Picture: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Want to know the secret to lush plants and fertile soil without forking out money on garden improvers?

The answer is worms, according to The Worm Shed's Kevin Smith, who has been in the worm business for nearly 30 years.

Mr Smith said worm farms were a great way to recycle food, garden and pet waste while creating nutrient-packed fertiliser gardens loved. He said worms could be housed in anything from a foam or plastic box to an old fridge turned on its side or in the many commercial worm farms on the market.

"A worm farm basically means keeping worms in a controlled environment in the shade and with good drainage," he said.

"Some people use sheep poo or cow poo on their garden but worm poo - also called castings - really is the best there is as it is the most natural fertiliser or soil conditioner you can get."

Mr Smith said that while it could take six to eight weeks from setting up a worm farm to reach the castings stage, it was the liquid a properly set up farm produced daily which was the real boon for the garden.

He said liquid castings, which he bottled and sold as Worm Wiz, was basically the leachate or concentrated form of plant nutrients drawn out of the bottom of the worm farm.

"So instead of using Seasol or fish emulsion, you use Worm Wiz in your garden," he said. "It has no smell and we actually soak our seedlings in it for three-to-four days and then plant them out - it really is a good plant tonic."

Stephen Williamson, managing director of Worm Affair, said it was vital to keep worm farms in a cool, shady spot where they were not exposed to the sun.

"That's the difference between worm composting and worm farming - a worm farm is cool and moist and kept in a shady spot, while a compost bin is kept in the sun to get it as hot as you can while keeping it moist and aerated and then it cooks," he said.

Mr Williamson said liquid fertiliser and castings were pH neutral, so they would not burn plants, and as little as a teaspoon of the liquid would have an effect on a plant. He said it was best to add the liquid to a plant after it had been planted and watered in, while castings could be scattered around the base of the plant.

"It's best to dilute it down by at least half and then you can put it on to your pot plants, your rose bushes, your vegetables, whatever you want," he said.

Mr Williamson said the best worms for farms were red worms, tiger worms and Indian blue worms, and that if food was decaying faster than the worms could eat, they were being overfed and the worm farm would start to smell and attract vinegar flies.

TIP: It is better to buy worms by weight rather than number as it is easier to work out how much to feed them.

The West Australian

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