10 Easy Steps to Your Own Worm Farm

Worms are definitely on the side of the permaculturist when it comes to benefit to the garden. They are one of the most effective methods of conditioning the soil. Worms break up the soil structure, allowing it to become aerated and allowing moisture to percolate down into it. This “loosening” of the soil also enables plant roots to penetrate deeper into the soil, bringing nutrients up towards the surface.

Worms also break down organic matter, releasing nutrients into the soil from where they can be used by plants. As they eat their way through organic matter, they produce castings, which are a natural nutrient-rich form of compost, that is an ideal addition to your garden beds.

Instituting a worm farm on your permaculture plot ensures a consistent supply of castings, helping your soil stay in top condition year round. Creating a worm farm, in which the animals breed, mature and process material is easy and can be done in just a few steps.

Find Containers
You need a container that can drain to keep your worm farm in. While there are specially made worm farm containers on the market, you can just as easily use recycled materials – which is better for the environment and your pocket. A series of stackable containers, such as old wooden boxes, used plastic crates or Styrofoam containers are ideal – with the worms living in the top containers, and the bottom serving as a repository for drainage – but some enterprising gardeners also use old bathtubs. Whatever you choose for your container it needs to be watertight and able to protect your worms from extremes of heat of cold. Poke some holes in the top container and cover with shade cloth so that the worms don’t fall through them.

Site Your Farm
Decide where you will put your worm farm on your plot. For the worms it needs to be in a position that does not get too hot or too cold, particularly avoiding locations that are prone to frost. Under a shady deciduous tree would be ideal, as the tree losing its leaves in the winter allows sunshine to reach and warm the farm. You will also want to place your farm somewhere so that it is energy efficient for you to remove the worm castings and place on your beds. Look at a central position in zone 1 of your plot.

Add Bedding
The worms in your farm need material in which to live. Typically, it will include some shredded newspaper mixed with some compost and a little garden soil. Other options include mushroom compost, grass clippings and coconut fibers. You want to provide a good depth of material for the worms to live in, so half fill your top container. Water the bedding material so that it is just moist.

Add Worms
Unfortunately, you can’t simply take earthworms from the garden and put them in the worm farm – leave them in the soil to help improve the structure. You need species for your farm that are adept at composting. You should be able to source from an organic supplier, either locally or online. There are several species from which to choose. Tiger worms are one option, while Red Wrigglers are another. If you are in a warm climate, Indian Blues are a good choice, as they do not cope well with the cold.

Add Food
The worms in your farm will eat a wide variety of organic matter. Indeed, they will eat most of the things that would typically go into a compost pile. So you can feed the worms fruit and vegetables scraps, shredded newspaper, old mulch, coffee grinds, leaf litter and garden prunings. Dried eggshells make a good addition as the calcium they contain prompts the worms to lay more eggs.

Cover
It is a good idea to add another layer of shade cloth or a few sheets of damp newspaper over the top of your worm bedding, once the creatures and food have been added. This helps prevent vinegar flies and maggots getting to the worms. Place the lid on your top container to protect the worms from the elements.

Maintain
To keep your worm farm functioning efficiently, you need to ensure that the bedding remains moist and the worms have enough fresh food. You will need to let the worm population guide you as to how much organic matter to add. If you find that some food is staying around and going moldy, you are giving them too much. However, generally, worm populations will respond to available food supplies and breed accordingly. It is also a good idea to add a handful of garden soil to the farm every so often, as the sand and grit in the soil helps the worms grind up their food.

Migrate Worms
As you worms multiply and the castings they create build up, you can migrate them up into the top container of your composting garden wormsworm farm so you can harvest the castings. When the middle container is almost full of castings, place some bedding in the top container (having remembered to create drainage holes and covering them with shade cloth). The worms will migrate up to the new bedding. When they have migrated you can simply remove the middle box, harvest the castings and use this container to migrate the worms again when needed.

Use the Drained Liquid
The bottom container will collect liquid that drains from the worm farm. This is waste from the worms but it is not useless. Dilute the liquid with water until it is the colour of weak tea and then use as a liquid compost on your garden beds. Keep a check on the level of the liquid in the bottom container, as you don’t want it to get so high that it seeps back into the worm’s bedding.

Use the Castings
The castings act as a great slow-release compost for your garden beds and potted plants. Adding them to the soil will also prompt microorganisms already there to become more active and process the castings into the soil, making their nutrients available to your plants.

73 comments
lynnboca

The top photo is of a tomato horn worm. It is a far cry from a compost worm. Think the photo could confuse people.

and why is a picture of a caterpillar being used?

Yes , why this destructive caterpillar?

Good question

Strange looking worm!

Why would I want to have this terrible plague?

Don’t use the type of ‘worm’ shown in the picture!

that’s not a worm….it’s a caterpillar…very destructive…

rein

I thought it was for butterfly farm because of caterpillar.lol

That’s not a worm. It’s a caterpillar!

The photo is not a worm!

Jane

Caterpillar for worm. Dairy cow for a beef cow.

The worm in this picture looks like a plant-damaging Tomato Horn Worm and not the good earthworms we want in the garden. ( I wonder why they used this photo and not a picture of a desirable earthworm or red wiggler? )

I don’t wanna grow that worm!

