Wildlife and beneficial insects are key to creating a sustainable self-sufficient garden. They help form part of a balanced ecosystem and creating a small wildlife pond in the garden is an incredible way to attract them. Wildlife ponds can be a transformative addition to any garden or outdoor space, offering many amazing benefits including beauty, tranquility, and increased pollination. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a compact urban garden, a small DIY wildlife pond has the potential to create a thriving ecosystem, attract beneficial insects, and help your gardens grow an abundance of food.
Today I’m going to share the process of creating my own DIY wildlife pond including choosing a location, pond plants, and why I have chosen native Australian fish for the pond.
One of the key advantages of having a wildlife pond is the ability to attract beneficial insects. Many of these insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies, are natural predators of garden pests. By providing them with a water source and a suitable habitat, you can encourage their presence and create a natural pest control system within your garden. No need for harmful chemical pesticides making your garden healthy, thriving, and sustainable.
Click to WATCH the transformation or continue reading below
Planning Your Wildlife Pond
1. Choose a location for your wildlife pond
The first step in creating your small wildlife pond is to find suitable location options. Look for an area that is relatively level and away from large trees or shrubs whose roots may interfere with excavation or cause water quality issues. Consider the overall layout of your garden and how the pond will fit into the existing landscape. Keep in mind that a wildlife pond can range in size from a small, shallow pond to a larger, more expansive water feature, so choose a location that suits the space you have available.
Important things to consider when choosing the location for your wildlife pond:
Sunlight – most pond plants will need 6-7 hours of sunlight per day. This is more important in spring and summer than in winter as many pond plants will slow or die down over winter anyway.
Shade – Shade is also important, especially during the hottest part of the day. Shade will help keep the pond cool, especially in summer and reduce the algae. Adding plants will help shade out the pond.
Water source – Having a water source or hose available nearby is important especially in summer if the pond water gets low or too hot.
Safety and access – Pets or young children – depending on the size of your pond you will want to consider access if you have young children or pets (my water-loving dog would jump in immediately!). It would be worth checking out your local council’s requirements for ponds.
Close proximity to gardens – If you are wanting to attract wildlife to your gardens to help with pollination and pest management then it would be a good idea to have it close to your veggie patch or gardens. Existing gardens will also create wildlife corridors for safe access to and from the pond.
My pond location:
Front garden away from my water-loving dog
In an existing garden bed for a wildlife corridor
Outside my office window to enjoy the aesthetics and tranquility
The size and design of your wildlife pond could be determined by the space available or the structure you choose to use. Whether that is a prefabricated pond, pot or barrel pond, or full DIY pond with a pond liner.
I sourced a preformed poly pond that was roughly 1m x1m and 30cm deep. There is a huge range of preformed ponds available to fit a range of spaces. Baths, tubs, and tanks also make great DIY pond structures.
3. Filling and Balancing the Pond
Having a water source nearby is important to be able to top up or cool the pool down during the warmer months. Rainwater would be ideal to fill your pond but if like me, you only have access to mains or system water you will need to do a few extra steps to balance and remove the chlorine.
To condition the water you can either leave it to sit and gas off for 2-3 weeks or you can speed up the process by running an aeration pond pump in the water. The other way to condition the water is to purchase some water conditioning treatment. This is what I did and I also waited two weeks before adding in fish just to be sure and to allow natural bacteria to build up. I also added “splosht” which are small dissolving sachets of good bacteria to help keep the pond clean. The ones I used are made here in Western Australia so it is native bacteria. Speak to your local pond shop to see what will work best for your pond.
4. Introducing Plants to the Pond
Selecting plants for your pond is an exciting time! Firstly, it is important to determine what types of wildlife you would most like to attract to your pond. This will help you select plants to suit and reduce some of the overwhelm.
Frogs like lily pad like leaves and grasses or reeds to hide in.
Small birds like nectar-producing flowers and dense shrubs to hide in.
Ladybugs and beneficial insects like pollen-rich flowers such as herb flowers
Lizards like low-lying dense ground covers to easily hide in
Native wildlife often are attracted to native plants and flowers
Another thing to consider is whether you would like them to all be edible or a mix of both. I chose to plant edibles, natives, and herbs. A wide range of leaf types and plant heights/structures will help encourage a wider array of wildlife to your pond.
