Book Review – How to Start a Worm Bin: Your Guide to Getting Started with Worm Composting by Henry Owen

How To Start A Worm Bin

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How to Start a Worm Bin: Your Guide to Getting Started with Worm Composting by Henry Owen is a very accessible and easy to read how-to guide which provides all the necessary information you’ll ever need to get started in vermicomposting.

This enjoyable little 95-page paperback is satisfyingly thorough in dealing with the subject matter, covering all aspects of setting up a worm farm and caring for your worms. It’s filled with lots of practical tips and includes some DIY instructions for the handy-inclined. It’s written in a fairly casual, friendly conversational tone, which is reminiscent of being in a workshop with a presenter who knows his subject matter really well and can keep a very broad audience interested and engaged.

One notable aspect of the author’s writing style is the balance achieved between readability and technical content. This book is written in fairly basic language, so anyone can pick up this book and successfully understand the fundamental theory or follow the clearly written step-by-step instructions. Yet, it’s written is such a way that it manages to weave in just enough of the essential science of vermicomposting and worm biology in such a masterful manner that the reader will digest this important technical information without even realising it.

In keeping with the concept of accessibility which defines this book, kudos to the author for including both metric and imperial measurements side by side, making it useful to both US and international readers!

Just like any good presenter, the author repeats important points throughout the book in a didactic style so as to emphasise and reinforce them, ensuring that readers don’t miss the vital concepts which are critical to successful vermicomposting.

The book is lean and efficient, it’s a stimulating easy read, giving enough information for readers to confidently understand each topic. Put simply, it’s an enjoyable concise instructional book. The information is structured well and flows in a logical manner, covering all the topics that anyone starting out in worm farming would ever require.

From the list of contents below, we can see that this book covers the covers all the important topics on the subject of worm farming and dedicates several pages to each.


Introduction 1

Chapter 1: What is Worm Composting? 4

Chapter 2: Fears About Worm Composting 9

Chapter 3: The Worm 15

Chapter 4: Setting Up Your Worm Farm 23

Chapter 5 The Bin 26

Chapter 6: The Bedding 37

Chapter 7: The Food 40

Chapter 8: Maintenance 47

Chapter 9: Other Critters in the Compost Bin 56

Chapter 10: How to Keep Worms in the Bin 64

Chapter 11: The Poop: All About Worm Compost 68

Chapter 12: Worm Composting for Kids 80

A Final Word 83

Appendix 1: Worm Bin Troubleshooting 85

Appendix 2: Worm Composting FAQ 87

About the Author 94


I was fortunate to be able to ask the author Henry Owen a few questions, as I was curious about his motivations for writing this book. What was evident is that this book is a work of passion from a man who truly ‘walks the walk’, taking responsibility for his food waste, using worm composting to close the nutrient loop and grow more food for his family, and teaching others how to do the same. Henry explained that “the book’s goal is to provide worm composting beginners all the information and empowerment they need to start worm composting”, and in my opinion it does all that and more.

For such a short book it goes well beyond what the title suggests – it explains various ways to use worm casting in the garden, suggests educational activities for children that teachers can use in class, and has a reasonable troubleshooting guide in tabular format. It also has an excellent FAQ drawn from the author’s teaching experience which will most likely answer any questions that may arise after reading the book, and then some. This book even includes step-by-step instructions on how to build a simple worm bin from a plastic storage tub and a fruit fly trap should you ever need one.

Even though the book has just enough pictures, I would have liked a little more, and perhaps some diagrams, as I’m quite a visual learner. That would be my only minor criticism of what is otherwise an almost perfect beginners book on worm farming. It’s more of a personal preference than an issue really, as the author has a knack of explaining things so clearly that the book achieves and easily exceeds its intended aims.

In summary, this is a very well written book suitable for both beginners and intermediate readers on the subject, so If you’re looking to get into worm farming, or if you have already started but wish to learn more and become confident with all aspects of vermicomposting, then this is the book to get.

This is really the ‘Little Worm Farming Book That Could’, it will help any new starter overcome their doubts, fears or concerns, and give them all the right information, guidance and confidence they need to successfully compost with worms!


Deep Green rating for “How to Start a Worm Bin: Your Guide to Getting Started with Worm Composting by Henry Owen” is 5 stars!


