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Worm farm maintenance

Worm farm kits from Biome

I have had the worm farm for over a year now, and I have to say it’s the easiest and most convenient way I have found to make compost and to dispose of vege scraps and other organic waste. I have not had much success with putting everything in a compost bin, I find that the food scraps go all sloppy and don’t really compost properly. I have found that my current system works much better, all food scraps go to the worms and the compost bin is for weeds and manure. The worms are able to eat all our food scraps and convert it to compost and worm tea, and there is still plenty for the compost bin, but now its not full of sloppy food scraps. People often ask if its necessary or possible to have both a worm farm and a compost bin, and I think it actually works better for us.



The worm farm really requires very little maintenance.  All I have to do is tip in more food scraps every few days, drain the tea once a week or so, check that the top tray is damp (if not, tip in half a bucket of water) and clean out the compost about twice a year. My worm farm consists of two trays, so the top tray is where we put the fresh food scraps and bottom tray is being converted to compost. When I want to remove the compost (which I wrote about in more detail previously) I sort most of the worms out of the bottom tray and put them into the top tray, then I swap the empty tray to the top. The worms tend to burrow down into the compost, so the easiest way to sort them out is to keep heaping up the compost and skimming a layer off the top. I don’t worry too much if some worms end up in the compost though, there seem to be plenty of worms. I also keep some worms to feed to the chickens, they love that as a treat.

this is the compost, I use it with seed raising mix to start seeds

this is all the food scraps in the top layer

Here's the outside of the worm farm

the wonderful products of worm farming - compost, tea and worms!
Do you keep a worm farm?  Do you find it low-maintenance?  Any worm-farming questions?


Worm farm kits are available from Biome, click the banner below:


Worm farm kits from Biome

Comments

  1. My worm farm is just a plastic rubbish bin , normal household rubbish size, set on bricks and a board to slope slightly.I cut a three sided flap at one bottom edge and bent it down which is where the worm wee permanently drains into a container beneath - mine is the white plastic box I bought the worms in years ago.I drilled small holes all around the top of the bin a few inches down for ventilation - and that's it.Put in compost and worms, food scraps on top, clip on the lid, and leave them to it.Concentrated wee drips through,sometimes I pour a litre of water all over the top if I want more wee.It is tricky to sort the worms from the casts - I mostly just leave well alone and just use the wee, so not such a good system for compost.

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  2. Since I got my tumbling composter I have been wondering if worms would be a good idea. I have heard that they do not do so well in the wet season with the rain and humidity. For now while the tumbler is full I have been collecting food scraps in a bin, but that is not ideal. I was thinking of either using bokashi mix or worms. I have been making a batch of compost every month so the tumbler works well.

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  3. Hi Liz, great to read this. I love our worm farm and have been using worm juice and worm castings from it for almost two years now but I don't think I'm 'doing it' properly!!! You mentioned filling a tray and swapping but I haven't done this. I have worms in the top and I give them scraps every few days or so, and when it runs low, I give them more. There's worm castings in the top and there was loads in the tray underneath until I scooped it all up and used it for my beds. Should I be adding food to the bottom tray as well, or should I wait until they've consumed all the food in the top tray before moving them to the other tray so that I can use those castings too? Do you make a 'bed' for them, with hay and newspaper? I used too and they ate it all up, and wondering if I need to do this... Thank you for offering to ask questions. It's interesting you say that you don't add food scraps to your compost bins. Most of our scraps go to our compost bins where I alternate layers with lawn clippings, manure, hay and newspaper (all the dried stuff soaked in molasses water first). I find the food disappears very quickly. I have four compost bins and I've just emptied my fifth lot of compost - I'm getting better at getting the consistency right. Wish I could help with your 'sloppy' issue... not sure about that one. x

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    1. Hello Vanessa,

      the way I understand it you are working with a 3 tier worm farm and are using the top bin to feed your worms! Compost worms are top feeders and always follow the food upwards. It's best to place your bin with the worms in the middle and let them move upwards into the top bin once it is full! For detailed worm farm set up and maintenance instructions look at the following link! http://www.worm-composting-help.com/worm-farm.html Kind regards and happy worming! Stephan

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    2. Hi Vanessa, sorry I didn't get back to you earlier! As adlerauge says, you just need to put food in the top layer, and the worms will move up to the top layer when they have finished with the food in the middle. Then you can remove that compost (and pick out a few worms if needed), and put the empty level on top and start again. They don't need a bed, but a cover such as an old towel or newspaper helps to keep everything moist. Sounds like you've got compost sorted though! Great system! Let me know if you have any further questions :)

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  4. I have a worm farm and compost bin also. I couldn't live without either. I've been adding horse manure to the worm farm lately and the worms have been multiplying like crazy. Which is good because I give a handful or so to the chooks each day.