There are 4 main types of plants you may like to select for your pond:
Full Aquatic Plants: These grow completely submerged underwater such as Water lilies, and Vallis grass. They are great for deeper parts of the pond and can help oxygenate the water.
Filtration plants: These help keep the water clean and act as natural filtration. These are plants such as: Lebanese Cress, Water Mints, Gotu Kola, Pennywort, Watercress, Kang Kong. Most of these plants like to be partially submerged. I have mine propped up on bricks with 1 inch out of the water.
Marginal Plants: These are plants that can be planted around the edge of the pond or in shallow water. These are plants like: Fairy Lights, Blue Grass, Reeds, Bull Rush, Taro, Water Chestnuts, Mint, Queensland Arrowroot, Iris, Lebanese Cress, Watercress, Thalia, Papyrus, Society Garlic, Sweet Violet, and Moneywort.
Floating cover plants: These plants multiply quickly and cover the surface of the water. This can help regulate the pond temperature and shade out the pond. This can reduce algae and also offer food to many fish. Plants such as: Duckweed, Azolla, Frogbit and Hornwort.
Check out the video for a full tour of the plants I selected for this project.
5. Adding Natural Elements
Natural elements such as logs, rocks, and sticks offer surfaces for wildlife to rest on, cross over or hide under. It is important to make easy access in and out of the water. This will allow frogs, lizards, and bees the ability to get in and out. Shallow areas, ledges, ramps, and varying heights around the edge of the pond will help with this. It will also help your pond blend in and look more natural and integrated within the garden.
6. Adding Fish to the Pond
Adding fish to your pond can help with filtration and keep mosquito larvae in check. Understanding what type of wildlife you would ideally like to attract to your wildlife pond can help determine the type of fish for your pond. I am hoping to get frogs in my pond and many introduced fish such as goldfish or Koi may eat frogs’ eggs. This can be ok in a large pond with more space for frogs to hide and lay eggs. As I have a small pond and would like to encourage frogs, I have decided to go with West Australian Perch and White Cloud minnows that eat mosquito larvae but not the frogs eggs. They are also low maintenance and can handle ponds without pumps.
After purchasing the fish from the pond store, I let the bags sit in the pond water for 5 minutes to let the water in the bag adjust to the pond temperature. I then gently opened the bag and let the fish out. The Minnows dart about on the surface often but the Perch love to hide and I never see them! So that is something to consider.
7. Maintaining Your Wildlife Pond
It is important to regularly check on the pond, especially during the first year as things grow and temperatures change. Observing will allow you to see what types of wildlife are using the pond and what changes or additions you could make. Adding a small pump or water fountain will also help keep the pond cool and reduce algae. I do plan to add a solar pump and fountain eventually.
Scoop out dead leaves or excess algae
Top up water in summer if needed
Regular top-ups of “Splosht” good bacteria or similar
I decided to add solar lights to the pond as it is outside my office window and is nice to view during the evenings when I’m working late. I selected floating solar lights and also spotlights to point at feature plants. The fun thing about these lights is that I can change the colours and turn them on and off via a remote. The floating lights also offer more protection for the fish whilst the plants are established.
Just like the rest of your gardens your pond will change and develop over the seasons and the years. It will require some tweaking and editing as you go to find a good balance. There are so many amazing reasons to create a wildlife pond for your gardens.
By creating a wildlife pond, you are not only providing a habitat for a variety of natural life but also fostering diversity in your surroundings. These ponds act as sanctuaries for a wide array of wildlife, including frogs, lizards, birds, dragonflies, and beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. These creatures play essential roles in pollination, pest control, and maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
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Our gardens will inevitably get shadier as mature trees start to grow. We will also get more shade in our gardens throughout the year during different seasons. In this episode of the Homegrown Podcast, we will discuss how to grow food if you have areas of shade in the garden. What to plant, how to maximise production and minimise disease.
Growing edible plants in the shade is definitely possible! One of the most important factors to consider when planning your edible plants or permaculture garden is to OBSERVE your environment and analyse your…
Edible Climbing Vines help maximise growing space and double the amount of food in each garden bed or container. One thing that I think is so underrated is the ability to grow food up 👆
Today I am going to share a list of edible climbers to grow in your garden and utilise vertical space and create shade and protection. These 10 edible climbing vines are perennials which means they will produce more and more food each year without us having to replant them!
