Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Worm Farm – Fertilise your garden for free!

Before I geoarbitrarged my family and moved to the beach, I had a pretty sweet urban food forest going in Bentleigh. We had chooks, over 30 fruit trees, 15m of veggie gardens, 2 worm farms and it was all run on organic, permaculture principles. A huge proportion of our food came from the garden and life was sweet.

Then I looked at property values in the area, (thanks, local secondary school!) and decided to develop the block. The thing that most people do when this is their course of action is to rent somewhere until the units are sold… however at the time we had 2 cats and 2 dogs. Good luck with finding a rental!

So I decided to bite the bullet and get bridging finance and look for a house early. I admit, not the smartest financial move on the face of it but when you love your dogs more than your children then what can you do?

It worked out ok. For 10 months I was paying 73% of my take-home pay in bridging finance (you want frugality? I’m your woman!), which went down to only 57% when I went back to working full-time… but when I eventually sold the property, my house by the beach had gone up in value 100K, which was 34K more than I’d paid in the finance. Anyway, this isn’t the point of the post.

The house we live in now has no garden to speak of. It has a patch of lawn in the front with a few scrabbly fruit trees edged in at the sides, while the backyard is paved. I was able to bring my old herb garden with me, as I’d planted them in wicking boxes, so they live on the deck just outside the back door. We have an Aldi supermarket literally around the corner, so I’ve resigned myself to buying our fresh produce again, at least until I landscape the place and retire.

BUT… you can take the girl out of permaculture, but you can’t take permaculture out of the girl.

It started to KILL me that we were throwing away perfectly good veggie scraps and peelings. For years, we never wasted a scrap of food. The food line went as follows:  humans- dogs-chooks- worms- compost.

Even if the humans let some lettuce go slimy in the fridge, at least the money spent on it wasn’t just thrown in the bin. It was going back to nourish something on the property, which would, in turn, give back and nourish us in the future, whether by affection (dogs and chooks), eggs (chooks), pest control (chooks) or fertiliser (worms, compost and chooks).

So I did what any sensible person would do. I bought a worm farm.

My previous worm farm was an old freezer that my dad adapted for me. It was far too big and heavy to move, so I left it at the old place. This time, I have a suburban, civilised one. It lives in a shady part of the deck, though I’ll have to keep an eye on it when temperatures get above 35C/95F. Under the spout I have my old Ikea watering can, to catch the worm wee. It’s excellent for natural fertiliser.

For much of the year last year I only had one son living with me, so we were able to use every veggie scrap we generated to feed the worms. Since then, I’ve had 2 Boomerang kids come back and the leftovers are too much for the farm to cope with, especially as one son left as a carnivore but returned as a vegetarian. So we now start each Wednesday. We save our scraps in a bowl with a lid. (Ours is just a dinner plate perched on top.) We save all egg shells, veggie and fruit scraps except for onion and citrus. The worms don’t like these. Then, on Saturday, I tip the scraps into the thermomix, add water and blend on speed 10. I spoil my little slimy friends with nice easy food for them to digest.

The worm farm has been going for nearly a year now. I get at least one watering can full of fertiliser a week, sometimes two, and I spread it out between the herbs on the side deck and the pretty plants on the front deck. The plants absolutely love it. And I love that we’re wasting far less and we’re utilising the resources we have far more wisely.

This is something that pretty much everyone can do. It takes very little to set up, with the only expense being the cost of the worm farm. If you’re lucky, you may be able to score free worms from a friend’s worm farm if they’re happy to share. Then you can just feed them sparingly until the numbers catch up with the amounts of scraps you want to feed them. Me? I just bought a box of worms when I bought my farm. The smallest box, but I knew the worms would get frisky and they’d increase their numbers for free, so why spend the extra?

Speaking of which, it’s time to wander out and give the pots a watering. Summer holidays are the best! I’d normally be in front of my year 8 English class right now.


  1. Giggle

    “Geoarbitraged”, love it! And yet more food for thought for me …

  2. Valerie

    Excellent post and I love what you’re doing in this blog. Like you I’m hooked on the worms. Love them to bits. I blitz my scraps in the food processor as well (no thermomix sadly, but the ordinary one works fine) and they love it. If I see horse poo for sale by the side of the road anywhere I pick it up as well, though I have to trust that they haven’t recently wormed the horses because if they have then the tainted horse poo could kill my worms. It hasn’t happened yet though, and horse poo may be the single most delicious worm food ever (perhaps watermelon is also a contender). It all adds up to no waste and great food for the veggie garden. I’d love you to do a post on which vegetables you’ve found most successful to grow at home, and which ones you’ve ended up buying. I’m about to give up on growing brassicas, at least when the white cabbage moth is about. Moths 12, me 0.

    • Frogdancer

      I hate those cabbage moths with a passion. They were slightly easier to control when I put down table tennis balls that were halved. It sounded stupid, but apparently they’re territorial and they move on if they think another moth has beaten them to it.

  3. NZ Muse

    Haha, we have the same chain of command for food scraps in our house (minus the worms)! Any scraps become (expensive) critter food that stretches out their regular food supply a little longer.

    • Frogdancer

      It makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m going to be putting in wicking veggie beds soon, so the compost will be back on the chain. 🙂

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