Sunday, July 19, 2009

Creating your own worm community

One of the things I decided to do while Pete was away was to build my own worm farm, or rather - my own worm community. While I am very grateful that there are two large compost bins and two worm farms within our unit block, I had become weary of carrying my compost downstairs every week or so, and then making an additional trip downstairs to my neighbour's worm farm to collect the all-important worm wee for my garden. It was time to get my own worms.
Not satisfied with buying a plastic box complete with its own worms, I had decided to put two of my white styrofoam boxes to good use and make my own. Having helped my brother set up his worm farm not long ago, I felt that this was a project I could manage. There's lots of information on the web about worm farms, but if you're interested, here's how I did it:

Step 1: Doing the research. I enrolled in a free evening course on worm farming through my local council (The Watershed in Newtown). This was completely unexpected, as while I was googling instructions I happened to find out about this course on the same day, and it was really informative. They tell you what worms eat and don't eat, how to care for them, and how long before you can expect to be harvesting worm wee. Then you all crowd around a worm farm and see how it workds. This was when I began to see the worms as real animals, rather than slightly squirmy things.

Step 2: Collecting all the materials. I already had two styrofoam boxes (which we picked up free from the supermarket), and I also collected a milk crate to stand it on (a few bricks will do the trick) a tap (constructed from a small bottle with a long narrow neck), some newspaper, soil, worker's tape, a skewer (or anything to pierce small holes) and some worms (I took my worms from the neighbour's worm farm, but ideally you need about 1,000 of them which you can buy online or from the Watershed).

Step 3: Construction begins. I chose one box to be the ground floor box and the other to be the first floor box. The ground floor box is where the worm wee will collect. The first floor box is their playground. I punched small 1mm holes about 1cm apart in the bottom and in the lid of the first floor box for ventilation, then one larger hole (about the size of the bottle neck) in the ground floor box for the tap and tape the tap in securely so that no water can escape. I then wrote "Aletia's Worm Community" in bright colours on the box, because I wanted it to be a happy place where the worms were valued and comfortable.

Step 4: Preparing the bed. I lined the first floor box with shredded wet newspaper, followed by soil up to a height of about 10cm (or a third of the box). Then I placed the worms on this bedding. When they were ready for bed, I tucked them in. (No, seriously, you have to put about 5-10 layers of wet newspaper as a blanket over the whole bed, as worms don't like sunlight.) It was suggested to me that I wait 2 days before giving them any food, as the newspaper provides them with nutrients while they settle in, but I gave them a few bits of food and then increased it a few days later.

Now they're on a full diet, and I have even noticed baby worms appearing. It is such a delight! I just hope I don't smother them too much - I must let them grow up without interferring in their development.