Worm farms foster environmentally friendly practices

Children from Lower Hutt's Waterloo Kindergarten checking out their worm farm.

An increasing number of primary schools and kindergartens around NZ are encouraging their pupils to participate in environmental awareness and care by recycling their food scraps with a worm farm.

Worm farming is becoming a popular extension of gardening, enabling anyone, even those living in apartments, to create organic fertiliser for indoor plants and gardens or to breed up to 20,000 bait worms which the keen fisherman can easily remove, according to distributor Dux Industries Limited.

With a worm farm, households and schools can start recycling kitchen food scraps, vacuum cleaner dust, tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, and soaked paper and cardboard.

Harvesting is easy because the worms eat their way up, leaving their nutrient-rich castings behind. Liquid fertiliser is also produced and dispensed through a tap.

Some schools and kindergarten pupils extend the experience by establishing their own vegetable gardens.

Waterloo Kindergarten in Lower Hutt is one of the many schools participating in the Enviroschools programme which promotes sustainability in education settings. Last year, Waterloo Kindergarten won an innovation grant from the Hutt City Kindergarten Association.

“The grant,” says Head Teacher Nichola, “gave us the opportunity to explore ways in which we could work together with our children and community to create sustainable practices in our kindergarten.

“We started simple, focusing on recycling, reusing and composting. We then introduced Bokashi bins (a food fermentation system) and were donated a worm farm and worms and, at a recent working bee, our parents built us a new vegetable garden.

“Setting up the worm farm and the arrival of the worms has been a highlight for the children. They regularly check on the worms and become quite concerned about who was going to look after them during the recent term break. They save their food scraps for the worms, taking turns to feed them. The amount of juice that the worms produce is huge and we use this to fertilise our gardens.

“It has been a natural progression to sign up with the Enviroschools programme earlier this year and, with their facilitator, we are working towards a Bronze Award.

“Our journey has been extremely rewarding, taking small steps and achieving huge gains for the environment.”

Composter worms are suited to worm farm conditions rather than garden earthworms. Composter worms can be purchased on-line from worm farmers or ordered through garden suppliers. A worm farm can be started with two thousand worms which weigh about 450 grams and consume up to 225 grams of food waste per day. The worm population will double every few months, but will regulate their population to the confines of the available space and the amount of food they are given.

The ‘Can-O-Worms’, is pest-proof against household flies and the only smell associated with a well-maintained worm farm is a pleasant rainforest odour. An established farm can be left for 3-4 weeks without constantly adding food – perfect for school holidays.


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