7 September 2007


It doesn't look the best, but these little creatures will help you grow good organic food. They will recycle your kitchen waste and help fill your fruit and vegetables with all the nutrients and trace elements they need for good healthy growth. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, today it's worms on parade.

When I first got my compost worms, I kept them in a couple of polystyrene boxes. They were happy enough but then they started reproducing and I realised they needed more room. We bought an old bathtub from the local recycle shop for $20 and Worm Hilton was born.

The worms need bedding to live in. They also eat this bedding and over time is must be replaced. The worms will turn the bedding into worm castings, which is the best complete fertiliser for the garden.

Just a word on the worms. You need compost worms in a worm farm - reds, tigers or blues, not earth worms. Earth worms do not like living in worm farm conditions, compost worms will not burrow through soil.

So how do you make a worm farm in a bath tub?
In addition to your bathtub or large container, you'll need:
  • about two buckets full of road gravel,
  • a sheet of microfilter, weedmat or tightly woven shade cloth,
  • lots of compost or good garden soil,
  • aged manure of some sort,
  • shredded computer paper, newspaper or cardboard, straw or hay,
  • some sort of covering like hessian bags, thick wads of newspaper or cardboard
  • worm food aka kitchen scraps,
  • and of course, our old friend, the compost worm - at least a thousand of them.
Worms need a dark environment so you'll need to cover the bedding with moist bagging or newspaper, and a hard cover to keep rain out, like a corrugated roofing sheet. Of course, I'm telling you my experience with my worm farm. I live in a fairly dry and sometimes hot environment but when it rains, we get torrential rain. If you live in a moderate climate, you'll be able to keep your covered worm farm under a tree. If you're in a cold place, it will have to be somewhere protected from the cold. If it's really hot where you live, your worm farm will need to be in the coolest place. The idea is to provide a fairly stable temperature, with moist conditions. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, the worms will either die or they'll escape to find a better home. When you start your worm farm, monitor it to make sure the worms are ok and like where you've put them.


Get a wheelbarrow and place the dry materials like the shredded paper and straw in it to soak. All your materials need to be moist.
Using an angle grinder, cut slits in the bath tub about 5cm from the base. This allows air in. Although the worms will be living in the bedding, it needs to have air in it or they will die. When you've added the slits, place the bath tub where it will sit permanently. Mine is in my bushhouse under a bench. When it's in place, add the gravel. The gravel provides good drainage so that the bottom of the bathtub doesn't fill with water and drown some of the worms. Notice the slits cut in the side of the tub, there are some under the gravel as well.

The gravel has been placed on the base of the tub, now cover it with the filter sheet or weedmat to prevent the worm castings mixing into the gravel.

Now you're ready to start placing the bedding. Wring out the paper/straw/hay and put it into the tub, top that with lots of compost and manure and mix it all together. You need to make a nice organic bed for your worms. One that they'll happily eat, reproduce and live in. The better the conditions you give them, the faster they'll reproduce and the more castings you'll have for your garden. This photo shows the first of the bedding - the shredded paper.

Now add the compost or garden soil and mixed well, water it to make it nice and moist - not wet.

The bedding should be about 40% water. A good test is to wring out a handful of bedding material, if you can only get a couple of drops of water, that's great. If water drips out, that's way too much and you'll need to drain the bedding to remove some of the water before placing the worms in there.

Place a container under the outlet to catch the worm juice. This is valuable fertiliser. Make sure you dilute it before using it. It should look like weak black tea - maybe 100 mls per 1 litre. To start your farm off well, it’s a good idea to run some worm juice and molasses through the farm. The molasses will feed the beneficial bacteria that will help the worms establish themselves in the new bedding. Get an old one litre container and fill it with worm juice, mix in two tablespoons of ordinary pure molasses, mix and pour over the farm.

When you've got the bedding in place and it's all mixed well with just enough water, place some food on the bedding and mix it in. Now put the worms on top of the bedding. Just put them on the top, they'll burrow in themselves. Now cover the bed with moist hessian or cardboard/paper.

This is what the worm bed looked like about an hour after I placed the worms into the new home.

When I feed the worms I usually chop the food up so it's in small pieces. It takes them a while to eat big pieces of food. Remember, the faster they feed, the bigger they grow, the more they reproduce and the more worms and castings you'll have. When you've got them in their new home, don't forget to place a rain proof cover over the worm farm.