Lol, you mean red wrigglers… Not caterpillars.

Why a picture of a caterpillar on a worm story?

My question, exactly!

Romano Morson

If you guys have chickens and are having problems with predators esp foxes. Go to your local hair salon and ask for all the hair trimmings. Put the trimmings into the foot of pairs of old tights (stockings) and tie them in intervals around the coop. The foxes will smell the human scent and stay away.

Thanks, Gemma, forgot about that one

My worm farm, i just throw my old vegetation, egg shells and scraps in a large plastic pot. The worms came by themselves and are doing a great job. Not onky are they feeding in there but they are definitely reproducing as well because there are hundreds of smaller ones in there now

Isn’t that a Horn Worm in the photo? I don’t want to raise them!

And we don’t want to kill foxes, do we…

I got rid of mine and incorporated the red wigglers into my composting operations. The typical worm farm does not yield enough.

I’m surprised that it says to change the water “every week”… My chickens have fresh water every day.

If you have ever seen what that worm?can consume you don’t want it in your Permculture.Let me know if I am wrong——-!-

Bad worm! I think you are right!

Ditto. Ann

That is a caterpillar, not an earthworm.

Why post a picture of a catapiller which gets squished when you are talking about worms???

these things are pests, not beneficia!!

They’re at the spa getting their group dirt bath treatment. 🙂

why post a picture of a cutworm ???

Obviously someone didn’t audit their post… everyone except the person is posted this is aware of what a earthworm looks like.

Good photo but bad bug!!

they are good for fishing

That is a Tomato Hornworm…they turn into Hummingbird Moths…bad bad bug…my chickens love to eat them when I pluck them off my plants!

Go to permies.com this is all free

cant grow my weed out doors

Right now I am taking a course in Permaculture homestead design from Don Halsey at Southwoods. I bought his book, too.

We tried water boxes and they worked well have a few things to do differently this year but looking forward to an even better yield.

Jennifer Hall Tichy

they list left out kindness

Dry dust in winter can be hard to find My birds have a spot under a shed for dust baths They love wood ash from the wood stove to bath in also

When it snows, if you may them a bowl of warm oatmeal, they will be very happy.

i have a backyard full of worms . i don’t use pesticides. and i eat weeds

Looks more like a caterpillar than a worm.

That is not a worm!

It’s easy to make a horn worm farm. Not so good for the garden though.

It’s a caterpillar!

so interesting….

hope so, but what gorgeous butterfly will that larva/caterpillar be?

Poor choice of graphics, but the article does go on to recommend red wigglers. I use The Worm Factory® which makes worm migration from one level to another very simple. In the Add Food step, The article does not mention what not to feed your worms: no meat or dairy, and very limited citrus

Interesting quote from B. Fuller.

Does permaculture require killing the plants you’re trying to grow? How is that productive?

That horn worm can decimate a tomato plant overnight.

Perhaps the image is some species of giant silk worm. Definitely not a red wiggler though.

A worm like that one turns into a beautiful flying creature! Having apple trees, wild cherry trees, enough parsley to allow Black Swallowtails to feed, Birch Trees and Milkweed are great foods for large night flying moths and butterflies.

Anonymous

The stuff that drains from the bin is leachate, not good for your plants to put this directly on them. You can use the finished compost to BREW a very nice compost tea yourself, but the runoff from the bin IS NOT it. The tomato hornworm in the picture grows up into a very pretty moth, that looks like a tiny hummingbird as it hovers. I left the ones I found alone, and lo and behold, predatory wasps showed up and used them as incubators. Very cool, and a little freaky. Some made it thru to turn into moths, and my kids and I really enjoyed seeing them.

jacksontherabbit

1. I think the pictures in the article have changed.
2. composting in different ways is always helpful.
if you are doing worms…there are things you can’t really put into the bin. issues with composting for folks have to do with the amount of work it is. work smarter not harder. if you eat meat and dairy and have things left from that you want to compost, consider BOKASHI. it can speed up the composting process while also incorporating the items not able to go into other composting methods.
BOKASHI some of your compost first and add it to a worm bin after the ph is back to that of the soil.
worm farming goes great with raising chickens…as you can have your bins under their roost! that adds the chicken poop into the mix. the chickens could also eat the worms. this is the same with aquaponics…you could indeed feed the fish worms.

worm tubes are also a great way to involve more worms without any real work. get a pvc pipe and drill lots of slots or holes into it…get a cap for one end and bury the tube into a box garden or even just your garden. the capped end sits above the top…going down maybe a foot or two…the cap keeps out rodents and other pests. every so often you put some rotten produce in the tube and the worms come to it …they take the food out of the tube and bring it into the garden…as well as castings.

if you are interested in sharing…I started a discussion section to share resources and references.

Dave Chambers a few good tips that we aren’t currently doing

Yeah nice, sounds like we should add more eggshells and some dirt 👍

Daniel O’Neill

Edie Bowman… you’ve got potential!! 😉 🐛

Good read Trish. Like I was saying the other day.

Mark Affleck

Andrew

Michelle Sanders 😘

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