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Feeding Worms & using worm castings

WHAT CAN I FEED MY WORMS?...

The short answer is ‘anything that was once living’.  However, meat and bread isn’t great to put in a worm farm as it will attract rodents and be quite smelly. 

Best to stick to material like:

  • Vegie peelings and scraps (small scraps break down faster)
  • Leftover cooked vegetables are fine too
  • Hair - human or pet
  • Dust (empty your vacuum cleaner into a worm farm!)
  • Garden waste (although large pieces won’t break down quick enough.)  Shredded material or leaves is OK.
  • Lawn clippings (in small amounts are fine.)
  • Damp shredded paper, newspaper and cardboard
  • Cloth - natural fibres like cotton, linen, wool, hessian
  • Coffee grinds, tea leaves and tea bags
  • Egg shells (crushed is best.)

Animal droppings CAN be disposed of in a worm farm but there are things to consider:

  • If pets have been recently wormed, this will kill off your worms in the worm farm.
  • Pet faeces can contain harmful bacteria.  Don’t use product from a worm farm fed pet droppings on vegetable crops.  (It’s fine for flowering ornamentals and general garden plants).
  • Don’t over feed worms on pet poop.  If the ratio of animal droppings to worms is wrong, you will have excess poop breeding flies and generally going nasty!

Some people keep a worm farm specifically for pet droppings, as they find it easier to manage as a separate entity.

Monitor your worm farm to ensure you don’t over feed worms.

If your worm farm is rank and smelly, cut back on feeding for a while and monitor how much food the worms are getting through. 

A sprinkling of dolomite once a week over the surface is also beneficial to ensure conditions do not become too acidic.

 

HOW DO I HARVEST MY WORMS, OR CASTINGS?

Once your worm farm has been operating for at least a few months or more, you may wish to harvest castings, or remove some of the worms to use elsewhere.

The easiest way to do this is by using light, as worms will always go deeper to try and remain in the dark.

You can simply remove the lid from the worm farm for about an hour and remove castings from the top layer. The worms will be hiding deeper so you shouldn't be collecting too many.

Or, if it is the worms you wish to harvest, there are a couple of methods you can try. 

Worms love high protein, fine cereals like pollard (used as burley by fishermen).  If you sprinkle a light layer of this on top of your worm farm for a couple of days, you should find the worms will be close to the surface, and you can scoop them out.

Or another way is to spread the castings out over a piece of corrugated iron, and leave it for about half an hour.  Worms will go as deep as possible into the corrugated spaces, meaning you can sweep the castings off the top, then collect worms from each downward row of corrugations.

 

WHAT ARE CASTINGS GOOD FOR?

Worm castings are full of beneficial soil microbes that will help your plants grow, and access nutrients.  Castings will also contain worm eggs (that will hatch and give you more worms!), and castings are naturally very water absorbant.

They are ideal to use incorporated into seed raising mix and potting mix, or use a handful in planting holes with young plants or seedlings.  It is always best to incorporate castings into the soil rather than leave them on top - once they dry out, they can be very water repellent and also you lose the wonderful benefits of microbial activity in the castings (soil microbes need moisture to live - just like us!).

Try steeping a cup of castings in a bucket of water.  Allow to steep for a day then drain off the liquid to use as a liquid tonic for your garden.

More information on keeping live worms can be found in this fact sheet (click here).

 


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