There are so many incredible reasons you should be growing food vertically.
Not only to maximize space but also to increase airflow to reduce rot or disease, strategic shade, or like me to reduce some of the heat in my garden by covering my ugly fences!
Click to watch for bonus Planting Tips 👇
Annuals vs Perennials 🌿
Annuals will allow you to still change up your garden beds each season and have the flexibility of space. Whereas perennials (which grow for longer than 2 years) will allow you to get a crop established and provide long-term protection and produce more and more food each year.
10 Perennial Edible Climbing Vines
Passionfruit is one of my favourite fruits to eat and the main reason I am growing this edible climber in my garden. They are also evergreen so it has leaves all year round to create shade and protection. Passionfruit have thick, lush leaves so they work perfectly to cover fences or create screens to block out unsightly structures or areas.
Watch the video above to see how to plant passionfruit from a store-bought fruit!
BONUS TIP: Purchase a passionfruit plant that is NOT grafted. Grafted passionfruit needs to be carefully maintained or the rootstock can quickly take over and become invasive with no fruit.
2. Choko /Chayote
Choko is a quick-growing vining edible plant that can make great summer shade to protect your summer garden. They will often die back over winter but will pop up and regrow each spring. Any fruits left on the ground will also easily regrow.
Choko are similar to a large zucchini or marrow and can be used as a substitute for potatoes or even apples to bulk up pie recipes.
3. Sweet Potato
Growing Sweet Potatoes / Kūmara (Ipomoea batatas) in your home garden is a great step toward self-sufficiency. They are my favourite permaculture plant and are an easy crop to grow for beginner gardeners. It is important to grow plants that support and encourage other plants and beneficial insects in your garden. Creating a cohesive ecosystem that promotes the growth and success of your garden’s health and supports abundant harvests.
Sweet potatoes send out runners and can easily be trained up a vertical trellis. Plus, many people do not know that the leaves of the sweet potato plant are also edible.
The great thing about growing grapes as edible climbers is that they are deciduous. This means they lose their leaves in winter so you can plant grapes strategically to provide shade in summer and let light through in winter!
5. Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach is a fantastic edible climber for warm or tropical climates. It thrives in summer during warm weather when most other spinach and leafy greens die off. This can help fill the gaps in your seasonal harvests. Malabar spinach can be grown in pots or containers. It has succulent-like leaves so can handle hot weather but it can be frost sensitive.
6. Butterfly Pea
If you love colour then this edible climber will be perfect for you! With bright blue-purple flowers the butterfly pea is a striking addition to an edible garden. The flowers can be used as a natural food colouring or infused in teas or cocktails. Plus, if you add acidity such as lemon juice the colour will transform to hot pink! Such a fun plant to grow.
Kiwifruit can be grown over structures to create great canopy shade. They are prolific produces and the fruit can be eaten fresh, frozen for smoothies, made into jams and even dehydrated for naturally sweet treats. You will need to have both a male and a female plant for pollination.
Kiwi berries have a similar taste to the kiwifruit but are much smaller around the same size as a grape. Kiwi berry vines grow really well in containers or urban gardens.
Nasturtium is often known for its wild rambling nature but it can be trained vertically as an edible climber. The whole plant is edible including the leaves, flowers and seed pods. Nasturtium has a strong peppery taste and can be used in salads, flavoured salts, pickles and many other recipes. Here in Perth, my Nasturtium dies down in summer but will pop up and regrow by itself in Autumn/winter.
10. Scarlett Runner Bean
Scarlet runner beans are also known as the 7-year bean because they pop up and regrow each year (for about 6-7 years). Beans are a great addition to an edible garden and can easily be cooked or frozen to preserve.
Annual Climbing Vines 🌿
Annual climbers are also great because they don’t need dedicated space so you can grow, harvest and remove then grow something different each season! Having a mix of annuals and perennials will help you grow more food all year round.
Annual climbers can be plants such as Cucumber, Squash, Tomatoes, Pumpkin, and Melons.
Do you have big dreams and sustainable homestead goals to grow food and create your dream self-sufficient lifestyle but it feels so far off? You may be renting or in an apartment. Today, I’m going to share 10 actionable steps to help you achieve your sustainable homestead goals no matter how far away they feel. This is the path I have been on and I think this may help or inspire you too.
