Basics of worm farming.


1. When feedingyour worms try and match the volume of food scraps (Nitrogen)  with  Carbon materials.  Good source of Carbon materials are:  envelopes, receipts, egg cartons and non-glossy advertising materials, shredded newspaper and cardboard; this can be mixed with your food scarps or added to your worm farm directly.   Aim for equal damp weight brown materials (Carbon)  to green materials (Nitrogen). If in doubt add a bit more Carbon materials.
2.
  Overfeedingis one of the most common mistakes in worm farming. Excess food  will go rancid and create a toxic, smelly environment.  Add food when about half of the previous feed has been eaten, and spread layers of food no more than 25mm thick.  It's a good idea to use a blender for breaking up big portions of food as the worms can eat it faster before it starts to rot.
3. The worms will naturally balance the
PH(6.5) of the worm farm as long as they are fed a balanced diet in Nitrogen and Carbon materials but if they are over fed Nitrogen (green or moist materials) the balance can go off and the worm farm become acidic (6 or below). This can be fixed by adding more brown or dry materials (Carbon) and by occasionally adding lime.  
4. The worm farm must be on the 
Shade.  If it gets to hot for the worms above 38C they will start to perish. If it is going to get to hot, water them in the morning and if the hot weather persists for several days, put a frozen bottle of water in the top of the farm to keep worms alive.
5.Aeratethe worm farm with a fork every 2 weeks or so using a fork NOT a sharp tool like a trawl, shovel or spade to avoid cutting your worms.  

6. Worm farming requires patience at the beginning. Give your worms time to adapt, settle and start to multiply.


How to set up your worm farm.Watch video.


1. Soak the coco peat block included with your worm farm in about 15 Litres of water for about ten minutes or until it reconstitutes to 30 Litres by absorbing the moister.   Once that is done spread over the previous layer of carbon materials. This will be the bedding for the worms.   


2. Start by shredding either old news paper, cardboard,  dry leaves or any other high carbon material,  moist them and place them at the base of the worm farm up to a height of the start of the base of the circular extraction door.
 

3. Now the worms are ready to move into their new home. Place them over the bedding and add some soil, potting mix or compost,  just enough to cover them, if you are moving the worms from another worm farm use the castings and contents of their previous home.  Place the felt included with your worm farm on top of the worms to maintain the moister and to create a  dark environment.


4. Allow a week for the worms to settle in their new home before you give them their first feed. I recommend starting your worm farm with no less then 250g equivalent to a 1000 worms per person in your house hold. You can accelerate the rate of waste transformation and breeding by getting more worms.


FAQ's

Why should I have a worm farm?

By turning your food scraps into worm castings you are preventing the release of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from landfill, and reconnecting the food cycle by creating a rich, free fertiliser to produce more food. Worm castings have many benefits to soil such as:

  • Adding a slow release source of macro and micro nutrients Creating excellent soil structure which assists with aeration, water and root penetration.
  • Increasing the ability of your soil to catch and store water, reducing the amount of irrigation required.
  • Adding a population of beneficial microorganisms to your soil which assist with soil health, pest and disease control.
  • Plus these wiggly worms make excellent and educational companions for kids!


Where do I place my worm farm?


Choosing a location for your worm farm is critical for it to succeed. Make sure it is away from direct sunlight, or where it can get overheated.Place it where you can easily and regularly access it and monitor it.   You will need to visit it at least once or twice a day so don't hide it in an unforgotten corner in your back yard where it will be hard to visit in cold days and end up neglected and forgotten. If you maintain your worm farm in optimal conditions you can place it indoors and even in your kitchen like I do, as they wont smell.

Even though the worm farm has an overflow system and is built to withstand outdoor conditions, in very wet weather place it under cover to avoid excess water filtering in which could cause problems.

To avoid unwanted visitors in your worm farm specially on windy days keep the lid secured with the tie down at all times.


What should I do with my worms during a heatwave?

Your worms will start to get stressed when the temperature of their bedding passes 30°C, or if it becomes dry. During summer you need to make sure that your worm farm is placed in a cool, shaded location, and that you check and adjust the moisture levels regularly. Remember that the ideal moisture level is a few drops from a squeezed handful of bedding. On extremely hot days, it may help to add a bottle of frozen water, to wet the felt and to hose down with cool water. We also recommend bringing your worm farm inside where the temperature is less extreme.


How long before I can start harvesting worm casting and worm juice?


It is important to understand that worm farming is a natural process and requires time for the system to mature.  Use the following timeframes as a guideline for the evolution of the process.


