I love the idea of integrated farming. Having each element of your farm service another. For example, many people on small home farms keep chickens. These chickens eat food scraps from your kitchen and with a chicken coop that has a floor in which the chickens waste can fall through and be collected, that waste/manure can be added to your compost to service your vegetable garden. The shells from the eggs your chickens have given you can be crushed down and also added to your compost. Chickens can also be put into garden beds after harvest to rework the soil and eat up bugs ready for the next planting, and when they are old and stop laying into the pot they go. Full circle!!
Now, I live in an apartment in Melbourne’s inner suburbs so chickens are not really a reality for me. Technically my balcony would be big enough for maybe one or two if I got rid of my table and chairs, but it would not really be any sort of life for them. I may as well go and buy cage eggs, the thought of which horrifies me! And I don’t believe my neighbours or landlord would appreciate my new feathered friends either.
But I want to compost!!!! I hate throwing out vegetable scraps, which contribute to landfill and the methane they produce, when they could be serving to create luscious tea and food for my little collection of potted herbs and tomatoes. So I finally broke down and got my very own WORM FARM!! Or as the Tumbleweed corporation like to call it, a Worm Cafe. That sounds a little bit fancy pants for me, but it fits snugly in the back corner of my balcony and doesn’t look too bad there either. Now, there are lots of places online where you can find ways to make your own, less expensive, worm farms instead of buying one, but I have a bit of an impatient personality. I was sitting at my computer on a stinking hot day researching worm farming and getting more and more excited by the idea of everything it could do that I jumped in my car and drove down to my local Masters to get one. I couldn’t wait another second and having only a few more days left of my vacation it was the perfect time. I knew exactly what I needed. A Tumbleweed Worm Cafe, a Tumbleweed Worm Blanket, some Tumbleweed Worm Farm and Compost Conditioner, a bucket, some potting mix (technically not needed, but I watched a youtube clip that used it), and most importantly the worms. Let me just say, I do not work for Tumbleweed, nor am I getting paid to mention them. I bought their products and I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I also believe in honesty, so if it doesn’t work out or I have any troubles you’ll hear about them too.
TIP #1 (and basically my only tip that isn’t in the instruction manual): Check your box of worms in store before you buy them. A box of 1200 live worms is just over $50, so not a throw away expense (if there is such a thing). I got home and was excited enough by my purchase to sit on my balcony in the sweltering afternoon heat to put it together (a big deal for me as I break into a sweat on a 24 degree day). I followed all the instructions: assembled the farm (super easy!), soaked the farm bedding block and mixed it with some potting mix, lined the working tray with the packaging it came in (I liked that little no-waste element), put my soil/bedding mix in the tray and enthusiastically opened my box of worms. To my disappointment there was not a single living thing, worm or not, in that box. I was in far too much of a hurry to check the box in the store and now had nothing but a plastic bag of dry dirt and the shrivelled remains of a few worms. So my box of dirt and I drove back to Masters and they were perfectly lovely. The refund was no problem (there was no more boxes for an exchange) and having a cute, Hamish Blake look-a-like working the customer service counter ensured I was pleasantly entertained while I waited a little longer than I usually would have liked. Back in the car and over to Bunnings for my worms, back home and now I have 1000+ worms making a cosy home on my balcony. I say 1000+ on blind faith, but there were definitely alive ones in there.
I’ve started holding on to my vegetable scraps and it will be a couple of days before my worms have become acclimated to their new home and will be ready for feeding. I can’t wait for my first lot of worm tea and worm castings to feed my herbs and tomatoes! Will keep you updated.