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I have just inherited a neglected French-design worm farm, and am in need of a little advice.
I lifted the lid for the first time on the worm farm and understand it had been left untouched for a month or two, so I expected I would find a worm graveyard, but to my astonishment (and joy) there was still lots of movement and wriggling at my introducing light.
Also, the bottom of the three layers in the worm farm (having slid it out for a quick look) is a perfect worm-cast block. Very impressed when I saw that. The previous owner did well!
After that I did a bit of watching worm-related videos on youtube and marvelling at the projects some people have undertaken.
To hopefully keep this wormfarm going I put a bunch of stuff in on top of the rather unpleasant looking mash of stuff that must have been put in a while ago.
I added: 2 banana skins, punnet of just-past-their-date cherry tomatoes, a handful of uncooked trimmings from sprouts and asparagus stalks.
I wondered if this was perhaps a pointless attempt at trying to “paper over the cracks” and maybe the worm farm needed more of “cleansing”, especially as some of the previous 'mash' had some mould on it.
I also inherited the garden that the worm farm lives in, which is not looking great after a few months of neglect. Possibly also because we’re just coming out of winter. The flower beds have mostly dead stuff in (maybe they’ll bounce back in the summer? Don’t know on that one.) but I wondered if they might benefit from some of the worm-casts, and also wondered if I could treat the lawn with it.
So although I’m not a gardener and have never taken an interest in the subject - I’d like to see what I can do to breathe a bit of life into the garden – preferably with the help of some turbo-charged worm-casts from the worm farm.
I’ve never even potted a plant before so I’ve obviously got lots more YouTube videos to watch if I am to embrace the world of gardening and succeed.
So following my worm-related efforts and research so far I have a few questions…
1) How long would it take for the worms to munch through what I put in and be looking for a new level of food to move up into? Must admit I was expecting what I put in (listed above) to disappear within a week or two, but it looks like the sprout trimmings and the tomatoes have only got some very small casts on them (Are they casts? They look too small to be casts.) Perhaps the tomatoes needed chopping? Wondered if tomato skins were too much of a challenge for worm teeth?
2) Does the worm farm need “watering”? I wondered if the worms would survive on the moisture from the food alone, or whether they need a drink every so often. I sprinkled in a glass of water and the worms looked to be very animated when I did this, but wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. There is a chute out the bottom into a tray, presumably to catch the worm tea, but the liquid in it looked rusty when I first inherited it, so I tipped it away. After a month or so of my attention, the tray has remained empty so I’m thinking more moisture must be required.
3) Are the worms ill? Some of the larger ones appear to have a streak of a different (more rusty) colour down their sides. Wondering if this is due to the 2 or 3 months of neglect, or dehydration perhaps. Or maybe its normal? I can see lots of little ones in there, so they are obviously happy enough to partake in a little making of baby worms.
4) How often should a tray rotation take place? I obviously need to get that bottom tray out of the farm and use it somewhere and move everything else down a level. Could it be that I am not helping the process by not having moved the levels round for a while?
5) Is it ok to dry out the worm casts and still benefit from their nutrients? Seem to recall having read somewhere that I could dry the casts out and then use it as a ‘powder’ and that would be just as effective in the garden as if it hadn’t been dried out. Would that work? If so – what are the tools to use to dry it out?
6) As I said the garden is in a bad way, so thinking perhaps a small handful of casts sprinkled over a clump of flowers (so that the rain can work it in) might help? There are some potted plants in the greenhouse that I guess it might be worth sprinkling some casts on to too? I read that one can overdo the application and kill what you are trying to grow, so obviously keen to avoid that.
7) Is it worth cleansing the whole farm? I have since picked out the mouldy bits and it looks to be ok, so wondering if I can keep it going without having to give it a clean-out. I’d have to learn how to do that from scratch because I never saw the initial setup and have not built a farm before. I think I’d be keen to avoid that, as I may get it wrong and be annoyed with myself for doing it when I would have been better off leaving it be. The lack of worm tea coming out the bottom is a concern so I’m wondering if a clean-out might get it back producing tea again, or maybe its fine and I just need to correct something else to get it back to top form. That said - what I'm putting in is getting eaten. Quite interesting that the worms seem to have hollowed out the broccoli stalks, leaving the outer stalk shells intact.
Any help on the above would be greatly appreciated. It would be nice to think that I could rescue this farm, and the garden would surely benefit in a number of ways.
The garden is obviously a much bigger project and I’ll need more time to think on that, so it could be that by working on the worm farm and not the garden, I end up with lots of casts to use – but without a completed garden to use them on, but I don’t mind that - I just want to get the worm farm into its healthiest and most productive state and I’m coming at it without any experience.
It looks like there is some impressive knowledge and experience on here though. :-)
I enclose before and after photos of the farm top-down. They were taken a week apart after adding asparagus in a star shape on top of a load of chopped up celery (the white bits) and you can still see the cherry tomatoes showing through from a month ago when I started writing this post. In the top left corner is one of the hollowed out broccoli stalks! Are those tiny dark specs on the celery actually worm casts? I would have expected casts to be bigger than that.
Many thanks in advance for any advice shared.
Hello Morris! Welcome!
1) I avoid putting tomato, onion or citrus in my bin because tomatoes are too acidic and onion and citrus have oils that can harm the worms. The mash works better because it doesn't have to break down naturally before the worms can munch on it. I put all my scraps in the freezer until I need them. When you get ready to use it, take a five gallon bucket or something smaller if your quantity is smaller, then take another container of similar size, drill a few drain holes in it and cover the bottom with screen to keep the good stuff in, letting the liquid into the bottom container. When fully thawed, put in the bin. I used to put the stuff in a blender before freezing, but that got to be a pain.
2) Sometimes there is too much liquid in the food and your castings will get mushy, and when it dries it turns hard as a rock.That's why I drain mine first, then lightly lightly mist the whole top layer. You can add a small amount of finely ground egg shells each time you feed to keep it from getting too acidic in there, also a small amount of fine sand to aid in digestion for the worms. I have heard the "leachate" that collects in the bottom is not good for plants, it contains all the junk the plants ingest (unless you are sure it's all organically grown). To make true worm tea, you need to brew it, or mix castings with water. Brewing is the way to get the most out of what you have. You can search on here how to brew it.
3) Sometimes worms will turn a shade of what they are ingesting. When I was feeding them carrot pulp, they turned slightly orange, when I fed them coffee, they turned very dark brown!
4) Sorry, I am not familiar with that type system, sounds like a worm condo. You can search that on this site or googoo it.I have a flow thru system.
5) I am not positive about whether drying changes the effectiveness, but I do know if you buy it in a bag, it's dry as flour. I take my castings out, spread them out in, well, anything you can spread em out in, let them dry, then run it through a blender to break up small clumps. Large clumps tend to get rock hard. Then I put it in an old spice shaker bottle to dispense.
6) i use about 2 tablespoons of castings on each plant for pots and more for in ground use. Castings feed the soil. They help the soil release nutrients more effectively. Castings have very little nutritional value. Like .5-.5-.5 (that's point 5)
7) Part of this question is answered in #2. You can leave the moldy food in as long its not black or very dark mold. White or light colored mold is ok. You can expect more critters in your bin than just worms. Black soldier fly larvae, spider mites, red mites and others. They all help break down the material. I added you as a friend if you are interested. Happy verming! Jay