Mostly on this blog, I talk about food. But today I'm going to talk about the by-product of that food -- poop. Not human poop, but worm poop. That shit (ha!) is awesome.
We live in a unit, with a very small, paved back garden. A compost heap is out of the question in our space, but 90% of our rubbish is fruit & vegetable bits and pieces - carrot ends, soy bean skins, cabbage outer leaves, avocado peels, grape stems, apple cores, and so on. Throwing that in the regular rubbish seems wasteful, and it makes our regular rubbish smelly, and much more voluminous than it needs to be. So shortly after we moved into our current place (nearly 4 years ago now, woah) we bought a worm farm. At the time, the Queensland government gave us 50% cash back, in 'water wise rebates', so it cost us something like $40.
We keep a small plastic container on the kitchen counter where we collect our scraps.
It's not too noticeable, but since it doesn't have a lid it does sometimes attract ants, or cockroaches (but they are everywhere, anyways, whether or not there is food out in the open). We've been meaning, for years, to find a bucket with a lid, but Andy is very choosy about how big it should be, and what kind of lid it should have, and we often forget to look for a new container, so we continue to use the plastic trays that they sell spinach and mushrooms and stuff in.
We put all of our fruit and veggie waste into the worm farm, except for onions, garlic, citrus, and avocado seeds. We also put tea leaves and bags, cardboard, and non-glossy paper. As long as you don't overfill it, it has no noticeable smell (it's hard to overfill, once you've let the worm population get big enough. Just take it easy at the beginning).
The "Can O' Worms" we got has three trays for putting stuff in, and by the time you fill up all three, the bottom one is ready to use as dirt in the garden.
The stuff that comes out is very rich, and needs to be mixed with other dirt so that it doesn't become too cakey.
It is, really, just a bunch of worm poop, so when Andy was up to his elbows in it the other weekend, I made sure to point that fact out.
Mixed in, it is a great seed-raising mix, and a good general dirt for growing stuff. This year, we also tried adding some to the top of already-growing plants, to give them a bit of a pep-up.
Andy watered it in using our high-tech watering can (a plastic bottle with holes poked in it).
From what I have heard, worm farms can be difficult to keep in the tropics. Between the heat, and the rain, a few of my friends have had mass worm die-offs. We've never had a problem, for a few reasons. First, we always keep a bucket underneath the spout. Any water that comes through the worm farm ends up in the bucket (which you can use as liquid fertilizer!), and therefore doesn't pool up in the worm farm and drown our wriggly friends. Second, Andy has taken a few special measures to ensure that our worms stay shaded, and in the very wet season, protected from the water. Behind the worm farm, you can see a black sheet - that provides shade for them, as does a white sheet attached to the clothesline above, which you can't see. In the very rainy times, we put a big sheet of bubble wrap (anything plastic will work) over the top, to keep out some of the rain.
That, plus their excellent diet, keeps our worms happy and healthy (as far as we can tell). It's a good symbiotic relationship, it keeps our contribution to the landfills minimal, and it keeps our plants growing.