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This is a well written book that I’d definitely recommend. Sure you can source a lot of information on bokashi composting online from various sources, including some from this site (Bokashi Composting and Bokashi Soil Generator ), but the beauty of this book is that it has way more content than any online resource, and all of this information is all gathered in one place, and presented in a very structured and logical way. If you’re into composting, this is a great reference to add to your collection.

Deep Green rating for “Bokashi Composting: Scraps to Soil in Weeks” by Adam Footer is 5 stars!


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Seed Raising Mix – Does It Work?


Want to sow seeds in pots? What do you need? Seed raising mix? Guess again!

Working part-time in the garden nursery industry, I meet many gardeners who have had problems sowing seeds in seed raising mix – they find that their seeds sprout but their seedlings only reach a very small size and then completely STOP GROWING, and the resultant seedlings are very thin and spindly!

That’s because seed raising mix has absolutely no nutrients in it, and is totally unsuitable for growing seeds in. It’s actually misnamed, it really should be called SEED COVERING MIX or SEED GERMINATION MIX, because that’s what it’s designed for, and does well.


What is Seed Raising Mix?


Typical seed raising mix contains Composted Bark, Crushed Quartz, Trace Elements and Wetting Agent.

The composted pine bark in seed raising mix is of a fine consistency, allowing seedlings to push through easily to come to the surface, and to push their roots down also, without any obstruction from chunky pieces of composted bark you find in regular potting mix which would get in the way.

Composted pine bark is the main ingredient in all potting mixes, and is the component in the mix which holds water. The crushed quartz improves drainage, preventing rotting of seeds and fungal diseases in seedlings. Together these two ingredients achieve ideal moisture retention.

Seed raising mix works well for rapid germination of seeds and encourages strong root development, and that it does well, but it can’t grow plants!


Using Seed Raising Mix Correctly

For seedlings to grow to the point where they are large enough to transplant, you need a nutrient-rich mix, which seed raising mix is not.

So, how do we raise seedlings using seed raising mix? 

  1. Fill the seedling tray with a quality potting mix (which will contain nutrients) that has been sifted to take the coarsest particles out, or use a fairly fine grade potting mix.
  2. Place seed on soil surface and gently press so seed is level with the surface.
  3. Cover with a layer of seed raising mix equal to the height of the seed.


If you want to use straight seed raising mix (because you bought a huge bag of it), mix it with a nutrient source such as worm castings or a very small amount of well composted cow manure, or both. If your seedlings germinate AND grow, you know you’ve got the right blend!

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – April

April brings us well into autumn, and the days are now getting shorter. While the soil is still warm, it’s a good time to plant trees, shrubs, and herbs, as their roots will have a chance to take hold before winter.

This is also the last chance to harvest fruit such as apples and pears (if they are ripe) before they’re damaged by frost. (To tell if an apple or pear is ripe, lift the fruit up gently in the palm of your hand, and give it a slight twist. Ripe fruit will come away easily with the stalk still attached to the fruit).

Things to Do This Month:

  • Plant new trees, shrubs, climbers, annuals and perennials.
  • Gather and compost autumn leaves.
  • Divide overgrown perennials, collect their seeds, prune those that have finished flowering,
  • Relocate evergreen shrubs (can be done either in autumn and early spring).
  • Prune tall shrubs to reduce their height to better resist winter winds.
  • Collect and sow seeds from berry producing trees and shrubs.
  • Propagation of hardwood cuttings is done in autumn – prune off 30cm long shoots of current season’s growth, cut off the soft growing tip, cut off the bottom end below a bud, and dip end into rooting hormone. Make a ‘slit trench’ by pushing a spade into soil and rocking it back and forth. In clay soil, add some coarse sand for drainage. Put cuttings in so 2/3 is below the soil, and press the soil down around them. Cuttings will root and be ready to plant next autumn.
  • Dig in cool season green manures that were sown in early autumn (such as rapeseed, broad beans, fenugreek, linseed, lupins, mustard, oats, subclover, and vetch) before they flower.
  • Prune brambleberries after they finish fruiting – cut out the canes that fruited, and tie in the newly grown canes to the support wires on the berry trellises.
  • Blackcurrants (and brambleberries) can be pruned from now till winter time.
  • Continue planting garlic, strawberry runners and shallot bulbs.
  • Harvest and store root crops – continue lifting beetroot and carrots and finish lifting potatoes. Leave parsnips in ground, they need some cold to taste the best.
  • Cut down asparagus foliage that has turned yellow (if it wasn’t done in March) and top-dress the asparagus crowns with compost or manure.
  • Empty compost bins into the garden to prepare soil for next season.
  • Cover ponds with netting to prevent autumn leaves rotting in the water. Also, feed the fish less food, as they are less active as the days shortens and uneaten food will foul the water.

