Friday, April 1, 2011

Composting and worm farming info

Worms have five hearts and hate sunlight
We have a great compost system in our garden and our compost master Mr Worm is doing a great job monitoring it all. Below is some information from Sydney Organic Gardens to keep in mind and see here for a resent updated by Mr Worm himself! 

Composting and worm farming information provided by Sydney Organic Gardens

Top five things to remember:

1. Moisture – is key, but not too much, not too little. A simple squeeze test is a good way to check if your level is right – grab a handful and give it a squeeze, if no liquid escapes, your compost is too dry, if moisture leaks without even squeezing, your compost is too soggy! Often when it smells there is too much moisture which in turn means there is not enough...

2. Air – for a healthy compost there needs to be enough air, which enables enough oxygen. Aerobic bacteria need air and oxygen to exist and breakdown the what the anaerobic bacteria create, methane. Without air, you have a methane-bomb-like compost.

3. Diversity – it’s all about having the right mix of wet (green leafy veggies etc.) and dry (leaves, hay, straw and newspaper) additions to your compost. Also ensure there are as many different materials in the compost as possible – i.e. Not just cabbage and newspaper. 

4. Life - remember your compost is a living Eco system and it is the life inside that is doing the work.

5. Layers – it is important to both layer the compost in the bins – think of it like a lasagna; after each 10cm deep dry layer, you need an equal amount of wet layer. Also when putting compost in the beds, always layer it under something else like mulch or hessian etc.

COMPOST MASTER: Jos was nominated as the ‘compost master’ making him responsible for regular maintenance (i.e turning) and also reporting back on any issues etc.
It is everyone’s responsibility to keep an eye on the compost systems – checking for rubbish and vandalism etc.

  • Things that should never go into the compost bins include – meats, bread and domestic animal poo, any artificial matter
  • Don’t let it get too wet – this can be very problematic

Fast v. slow – A fast compost system is filled at one time, generally ready after 2 weeks, and moved intermittently. A slow compost is one which you can add to daily (i.e. scraps) but the same rules apply so you need to be sure to have a healthy mix of wet and dry.
We currently have three fast compost systems but will aim to have a rotation system and slow solutions too. We'll work on a strategy!

SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE: The folks at Sydney Organic Gardens suggested to check out Newtown community garden for a really good example of successful composting systems.

Worm farming
  1. The very bottom layer is for catching the ‘worm juice’ (basically their excretions) and should be filtered with the coconut layer you receive in the worm farm kit. Always make sure the ‘tap’ is turned on or else you risk drowning your worms and have a bucket below the tap to catch the precious juice
  2. The next layers are the worms’ home – once one layer reaches its limit, add another for the worms to move up into and live
  3. A lid – worms are very fragile creatures and need protection from the elements.

  • Once the worm farm has been constructed and the worms have been fed, leave them for a week.
  • After a week, give the worms some more food (leafy greens / compost type scraps etc.) and leave again until all of the food has been eaten.
  • Don’t overfeed your worms (i.e. give them more food when there is still uneaten food) - this is one of the biggest problems you can face!
  • As your worm farm fills up, add a new layer (you’ll be ready to do so once you reach the specified limit of worm castings on the side of the layer)
  • Worm fluid only needs to be slightly diluted and you will have a really rich fertilizer
  • Like compost, when using your worm castings in the garden, always cover them with mulch – otherwise, they will dry out and become redundant
  • If healthy and working well the worm farm shouldn't smell – apparently people have them inside their homes on kitchen benches and even as coffee table!

  • Worms have five hearts and hate sunlight
  • Despite being hermaphrodites need two to mate in order to lay fertile eggs
  • If you start with 1,000 worms within 6 months you'll be up to about 20,000
  • Worms are very delicate – treat them like you would a cut on human skin - as such, they don't like citrus, chili or anything that stings! 

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