    I recently discovered a worm farm maintenance issue - hive beetle. Hive beetle are sadly super abundant here in the Hunter. And the other day I was horrified to discover hive beetle in my worm farm. I couldn't find much on google other than some beekeepers don't keep compost bins because hive beetle like the dark and moist conditions. I don't like that solution - as having a garden without a compost bin or worm farm sounds impossible. I am now including the worm farm in my hive check every few weeks. There's little I dislike more than hive beetle :-(

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    1. Hi Tricia,

      The issue of the small compost beetle and wether it is the SHB (Small Hive Beetle) was raised at our bee club meeting a while ago. One of the members researched the matter and advised that the beetle found in composts is not the SHB but a different variety. There are conflicting comments on the web but I agree with you that having a garden without a compost is unimaginable. So we have hives and composts and deal with the SHB in other ways.

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  5. Hi Liz,
    I notice there are eggshells in your compost. We keep all our eggshells in a stainless steel bowl in the warming oven and when full they are heated to cook the raw egg traces and then scrunched up and added to the chooks food as a source of calcium.
    There are two bins in our kitchen. One for the chooks which has chook interesting material added to it and taken out to them each morning and dumped in the pen in a special bricked off area. The second bin has everything else including used note paper etc. This is put into our brick compost along with weeds etc. Whenever we make a NZ Compost (hot compost) this is emptied and processed through the hot compost to kill seeds. We also have a worm farm to maintain a colony of compost worms and obtain worm wee. We use kitchen scraps and only weeds that have not seeded in the worm compost.

    Thanks for raising the topic of worm farms in your blog. It is good to hear what others do.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, that sounds like a good system. I don't have time to process egg shells like that, I just crush them up when I put the compost on the garden and they seem to incorporate eventually.

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  6. Hi Liz, I found my worm farm really took off when I read somewhere to put all the scraps through a blender first. The worms can consume the food a lot easier, therefore grow quicker, multiply faster and of course create more tea and compost. My compost is also a lot finer now, no lumpy bits!

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    1. oh wow, that is a good idea, but I wouldn't have time to do that! Apparently they like the pulp from juicers too.

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  7. I've found the same thing Liz, though we have far too many kitchen scraps for the wormery. Some go in to the compost pile with the chooks and some go into the worm bin I keep by the back door. I do find that the worms take a much longer time to sort out the food waste and like you I'll only take the compost off once, maybe twice a year. I wonder if there are ways of encouraging them to eat faster?!

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    Replies
    1. I love your chicken-compost system Tanya. I think the warmer temperatures help the worms, maybe you should move them inside through winter :)

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  8. I live my worm farm but it doesn't get all my kitchen scraps, they eat too slowly for that. I should try blitzing them. The rest if the scraps get buried in the garden and turn into compost in a couple of weeks.

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  9. I commend you for keeping a worm farm, however, when looking at your photos, I was concerned to see that you have fed both onion peels and citrus (now mouldy) to your worms. I have always understood that both onion and citrus is unsuitable to feed the worms. Please see "Feeding a Worm Farm" at
    http://www.worm-farm.co.za/feeding-a-worm-farm.html

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  10. Hello dear worm farmers! The issue of worm food and feeding worms has been discussed quite diverse in the worm composting circles. It has been said by many that worms don't eat citrus fruit! This is actually not true. Ive been a professional worm farmer for more than 15 years now and run many experiments. Amongst them where worms that I fed only orange peels and nothing else. The worms ate them over a period of time and did not get harmed. The secret is to not overpower worms with fruit that are not ideal for them. A citrus fruit peel in a worm farm will not harm the worms. They can feed on it and then retreat into their save bedding. The problem is if the worm farm gets covered with citrus fruit or onions and than watered heavily. This could make the bedding below acidic which would cause a problem for the worms. Worms can deal with lots of different foods as long as they have save bedding below where they can stay if they need to. Learn more about worm food at http://www.worm-composting-help.com/worm-food.html Enjoy and happy worming!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks alderauge, I always add a small amount of citrus and/or onion, if I have lots of citrus it goes in the compost instead. I haven't had any problems, it all gets eaten eventually, even the corn cobs and the avocado seeds! Thanks for sharing your links too.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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