Having been a vermiculturalist for many years now I have seen many different types of home and commercial worm farming systems. They all have their place and are designed for particular purpose and use. The thing which disturbs me most is that many people buy their worm farm then come to me for advice and their worms. Often I can plainly see they have the wrong type of worm farm for their needs and their chances of success are lower. My success as a worm farmer depends upon the successful worm farms of my customers. If their worm farms fail they tend to blame me or the worms. If their worm farms are successful they tell their friends, family and neighbours. So what questions should you ask before deciding upon a new worm farm?
Question 1 What do you want your worm farm to do?
Do you want to process all your organic waste into vermicompost? Yes – how much organic waste do you generate (weight)? What type of waste is it (food scraps, animal droppings, garden/lawn clippings, composting toilet, paper/cardboard etc). The answers to these give you a guide to the size (based upon volume) of worm farm you need and the number of worms you need to start with.
Do you just want to get food scraps out of your council bin? Yes. Again need to now volume and type, to decide upon size and number of worms.
Do you just want to produce your own fertilisers? Yes – do you want solid (vermicompost) or liquid (liquid vericast)? If you want solid (vermicompost) you need a large system. Nature has a common 10% rule which applies to many things including worm farms. For every kg of food you put in you get 100g of vermicompost back. So if you want a 10kg bag of vermicompost every week you need a system which processes 100kg of waste every week. If you want liquid vermicast you need a system off the ground that catches the leachate (liquid vermicast or worm wee or worm juice is just a leachate or water that has leached through castings), or you can make it with the tea bag method. Ask for advice about setting up your system and what you want to use your liquid vermicast for.
Question2 Where do you intend to put your worm farm?
This is a critical question and you need to consider the requirements of worm farming. The three critical elements of temperature, moisture and ph.
If you have space (you could use a compost pile or windrow), does it need to fit the look of your yard (free standing or hanging), will it be in the sun? In Australia you shouldn’t have a black plastic box in the sun over summer. Ask for advise on the placement of your worm farm.
Question 3. How much time can you spend running or maintaining your worm farm?
As a general rule the cheapest systems to set up often require more time to maintain and harvest the products, whilst the more expensive manufactured systems are easier to maintain and harvest products. The cheapest systems are putting worms into your compost pile or windrow, they work very well processing the food to vermicompost. The drawbacks are that you don’t catch the liquidcast and it is difficult to harvest vermicompost without getting lots of worms in it. The best designed worm farms have a larger mass (less problems with temperature change) all in one area, have a chute or similar to get products out the bottom (worms stay in top 10cm), are made of material that doesn’t absorb sunlight and heat up and have good airflow so they can breath.
When looking at home worm farms always apply the kiss principle. Know what you want it to do. Know what volume and type of waste you want to process. Then choose a system that will meet your needs. Don’t choose a system because that is what the neighbour has or because it is the most popular.
Remember that advice is free and can ensure your success and mine.
Next post I will look at types of home worm farms and their pros and cons.
Cheers and happy worm farming 🙂