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Worms at Work, part 2

By Helena Foster, Community Gardener at Wodonga Middle Years College

With my admiration for these marvels of nature firmly established in last week’s issue, now a few tips to encourage worm activity in our own backyards.

Nature works in wonderful ways: as soon as the conditions are right, the creatures move in.  A thick layer of organic mulch and adequate moisture level will attract a few different varieties of earth worms to our garden beds. They will move in and out depending on moisture content of the soil- great when it rains, not so good in dry times.

By setting up a worm farm we can ensure a continuous supply of worm castings to distribute on our garden. There are several different designs available in nurseries and hardware shops, but it is just as easy to set one up yourself. The size of your worm farm it will depend on the size of your garden – it can be anything from a single plastic bucket to a battery of several bath tubs. The important considerations are that your container is rust- proof, UV stable and free-draining. Positioning is also very important; the best place is the coolest shady part of the garden, where your worm farm will never be exposed to direct sunlight. 

Worms have 4 basic needs in order to thrive: 

  •  food– paper, cardboard, cotton, wool, grass clippings, vegetarian kitchen scraps( not too much citrus or onion);
  •  moisture– they breathe through their skin, extracting oxygen from moisture in the soil . A regular sprinkling of water will keep your worms healthy but adequate drainage should be provided so  the system doesn’t go stagnant and the worms don’t drown;
  • ventilation– a tight lid will suffocate or overheat the worms;  a loose lid is needed to keep pests out and to protect the farm from flooding in heavy rain;
  • darkness– worms are light sensitive and extended exposure to light will kill them.

Worm farms need little attention and to a gardener the benefits of having one are obvious.

My aim is to encourage everyone to set up a worm farm- it is the most ecologically sound way of disposing of our kitchen waste- if you don’t have a garden, give your castings to someone who has.

For more worm facts go to: 
www.wodonga.vic.gov.au/council/services/sustainability/guide or www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories