…”If you don’t stop for us, we’ll do it on the bus!” went the chant on the old school bus.
Well, we wanna bit of worm wee! And worm poo for that matter. So I got to work and emptied the rusty, loose-lidded old mega worm farm ready for its repairs. Mum and a neighbour responded to the call for broccoli boxes, of which two have been set up as new worm farms and installed under our shady stone fruit trees to drip-feed the roots with worm wee (DIY instructions below). A third is full of castings and a good many worms. By this stage I had dug halfway down the contents of the worm farm and was into pure gold – old, sweet, rich, gooey castings – that all went into the wheelbarrow with a good thick blanket of shredded paper and shadecloth on top to protect the remaining worms against the sun. I have been tucking little nuggets of it under the mulch around my vegies in the days since…
But there were still more riches to come. The layer of shadecloth at the base of the worms’ living quarters was damaged but still mostly in one piece, and so thickly impregnated with castings that I could barely lift it out! When rolled up, it filled a 20-litre bucket. Washing the castings out of it would have been a waste, because they are best applied to the garden frequently and in small doses, not great bucketloads, and I didn’t want to be storing great volumes of wormy brew for later use. So I tipped the whole bundle into a large plastic pot and placed it in the middle of my tomato bed in order to sprinkle it whenever I’m watering there, and thus use it as slow-release fertiliser for months to come.
This provided the solution for the next layer of the worm farm as well… the 15cm-deep coarse gravel layer installed at the base to facilitate drainage. Over the past two years it had become clogged with a thick slurry of castings. So instead of trying to separate castings from gravel, this mixture also went into pots – about 15 of them – which I nestled into the lucerne mulch around the fruit trees. Again, when hand watering (or if it ever rains properly!) the water can trickle through and give the tree roots a dose of wormy goodness. I hope that the many worms that were hiding even in this layer can make their way into the mulch around the garden and carry on their quiet revolution there.
In this age of distributed power, distributed media, distributed everything, it seems only fitting to try distributed worm farming. After all, it was slightly artificial to gather thousands of them into a bathtub for a two-year-long party in the first place.
OOPS, nearly forgot the DIY instructions.
- 1 polystyrene broccoli box with lid
- 3 shovelsful of coarse gravel
- shadecloth approx 1m x 50cm
- 1 bucketful of expanded coir (soak coir block in water for 1/2 hr first)
- 2 shovelsful of worms
- shredded paper (approx A-B of the old Yellow Pages for instance)
- 1 cup food scraps
- a few litres of water
- Turn box upside down and use a pencil etc to poke 4 drainage holes in the base. (I put the holes close to the middle so I can stand the worm farm on a large bucket any time I want to collect the liquid.)
- Punch the lid full of ventilation holes – small so as not to let birds and mice in too easily (they can of course eat through the box sooner or later).
- Place a layer of gravel in the base of the box for drainage.
- Lay out the shade cloth so it covers the base and the two long sides of the box, with the ends hanging out over the long sides. These ends will form a blanket over the worm habitat.
- Half-fill the box with moist coir fibre – this is the basis for the worm habitat. If the worms come with plenty of castings from their old home, you don’t need as much coir.
- Place a snack on top (a cup of food scraps or some lettuce leaves etc)
- Cover with 2-5cm layer of shredded paper, sit box in a cool, well-shaded spot (e.g. under fruit tree) and water well.
- Fold the shadecloth ends over the paper, replace the holey lid and sit a brick on top so the lid won’t blow off.
- Water and top up food every few days as long as the worms are getting through it. As consumption speeds up, increase food supply. Keep moist but not drenched. Check occasionally that it’s not waterlogged at the bottom.
- Move the worm farm to a different shady spot every few weeks to spread the goodness around the garden.
- After a few months, start using the castings at the bottom of the worm farm to make Worm Poo Brew and fertilise plants! (1 handful of castings mixed well into a bucket of water, then dilute to weak tea colour in watering can.)