Introduction: Worm Farm
What you will need;
- Bath: a standard domestic bath (at least 6 foot long)
- A stand (this can range from blocks of wood to a built stand - see photo examples of my three later)
- Bucket: 10-20 litre
- Shredded paper: couple of big bags (start only)
- Pebbles: approx 25 litre bag about 20-30mm size)
- Insect screen: approx 200mm x200mm
- Broken bricks: half bucket
- Roof material(sheet of iron, packing case lid...)
- Carpet: cut to fit bath out line inner.
The picture below is my latest bath worm farm, the rolls royce of worm farms i am calling it, a light tin bath mounted on a welded tube frame(recycled from an old trampoline- guess who finally got a welder)
Step 1: Whats a Worm Farm
There are three parts to a worm farm,
1.) The basement Sewer -yellow- (were the wonderful plant nutrient "worm pee" collects)
2.) The middle floor Bedroom -Dark Green-(who wants to sleep in basement?)
3.) The bottom floor - Basement drains -Lime Green-(we want to collect the worm wee)
The majority of commercially produced worm farms have separate containers for each of these function areas.
This has two distinct advantages in that;
- The basement can be used as a worm pee tank and access via a tap is easy
- House keeping is easy in that you just lift off a box and access the room you wish
The disadvantages of the separate containers includes;
- The size or volume of the farm is constrained by your access to the individual containers (ie you need to be able to lift them)
- The bedding material must be topped up to the bottom of the food container.
In the bath farm, the rooms are are present in layers and thus care must be taken in to ensure the farm is always free draining so the "basement" doesn't flood the "bedrooms!"
Step 2: Construction - Step 1
You need to achieve a height and method that allows you to place a suitable bucket under the plug hole, while remaining safe as the bath can gain a bit of weight when the residents move in with all their furniture and food.
- My first farm was elevated on wooden blocks. (photo 2a)As it was a cast bath it stayed put with out a problem, however it was so heavy i had to use scissor jacks to lift it - very delicate and potentially dangerous - a controlled fall at one stage bent a scissor jack with ease...!
- My second farm we built for a primary school, so we built a custom pole frame cut from a fallen pine tree and bits out of a near by skip - it was a light tin bath so this kept it secure.(photo 2)
- My third farm - the rolls, as you have seen - a custom steel tube frame.(photo 2b)
- The play center farm, built strong parents to resist the inquisitive youngsters..(photo 2c)
Once you have reached your ideal height, lay a the spirit level along the inside bottom of the bath (photo3a&b) and prop up the end oppisite the plug hole so there is a natural fall to the hole.
Step 3: Basement Construction
- Place a piece of fly screen over the old plug hole (plug removed) and weight down around the side with the broken bricks
- Pour your bag of pebbles into the bath, spreading out over the base about 1-2inchs and piling a little over the plug hole(photo 5)
Step 4: The Bed Room Construction
Fill the bath to the top with shredded paper(Photo 6). This is only required for starting the farm.(more later when it comes to harvest)
Dampen down with the hose, (Photo 7)so it sinks. If the paper sinks more than a couple of inchs, top up and re water.
Don't use newspaper or glossy paper as its full of ink and the worms tell me they get a headache eating the stuff. (they do eventually eat out their bedding too during mid night snacks)
- The first farm i built i used a wooden crate lid, and when that rotted out i replaced it with one i made with wood and a sheet of roofing iron, hinged at one side (Photo next to green house)
- The roof of the second farm for the school, we made from a wooden table top.
- The roof for my latest farm(Picture 8b) Roofing iron over a welded steel frame with wood inserts
- the roof of the play centre farm ( Picture 8c)
The Food and the Workers
- Once its all damped down - add your vege scraps on top(Photo 9)
- Chuck in your worms - ive just added castings from my old farm - here is and indication of how its going to be;-) (Photo 10)
Step 5: Dining Room Construction
Worms are introduced to their new bedding along with some soil from their last house.(contains worm eggs) Then you start adding the food directly on top of the bedding.
Cut out your carpet to cover the food layer to the edges of the bath - this keeps the fruit flys down.
If you are starting fresh then then you need worms. Technically i understand there are at least two types of worms in New Zealand, those that live in the humus (compost layer) and those that live deeper.
I have always used the compost worms without difficulty, trapping them by placing pieces of carpet or commercial 40 litre bags of potting mix (how i discovered this) flat in the garden for a few days to a week, then harvesting when i lift.
You can also by worms in a box from some garden stores / Hardware stores.
Food of the kind that worms like best needs to be served in the dining room on at least at a weekly basis, if not daily as we do with the vegetable scraps.
Worms dont attually directly eat the food you put in, rather they wait for the microbe population to reduce it to an appertising mush. Generally thus we dont add meat scraps of any kind and, only citrus or onions skins(really slow to break down) when we are kind enough to pre mush the food - ie using a liquadiser.
All other kinds of food are ok, just break up the large bits and maybe break open things like pumpkins or stalks...
Shower and Drinking water.
All worm farms need to be kept moist, the bigger the farm the easier that is, this one we rarely added water - relying on rain water coming through the cracks in the roof. In a more dry enviroment you will need to add a weekly shower to the list, using about a 5 litre watering can fully each week or so - you will work out your level.
Step 6: Time to Empty
Then about a 6 months to a year later when all that yummy food has been consumed and the dining room has increased in size to almost fill the bath, its time to have a clean out.
i don't try and separate worms from castings, with a good food supply they regenerate rapidly any way. I just remove the layer of vege scraps on top, and dig out the castings, leaving a layer about 3 inch's think over the drain pebbles to restart the farm.
At this point you don't need to add more shredded paper, pile your vege scraps straight on to the remaining layer and away it goes again.
Well feed worms make more worms... as simple as that - you can if you look closely see little white eggs,(cocoons)hence the reason for including handfuls of worm casts in any new start.
There is plenty of information, regarding worms on the Internet - it pays to get to know your workers just like any big boss.