1. Choose your site
Worm farms can be kept inside or outside. The best place is somewhere with convenient access outside, but under cover to avoid getting too wet or too much sun. Avoid direct sun in summer- the worms will die if they get too hot. If you don’t have shelter you can still keep a worm farm, you will just need to be mindful it doesn’t fill up with water or get too hot.
Did you know? If you go away your worms will be fine without food for a month or longer if you leave them with plenty of damp newspaper. Make sure they are somewhere shady or even in the bathroom if you are away in summer and remember to leave the worm farm tap open so it can drain if you’re leaving them outside.
2. Choose your ingredients
What can I put in my worm farm?
Worms like to eat nitrogen-rich food scraps, mainly fruit and vegetables. Feed your worms:
- vegetable scraps
- fruit scraps
- egg shells
- tea bags and coffee grounds
- small amounts of carbohydrates
- small amounts of cardboard, hair, and vacuum cleaner dust
Hint #1: Worms get through food faster if it is in small pieces.
Hint #2: The worm population is small to start with so only give them a few handfuls of food every few days. Once they’ve bred, after a few months, you can give them a lot more.
What should I keep out of my worm farm?
- meat and bones
- poultry and fish
- fatty food waste
- whole eggs
- dairy products
- citrus fruit
- onion and garlic
Did you know? Worm farm worms eat their body weight in food each day – although they are not actually eating the food but the bacteria on the surface of the food.
3. Setting up your worm farm
Worm farms usually consist of two – three layers. Liquid collects in the bottom layer, the middle layer is for bedding and the worms start here. The top layer is added later and the worms are fed here.
The tray with holes in it sits on top of the bottom layer. Line it with newspaper or cardboard.
Your worm farm comes with a coconut husk brisk. Soak it in a bucket of water for 30 minutes before you set up. When ready, pour the soaked husk over the cardboard in the middle layer and let it settle.
Add your worms to the middle layer, cover them with damp newspaper and a hessian sack. To feed them later, peel back the newspaper and hessian sack, place the food down, and replace the covers.
The extra layer is not needed until the middle layer fills up. Put it aside or take it on and off each time you feed the worms in the middle layer.
Hint #3: Worms move between the layers through the holes but they can’t jump. Place a container in the bottom layer that touches the next layer so the worms can climb up it. Make sure the middle layer touches the top layer before you place the food there.
Hint #4: Covering the worms with damp newspaper and a hessian sack keeps them moist and helps prevent small flies. You can use old T-shirt or anything made from natural fibres.
Did you know? A good way to ensure they start breeding quickly is to make sure there is plenty of space for them to live in. You can do this by creating more bedding by adding aged compost or more coconut husk.
4. Using the worm produce
Worm farms provide you with valuable solid and liquid fertiliser which you can harvest as you need.
Turn the tap on to collect the worm wee. Use one part liquid worm wee to seven parts water, or dilute it until it looks like weak tea. Diluted liquid can be poured around the roots of your plants or sprayed on to the leaves of plants to act as a pest repellent.
Swap the middle and top layers and leave the lid and covers off for 20 minutes in the sun. The worms will burrow down to avoid the light. To avoid taking too many worms, slowly scrape off the castings (worm poo) allowing the worms to burrow deeper. Mix castings with equal amount of soil and use it as a potting mix or dig it in around plants. Always cover this with mulch.
Hint #5: If your worm farm is not under shelter it’s a good idea to leave the tap open so the bottom tray doesn’t get too full, causing the liquid to rise up and drown the worms.
Hint #6: You can store worm liquid in bottles (remember to label it). When you use it, aerate it by shaking the bottle and mixing it with water. Worm castings need to be used once harvested or they will dry out.