Worm farms are one good cost-effective way of preventing the spread of diseases like the black plague in countries where garbage collection is improperly done.
Worm farms are, at first thought, only for serious greenies, but in fact they may be the remedy to a very serious social problem; the non-collection of garbage from poor areas unable to pay for services.
These little red nematodes have an incredible ability to turn your kitchen waste into magnificent humus and liquid manure. The organic gardener has a perennial problem of too few minerals, but is unwilling to use chemical fertilisers. The solution is cow or horse dung, chicken litter, and a wormery; and a compost heap, of course.
Red worms will eat their own weight of around a gram, each day. So a thousand of them need a couple pounds of food daily. That could be potato peels, rotten plums or uneaten rice; and even some meat, though generally anything cooked should be avoided. They love unfinished school sandwiches.
In short your worms will eat almost any leftovers from your kitchen, turning it into wonderful compost, rich in minerals; nitrogen is on the low side.
Red worms have one other amazing ability; they double in number every month.
After four weeks you will have 2000 worms, and after two months, 4000. And how many would you have after a year? Do you remember the Persian tale about a grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard? The power of the geometric progression yields the astonishing figure of a couple of tons of nematodes, to give them their scientific name, eating an equal weight of garbage every day.
These worms are unable to survive on our harsh African landscape, so they are not a threat to the environment; they are not going to become an invader species. But they do love the compost heaps that abound in every greenie’s garden; handfuls of them get thrown in regularly.
All that is needed is a discarded concrete double laundry tub or bath. I use an old mold that is no longer of any use; as large as you choose. Fit two standard outlets and set your worm farm up on blocks in a cool place in the shade in the garden so you can collect the liquid in buckets.
Here is one more thought; if you have chickens, the surplus worms provide a wonderful high protein food for your birds. At the rate they expand, you can toss them a handful every day.
But back to Sweetwaters where a black friend tells me that the people are not planting mealies and pumpkins any more; they are devoured by an invasion of rats feeding predominantly on all the uncollected kitchen waste. I enjoy the produce from my green garden but it is a luxury; for them it means starvation if they are unable to grow vegetables. Who is going to be the first to start a pilot plant of a dozen worm farms?
Let us also not forget that it was this very rat that carried the flea that is the vector for the bubonic plague bacterium that devastated Europe about 500 years ago. We are sitting on a time bomb just as explosive as HIV. Prevention is better than a cure.
As I write we are under lock-down because of the coronavirus plague. It is not particularly irksome for gardeners in general. There are always broad beans or peas to be planted, and worm farms to be attended to. I may be quite wrong, and researchers will come up with the data in the future, but I suspect that greenies with strong immune systems will be far less prone to the disease.
Is it not interesting that up to a half of those with antibodies against Covid 19 never actually got sick; their bodies fought off the disease without them even knowing it.
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Worm farms and the black plague which is always a threat where garbage removal is ineffectively done because the rat that carries the flea that bears the disease flourishes. Small outbreaks like the one in Madagascar recently act as a reminder that cleanliness is next to godliness. We should dispose of our waste efficiently.
Get them from the worm wizzard.
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