Week 1
Worms will settling in their new bedding. No feed required at this point.


Week 2

Minimal worm activity. Start feeding an amount equivalent to 1/4 of the weight of your worm population e.i if you have 500g of worms

equivalent to 2000 worms feed them 125g of food.
Wait for about half of the food to be eaten before you feed them again.

Week 3
Worm activity will start to increase and worm juice will start to be produced in minimal quantities.
Continue to feed as 1/2 the food has disappeared.

Week 4 to 6

Worm activity should be stable and you can start feeding with more regularity every 3 to 4 days waiting for the previous feed to have

been consumed by half.
Worm juice production will have increased and you can start harvesting

Week 6 to 12
Worm activity will be peaking
Increasing population as well as feeding regularity (2 to 3 days).
Regular supply of worm juice.
By the end of the 12th week your worms will be close to doubling in population.
You will be looking at harvesting your first worm castings.

Week 12+

Your population will continue to double every 12 weeks until it reaches the maximum numbers and processing capacity depending on the

size of  your worm farm.
You will have accumulated powerful knowledge and experience to start sharing with friends and the wider community to motivate them

into worm farming.


How do I use the Worm Juice?


Worm juice or worm wee is loaded with goodies in nutrition and biology and is safe for vegetables, fruit trees, and flowering plants. It will collect at the bottom of your worm farm. To harvest, simply open the tap at the bottom of your farm and empty into a container. Dilute the liquid at a ratio of 1 part worm wee, to 10 parts water for a rich plant fertiliser and soil conditioner or to apply as a foliar spray dilute by 1 part worm juice to 5 parts water. Ideally use rain water to dilute or tap water that has sat for at least 24 hours or  for the chlorine to evaporate and not kill the biology present in the worm juice You can put as much as you want directly into your soil or your plants.

If the worm juice looks to weak or smells  just put through the worm farm again to revitalize and clean.


When can I harvest worm castings?


The worm castings are produced slowly as the worms eat their way up.  You will be able to start harvesting as soon as the worms have eaten their bedding and started to move upwards in the worm farm to reach the new feed you are providing. This process will take at least 12 weeks and will depend on how much food they are being fed and how long it takes for it to be eaten. The process of replenishing the castings will get faster as the population increases and the system matures.

To harvest the castings, place a bucket or container under the circular door before opening,  with a small hand rake or non sharp tool pull the casting out into the bucket and close the door.  


How do I use the castings?


Worm castings have many uses and cause no harm to soil or plants. You can spread them directly around the root zone of the plant you want to feed.

They can be used as a seed raising and propagation medium on its own or mixed with other mediums.

You can also make a tea by placing a big handful of castings in a cloth in a 9 Litre bucket of rain water or tap water that stood for at least 24 hours and let it sit for 24 hours.
 
What do I feed my worms?


Worms like to eat many of the same things we eat, only they aren’t as picky. Stale bread, apple cores, lettuce trimmings, coffee grounds, and non-greasy leftovers are just some of the foods we usually discard that worms love. Shredded paper and cardboard, egg cartons, ripped up newspaper, receipts and envelopes should all be a regular part of the worms diet. LOTS of non-glossy paper should go in your worm farm. When feeding spread food evenly over the feeding layer.


Do Feed
Vegetable scraps, Fruit scraps and peels (mold/rot is fine), Bread and grains, Teabags, Non-greasy leftovers, Coffee grounds (and filters), Crushed egg shells, Napkins, paper towels, vacuum cleaner dust.
Don’t Feed
Don't overfeed citrus—should be no more than 1/5 of worm food, Meats, Fish, Greasy foods, Dairy products, Twigs and branches, Dog/cat feces (unless you have a separate worm farm for this purpose), Cat litter, Bones, Salty foods, Inorganic products.

Begin feeding your worms only a little at a time.  As they multiply, you can add larger quantities of food scraps.  To avoid fruit flies and odors, cover the food with the felt cover supplied with your worm farm. Worms prefer smaller-sized scraps and will eat through them more quickly than large or whole pieces of food.  
If your worm bin starts to smell bad, it could be a sign that you are adding more food than the worms can process.  If too much food is added, it can even heat up and kill the worms!  Quit feeding for awhile and when most of the food has been eaten, start feeding again

Feed your worms a diverse diet and always feed in moderation. If you have left over food that you don’t want to waste; chop it up and put it in a container in your freezer for later.

How much do I feed the worms?

