Worm Farms

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Keeping a worm farm is an easy way to cut down on waste to landfill, with the added bonus of creating a fantastic organic fertiliser for your garden.

The best thing about a worm farm is that you can keep it anywhere: they can be kept inside, on the balcony or even in the garage.

Worm farms can be bought from most hardware stores, or you can build your own using an old bath, trough, wooden box or tub.

Did you know?

  • Earth worms have no diseases, can live up to 15 years, and consume half their body weight in food every day?
  • Earth worms are also capable of producing lots of offspring: just two mature worms can multiply to 1,500 in one year.

 

Worm Farms made easy:

  • Make sure your worm farm is in a cool shady spot. This is important for worms to survive the hot summer months.
  • Prepare bedding for the worms. If you have purchased a worm farm this may be supplied, otherwise here are some options:
    1. Purchase a bag of worm castings or peat moss
    2. Mix ½ a bucket of manure with ¼ bucket of shredded  newspaper, or
    3. Combine some finished compost, leaves and shredded newspaper.
  • Add your worms to the bedding and start feeding them. Begin with a small amount of food until the worms adapt to their new home. Maintain a good food layer about 2cm thick. If you are going on holidays, increase the food layer and add some newspaper which will provide enough nutrients until you return home.
  • Cover the worms with a hessian bag or wet newspaper to keep the moisture in and the light out. Keeping the worm farm dark encourages the worms to come to the surface and feed on the food scraps. It will also help keep the worm farm cooler in the summer months.

What do worms like to eat?Worms at work

Worms like vegetable scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds, newspaper, well-aged manure, vacuum dust, cardboard and egg shells.

They don’t like large amounts of onion peel, garlic, citrus, or excessive amounts of potato peel, so go easy on the quantities of these items.

Problems:

Your worm farm may from time to time experience problems in its productivity. Below are the most commonly asked questions and tips for all of your worm farm worries.

Unwelcome Visitors?

Ants, spiders, slugs or the odd cockroach might find your worm farm a good place to live. Don’t worry too much—they won’t hurt your worms. Vinegar flies are tiny little flies that will set up camp under the lid of your farm if it is too acidic. To remove the vinegar flies, add a little lime and this will bring your pH levels back to neutral. Make sure you have a good fitting lid for your worm farm as well.

Smelly worm farm?

Your worm farm can start to smell if the worms are being fed more than they can eat or if the worm farm is too wet. Start by feeding the worms slowly and gradually build up. Make sure that your worm farm is well drained. If it’s too wet your worms may drown. Add some dry materials such as shredded paper and dry leaves to balance out the food scraps.

Where did my worms go?

Worms will tolerate temperatures between 10 and 30°C, so over the warm summer months it is important to ensure that the worm farm does not receive any direct sunlight. Your worm farm can easily dry out and your worms will die. Keep your farm out of direct sunlight and cover with a piece of shade cloth or a hessian bag. This still allows air to penetrate so the worms can breathe, but blocks out the sunlight. If you have had a few very hot days in a row, give your worms a shower – open up the drainage outlet on the worm farm and cool it down by sprinkling it with your hose. This will lower the temperature by a few degrees, and if you use a wet newspaper/hessian bag and the shade cloth, this should keep it cool for a week or so.

 

Results:

A young girl planting some strawberry plants...

Your worm farm will create two products: worm castings and liquid fertiliser. Both are great for the plants in your garden because they add much needed nutrients. But be cautious with native gardens – they don’t need excessive nutrients to be added.
Castings: Spread a small amount around your plants, or dig into the soil to increase organic matter.

Liquid fertiliser: Mix one part worm liquid with four parts water to provide plants with a kick! Liquid fertilisers are especially good for use on pot and container plants.