You should keep the covering on the top moist. I sprinkle mine with rainwater every second day for 10 seconds. During summer I'll do this every day. With a fork or a little claw rake, fluff up the bedding once a week to make sure there's enough air in the bedding. Apart from that and feeding them, leave them alone to do their thing. Worms hate to be disturbed all the time and they don't like light. If the worm farm starts to smell a little, you're feeding them too much. Cut back the food and sprinkle a little lime over the worm farm. That should sweeten it up again.

This is my worm farm today. I have no hessian bags at the moment so it's covered with wads of moist newspaper.

As you can see the farm is teaming with worms. I feed the worms about every second day. Usually I chop up their food but you can see some celery stalks here that I just threw in after removing them from the aquaponics system. The worms will eat all the food you give them, but the bigger it is, the longer it takes them to eat it. They love high protein food too, and thrive on it, so if you have a spare egg or two, they'll eagerly devour it.

I have just harvested about three buckets full of worm castings for my organic garden. To harvest the castings, about two weeks prior to harvesting, start feeding the worms on one side of the farm. They will all move to that side to feed. After a couple of weeks, harvest the non-feeding side and refill it will bedding. When the worms have settled down again, start feeding on the new bedding side and harvest the remaining castings.

Our harvested castings were mixed in with the rest of the organic materials we added to the garden beds when we changed from our winter plantings to our summer ones. Remember, worm castings need to be covered when you put them in a garden bed. Don't let them dry out and cover with either soil, compost or mulch.


Feed the worms every day or two. Watch how much they eat, and feed accordingly. You don't want the feed sitting in the worm farm too long. Worms will eat anything that was once alive, so give them your kitchen scraps, old dishcloths, hair, worn out cotton or wool, tea leaves or tea bags, coffee grounds, old bread, eggs, shredded paper, wet cardboard or garden waste. DO NOT GIVE then too many citrus peels or onions, although they can take a small amount. Give them a variety of food, then you'll get the best possible worm castings.

When you feed the worms, dig the food into the bedding so it's not available to wandering rats, mice or cockroaches.

If you use animal manure, like cow or horse manure, make absolutely sure those animals haven't just been wormed. If that manure is contaminated at all with worm medication, it will kill your worms.

Make sure the bedding is always moist.


When they're mating, worms will produce about 12 babies per adult per week. You'll know that they're mating when you see little worm capsules in the bedding. Each capsule contains around four babies. The babies hatch after about 30 days and are ready to breed about two months later.


Both must be diluted as they could burn your plants. To use the worm juice that filters down through your worm farm, just dilute in water to the colour of weak black tea, and apply to your plants.

To make worm tea from castings, scrape about ¼ bucket of castings from the top of the farm and soak them in water for a few hours. Then dilute this with water to the colour of weak black tea. The microbes in the tea will stay active for about 15 hours, so apply it within that time.


  1. your worms look great ~ my farm has only been set up for a couple of months and they're not eating much yet or making tea yet!

    how do you get to put so many pics in a post? I find I can only add 5 or 6

  2. Hi ali. Once the warmer weather starts your worms will start multiplying and there will be no looking back.
    It just lets me add the photos. I put them in in batches of five, then start another batch.

  3. We've got the bath ready to go now that it is Spring time but first we're having a little holiday. The worm farm is on our chore list for the last week of K's holdays so we'll be referring back to your instructions I'm sure. Thanks Rhonda

  4. Now here is something that I will put on my list to do in the near future. Thanks for the great post and your blog. Your thoughtfulness always shines through!

  5. These are the best instructions I've seen on this 'job' Rhonda

    Would the end of October be too late to start - we'll be away for a couple of weeks before that and I don't want to start now and leave them with nothing to eat during those 2 weeks


  6. Hi! I've been reading, but I think this is one of my first comments.

    I'm interested in starting a worm composter and had a couple of questions:

    #1-can worms eat meat scraps, things with milk, grains etc? I mean, could I just give them the scrapings off of our dinner plates?

    #2-I know I've read that you can do this inside in the winter-do you happen to know the temp range that this would need? We are moving and will have a large basement, but It's going to be fairly cold in the winter. . . which is coming up shortly here in Upstate NY, USA.

