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Worm farms and composting

Did you know that every year Victorians throw away enough food to fill the MCG five times? Just imagine how much less waste we’d be dumping in our landfills if we all started composting and worm farming. Composting and worm farming is fantastic for creating a healthy garden.

What items can I use in a compost and worm farm?

  • Acceptable
  • Fresh plants material (but not weeds, diseased plants or rose prunings)
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds, tea leaves, tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Chicken and cow manure
  • Shredded paper and cardboard
  • Straw
  • Damp leaves and grass clippings

What items can't I use in a compost and worm farm?

  • Unacceptable
  • Onions, chilli, garlic, meat, dairy, fats and bone
  • A large amount of citrus or highly acidic foods
  • Large branches
  • Pesticide sprayed waste
  • Weeds and diseased plants
  • Rose prunings
  • Treated pine sawdust/shavings
  • Metal, plastic and glass
  • Toilet waste

Worm farming

What is worm farming?

Worm farming is a really easy way to reduce the amount of waste you place in the bin. By putting your food scraps and other waste into a worm farm, you’ll end up with a rich fertiliser called worm castings, which is excellent for gardening.

How to start and maintain your worm farm

  • Pick a spot out of the direct sunlight for your worm farm to live. In the winter months, you can move them to a sunnier spot for warmth.
  • There are three levels to the worm farm; the bottom, middle and top. Line the middle layer in newspaper and cardboard. Cut it to fit.
  • Soak the bedding block that comes with your worm farm in water for 30 minutes and spread it over the newspaper/cardboard base. If you don’t have a bedding block you can use compost.
  • Add your worms and cover them with a few sheets of damp newspaper and a hessian sack or t-shirt. Put the lid back on and you’re done!
  • After your middle layer is full, you can start using the top layer. Place the food scraps in and cover it with the sack or a shirt.
  • The worms will gradually start feeding and living up the top.
  • Turn over your soil using a garden fork to aerate your work farm

Where can I buy a worm farm?

The Castlemaine Landfill is currently selling worm farm trays for $20.00 each. This does not come with the worms or the soil and stock is limited. If you miss out, there are plenty of online retailers which will happily sell you worm farms including the worms and soil.

How to use your product in the garden

Worms create two types of fertilizer: solid and liquid. The solid fertiliser, also known as “worm castings”, will develop in the middle and top layers and will be ready for harvest every 4-6 months. Just scrape away the top level and harvest the castings – they look like rich, dark soil.

The liquid fertiliser is worm wee, and will accumulate at the bottom of the worm farm. Just turn the tap at the bottom and empty the liquid into a container. Dilute one part wee with seven parts water for a great fertiliser.

Handy worm farming tips

  • Worms will eat approximately their weight in food each day, so a few handfuls every few days should be more than enough.
  • If you cut the food up into smaller pieces the worms can eat it more easily.
  • Give your worms a balanced diet; take a few different items from the ‘Acceptable’ list above and mix it up for your worms.
  • If your worm farm smells, remove any rotten food. You’re probably over-feeding your worms and the food is not getting eaten.
  • Turn over your soil to aerate it.
  • When you squeeze the soil, a little bit of water should drip out. If it doesn’t, spray it with a bit of water.
  • If there are other insects in your farm, don’t worry about it. They also play a role in decomposition.
  • If you have ants, your worm farm is too dry
  • Don’t worry about going away, worms can live for 4 weeks without fresh food. Just put damp newspaper on top and put it in a damp location. Leave your worm juice tap open with a container underneath it.

Composting

What is composting?

Composting food scraps, newspaper and garden waste breaks them down to a really nutrient rich soil with the help of bacteria, millipedes and earthworms. The end product is perfect for your garden because it adds important bacteria and nutrients to the soil.

Where can I buy a compost bin?

The Castlemaine Landfill is currently selling compost bins for $20.00 each. There is only limited stock. If you miss out, there are plenty of local organizations such as The Hub Foundation that can point you in the right direction or you can pick one up from your local hardware shop.

How to compost?

  • Step 1: Take your course materials such as leaves, prunings, newspaper and cardboard and put them on the bottom of your bin.
  • Step 2: Start to layer different types of waste on top, alternating between garden waste/food scraps and soil. This way, it won’t attract flies or smell.
  • Step 3: Once a week, turn over your compost mix with a garden fork. This will help speed up the break down process. After you turn it over, cover it with soil. Add some water if the compost material doesn’t feel damp.
  • Step 4: Add a thin layer of damp, shredded paper or cardboard once a week. This will also speed up the process.

Handy composting tips

  • If you chop your food scraps up, you’ll speed up the decomposition process.
  • Keep the air circulating by turning it over.
  • Keep it covered.
  • If your compost smells, it’s probably too wet and you need to add some cardboard or newspaper.
  • If your compost is attracting animals, you probably have some meat, dairy or oils in your compost.
  • If your compost contains ants it may be too dry – add some water.
  • If your compost is not breaking down, make sure you have an even balance of wet items and dry items

How to use compost in your garden

When your compost smells like soil and is crumbly, it’s ready to use in your garden.
You can dig it into your garden beds, put it under trees, plants and bushes as mulch or use it as potting mix.

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