Are you ready? because your dream life starts now!
Click to watch the video 👇
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about you are where you are for a reason and that is because you still have more to learn. If I got /my big break and had 100s or 1000s of people flocking to join my garden-to-plate membership would I cope? the answer is probably not! My systems have been built on a small scale and I still have lots more work to do before reaching that level (goals!). Hopefully one day I will be able to help 100s and 1000s of people grow food so I’m continuously working on improving my systems.
The same with getting your dream homestead, if you suddenly found yourself dropped in the middle of an off-grid property would you know exactly what to do? Would you know how to improve your soil, plant trees, care for animals, or afford a house, infrastructure, and the bills that come along with it? or would it be an overwhelming chaotic mess?
There are so many small steps you can start taking today and these are the 10 stages I have been working through to bring my dreams to life. so hopefully they help and inspire you too!
10 ACTIONABLE STEPS to start your Sustainable Homestead Goals now
1. What are your goals?
Write them down. Where do you want to live? What lifestyle do you want to achieve? How do you want your days to look?
The great thing about having clear goals is that decisions along the way become easier (great for people like me that struggle with decision-making!) Does this align with my goals or not? Start at the end and work backward. Will this change along the way? Probably but at least it will give you a direction to start working towards and not be stuck doing nothing.
2. Make a vision board
I like to do this every year and I use Canva and put together a collage type of document. I then have mine as my screen savers on my phone and computer for constant reminders but you could just print out some images and put them on the fridge or the wall. I am a real visual person so this works for me.
3. Pay off debts
Ditch after pay and all that. Don’t buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have. That has always been part of my mentality so I have never financed furniture or anything like that…Hence why my house looks a little bare 😅 I prioritize money in other ways.
One of the hardest things I did was prioritize paying off my student loan. It took me a few years and I set up automatic payments to come out after each pay. If I was still buying coffees and let’s be honest probably plants…then I would increase my repayments a bit because I obviously still had disposable income. ..and repeat. As a student, I knew how to live off the minimum. Lifestyle creep is inevitable but if your dreams are big and solid you can do it!
Hard now and easy later!
Something I found so useful was the debtfree charts. You can choose a relevant one and divide the amount into sections. Each time you pay one down you can highlight it. For a visual person like me, this worked a treat. I just wanted to pay one more line . These also work great for savings too.
4. Start savings
Once you have your debts out of the way start saving. You know what you are capable of paying after paying off your debts so switch to a savings mode. Don’t get into the continuous reward stage. Remind yourself of the goals you are working towards.
5. Start growing food
This can be started from day one. You don’t need all the gear or all the nice raised garden beds, that will come. Start with what you have. Keep an eye on marketplace there are so many free pots and random things that you will be able to turn into gardens. Both my compost bins were free and I even got a free fruit tree recently.
If you dream of creating these thriving edible gardens that produce a whole lot of food then the only way there is through it. There’s no quick fix. you have so much to learn and you will learn faster by doing.
So get seeds in the soil and start growing.
6. Learn learn learn
We are so lucky to have incredible resources at our fingertips. Watch YouTube, listen to podcasts, invest in the skills you want to have, and visit community gardens. Learn to love the process because continuous learning is so important!
7. Take action
Take what you have learned and put it into practice. Grow cuttings, and plant fruit trees in pots, if you plan to have a homestead in the same state then you can be growing your future plants and trees in containers to eventually take with you. Or even sell at a higher price to add to your savings.
8. Surround yourself with Like-minded People and Communities.
This is a great way to stay motivated and learn so much. Not just about how to grow food or raise chickens but just about their outlook on life and values. People are so generous with their time and resources. Offer to help someone in their garden, this is a great way to learn and you may even receive cuttings or seeds from special plants.
9. Start working on Financing the Dream.
We all need to make money its just part of the world we live in. Does your current job and career align with the sustainable homestead goals or lifestyle you are working towards? It may do, you may already love your job but it also more than likely does not. Start a side business or grow your hobby with the direct intention of it becoming your career. Keep coming back to that lifestyle you set out in stage 1. If you want to have time to go on adventures or spend days in the garden then make sure what your working towards actually allows for that.
