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This week we’re talking about worm farms. Unlike pests such as 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.

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In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to say a worm farm is 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 best things you can add to your garden to increase soil fertility. Even better, it’s almost free to set up. The only cost may be buying worms if you can’t get some from a friend.

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

Do you have a worm farm?

If not, why not?

Lots of people think it’s complicated, messy, or expensive to set one up. In fact, making your own is quite simple.

By following these simple instructions, there’s absolutely no need to go to the expense of buying a ready-made worm farm.

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

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. However, they’re simple to avoid when you know what worms need and want to keep them happy.

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.

  1. 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. Try your local supermarket if you don’t have a greengrocer nearby. Put a drainage hole in the bottom if there isn’t one. If you can’t find a box with a lid that’s fine too. Drape something like a hessian sack over the top for a lid.
  2. Line the bottom of the box with some appropriate bedding material and wet it thoroughly. It should be about 10 cm deep in total.

OK, now I’ve got the box, what’s next?

  1. 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.
  2. 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. It needs to be not too hot or cold, and not in direct sun.
  3. 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 a 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. 
Worm food
Worm food

Troubleshooting your worm farm

As long as you’re fussy about the details when you set up your worm farm, you’ll now have a super-powered fertiliser machine in your garden. Most problems are caused by:

  • Inappropriate bedding materials
  • Using the wrong type of worms
  • Not feeding them enough or feeding them too much
  • Not enough moisture (or too much)
  • Too hot (or too dry!)

Treat your new worm farm like a new pet. Take the time to get to know your worms and understand what they need.

Then you just need to sit back and enjoy the lovely “black gold” your worms produce – the finest compost/soil conditioner you’ll ever see!

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