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.
Blogger Template by pipdig