  7. woo hoo! worm farming here i come!
    these are excellent instructions, much much better than most of the others i've seen. i can't wait to get started!

  8. Polly, good luck with your farm when you come back from holidays. In the future, you can go away on holidays with a worm farm. Make sure you water the bedding so it's moist and feed the worms well before you go and add a few wads of newspaper. When the food is gone, they'll eat the paper. Make sure they're well covered and this will keep them going for a couple of weeks.

    You're welcome, Bella. : )

    Hello Cathy, thanks for stopping by. See the comments to Polly above re going away and leaving the worms. They can survive quite nicely alone if their bedding is moist and they have a bundle of food.

    Hi Jenn, it's good to see you here. Worms can, and do, eat meat scraps. The problem with feeding meat is that it might attract rodents, but being in a basement might keep the rats and mice out. Make sure you bury meat well into the bedding with nothing on top to attract rodents or flies. Scraps from your dinner plates will be fine. Worms will eat whatever we eat. The only problem is that the food will attract if it's left laying on top of the bedding. Bury everything and you should be ok, and don't feed too much or it will start to smell.

    The temperature range in ideal conditions is 20 - 25C (68 - 77F) but they will tolerate temps between 10 and 30C (50 - 86F). In colder climates you can double up on your covering to try to insulate from the outside temp. Try to wrap the farm in something that will keep the cold out and the heat in. Will you have one of those plastic farms or make your own? The bedding itself will generate heat so if you can cover the farm with hessian or even an old woollen blanket during the worst of the cold weather, that would help. And monitor them to make sure they're coping with the weather. Good luck with it. It's a worthwhile thing to do and will just require some tweaking to get it right for your new wrigglers.

    Hi Jayedee, thanks! good luck with your set up. Worm farming is a lot of fun and it's interesting. : )

  9. Thank you Rhonda
    I visited here the other day to see if you'd posted about your worm bath/farm yet and couldn't find it.

    Do you mind if I link to this when I post about my worm farm soon! Please!

  10. sure scarecrow. I'd be happy to have you link to this or any other post. : )

  11. I don't know how it is with Aussie newspaper, but here in the states, you shouldn't use the colored, glossy advertising sections for anything but wrapping gifts.
    Here the colored ink has some toxic chemicals in it that you don't want anything to consume.
    I seem to remember the red ink we used in Florida had lead in it - this was in the mid 80's - well after lead was supposed to be taking out of things.
    Here we need to use only the black and white sections of the paper.

  12. darlene, I doubt there are still lead based inks being used over there. Here in Oz, newspaper inks are soy-based and ok to put on the organic garden or in worm farms. The glossy, waxed magazine type paper is still not recommended, but all newspaper, even the coloured bits are ok.

  13. Hi Rhonda,
    This is a fabulous post, as other have said previously your instructions are far more comprehensive than anything I have come across before.

    I was hoping to pick your expert brains a bit if you have time. I have two polystyrene boxes waiting for me to create my farm. I planned to put them on top of each other and have the worms ultimately free to move from one to the other. I will punch slits or holes in the top one and will put a hole with a cork in it in the bottom one for the tea. How should I layer the boxes? Should I start with just one and add the next box after the worms have bred? and should I layer them both in an identical way? Starting with the gravel and working up? Also, if a bath takes 1000 worms to start should I go with 250 or 300? Finally, I don't have worms or compost so can I just buy potting mix?
    Thank you, I am bombarding you with questions and I hope you don't mind.

  14. hi,
    worms will tolerate heavy metals and toxic chemicals (except worming medicine!! as Rhonda points out). don't feed cat or dog poo to your worms, although if you are using a waterless toilet human excrement is fine (not the urine, just the poo - use the urine at a ratio of 1:10 mixed with water directly on your plants).

    compost worms don't make good bait for fish, and the heavy metals remains locked in their bodies, so you don't have an issue with organic gardening.


  15. What should I do with the worm bin in the winter when it gets really cold - Toronto, Canada cold -15C? Do they need to come indoors into the basement? Or in a shed covered with papers, do they hibernate, or freeze and come back to life in the spring?

  16. Hi great site. we've had our worm farm now for about 2 months and have been getting good amounts of worm juice. I know this liquid fertilizer is Liquid gold for the gardens but what is the right formula to mix with water so that it not too weak or to concentrate?


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