Even if you are not confident with compost you will find worm farming to be amazingly easy. I was scared at first that I would kill my worms, as there seemed to be so many rules about how to look after them, but after two years I’ve realised that as long as you keep your worms in the shade and feed them occasionally, they will be just fine. They will continue to produce compost and worm wee for your garden (and worms for your chickens), even if you forget them for a few weeks. I started with a tiny handful of worms, and they have gradually multiplied to the point where I think I have enough to start another worm farm.
All you need to start a worm farm is a container to keep them in (either a commercial worm farm or one of the many DYI options on the web), some worms and some scraps to get them started. If you buy a commercial worm farm it usually comes with some coconut coir that you soak in water, this is somewhere cool and moist for your worms to hide until they’ve built up some compost for you. You can use wood shavings or newspaper instead, just something that’s not going to go mouldy. My first worm farm was $50 from Aldi, and this latest one was offered by a friend who had tried worm farming and given up, so it is a commercial one, but didn’t come with all the accessories (or even a tap and legs!).
My worms eat everything that goes into our compost bucket, including onions and citrus (in small amounts, if I juice a whole bag of lemons I put the skins in the compost instead). They also eat weeds from the garden. When you only have a few worms to start with, just give them a handful of scraps and see how they go, you don’t want it to go mouldy and stinky before they finish eating it. As your worms multiply you will be able to gradually feed them more. Mine currently eat the entire contents of our 4 L compost bucket once a week.
the top layer (that the worms are eating now)
the next layer (compost!)
Your worms need to be kept a comfortable temperature (around the same temperature that we humans prefer), in summer they need shade, but if you get cold winters, they may need some sun through winter. I kept mine in the garden at first, for convenience, but then the meat ants kept getting in and eating the worms, so I had to move the worm farm onto my potting table, which does get some sun in summer, but seems to be ok. You also need to keep your worms moist, if you lift up the lid and it seems a bit dry, you can pour some fresh water over all the worms and the compost. This will drain through the farm and you can remove the excess and use it on the garden. I leave a bit of liquid in the reservoir over summer to make sure they don’t dry out completely. You also need to put a cover over the worms (as well as the lid of the worm farm), either an old towel or a few sheets of damp newspaper, or some carpet underlay, this helps to keep moisture in the farm (the worms will eat the towel and newspaper, so be prepared to replace these regularly!).
worm "wee" (yeah, I know, its not wee, its leachate)
When you fill up one layer of our worm farm, you should be able to add or swap (depending on your design) another layer so you have an empty bin at the top again. You just keep adding more scraps to this top bin and the worms will climb up and start eating when they’ve finished with the other bin. You can then use the compost from the first bin on the garden. When I didn’t have so many worms, I tried to pick most of them out of the compost and put them back in the worm farm, but now I just tip them all out on the garden with the compost. The worm farm worms don’t survive in the garden, as they live on food waste, unlike earthworms, but I’m sure they contribute by feeding the microbes in the soil when they die. Ideally I should tip the compost out for the chickens to pick through first, I just need to figure out how I get it back when they’ve finished spreading it around!
step 1: figure out which bit is which
step 2: wood shavings, food and worms
step 3: damp layer of newspapers
That is how easy it is to start a new worm farm. Any tips to add? Do you find worm farming easier than composting?
Worm farm kits are available from Biome, click the banner below: