Useful Worm Farming Information
Getting Started: Before adding the worms to your worm farm, make sure the bedding is moist (a good test is the ‘squeeze test’: squeeze a handful of bedding and a few drops of water should run out between your fingers). Gently tip the contents of the calico bag evenly over the surface of your worm farm bedding The calico bag can be placed over the worms and they will compost this too! The worms should burrow down into the bedding relatively quickly. You can encourage them to burrow by exposing them for a short period to light. DO NOT EXPOSE WORMS TO DIRECT SUNLIGHT, THEY CAN DIE!
Settling In Period: Your worms may be a bit agitated after the journey from ‘Worm’s DownUnder’ to your home. Give them a day or so to settle in and explore their new home before you commence feeding them. In these first few days, you may find that some of the worms do not stay in the bedding and prefer to go ‘walkabout’ crawling around the inside of the worm farm or down into the bottom tray of the worm farm. This should settle down after a few days. If it persists and if the worms are out of the bed ‘en masse’, you may have a problem with your bedding. Contact Worms DownUnder for some advice.
Positioning your worm bed: Worm Farms can be located indoors or outdoors. But remember, worms don’t like it too hot or too cold. Don’t put the worm farm in a place where it will be exposed to direct sunlight, extreme cold, driving winds or heavy rain. Personally, I keep my worm farm under the house.
Feeding: The golden rule of feeding, is DON’T OVERFEED. It’s the most common way to kill worms. If the worms can’t keep up with the rate of feeding, acidic conditions may occur and the worms will suffer. If you notice that food is taking a while to be eaten (remaining in the bed for more than a week), stop feeding until it starts to disappear.
As a general guide worms can eat up to their own body weight in food a day. So 1kg of worms will eat up to 1kg of food a day. If they don’t eat this much, don’t panic, and don’t force them to eat this much.
Worms will eat food more quickly if it is size reduced. This can be achieved by chopping, mulching, or grating the food source. I personally use a garden mulcher to size reduce the food for my worms and as a result they gobble it very quickly indeed.
Worms will do best on a balanced diet, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, wet card-board, newspaper, etc. Worms don’t like onions, citrus fruit or garlic. Meat and bread doesn’t tend to go down too well and typically sits uneaten and very smelly.
Watering: You will need to water the bedding to keep it moist (use the squeeze test). Remember that some foods (fruit in particular) contains a lot of moisture. In winter, you may not require as much water as in summer. To encourage the worms to move up to the surface, cover the bedding with a damp sack or old carpet.
General Maintenance: Try and aerate the bedding at least once a week. This can be done using a hand trowel to lift the bedding. Aerating the beds will promote a healthy worm population and keep the bedding suitable for worms. Aeration is best done when the surface food has been eaten up otherwise you may bury food which can lead to problems!
Where else can worms be used? Many people buy worms to add to their garden, however unless your garden is well mulched and kept moist, your worms will probably not survive. Worms may be added to compost heaps if they are well watered, and tuned. Also be aware that your heap may heat up considerably when composting certain materials such as grass clippings.
Where can you get more information? Give ‘Worms DownUnder’ a call on 07 5445 9704, Paul is always happy to talk worms; get a book from the library, ‘Worms Eat My Garbage’ by Mary Appelhof is a good one; or simply surf the internet.
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Green Harvest has an excellent website with just about anything you need for organic gardening.
The Natural Strategies Group site proposes actions that reduce our individual impact on the environment and helps guide us towards sustainable living.
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Organic Growing with Worms is a truly exceptional resource for anyone who wants to grow worms, improve their soils, or grow stuff in a no-fuss, safe and sustainable manner. As a commercial grower of worms and organic gardener I rely on this book on an almost daily basis. It is jam-packed with so much useful information on operating a successful worm farm, making your own safe fertilizers and repairing soils. If you are about to get into worm farming on any level get this book, you will not regret it.