Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
This week we’re talking about worm farms. Unlike pests like fruit fly, worms are one of the more useful critters in your garden. They have a huge capacity to turn “waste” food into a rich source of nutrients for your fruit trees.
It’s the single best thing you can do at home to provide high-quality, free fertiliser for your fruit trees.
You may not appreciate just how awesome these tiny creatures are. They are truly incredible waste-munching machines.
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?
If not, why not?
Lots of people think it’s complicated, messy, or expensive to set one up. It doesn’t have to be, and there’s absolutely no need to go to the expense of buying a ready-made worm farm.
Problems with worm farms
You might have tried to have a worm farm but ended up with a pile of sludge. Maybe all the worms died, or mysteriously disappeared.
These are all common problems, but simple to avoid when you know what worms like.
Making your worm farm
So, here are the 5 steps to make a simple and inexpensive worm farm at home. This will provide the right habitat to keep your worms happy.
- Get a suitable box. A simple polystyrene box with a lid will do. 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.
- Line the bottom of the box with some appropriate bedding material and wet it thoroughly. It should be about 10 cm deep in total.
- 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.
- Put the lid on the box (pierce a few air holes in it first). Place your worm farm in a spot with an even temperature – not too hot or cold, and not in direct sun.
- Feed the worms regularly, but not too often (be guided by how quickly they are eating the food you’re giving them). Make sure they don’t dry out. 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. Be careful not to add too much water and make sure the drainage is adequate, or you can actually drown your worms.
Trouble-shooting your worm farm
As long as you’re fussy about details you’ll now have a super-powered fertiliser machine in your garden. Use appropriate bedding materials, add the right type of worms, and feed them the good stuff.
Check out our worm farm short course for more detailed instructions and a video. You’ll also learn the difference between the worms in your soil and compost worms. The course also includes help with trouble-shooting any problems that might arise.
And then sit back and enjoy the lovely “black gold” your worms produce – the finest compost/soil conditioner you’ll ever see!
Natural fertility for fruit trees in Autumn
Autumn is a great time to apply some natural fertility to your fruit trees before they go to sleep for the winter.
Women can be farmers too
Katie jumped at the chance to be part of an ABC series breaking down stereotypes and encouraging girls to be farmers.
Dieback and cankers on fruit trees
Die-back and cankers on your fruit tree may be a sign that it has root rot caused by Phytophthora infection.
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?
Bunnings have them.
That’s great that you are still able to be out in the garden. As Bob said, Bunnings have compost worms.
Or get some from your compost heap.
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.
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).
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.
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🐛
Yep, worth their weight in gold!
Is worm juice good for citrus trees? 2
Hi Lorraine, it certainly is! Citrus trees are heavy feeders, and the worm juice not only supplies nutrients, but also helps the microbes in the soil do their job better in getting enough nutrition into the trees. Go for it!
I have had a lot of my worms getting to the top of my compost bin and trying to come out the top and drop to the ground. I have put worm farm worms in my composting bin when I set it up. I set it up as per the set up instructions for a worm farm. Could it be that I have too much green matter or coffee grounds? Am getting desperate.
Worms usually only try to escape if the conditions don’t suit. If you have a lot of green stuff in there it might be getting too hot. Have you checked the temperature? Or it may be too wet.
Hope that helps.
After attending your workshop a few years ago I built a worm farm shed with two baths at right angles to each other, one above the other. the top bath drains the “worm juice” into the bottom bath which drains into a bucket. I harvest about 48 Litres of Juice a year which is very concentrated so I dilute it for the garden. Each bath delivers worm castings and compost consecutively so when one is maturing I fill the other. The juice goes round my little orchard and garden and the castings go into select beds each spring. I balance with garden lime. this system is about right for kitchen scraps/annum. The only problem I ever had was when we lost a tree on west side, the shed got baked in the afternoon and all the worms died. Keep up the great work MAFG!
Hey Fritz, nice to hear from you – sounds like a great system you’ve got going there. It’s so satisfying for us to hear back from people years after a workshop that the information is still serving them well, and love the adaptations to suit your own garden. Sounds fabulous!
I would like to know how to use the vermicompost? In the past I have killed off shrubs by perhaps using too much? Think they got burnt by it, is it very strong?
Hi Mary, It’s not possible to kill or even damage things with vermicompost. It does not contain anything that can damage plants and it’s not really possible to use too much. Just use it as you would any compost – add it to your garden, or soak some in water and water it in that way. If you have plants dying then there is something else going on.
Hi my worms are falling in the bottom and drowning . What am I doing wrong .