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.
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. 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).
Now, in early winter, I check the worms a couple of times a week (I was peeking in more often in hot weather) 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.
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.
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.