Wiggly Workers

G Magazine

Composting is a great way to deal with your kitchen scraps, but why not get some wiggly worms on the job instead?


Credit: iStockphoto

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Worms. They writhe. They're slimy. They're fleshy.

And they are also fantastic for your garden and the environment.

Commercial worm farmer Paul Harrey from Worms Downunder says Australians produce two million tonnes of food and green waste every year - of this, 90 per cent goes to landfill.

At the tip, the organic matter takes up precious space and slowly decomposes, producing methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

"If every house had a worm farm, we could probably take one million tonnes out of the waste-to-landfill system," Harrey says.

You can easily make your own farm from old bins, buckets and so on - anything that will contain kitchen scraps, with some sort of drainage (so the worms don't drown when it rains) and a vermin-proof lid.

Basic commercially produced worm farms range in price from $60 to $100 and can be purchased, along with the worms, from garden centres, hardware stores, online or even from some councils.

Common garden worms are not up to the job - Tiger worms (Eisenia fetida), Indian blues (Perionix excavatus/spenceralia) and Red wrigglers are recommended (Eisenia andrei) and you'll need at least 1,000 worms to establish your farm.

Getting Started

Farms are generally round or rectangular - the shape doesn't affect the farm's performance, rather the space it fits into.

  1. Ensure the lid has holes to allow air and water to pass through.
  2. Place the farm in a cool, shaded spot with a container underneath to collect the draining worm juice. Remember that worms like to stay moist.
  3. Settle your worms in on a bed of shredded newspaper with a light meal of vegie scraps.
  4. Once the worms have eaten most of the food, give them more. The worms will multiply and within a year will be eating about as much food as you can give them.

DO GIVE THEM: kitchen scraps, tea leaves and coffee grounds, torn-up paper, dry leaves and crushed eggshells.

AVOID: garlic, chilli, citrus fruit, onions, dairy, meat and oily food.

Steer clear of pet poo as it can contain harmful bacteria or residual worming medication that will poison your earthworms. Manure from horses, cows, chooks, goats and sheep is suitable though.

Worm juice (worm wee) makes excellent plant fertiliser, but it is very strong so dilute with water - about 1:10 parts. The resulting mixture should look like weak tea.

Worm castings (worm poo) also make a great soil conditioner - crumble and sprinkle some around a shrub or pot plant or dig it into your garden beds.

Escapee worms will not survive in the garden, as they are adapted to nutrient-rich worm-farm living and can't live in the wild.