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in April   Harvest (weeks)
Beetroot ds 7-10
Broad beans d 12-22
Burdock d 17-18
Carrot d 12-18
Chives ds 7-11
Corn Salad d 5-8
Endive ds 10-11
Florence Fennel d 14-20
Garlic d 17-25
Kale d 7-9
Kohlrabi d 7-10
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mizuna d 35-50 days
Mustard greens d 5-8
Oregano s 6-8
Pak Choy d 6-11
Parsley ds 9-19
Peas d 9-11
Radish d 5-7
Rocket d 21-35 days
Shallots d 12-15
Silverbeet ds 7-12
Snow Peas d 12-14
Spinach d 5-11
Swedes d 10-14
Turnip d 6-9

d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – April

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Australia New Zealand Biochar Conference 2018 (ANZBC18)

“Building Viable Biochar Industries”

Agriculture -Bioenergy – Building – Minerals & Metals Processing – Waste Management – Water Filtration and Environmental Management.

Date: August 14-16, 2018

Location: Southern Cross University, GOLD COAST CAMPUS, Southern Cross Drive, BILINGA QLD 4225,

For event details go to or click on flyer below:


Biochar_Conferece_2018_A4 - Vertical Latest

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Save BAAG from the North East Link!


The Bulleen Art & Garden (BAAG) Nursery is a wonderful local nursery which promotes sustainable and organic gardening, runs great educational workshops and is very much a part of the local community. It backs onto the Yarra river wilderness area which supports a wide range of indigenous flora and fauna. All of this is being threatened by a proposed freeway project which will run through the location of the nursery and surrounding river ecosystem.

A “Save BAAG from the North East Link” petition has been started, please sign to indicate your support!

The petition page on the BAAG website can be found at

The direct link to the petition is


Here’s more information from an email sent out by BAAG:

Please sign a petition to help save BAAG from the North East Link

If you haven’t already heard, Bulleen Art & Garden is under serious threat from the proposed construction of the North-East Link. We are now asking our community help us to survive by signing a petition at BAAG is an innovative garden centre which provides a visitor experience not found anywhere else in Melbourne. Some people in the garden industry even say we are unique in the world with our focus on art, environment and a wide range of rare and unusual plants.

We have been operating from 6 Manningham Rd West in Bulleen for the past 50 years, and under the current family ownership for over 35 years. BAAG is proudly an integral part of the local community and our approach is driven by a continued commitment to nurturing creativity and community. BAAG inspires, enables and educates our community to live in a more environmentally sustainable way. Please help us by signing this petition and spreading the word to your friends and families. The petition is calling on the North East Link Authority to ensure that the path the new road takes does not impact BAAG. It will only take a few seconds to sign, head to There is an optional section for comments, feel free to add your support there as well if you like!

Thank you so much to all of you who take the time to sign!

If anyone is having trouble with the embedded petition on our site, the direct link is

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Guest Article – How Gardening Helps Cancer Patients Cope

When I was first diagnosed with mesothelioma, I knew my live was never going to be the same. In fact, I felt like it was over. I am still fighting this terrible type of cancer, but I have a lot of ways to cope with the physical and emotional symptoms now. I discovered one of them when I returned to one of my passions: gardening. Working outdoors doesn’t have to be strenuous, and it can be soothing, invigorating, and it brings joy back to my life.


A Battle with Mesothelioma

My story begins when I was growing up in West Virginia. Without a lot of money in our family, I had to work from an early age. I worked in demolition, helping tear down old buildings, and eventually as an auto mechanic. I didn’t realize at the time, but in both of these jobs I was surrounded by asbestos dust. It came crashing down with the demolished building and it floated in the air as it came out of old brakes and clutches.

Asbestos exposure caused me to develop mesothelioma, the cancer that has attacked the tissues around my lungs. It took decades to show signs, but when it did, I was laid low by shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pains. Initially diagnosed with pneumonia, I finally got the correct diagnosis and started treatment to slow the progression of the cancer.

