I have a confession to make…I’ve got worms

Ok, I have been blogging for a few months now, so I think I can open up to you. It’s time we got down and dirty and I confess something…something some of you may already know, but some of you may not.

Maybe I should feel embarrassed by this, but I am not. I can honestly look you straight in the eye and proudly say ‘I have worms!’ I have had worms for a few years now actually. Some times they have got a bit too hot and died off, but then they eventually grow back. Right now, I have got them bad.

My worms

I got the worms from my husband. He is so thoughtful like that. I got them with a worm farm for Xmas 2 years ago (’07) and I couldn’t have been more excited with my gift (I am obviously not offended by the practical gift, won’t see me banging you on the head if you give me a Scanpan!). It isn’t everyday you get 10 000 new friends.

We killed two birds with one stone, as my kids had been asking for a pet for ages, so we just told them the worms were pets. This worked for at least 11 months with Jasmine. She would get a worm and hug it, talk to it and walk it around for ages, until I would feel sorry for the poor thing and rescue it from pending dehydration. It all fell apart for her one day (literally) when a worm she was loving intensely broke in half. I quickly threw it in the compost telling Jasmine not to pull her worms at both ends as they might break. Next minute, from the inside of the house I heard an almighty sobbing. I ran out thinking she might have severed a limb or something. She was just devastated that she had hurt a worm. Bless her!

I know many of you understand the wonders of worms, but I decided to blog about this because a surprising number of people don’t. A workmate Joelyn visited my house the other day and was amazed at how lush my garden looked. She asked me if I do anything ‘special’ to it, and I don’t, other than recycled food scraps from my worms and guinea pigs, and occasionally talking to my plants (out of earshot of the neighbours of course).

Why are worms so great?

Worms recycle your kitchen scraps, and for this they give you castings and worm wee, which are both incredibly concentrated fertilisers for your garden.Worm wee

Add 1 cup of worm wee to 9 litres of water and you have a strong liquid fertiliser.

Imagine if everyone recycled their food scraps instead of placing them in the rubbish. Gardens around would reap the benefit, soil would be replenished, and you would be feeding your garden instead of having to spend precious dollars on fertilisers.

What makes a worm happy?

Worms love to eat mostly your left over kitchen scraps. They are vegen, so no meat or cheese (although some people put everything in there)! Also, they don’t like citrus, or to get onion breath. Other than that, you can give most kitchen scraps to your worms.

There are some weirder things they do love, including:

  • tea bags
  • egg cartons, pizza boxes
  • egg shells.

Does (garden) size matter?

Worms aren’t finicky about how big their house is. You can buy worm farms on the market which are like delux 3 storey condos, but equally, your worms can be just as happy in a wheelbarrow with a hessian sack over it. As long as they don’t get water logged or to hot, and can hide from the birds.

Also, it doesn’t matter how big a garden you might have. Even if you just had a patio of plants, worms would recycle your food scraps into free fertiliser. Your plants will love you for it. And if you don’t have plants, then maybe you neighbour does. It’s the perfect gift for a patch of local soil, somewhere anywhere but the tip.

Does it smell?

Of course it smells…it’s your food decomposed down into readily recyclable means. Anything rotting or decaying smells – but it is the smell free fertiliser! It smells no different to other naturally decomposing things such as seaweed.

I used to live in Rotorua (New Zealand) for sux years, and that smelled of sulphur. Some people find this aroma unbearable, but I think you may have encountered a rotten egg in your day that had far more of a nauseating reaction. Worms give off a natural smell, and they are nowhere near as bad as the decomposing Orca I once saw 1km away on Johanna Beach (I couldn’t get any closer, it was literally the worst thing I have ever smelt), or as bad as foodscraps rotting in a garbage bin (eerrrggghhh).

If you have an enclosed worm farm, you will hardly smell a thing unless you lift the lid.

Are they dirty?

Totally! Worms replenish something that all living things ultimately rely on (yes, even you), and that is soil (aka dirt!). Without healthy, nutrient filled soil, our planet won’t function very well.

What has that got to do with you – especially if you live in a city? Even if you have one square metre of soil, it needs your help. If you eat fruit and vegetables, you will have peels and offcuts, and these belong back in the soil, not in the bin.

Plus, as kids love getting dirty, they are instantly interested in worms. If you get a surprise visit of children who are deemed likely to trash your house (as you don’t have kiddy toys), simply take them out to your worms and let them go digging for them. The kids are happy, the parents are horrified (and bring appropriate toys next time) and your worms have inbuilt survival strategies and will be fine.

Do they like it hot?

Worms operate better when it’s warmer weather, but they don’t like excessive heat – so keep them in the shade. On last years 47 degrees C day mine all died, but fear not, they have eggs, and eventually these hatch and your numbers build up again.

How long does it take worms to recycle your food?

This depends on how much you feed your worms and how many worms you have. If your worms don’t seem to be keeping up with the food you are giving them, back off a bit and put some into a spare bucket. When you see them starting to create castings and build in numbers you can add more food in.

How do I remove the worm castings without loosing all my worms?

Take off the lid for a day, and your shy little friends will move to a lower layer, then simply remove the castings. You will loose one or two worms, but don’t worry, they will reproduce and plenty more will replace them. Yes, that’s right, the worms are having ‘sexy time’ in the worm farm (fascinating if you get to witness it).

What if I go on Holiday? Do I need to get a worm-sitter?

Being a responsible pet owner, when you go away on holidays means you don’t need to find a pet sitter for your worms. Throw an extra bit of food in there and take off. Unless you are leaving for 3 months or more, I wouldn’t worry about it.

How do I get started?

Lots of places sell worm farms these days, or you can make one. You can purchase worms with worm farms, or borrow some worms from a friend. You can even order them over the internet.

Then you have to make the other giant leap and start putting your scraps in a container instead of conveniently into the bin. It’s a small change, but it does take determination and committment to do. It’s so much easier to indiscriminately bin everything without a second thought, but then your garden, and the soil around you will suffer!

First layerSecond layerThird layerWorm wee collector

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