Do you dream of starting a flower farm? What can you do now? Start social media and grow a following. It’s free and it’s a real actionable step toward that goal. If you need some ideas check out this video on 100 ways to make an income from your property. I guarantee if one of those things excites you, there is an actionable step you can take today to make progress.
10. Re-evaluate and check in with yourself.
This is really the stage I am at now. I have been working on the last 9 steps for the last 10 years and it’s important to make sure my sustainable homestead goals and visions are still aligned. Don’t be afraid to pivot. Maybe after growing food or doing cut flowers your are unsure if that really fits anymore. For me, annuals just aren’t really it ( I LOVE PERENNIALS) and I’m actually unsure about all the 100s of animals I initially wanted. Animals are a lot of work and commitment I kind of want the freedom to come and go more often.
My dream is still real and I would love to have land to rewild and have my dream homestead but lots of things have changed. I also want to be able to travel and explore more. So I’m creating new visions that I can’t wait to share with you along the way.
Sometimes it will be really tough. But find joy in the journey, IN THE INBETWEEN, the learning!. and absolutely celebrate the small wins! because they are aligned to stage 1 so they will all add up to be something incredible.
DISCLAIMER: Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you! Thank you for supporting my website so I can continue to provide you with free content each week!
Do you have areas that get very hot full sun and nothing seems to survive? These 22 heat-tolerant edible plants to grow in HOT full-sun locations will help you grow productive edible gardens. I’ve been growing food here in Perth, Australia for the last 10 years, and let me tell you, it was a big change and learning curve coming from the lush green of new Zealand.
Today, I’m sharing some plant ideas to plant in those super hot locations but keep reading to the end because it’s not just about what you plant but also when and how! Bonus tips on that, so you can turn your hot barren wasteland into productive edible gardens.
Click to WATCH 22 heat-tolerant edible plants
22 Heat-tolerant Edible Plants
Attracts bees 🐝 Has healing properties and is great for skin and hair care. Flavour enhancing culinary herb🌿 When I first moved here I wondered why so many houses had Rosemary hedges out the front – and it’s because it thrives on neglect and our poor sandy soils. Rosemary is a great heat-tolerant addition to your edible garden. Try making your own Rosemary Salt.
2. Strawberry Guava
Strawberry/cherry and lemon cherry guavas are really hardy, low-maintenance fruit trees, that produce bucketloads of fruit!
Another powerhouse perennial that survives on neglect – they grow super fast so you can use these as a nanny plant or a pioneer plant. If you have a barren hot area you could plant a Mulberry to get quick shade established and later on remove it or heavily prune if it gets too big. Mulberry also loses leaves in winter to let light in.
Lavender is drought tolerant – a great pollinator plant with many medicinal (calming and sleep) and culinary uses. In my garden (which will be different with climates and varieties) Lavender flowers at the same time as my Feijoas so I have it planted in between them to attract pollinators and increase my Feijoa harvests.
5. Feijoa / Pineapple Guava
If you have been following me on Instagram or subscribed to my YouTube you will have guessed this plant would make the list 😂 Low maintenance, super hardy, and produced plenty of food! Feijoas do taste better when they get 50 chill hours a year so they aren’t optimally grown here in Perth but they do grow well and are drought-tolerant. They are evergreen and super bushy so can be grown as an edible hedge. They are known to have fire retardant qualities which is very handy for hot dry climates. If you are looking to purchase a Feijoa, choose a named variety (such as Duffy, White Goose, Mammoth plus more) as these will perform better and produce fruit faster than generic seedling plants.
Passionfruit is an edible vine that can be used to cover a fence, structure or grown over an arbor to create shade. This can help cool your garden down and provide delicious fruit. Passionfruit flowers can also be used to make calming teas to aid in sleep and anxiety. NOTE: Avoid planting a grafted variety the grafts takeover and become invasive,hard to get rid of, and don’t produce good fruits.
Citrus like full sun and once established can thrive in hot environments. Avoid planting new trees before or during the hot summer so that they have time to get their roots established before the added stress of summer.
8. Lemon Verbena
A fragrant lemony scent that is similar to lemongrass. Lemon Verbena is great in teas, baking, and all the things!
A hardy fruiting tree that thrives in hot environments.
