Worms, fish and the greenest veggies

I have now seen the mother of all worm farms. It was at CERES, a community and environment park in East Brunswick in Melbourne and I cannot recommend highly enough that when next you are in Melbourne that you take a tram trip out there as it is a hive of activity for everyone interested in sustainability.

Worm city! The mother of all worm farms

Worm city! The mother of all worm farms

Look at this, so many old baths in a line with the pipe directing all worm juice to one point for collection and sale in the shop. All vegetable waste from the garden and the café is shared between the worms and the chooks. There is a chook club, community garden plots, alternative energy demonstration centre and a weatherboard house showcasing energy efficiency technologies. But I went to see aquaponics in action.

Aquaponics in action

Aquaponics in action: the fish feeds the veg...

I met Stephen at the Community Gardens Conference in Devonport where he was talking about aquaponics. This is the idea of a closed loop using the waste generated from fish in a pond to fertilise vegetable beds dug into lined holes or old baths etc. Then once the vegetables are harvested using the vegetable waste to feed worms and then using the worms and juice to feed the fish. It is a perfect strategy for bringing fresh vegetables to places where climate has made it impossible to grow food.

...the veg feeds worms, and worms feed fish!

...the veg feeds the worms, and worms feed fish!

In the Pacific for example, salt water incursion into fresh water lenses has meant that farmers can no longer irrigate their crops and so they have to import food. When I was in the Cook islands in 2002, a lettuce cost $9 as it was imported from New Zealand. At the time locals were experimenting with hydroponics using a solar powered pump to pump the water around the system but this aquaponics system seems even more efficient and can produce a great deal of food. Wilson is providing technical expertise and design skills and together he and Stephen are a powerhouse of ideas. Soon, they will be conducting a pilot project in India using this method and I will keep you posted. It would be a wonderful technology for AusAid to promote in the region.

All of which provides delicious fresh produce for the busy CERES cafe

All of which provides delicious fresh produce for the busy CERES cafe

Furthermore it is a great way for people who have no available land to have a community garden on cement! Imagine the applications from inner city blocks of flats. They have a grant to have a “proof of concept” facility built at CERES very soon and as a bonus it is very portable with all the technical bits able to be stored securely in a shipping container. Go and see for yourself.

All this from some worms, fish and a bit of hard work

7 thoughts on “Worms, fish and the greenest veggies

  1. Hi Christine
    love the blog and particularly the worm farm design – I have designed a simpler one in that the baths are next to each other whick makes it easier to construct. It also means the baths can be mounted on a structure that can then be finished to fit in with any existing landscaping theme. i have also designed it so it fits into any back or front yard – seating, birdgaths, water features etc are all easy to incorporate. It is also designed to sit in the middle of a productive garden (sheet composting/worm farm/mulch type garden) so that they complement each other (eg stuff from the garden goes into the baths, worms from either seed the other, juice from baths feed into naturally treated greywater (under the baths) for combined irrigation and fertilisation), etc. Both the baths and the mulch garden are designed to use lawn clippings and produce whilst converting ‘waste’ to food. This combined design I call ‘W’2F – ‘waste’ 2 food. Reducing food and waste miles. I have been supported in developing this by the City of South Pearth – the vision is a ‘W’2F in walking distance of every suburban house. It is based on the intensive local conversion of waste to food. Would look great at Parliament House!!!

    • Hi John,
      Your system sounds terrific. Do you have a web link to photos of your work as I am sure others around Australia would love to see it. Please keep me posted on what you are doing and progress towards having a system within walkig distance of every household.
      Cheers Christine

      • Christine
        Have uploaded a video of the worm garm garden bed system, and how it fits with my ‘W’2F garden system for the intensive local conversion of ‘waste’ to food, to my you tube site :

        which shows my rough prototype.
        The video was shot with a mobile phone so quality is not that good – the content is!
        I will reshoot it with a Hi Def camera soon.
        Kind regards

  2. Christine
    Thanks for your reply
    I have a working basic prototype in my front yard and will shoot a video of it on my mobile , upload it to my youtube site and post the link (maybe tomorrow) .
    The prototype was built last year from (‘waste’) verge throw out materials and has taught me some of its shortcomings – mainly to do with being in full sun in summer.
    This can be overcome by covering it (with say carpet) as is standard practice – however that would prevent its use for growing in whilst the worms do their converting.
    Similarly, it could be shaded by a pergola or similar – that means getting approval from the local council and my landlord (the WA Planning Commission). It would also restrict the design’s use.
    I initially located the prototype so I could gravity feed biological pond filtered grey water to be mixed with the worm juice and then gravity fed to adjoining gardens and productive trees.
    Now I am planning the structure that the baths sit on to be like a water tank so the baths are cooled from the bottom by the thermal cooling of the stored treated grey water.
    This design is entered in WA’s 2010 Innovator of the Year awards.
    You may enjoy my poem (also a short film) on compost :

    “Food for thought.”

    The Chinese used to do it
    The Indians they did too
    Enriching Mother Earth
    By putting back the poo.

    Along came Mr Crapper
    He made the flushing loo
    So we can waste fresh water
    When doing numbers 1 and 2.

    And now we worship money
    Instead of mother earth
    Its made us all un-natural
    Right from our date of birth.

    The old ways are returning
    As we listen to the heart
    Lets nourish mother earth
    We all must play our part.

    It isn’t very hard
    Just listen for a while
    Go gather up some waste
    And put it in a pile.

    Lots of just cut grass
    Some kitchen scraps will do
    Throw in a bit of dirt
    Some urine and some poo.

    Put on a bit of water
    Keep adding to the pile
    When u finally got it done
    Sit down and rest a while.

    The heap will start a steamin
    And gently will subside
    And slowly turn colloidal
    As it gets all warm inside.

    You can sit and watch your heap
    Or sleep on it at night
    Add some aromatic herbs
    To make it smell just right.

    It fills with wrigglin worms
    They eat and poo all day
    They must be very smart
    Making soil from old hay.

    When it is all finished
    Give it to mother earth
    Put in some organic seeds
    And watch the seeds give birth.

    They grow to healthy food
    For human beings to eat
    Isn’t making compost
    Really bloody neat?

    MJ McBain May 7, 2004

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s