Five things I’ve learned in three years of worm farm composting

urban worm farming

It’s been nearly three years since my partner ordered some worms and kickstarted our adventures in vermiculture. Since then we have kept many, many generations of worms alive and used their castings (waste) on our little container garden. Maybe a good time to share my experience with worm farming in a small Sydney apartment. 

  1. They are firmly outdoor pets. I find enough (large, creepy, crawly, and sometimes all of the above) critters indoors, that I don’t want to attract any more thanks very much. Our worm farm lives in a shady spot on our patio and teems with life, not just worms. Bokashi is a better bet if you want something to store your food scraps indoors.
  2. Worms are lower maintenance than I expected. After having a baby, I didn’t my little friends for months at a time. Did they mind? Uh no, I think they thrived on a break from scraps. The population boomed. It’s easier to overfeed than underfeed, which takes me to my next point….
  3. The capacity of a worm farm is not nearly enough for a small household’s scraps. Even when I minimise food scraps (generally don’t peel veggies, eat the leaves/stems, etc)., we have too much food scrap for one worm tower. I would suggest that a worm farm can reduce or complement organics recycling, but not bring it to zero if you are like me and prep and cook most meals at home. 
  4. Eggshells don’t really breakdown. I no longer add eggshells to my worm farm.They make a mess of the compost that comes out and make it more difficult to mix into the soil.
  5. Adding scrap paper dramatically improved the worm farm. I learned that when I add torn cardboard or scrap paper to the top tray, where the worms eat, I didn’t need to turn the mixture as often to aerate.

Worm farms are a bit messy and I don’t think there is any getting around that. They don’t smell and are low maintenance. Great if you have a bit of outdoor space (my tomatoes seem happy). However, capacity is an issue, and a worm farm can’t address the volume of food scraps that a household generates. We still need systemic change in how we handle our food scraps. Aussie farmland needs more carbon than is being returned from the cities – a regional issue, not a personal one. And a pressing once, since carbon helps soils retain moisture.

Most of my compost goes into a food scrap bin that my local council collects and sends to a small anaerobic co- digestion plant in Western Sydney. The facility produces gas which is used to generate electricity and the remaining sludge is used as fertiliser.  More and more councils are offering food scraps collection – does yours?

3 thoughts on “Five things I’ve learned in three years of worm farm composting

  1. Hi ?? ~ this is a reply for homemade waxed fabric food wrappers. The product of rosin can be bought in an already powdered form from music stores or online. “Rosin up your bow” from the Charlie Daniels Band song The Devil Went Down To Georgia. Powdered Rosin is used to “gum up” violin and fiddle strings. And now it’s used in home made wax food wrappers to make it clingier ?

  2. Hi! You mention that eggshells dont break down with worm composting. I’m wondering whether you ever tried crushing them up and adding them — in your hands to bits or even further crushing them into tiny bits — or if you only ever put whole shells in. Just curious if you think it would make a difference!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ani, I have crushed them up, but not into a powder or anything. I just found they stayed as small bits and that made it harder to harvest the castings. Now I’m wondering if it’s just my worms haha…

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