Gardening is Good For the Soul

Even with treatment I know that beating mesothelioma is nearly impossible. This is a tough disease, even among all types of cancer. The symptoms are difficult and drain my energy and the tumors spread quickly and aggressively. What I have found, though, is that I can get relief from the anxiety and stress of this illness by working outside in the yard and by creating and maintaining my garden.

It may be that gardening takes my mind away from worrying about being sick, from my symptoms, and from the difficulties of treatment. I think there is also something to the fact that just being outdoors boosts mood. I feel better when I am in the fresh air, with my hands in the dirt and enjoying all the sounds, sights, and smells of nature.

Gardening is One of Few Ways I Can Stay Active

Another great thing about gardening is that it is one of the very few active things I can still do. The cancer and the treatments I receive have left me much weaker than I have ever been, with little energy and difficulty breathing. I can’t even walk for very long, but gardening can be done at my own pace and without being too strenuous. I have my family to help me with the more difficult chores, but doing much of the work in the garden myself gives me a chance to get a little exercise.

Gardening and being outdoors are proven to be beneficial for all kinds of people, and that includes us cancer patients. It doesn’t require a great deal of expertise, and it can reduce stress and anxiety and provide a safe and meaningful way to get some exercise, to strengthen muscles, and to prevent some of the weakness and fatigue that this disease causes. Most any cancer patient can benefit from getting outdoors and doing a little work in the garden.

clip_image004 By V. Anderson

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, What's New! | Tagged | 4 Comments

Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – March

March heralds the beginning of autumn, so there’s lots of tidying up in the garden. It’s also an ideal time to plant new trees, as the weather is milder and there is some time for the trees to establish themselves before winter arrives.

Pick marrows, pumpkins and squash before the flesh becomes coarse. Only pick pumpkins when fully ripe (no green skin or stem), cut when stalk begins turning brown and withers.

It’s also time to lift root crops such as beetroot, carrots onions potatoes and turnips for storage and winter use. Leave parsnips in ground, they need some cold to taste the best.

If tomatoes have not ripened, the plants can be laid down flat on the ground and covered with a cloche (plastic covered frame) to speed up ripening.

Plant garlic now, as it prefers a period of cold weather to grow well.


Things to Do This Month:

  • Compost autumn leaves.
  • Collect perennial seeds and divide overgrown perennial plants.
  • Sow cool season green manure crops, such as rapeseed, broad beans, fenugreek, linseed, lupins, mustard, oats, subclover and vetch, then dug in during autumn before flowering.
  • Start planting new trees, shrubs, climbers, annuals and perennials – remember to water them regularly until they establish.
  • Relocate evergreen shrubs (can be done either in autumn and early spring).
  • Harvest autumn bearing raspberries, but leave canes unpruned till late winter-early spring
  • Finish pruning canes that have fruited from summer fruiting raspberries.
  • Prune blackcurrants and other brambleberries from now till winter.
  • Plant new strawberries
  • Remove autumn leaves from ponds and water gardens and thin out aquatic plants
  • Stop feeding container plants
  • Cut down asparagus foliage as it starts turning yellow and mulch the plants generously
  • Net trees to protect fruit from birds

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in April   Harvest (weeks)
Beetroot ds 7-10
Broad Beans d 12-22
Broccoli ds 10-16
Buckwheat d 8-12
Cabbage ds 8-15
Caraway d 24 months
Carrots d 12-18
Cauliflower ds 15-22
Chervil d 6-8
Chicory d 8
Chinese Cabbage ds 8-10
Cress d 2-3
Garlic clove d 17-25
Kohlrabi d 7-10
Leeks ds 15-18
Lettuce ds 8-12
Mizuna d 5-7
Mustard Greens d 5-8
Oats d 8-12
Onions ds 25-34
Orach d 7-13
Spring Onions d 6-10
Parsley ds 9-19
Parsnip d 17-20
Potato tubers d 15-20
Radish d 5-7
Salad Burnett ds 6-8
Salsify d 14-21
Shallot bulbs d 12-15
Silverbeet ds 7-12
Spinach d 5-11
Strawberry runners d 11
Swedes d 10-14
Turnip d 6-9

d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – March

Posted in Gardening Calendar, Gardening Information, What's New! | Tagged | 4 Comments