Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

It is just possible, thanks to the humble compost worm, that I can officially label myself ‘Not quite as lazy as I thought I was’.

Why? Because I recently read in a popular Australian gardening magazine that worm farms were ‘just too much effort’ to maintain. Now that is lazy.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a garden helper as low maintenance and hard-working as a compost worm. Well, maybe an earthworm. Or a microbe…but that’s not the point!

To be fair, I think the writers were judging the effort required from the first couple of weeks of setting up the worms, which still isn’t anything like herculean, but is not really an indicator of the level of effort required once the worms are established.

Draining lovely 'worm tea' for the garden.

I put my ‘worm farm’ back into use in January. I did muck about a bit for a week or two getting the worms set up and working out how much compost to feed them. I worried that I would accidently starve them so I overfed them more than once, but I think it is a pretty standard mistake to make.Ā  Worms eat very little when they are settling in.

If you do accidentally overfeed your worms it is easily solved. You can transfer the excess to the compost bin or add a little lime (I did read somewhere to use dolomite lime, not garden lime…but I’d already added garden lime before I’d read that and the worms are still there happily chewing away).

Worms feeding in the recently added second level tray. They will gradually move up into this tray, then the next, allowing the castings in the lower levels to be used.

Now, in early winter, I check the worms a couple of times a week (I was peeking in more often in hot weather)Ā  and I might feed them on one or both of those occassions…or not. If there is still food they haven’t finished, I just keep going past the compost worms to the compost bin with my scraps.

There are a few basics to keep in mind for compost worms, such as:

  • Avoid onions and limit the amount of citrus and other acidic scraps (having said that, my worms seem to be quite partial to strawberry tops)
  • Avoid meats and anything cooked in oils etc
  • Keep the worms in the shade or undercover (mine have done just fine under ‘Mother Maple’ through the hot summer)
  • The worms might need a little water added if it is hot and dry, but generally the food scraps and the worms ‘output’ keep things nicely damp. It doesn’t hurt to flush them out from time to time anyway and it means you get some (slightly more dilute) worm ‘tea’ (ok, yes, wee!) a little faster.

The first tray is now almost ready to 'harvest' for castings (it does not fill all the way up as the next tray sits quite deeply into it)

Many places also recommend that you chop up worm food finely and I’ve seen pictures of people putting worm food in a blender… but I have not found it necessary to do anything but tear larger pieces of compost up a little. If you’ve got a bit of a mix of compost that is older/softer (such as overripe bananas – worms looooove bananas) and some newer stuff they will manage ok over the course of a few days without the aid of a food processor.

And as for the benefits? My plants love it! A little diluted worm wee is just the trick for a plant suffering from transplant shock, a plant that is looking a bit sad and tired, or for helping newly emerged seedlings get a good start in life.

My daughter's 'Chocolate Lily' that had almost died before a couple of doses of worm wee.

The worm wee must be good stuff, because I’ve just discovered that the little Chocolate Lily Arthropodium strictum (that has flowers about the size of a thumbnail) should flower here from September to December and I don’t think it is flowering because it is about to die!

It is recommended to use worm wee as you would seaweed preparations and suggested that you dilute it anything from one part in 5 to 10. It is good to know that even if you used worm wee without diluting it doesn’t burn plants like other fertilisers would. However, it is better to dilute it as you can make it go a lot further that way.

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Comments on: "Compost Worms. The perfect pet for the lazy gardener!" (9)

  1. Much easier than a new puppy…which I am finding out these days. I have never thought to have a worm farm. It is a lot cheaper than buying the organic products! Obviously, your little flower loves the worm wee. šŸ™‚ Also, your white bouquet that you made is very pretty!!

  2. Great post, Heidi. Very informative and lots of helpful advice. Like Amy though … I’m another one who’s never tried a worm farm. We do have one at my school and the students help keep it stocked … I have to say the worm tea certainly helps the vegie garden at school.

    That little Chocolate Lily is so lovely … too lovely to lose!

  3. Hi Heidi: Good post, we worm farm. This our first year have had a few ups and downs but overall OK.

    Enjoy your day,
    John

  4. What great information….especially for those who tend to quit after a first attempt. I think that the extra work at the beginning is so worth it….your daughter’s chocolate lily, certainly would agree, I think.

  5. Bravo, Heidi. I’m so glad they’re doing so well for you! They look kinda cute, nestled among their scraps. Do I see a bit of dryer lint in there?

    My poor worms, on the other hand, have now died in the heatwave. I tried my best, but it didn’t work out. They were living in the basement beneath the house to try and survive these temperatures, but even that wasn’t cool enough, apparently. It makes me very sad and guilty-feeling, but the only other thing I could have done to make them cooler was to drag them into the living room with the AC unit on, and nobody wanted that. And that’s assuming, of course, that it’s the heat that did them in. I’m at a loss to explain it otherwise, as we’d had them for almost a year now and no problems. I probably won’t attempt a worm farm again unless we end up moving further north after graduation… boo hoo! šŸ˜¦

  6. Great post! I haven’t ventured into pet compost worms yet…beyond the ones that naturally find their way into our compost bins. I’d love to set up a worm box though, as worm castings and worm tea simply can’t be beat for the garden…and buying such black gold could easily send one to the poor house (it’s very expensive here). Your tea looks fabulous, and it goes such a long way as it’s so concentrated. Of course, we have a problem in that to set up a worm box, we’d have to explain to the chickens why they’re not getting all the kitchen scraps anymore šŸ˜›

  7. Very nice post! I was thinking of getting a worm farm, but my compost pile and composter provides enough worms. If not them, I’d get the farm. You give very useful informatiom. Good luck!

  8. Hello everyone,
    thanks you for your lovely comments – sorry I have not replied, but I have been a bit unwell these last couple of days šŸ˜¦ I’ll be back in action soon!
    Sorry to hear about your worms Meredith – the only extra thing I might have suggested was to flush them out with cool water, but from memory your worm tub wasn’t set up for that anyway. Hopefully you can have some up and running again one day!

  9. Heidi – how awesome! This takes gardening to a whole new level… you’re my hero. (Maybe this is passe’ to expert gardeners, but I sure think it’s cool.) -Shyrlene

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