Loquats are hardy fruit trees that thrive in hot conditions. Loquats can be a pest plant because they grow so easily and birds spread the seeds so check with your local area.
11. Lilly Pilly
Part of the Syzygium genus is a great dense evergreen hedging plant with bright pink fruits. The fruits are edible and can be made into jams, sauces, and even sparking wine!
12. NZ Spinach / Warrigal Greens
NZ Spinach unlike most spinach can be grown over summer. Although not technically spinach it can be used just as you would use spinach. NZ Spinach grows as a tick edible ground cover to protect the soil and provide nutritious greens.
13. Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach grows as a climbing vine and can be used to grow up structures and provide shade in summer. With succulent-type leaves, the Malabar Spinach does well in hot conditions but does not like frosts.
Quince is a hardy fruiting tree that thrives in hot conditions. Quince is great for making preserves such as jams, jelly, and chutney.
Zinnia is an edible flower that thrives in hot dry conditions. Zinnia has vibrant flowers in a huge range of colours. The great thing about Zinnia is that it produces nectar so it attracts a diverse range of pollinators to the garden such as bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and small birds. Zinnia is susceptible to powdery mildew so great for dry summers.
I love growing Sunflowers because they attract a huge amount of pollinators to the garden and you can pretty much eat the whole plant! I use the petals fresh in a salad or press to use on baking as garnishes. The seeds can be used on top of salads, to make oil, or to make spreads and the leaves are also edible. Sunflower stems can even be made into flour! Sunflowers also help remove toxins from the soil so they are a fantastic addition to a hot full-sun garden.
Figs are hardy edible plants that can easily be grown from cuttings. Figs are great for hot locations and the fruit can be used for jams, relish, baking, and just enjoyed fresh!
Olives grow well in hot conditions and also in pots and containers. They are beautiful-looking plants with their slim silvery leaves. Olives can be used to make oils and delicious preserves. Olive leaves also have many medicinal qualities.
Grapes are great for growing over structures to provide shade to your garden and help other plants grow. Grapes are deciduous so they lose their leaves in winter to let light in and have full leaf coverage in summer to protect from the harsh midday sun. Grape plants have so many uses from fresh delicious table grapes to jams, preserves, and wine! grape leaves also have many uses in the kitchen.
Hollyhocks are an edible flowers that can grow up to 10 feet tall! They attract 100 of pollinators to the garden and their height acts as a flag inviting them in. The leaves are also edible and can be cooked to make wraps. Hollyhocks are an annual so they will need to be planted again each year but are so worth it! They can be susceptible to powdery mildew.
Thyme is a hardy herb that thrives in hot conditions. Thyme is very versatile in the kitchen and pairs well with tomato dishes, on pizza, and roast veggies. Thyme also produces masses of tiny white flowers that attracts an array of beneficial insects and pollinators. Thyme creeps over the ground so it makes a great edible ground cover plant.
22. Macadamia Nut
Macadamia nut trees can take a long time to start producing (5-7 years) but are really hardy and nuts are great additions to a homestead to make flour and milk from.
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5 Tips for Successfully growing heat-tolerant edible plants
Many of these heat-tolerant plants listed are perennials and the reason perennials are so good for hot environments is that they have established roots and have time to get used to their environment. Annuals such as lettuce and tomatoes are planted new and have shallow roots so are more vulnerable to overheating.
Below are some tips to help you get your plants established and thriving through hot periods.
Focus on good soil with organic matter
Mulch, much, mulch
Have water available nearby
Avoid planting in late spring or during summer
Provide temporary protection such as shade cloth or umbrellas during hot periods.
Grow nanny plants or pioneer plants (quick-growing trees that provide dappled shade in summer eg: grapes, mulberry)
Plant new trees in pots until after the summer heat has passed
Plant densely – allowing other plants to protect and shade each other and the soil.
Worms are an amazing addition to a self-sufficient homestead as they turn scraps into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer to help you grow more food. Creating a sustainable lifestyle is all about taking small steps and changes to close the loop and nurture thriving ecosystems. You don’t have to do it all at once and I highly recommend starting small, mastering a manageable garden, and then start adding layers one by one. If you overwhelm yourself and don’t have habits and systems in place it won’t be sustainable long term and you can end up with unproductive chaos.
