7 Steps to a Simple Worm Farm

Hugh with hands full o'worms
Hugh with hands full o’worms
Photo: Biomi’ Photos

This week we’re talking about worm farms, and the huge capacity of worms to turn “waste” food into a rich source of nutrients for your fruit trees.

You may not appreciate just how awesome these tiny creatures are, but they are truly incredible waste-munching machines, and a worm farm is one of the simplest and most useful things you can add to your garden to rapidly increase soil fertility with absolutely no cost!

Do you have a worm farm? And if not, why not?

Ella with her brand new worm farm at one of our workshops
Ella with her brand new worm farm at one of our workshops

Lots of people think it’s complicated, messy or expensive to set one up, but it doesn’t have to be – there’s no need to buy a ready-made worm farm.

Or you might have tried to have a worm farm but ended up with a pile of sludge, or all the worms either died or mysteriously disappeared – all common problems, but simple to avoid when you know what worms like!

Here’s how to make a simple and inexpensive worm farm at home that will provide the right habitat to keep your worms happy.

  1. Get a suitable box – a simple polystyrene box with a lid will do, and you can probably get one from your local organic or fruit and veg shop, or possibly even the supermarket if you don’t have a greengrocer nearby. Put a drainage hole in the bottom if there isn’t one.
  2. Line the bottom of the box with a mix of shredded newspaper, aged manure or similar.
  3. Mix all together, and wet thoroughly – it should be about 10 cm deep in total.
  4. Add a handful of compost worms (note: don’t use earthworms, as they have different feeding habits and won’t be happy in a worm farm).
  5. Put the lid on the box (pierce a few air holes in it first), and keep your worm farm in a spot with an even temperature – not too hot or cold, and not in direct sun.
  6. Feed the worms regularly, but not too often (be guided by how quickly they are eating the food you’re giving them), and make sure they don’t dry out.
  7. Dampen them every few days if they seem too dry, and collect any excess liquid that drains out the hole in the bottom. This is worm juice, and is fantastic liquid fertiiser that you can dilute and use on your garden. Worms don’t naturally produce liquid, so you’ll only get this worm juice coming out of the worm farm if there’s an excess of liquid going in, but be careful not to add too much water (and make sure the drainage is adequate) or you can actually drown your worms. 
Worm food
Worm food

Download this short course for more detailed instructions for building your worm farm (including a video), learning about worms in your soil (and the difference between them and compost worms) and trouble-shooting any problems that might arise.

Enjoy the lovely “black gold” your worms produce – the finest compost/soil conditioner you’ll ever see!

9 thoughts on “7 Steps to a Simple Worm Farm”

  1. Thank you for the wonderful information on so many areas

    I am 92 and have nearly a hectare of garden which I love, but is needing to be more minimum care

    Where do I get the right kind of worms?
    Cheers. Joy

    1. Hi Joy,

      That’s great that you are still able to be out in the garden. As Bob said, Bunnings have compost worms.

      Cheers.

    1. You could do that, Ian, but these would be garden worms rather than compost worms. It’s much easier to manage a worm farm with compost worms.

  2. Maybe a silly question but are the words which are in my compost bin (I didn’t put them in there) different to the worms in the soil/ earth (I didn’t put those there either). Where would ‘compost/ worm farm worms’ live if humans didn’t make worm farms for them? I assumed the worms in my compostbins came up from the soil but they do look different (pink and skinny) from the ones in the ground (more brown than pink and fat).

    1. Hi Moya, good question. Compost worms are different to garden worms in that they are top-feeders; garden worms tend to move much deeper through the soil. They will move into a compost bin if it is not a thermal (hot) compost system. Either way, any worms are a good sign.

      The reason we specifically get compost worms is that they will eat food (food scraps, green waste) on the surface of the worm farm, leaving their poo (castings) behind. This way it’s possible to build the depth of the castings simply by adding more food on top.

  3. I have had a worm farm for a couple of years now and I totally see the benefits. Healthy in door plants and great for fruit trees. Nothing goes to waste. I just enjoy the recycling that the worms do, awesome little creatures🐛

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