It is a form of composting, using worms to eat your fruit and vegetable scraps.
Compost worms ingest a large volume of food and create castings. These castings have high nutrient levels and as such are an excellent fertiliser. The liquid residue also makes an excellent fertiliser. It needs to be diluted with water to the colour of weak tea and can be poured directly onto your plants.
Worm farms are ideal for people living in flats, units or houses with small backyards, since little area is needed.
The difference between a regular compost and a worm composting system is that worm castings are the finished product: the nutrients in vermicast are completely plant-soluble (directly absorbed into the plant) as it is aerobic (oxygenated). Regular, anaerobic (non-oxygenated) compost is a nutrient-rich product, but before it can be absorbed by the plants it needs to be further processed by other organisms within the garden.
Compost worms are used in worm farms. These are quite different from garden worms as they move quickly over longer distances in search of food, whereas garden worms hardly leave their tunnel, except during mating season or when flushed out by rain or lack of food.
Three types of compost worms commonly bred for composting are tigers, reds and blues.
Composting with earthworms is called vermiculture.
Knowing a few basics about worms and how they make a compost work will ensure you have a successful system that will keep you recycling at top efficiency indefinitely.
Overall this should take several months.
Worm castings and liquid are useful additives to the garden with a neutral pH level of 7.
|Plant fertiliser||spread a layer of worm castings 2.5cm deep around plants.|
|Lawn Top Dressing||3 parts aged compost to 1 part castings|
|Seed Raising Mixture||3 parts aged compost to 1 part castings|
|Potting Mix||2 parts aged compost, 1 part castings, ½ part Vermiculite.|
|Native and Fruit Trees||Apply around base dripline and water well (Spring and Autumn)|
|Liquid fertiliser||from the collector tray can be used on all plants when diluted 50% with water.|
Q) How can I help my worms eat more?
A) Worms will feed at a faster rate once they have adapted to any new food source. Mash, blend or food-process. Control temperature to around 24°C.
Q) What do I feed my worms?
A) Fruit peelings (watermelon, banana, mango, peach, nectarine, pear and grapes, apple cores) NO CITRUS – too acidic.
Vegetable scraps and peelings (carrot, potato, pumpkin, beans, zucchini, corn cobs, avocado skin, celery, broccoli) LIMITED ONION PEEL OR GARLIC – too acidic;
Plate scrapings (cooked vegies, stewed fruit left overs, cereal) hair, shredded soaked newspaper, egg cartons, non-waxed cardboard packaging;
Cake, biscuits and bread (sparingly, as high in sugar – acidic);
Crushed egg shells;
Vacuum cleaner dust (pure wool carpet – synthetic leaves fluff balls everywhere);
Coffee grounds, tea bags;
Leaves, lawn clippings, flowers - wet through to reduce heat;
NO MEAT and DAIRY PRODUCTS as these can attract vermin and flies causing bad smells.
Q) How moist should the worm farm be?
A) The texture of the material in the bin should only be moist enough to produce a few drops of water when squeezed. Lightly spray and keep the surface moist if it is drying out too much. Ants are a tell-tale sign if it is too dry.
Q) What are the tiny white worms on the food in the worm farm?
These are called “White Worms”. They are composters too, and help neutralise the system, but their presence could indicate that the bin is slightly acidic. Keeping a few broken egg shells in the bind at all times will help prevent this.
Q) What are the red and brown mites in the worm farm?
A) They do not harm the worms and are composters too, they help to break down the fibrous materials. If present in large proportions – leave the lid off the farm and expose the surface of the bedding to sunlight.
Q) My farm attracts those little white flies. What can I do to get rid of them?
A) Keep your food waste covered at all times. Use a good layer of shredded paper on the top of the bin, or add a layer of “finished” worm castings.
Q) I’ve got ants!
A) This is an indication that the farm is dry and acidic. Add water to get to a wet sponge consistency, as well as lime to where the ants are gathering. Avoid highly acidic food such as citrus, onion, garlic. To prevent reinfestation either smear Vaseline around the legs or stand each leg in a container of water to isolate the system.
Q) What about holidays?
A)A soaked newspaper placed on top of the hessian will give added protection against the bedding drying out.
Q) I’ve got cockroaches!
A) Bait with bread soaked in milk and remove.
Q) Why does my worm farm smell?
A) It shouldn’t smell at all. It usually has a nice earthy, rainforest smell when operating correctly. Factors can be:
Sprinkling a small handful of Agricultural lime over the surface will help sweeten the bedding again.
Q) The bedding appears like mud. How do I fix this?
A) Stir some dry shredded paper or chopped cardboard through the bedding – this will help absorb the excess moisture.
Q) The worms are leaving!
A) Worms may leave if the farm is too dry or too wet. It is important to maintain moisture to the consistency of a wet sponge and leave the bottom tap open. Fresh food is too acidic – rest the system. Let the white worms do their work, add lime as a last resort. Too much light getting in – check if the carpet/hessian has been eaten to a threadbare state. Temperature is too hot or too cold – in summer, cool by shading and winter, add more food to create more anaerobic heat.
Q) Will I get too many worms?
A) Worm concentration should reach 10,000-15,000 worms after 2-5 years.
Q) Where can I buy a worm farm?
A) There are many places that you can buy worm farms, including: nurseries, hardware stores and major department stores.
Worm farms are also available for purchase at Kiama Council. To purchase:
Q) Where can I buy worms?
A) Worms are available for purchase from
Max Norden, Wormifert,
Ph 0414 733 823.
For more information read the Easy Worm Farming Guide or call Council’s Waste Minimisation Officer on (02) 4232 0553.
Last updated: Thursday 16 August, 2012