Click to watcha warm farm tour
Tips for setting up a backyard worm farm
1. Source a Worm Farm or Home for your Worms
There are many options for backyard worm systems from kit-set to DIY. You will also more than likely be able to pick up a second-hand worm farm so keep an eye out on your local listings and marketplace. Be mindful of your local climate and do a little research. In Perth, Australia, we have extremely hot summers that reach over 40 degrees. Cool shady locations are a must for worms. If you do live in a hot climate there are some great DIY options using old fridges and freezers to offer more protection. This is something I will be creating very soon!
2. Choose a Location
Choose a location for your worms that is out of direct sunlight and is well protected. On the flip side if you get snow or cold temperatures you would need to make sure you can bring your worm farm somewhere warmer.
The other important consideration to make is to keep it close and convenient. Worms like to be fed a little and often so you don’t want them down the back of your property where they may get forgotten about. Permaculture zone 1-2 would be great or have them located on a path that you frequent regularly. For example: on the way to the chicken coop or the washing line. Having things in convenient locations is the absolute key to being consistent and having systems in place that easily become habits means you don’t even have to think about it just becomes part of everyday life.
3. Source Composting Worms
There are many times of worms in your garden and they all play different roles so it’s important to get the right worms for your worm farm to make sure they are happy and thriving. Tiger worms are a popular type of worm for this system and can be purchased at many plant nurseries or hardware stores that sell worm farms. You may also be able to get set up with worms from friends that have their own form farms established.
4. What to Feed your worms
Feed your worms little and often! Be consistent.
What to feed: Coffee grinds, tea leaves, vegetable scraps, egg shells, banana peels, shredded paper or cardboard, dried leaves, greens, vacuum dust, and hair. The more variety the better as this will help keep a balanced pH. Add a little sprinkle of soil when you feed as the grit can help the worms break down the scraps. Keep the food scraps in smaller pieces if possible.
What to avoid feeding your Worms?
Avoid citrus, garlic, or the onion family as this will create an acidic environment that will harm the worms. No meat – as this can create bad bacteria and attract rats and other unwanted pests.
5. Water your Worms
Worms like a moist environment of around 70% moisture, so it’s important to give your worms a regular drink. Keep a damp sheet of cardboard, hessian sack, or newspaper on top of the food scraps to retain moisture and regulate temperatures. This also acts as a slow-releasing food source.
6. How to care for Worms when you go on Holiday
If you are going away for a few weeks your worms should be fine if you get them prepared. Flush water from the top tray, add plenty of food and some slow-release food such as pea straw, hay, and place some layers of wet newspaper or cardboard on top. This will help keep the worms nice and moist. If you are worried or going away for longer ask someone to stop by and feed your worms.
How to harvest the Worm Tea and Worm Castings?
The by-products of worms are both castings and worm tea. Castings are the worm poo which is your food scraps converted into soil. Add scoops of worm castings to your garden beds to feed and enrich the soil. Warm castings are quite concentrated so it’s best to mix this through with other soil first.
Once the worm bin starts to fill up with worm castings and the worms start trying to get out it may be time to change the bins over. Depending on the size of your worm farm and the population of worms this can be done 2-4 times a year. The active worm bin should be in the top layer so it is time to move this down and place an empty bin on top. Lift out as much of the uneaten food as possible and add it to the empty tub. Put in some fresh food and bedding and pour water over the top to moisten it all down. The worms will start to come up to the top layer to access the food and leave the bin of castings behind.
This may take a while for the worms to move up depending on how much uneaten food is left behind and how dense the population of worms is.
If you don’t have multiple layers in your worm farm another way to harvest the castings is to tip it all out onto some cardboard. The worms don’t like sunlight so they will move to the bottom of the pile and you can harvest off the top layer before putting the worms back in.
Worm tea can be watered down 10:1, especially on young seedlings but we also use a much more concentrated version of 50:50 on fruit trees. Just be careful when using it around young plants as they will be more sensitive, that’s when I would water it down more. Like with everything in the garden, when you are unsure or just starting out do sections and test it out first.
Use the worm tea within a month or two as you want to ensure the living organisms stay alive as that is the key to healthy soil!
If you have extra worm concentrate, bottle it up for gifts or this could be a great little side hustle for kids to sell.