Alanna Smith : First, catch your Red wrigglers …

Saturday May 09, 2020 Written by Alanna Smith Published in Environment

OPINION: The interest in home gardening has taken off around the island thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture’s recent home gardening packages.

From homemade raised gardens to new keyhole gardens, little sprouts of all sorts and forms have slowly come to life in the backyards of local homesteads.

This week marked the start of International Compost Week, a week created to raise awareness around the importance of composting, its organic value and its environmental benefits. It reduces the amount of organic material being sent to the landfill or being burned.

Composting can be achieved through various methods, from the use of wood chippers for large organic waste to compost bins for smaller organic material such as fruit or vegetable scraps.

Another fun concept used to make compost is through a worm farm unit. Not only do composting worms help with the breaking down of organic material to make rich compost, but they also produce worm tea, which can be used as an organic fertiliser.

Worm farm systems can be expensive, but they can also be just as effective by making your own homemade worm farm from recycled wood, plastics, metals, old tyres and even old bath tubs.

Easy-to-build homemade worm farms, designed by local Karen Tairea, require five different types of recyclable materials: three plastic tubs, one small pot plant, one tap (can use hose), one 44-gallon drum lid, and one potato sack.

Firstly, ensure your three containers are around 20-40cm deep with a relatively large surface area (about 40cm x 40-60cm) because worms like to work near the surface.

Worms need air to live, so put a few small holes in the bottom of two of your containers and in the centre of one of your containers to allow for aeration and drainage. If the contents get too wet then more holes will have to be drilled.

Your bin with holes in the centre of the container will act as the base for your worm farm. Place a small pot plant over the centre of your drilled holes to act as a plug to prevent worm tea from dripping out but allowing for air to pass through the bottom of the worm farm. Insert a small tap or hose at the bottom of this container for your worm tea to drain out of.

Place one of the other containers with multiple holes on top of the base container. Ensure you lay a potato sack at the bottom of this middle container to prevent any solids passing through to the base container.

Place the last container with multiple holes drilled on top of the middle container. Fill this container up with compost three-quarters of the way.

Now it’s time to find your worms. You can’t just put any old worm into your worm farm, you need a particular type of compost worm also known as a “Red wriggler” or “Indian blue”.

These skinny worms typically feed closer to the surface, as opposed to the earth worm which are fatter and found deeper down the soil column. You can usually find composting worms within the top soil layer or around muddy pig pens.

You will need about 100 of these worms to start off your worm farm bin. From this population they will multiply into thousands if looked after correctly.

Once you have placed your worms into their new home, ensure you feed them with your vegetable and fruit scraps. Then place a lid on top of your worm farm to let all the composting action begin!

If you need any more information in how to maintain a healthy worm farm swing by into the Te Ipukarea Society office, main road Tupapa so we can provide you with more information.

> Te Ipukarea Society


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