You’re already carefully planning meals and ordering Fugly produce weekly – how can a savvy household further reduce food waste? Worm farms are surprisingly a simple way to cut back on the food you throw away, and are a fun, hands-on option for teaching young kids about sustainability.
But are wrigglers high maintenance? And can they work in apartments or small homes? Here are the worm farm basics you need to know before you start.
How do worm farms work?
A worm farm is basically an enclosure for worms and compostable material – things like vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds and eggshells. It composts the organic matter by feeding it directly to red wiggler or other types of earthworms, who turn it into valuable fertiliser and worm castings (droppings).
The fertiliser can then be used in your garden or potted plants, just as you would with other types of compost.
Setting up and maintaining a worm farm
Worm farms are easy and inexpensive to set up. You can buy a plastic worm farm system, but it’s also possible to use a pair of polystyrene vegetable boxes or buckets that fit on top of each other.
To set up a worm farm, put a layer of ‘bedding’ in the top section of the system – shredded newspaper, coconut fibre or straw. Add around 1000-2000 worms, which you can buy in a basic worm starter kit. The worms will continue to reproduce until they hit the container capacity, so you don’t have to worry about being overrun! Add in your kitchen scraps and a little bit of water to keep the system moist, then cover with the lid.
It’s important to keep your worm farm in an area that doesn’t get too hot or too cold. Only add in more food when they’ve eaten the first batch.
The benefits of worm farms
On top of helping cut down on food waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, setting up a worm farm has more great benefits:
They are a great option for apartment or small homes that can’t accommodate traditional composting units
For families with young children, it’s a fun and interactive way to teach them about sustainability cycles, especially when paired with growing small produce like a tomato plant. They can see how food grows from soil, feeding scraps to the worms, and eventually using the worm castings to help grow more food.
They are affordable to set up and maintain. Starter worms cost around $30-$50 and the farm is well cared for the worms will reproduce to maintain the right balance on their own. While the price of store-bought kits can range between $70-$400, simple DIY versions are just as effective for cost-conscious homes.
- They are low maintenance! Most worm farms are self-sustaining once set up, meaning that you don't have to buy anything else to keep them going. Just keep them fed and at a stable temperature.