz Beavis is a small-scale cattle farmer and soap-making beekeeper in rural Queensland, Australia. On her Eight Acres Farm, she sells beef-tallow soaps, honey and beeswak, and is the author of Our Experience with House Cows, A Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens and Chicken Tractors, Make Your Own Natural Soap, and the Solar Bore Pump Handbook. Connect with Liz on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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