"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday 25 January 2013

Squirming red wrigglers

I cannot throw my kitchen scraps anywhere near the bin.  Haven't for the past 7 -8 years.
Total tomato harvest this season...
5 measly cocktail tomatoes!

This is all I have harvested in tomatoes this season - as you all know the mice have enjoyed a right royal feast on my behalf.  But, it would appear that I have been stupidly aiding and abetting their crimes.  My kitchen waste compost bin has holes on the side which are perfectly sized for a mouse to enter through, in order to partake of each days scraps.  And I had the compost bin situated too near to my shadecloth veggie house.

After giving a lot of thought to the mouse debacle, I decided the time was ripe - after all what is the point of giving the field mice an extra source food in the compost heap?

Time was right?

For what?

A Worm Farm :)

And I have been wanting a worm farm for ages.

But the prices of the worm farms online is scandalous!  Anything from R600.00 - R995.00 - for plastic containers?!?  And excluding transport / delivery of anything from R200.00 - R350.00

Why a worm farm?  Well, I have read and heard that worm castings are excellent for the garden and "are the result when compost or organic matter has been digested and worked by worms." In other words vermicompost.  And worm tea is basically a potent compost tea.  A worm farm is virtually odourless and all it requires is protection from the elements - sun, wind, frost, snow and rain.

So, it was time to get myself into gear.

Plan # 1:
The recycled bath would've made a perfect - large
- worm farm
So, having schlepped it along with us when we moved, I tried using the bath we removed during our bathroom renovation.  I thought I'd sink it in the ground so that it would stay cooler.  I even created a drainage bed from left over building stone for it to lie on - I was willing to forgo the worm tea and only harvest the worm castings.  
I allowed for drainage of rain water underneath
by layering stone below the bath
Only problem with it being below ground was that is I placed it at ideal mouse level.  Nothing more frightening than to lift the lid in order to deposit some kitchen scraps only to find a nice fat mouse - that actually jumped at me!  Shriek!!!!  Needless to say I fell backwards on my derrier in the sand... LOL

Plan # 2:

So, with RMan's help I decided to make my own worm farm.

We purchased three black storage boxes with lids.
Cool - even the box is made of recycled material,
or is 100% recyclable
The top two boxes were drilled with a row of 6mm holes, 50cms apart, right round the top rim.
RMan drilled a border of ventilation holes
around the top of the top two containers
The same was done on the base of the top two boxes - to allow for harvesting of the worm casings and worm tea.
Ventilation holes on the base, as well as the
means to collect their castings in the lower
A hole was drilled in the very lowest box to accommodate the tap, which will allow me to harvest the worm tea.  The complete worm farm was then placed on top of 4 bricks, in a permanently shady spot just outside the kitchen door - worms in black boxes do not like direct sunlight...!
We added a tap to allow us to drain off the worm tea
The lid was left as it was - no holes.  Don't want to cause a flood inside if rain should fall on it.

Finally, I shredded our weekly newspaper, soaked it in water, and then layered the bottom of the middle bucket / box with that.
Shredded damp newspaper - perfect
bedding for the worms
To keep the worms happy I template cut pieces of cardboard and soaked them too.  They will lie on top of the soaked newspapers - worms like damp, dark environments
A cardboard bed cover - apparently worms
LOVE cardboard
Then all I had to do was order worms...
Wizzard Worms in KwaZulu Natal sent
the worms all wrapped up in shredded paper
and safely ensconsed inside this cardboard
box.  After removing the label and tape, I added

the box to the worms inside the worm farm
...add them to the damp shredded newspaper, place the cardboard on top, and voilà!  I have a worm farm!
More than 1000 worms have found a new home
You place the worms on a layer of bedding in the top container, add your kitchen waste (excluding onions, citrus, tomato or cooked food), and a wad of damp newspaper or cardboard to cover them.  The second container (below) will collect the worm castings and the worm tea.  Then the worm tea drips down to the third (bottom) container where it can be siphoned off via the tap.  The worm tea should be diluted 1 / 10 prior to being applied directly to the plant - either on the soil or directly onto the leaves.

Total cost of producing the worm farm unit:

3 X R99.89 = ZAR299.67 being the cost of the three black boxes from the Co-Op - and they threw in the tap for free :)

Happy days :)

And - the added bonus - the local field mice have been thwarted from enjoying my kitchen scraps.

Disclaimer:  Wizzard Worms were not aware that I was going to feature them on this blog posting.  I ordered, and paid for, my worms using their order page.


  1. Well done, Dani! Do you have shade cloth tent over the lot or is the whole shebang set in the shady side of the house? Those black bins can soak up a lot of heat. I hope your new worms are happy and prolific.

    I have compost piles, toss all cooked and uncooked food scraps there, and the native worms enjoy the bounty (I'm too lazy to keep a hot compost pile going). Sorry about all those mice. Did you know that chickens like to hunt/eat mice? Trouble is... too many other things like to hunt/eat chickens. Always something, no? Looking forward to worm project posts.

    1. Kris - Oh yeah, the boxes are situated on the southern side of our house where the sun never shines LOL

      Don't you have rodents going after the cooked food?

    2. No, not really. First off there are seldom any leftovers of cooked food. Second off I always bury fresh compost in the center of the pile and cover with grass/leaves, then toss a hard plastic cover over the lot to discourage digging. Occasionally a raccoon will toss the pile. Worst case is a loose dog will dig.

  2. You do astounding things there with plastic boxes. Makes me want to contemplate one here ! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jane - There is a dearth of wooden boxes in this country...

  3. We made the same bins for our worm farm. But, I don't get tea from ours, not sure why but I do use the castings for starting plants.

    1. DFW - Do you keep damp newspaper covering the contents? wonder why you don't get worm tea...?

  4. I have a single similar bin and am always putting off changing out the castings .. I hope mine are still alive .. better go check on the critters. May you have poo over flowing (so to speak;)

    1. Mrs mac - Cherish the little critters - they are the cheapest form of providing nutrition to your plants that you can find. And it is all 100% eco-friendly and organic LOL

  5. Nicely done Dani! In case its of interest, my pitiful worm farming efforts have improved dramatically since I put a scoop of mushroom compost on top of whatever food scraps went in.

    1. EB - Thanks. And thanks for the tip - no harm in adding some compost I reckon?!


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