Start by feeding them small amounts and feed again when about half of the previous ration has been consumed. Overfeeding is one of the common mistakes when staring a worm farm.

Make sure the food is spread around the feeding layer so the worms can have access to all the food at once. If the pile is to highe, above 25mm the worms won't get to the top and food will start to smell before it is consumed causing a bad environment for the worms.
Population in your worm farm will increase with time and more food can be supplied. Give your self time to study and get to know your worms.
Avoid feeding large amounts of food in one go it is better to add small amounts regularly.

Will the worms survive only with food scraps?


If you only feed food scraps the PH levels will turn acidic and ruin the health of the worm farm. A balanced diet with Nitrogen and Carbon is best.

Include Carbon materials as news paper, cardboard and old envelopes in the rations.


Do I need to water the worms?

Most of the moister in your worm farm will come from the food you're supplying so in good conditions you shouldn't need extra.  The consistency of the castings must be moist but not wet. If it starts to look dry you might need to feed them more Nitrogen rich materials and add a bit of moister to build the levels up.

In hot weather it is good practice to water a bit extra in the morning.


Can worms eat dog and cat faeces?

Cat and dog poo can contain diseases, and for this reason it is better to create a separate worm farm specifically for this purpose, and position the animal poo worm farm away from human activity.

Worms will eat dog and cat faeces but if given a mixed diet tend to prefer the food scraps – another reason to set up a separate smaller farm.


Tips and troubleshooting


My worms aren’t eating much food – am I doing something wrong?

It takes a little time for worms to acclimatise when added to a new worm farm system they might be going through the coconut peat and their bedding before moving to the surface to start eating the food you are providing. However, it is worth being patient, as worms breed quickly and can double their population in 2-3 months, under the right conditions.


My worm farm smells bad – what should I do?

A
well managed worm farm should smell pleasant and earthy. If your worm farm smells, it’s likely that too much food has been added, there is to much moister and it is becoming anaerobic. Try the following steps:

1) Remove any uneaten foods.
2) Check moisture level by squeezing a handful of bedding – you should get just a few drops. Check drainage if it seems too wet.
3) Aerate bedding (gently!) with a garden fork.
4) Cover food and surface with a thin layer of moist carbon-rich materials (e.g. autumn leaves, soaked paper, cardboard or straw).
5) Check that the foods you’ve added are mostly eaten before adding more.

6) Add a bit of agricultural lime on the feeding layer to assist with balancing the PH levels.

 There are lots of other creatures in my worm farm – is this a problem?

It’s great to have a multicultural worm farm! Beetles, springtails, slaters, earwigs, mites and the occasional slug or snail are all participating in the decomposition process. However, some species can indicate problems or food imbalances:

  •  Lots of ants in your worm farm mean it’s either too dry or you’ve added a sweet food.

  •  Vinegar flies (tiny flies that hover around the farm) usually indicate overfeeding (see FAQ below)

  •  Rodents and flies can be excluded by a tight lid and are less likely if dairy and meat scraps are avoided.


Tiny flies and other insects in my worm farm?

Keep in mind worm farming is an organic process, and other insects will be attracted to that process. You may find vinegar flies, mites, tiny white worms (pot worms) and other creatures in your farm from time to time – they will appear and disappear at different stages, and most do not create problems.
Many of these insects like acidic conditions, sprinkling lime or dolomite over the bed will make the environment less attractive.
Small flies such as fruit flies will naturally be attracted to the food, if they are unwanted simply bury any fresh food under a layer of shredded paper or add a layer of soil.
Slaters and earwigs are fairly harmless, but are more likely to appear if the bin is dry.  Sprinkle with  water, and put damp paper over the surface to deter large infestations.
Maggots are an indication that there is meat or protein in the worm farm, which is why we suggest not including these in your feed. Do not panic as maggots are actually good composters and will break down food and add nutrients to castings in much the same way as worms – and they will turn into flies eventually and fly away!
Make sure the door is always closed and the tie down is always locked and that the felt  cover is always on top of the feeding layer of your worm farm, this will stop critters from getting in.


Why are worms are all over the lid?

If is very humid, or if the worms sense it is going to rain they may move to higher ground, which in a worm farm is the lid and sides.  Once the rain passes they will move back into the bedding. Dont worry if you see worms on the lid, unless they are massed in a ball, which means they are stressed.

If your worm farm is out of balance, the worms may be trying to migrate.  If it is too acidic, too wet or dry, too hot – these can all be reasons for worms to want to move house.