How’s the health of your Worm Farm? Are you SURE?
Here are some easy tips to make sure your worms are happy and well looked after:
- Compost worms, red wigglers, Eisenia Fetida, tiger worms. They’re all the same thing. And they’re the most amazing way of breaking down organic waste. In ideal conditions, they can compost organic waste faster and far more efficiently than normal composting.
- For best results:
- Compost worms are photophobic (they don’t like the light). Make sure they are kept dark and retain moisture in the worm farm by covering it with old carpet, felt or hessian. Moisture is a balancing act. Moisture is an insulator of heat, so too much will actually make your worm farm warmer. This is not great during the warmer months.
- Moisture is your worms’ best friends. They are 90 percent water. Ideal moisture levels mean you should be able to just squeeze a water drop out of a handful of the worms’ bedding. Unfortunately, moisture control is one of the big challenges. In warmer temperatures, you can actually retain heat with excessive moisture. Excessive moisture is a great insulator.
- Their feed can be chopped up (1cm max). Blending is unnecessary. You should only “pocket feed”, adding enough food for the worms to digest at one time. Make sure it doesn’t cover the whole farm: put it in one corner. This will give the worms space to retreat to just in case the food doesn’t appeal to them right away.
- Ideal temperatures inside the worm bin are between 15 and 30 degrees C. You’ll get better temperature control if you set the bin in a shady place rather than direct sunlight.
- Worms need a mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ in a 1:2 by volume ratio. Greens are fruit, vegetables and grass. Browns include are aged leaves, bark, sawdust, cardboard and paper. All their food should be cut into small pieces (see above).
- Your worms will grow and work best if you manage the following conditions moisture, air, temperature, darkness and feed.
- VERY roughly, you can safely house 1000 red wigglers in each square foot of the worm farm. Interestingly, the worms are smart enough to know when they are overcrowded. They will stop breeding and may even shrink until the overcrowding is relieved. Once there is more room, the worms will begin breeding again and even grow larger.
- The worms should be able to digest their own body weight in a day. The weight of the worms in your worm farm determines the most food they will eat! Too much food being processed too fast by the worms will create a lot of moisture and heat. It is better to feed small amounts at first to see what amount the worms will digest at a time.
- Overfeeding is one of the most common problems when you’re starting out. When in doubt, stop feeding for a couple of days and then resume feeding. If you freeze and thaw waste as it is needed, you can actually speed up the process of degeneration that makes the food irresistible to your worms.
- The jury is still out about citrus and the onion family along with pineapples. If you feed them to your bin, only do so in small amounts (see pocket feeding above) so that worms can move away from the offending feed until it breaks down sufficiently. A great rule of thumb is, “when in doubt; leave it out” when feeding.
Like anything else, worm farming at home comes with a learning curve! Just popping a worm farm in the garden and feeding it without managing it properly can lead to this:
A combination of a very hot Melbourne day and severe overcrowding lead to my first worm farm becoming worm soup!
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
The Gentleman Vermiculturist provides an onsite health check for your worm farm.
The onsite health check is only available to MELBOURNE METRO. Please contact me (below) if you’re outside Melbourne metro.
This consultation will assess things like:
- Location and proper placement to avoid heat and cold problems
- General assessment of worms
- Advice on proper feeding
- Maintenance, including separating worms from worm castings.