Setting up a small-scale Worm Farm

Setting Up and Equipment

You will need:

A convenient place to keep your worm farm, is in an old fridge, preferably white, which you can often pick up for free. Lay the fridge on its back with a small piece of wood to keep the door open (about 2-3 cm). This allows air in, while keeping unwanted elements out. Excess fluid drains from the back and you can drill an extra hole if it becomes clogged up. If you have hot summers where you live, the fridge will protect the worms from the worst heat, while it will keep them warmer at winter. If winters are very cold, you will have to move the farm into a shed or outhouse.

Black or dark green plastic worm farms are wonderful in terms of ease of use and design, but make sure you keep them well away from direct sun for most of the day, particularly in summer. White poly boxes with lids, which are fine for smaller worm farms also have heat reflective and insulative qualities. Don't forget to put a couple of small holes (about half an inch or 1 cm) in the bottom to allow excess fluid to drain away.

Preparing the Bed

First of all tear up your newspaper into small pieces, leaving a couple of sheets for later, soak it in water until it's a bit mushy and then mix well with the soil and crushed eggshells. Put a sheet of wet newspaper on the bottom of the container and put the soil mixture on top. It should be at least 3-4 inches (7-9 cm) deep. Your mix should be about one third newspaper/eggshell mix and the rest soil.

Put your worms on top. Leave them with the lid open in the light for about 2 hours so they burrow under the surface. Then put the green waste on top. Add the manure if it's available, making sure (before you get the manure) that there are no antibiotics or worming drugs in it. Some animals, such as horses and cows, are wormed on a regular basis. Chicken- and rabbit manure is usually pretty reliable unless there are hormones in the feed. Aim for manure from free range chickens or organically farmed animals. Avoid cat and dog leavings.

Put about the same weight of food as worms. They will eat around half their weight each day, so 500 grams of worms will eat a kilo of food every four days.

Worms like oxygen, so make sure you fluff up the soil and waste every couple of days, and keep it moist (but not wet). They also dislike vibrations so keep the worm farm away from water heaters with engines, pumps, fridges and other vibrating appliances. Otherwise the worms will attempt to migrate to a better place.

Keep the worm farm basically covered but with a crack of light to keep the worms in the worm farm. Cover the bed with a sheet or two of moist newspaper and keep renewing it as the worms will eat it, especially when you forget to feed them!


Worms are not fussy eaters. This is a partial list of foods they will thrive on. Worms feed by sucking on moist and rotting waste. Don't put things like whole potatoes or carrots in the worm farm, or, if you do, expect it to sit there for a long time before it gets eaten.

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Biscuits
  • Bran
  • Bread
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cake
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cereal
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Coffee Filters
  • Comfrey
  • Corn Meal
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Eggs
  • Grapes
  • Herbal Tea leaves & bags
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Kohl Rabbi
  • Lettuce
  • Molasses
  • Oatmeal
  • Onions
  • Pancakes
  • Papaya
  • Pasta
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Peaches
  • Pizza
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Raisins
  • Rice
  • Silver Beet
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Tea Bags
  • Tea Leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Waffles
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

Avoid meat, poultry and dairy products as they might attract insects. Try not to give the worms too much citrus fruit, onions, coffee grounds or tea as they are acidic and the worms don't like them much. As mentioned above, you should avoid any feed that may contain hormones or antibiotics, as well as manure from animals that have been wormed or fed antibiotics (check when you get the manure). Avoid lawn clippings as they create too much heat. If you stick to the list above, you should do very well.


There are three things you'll want to harvest: worms, compost and, liquid fertiliser.


To harvest your worms, about ten days before you harvest, move their food over to one side of the worm farm. Don't give them any new food and wait until they've eaten everything that's there. Starve them for a day or so. You can then root around in the castings - you may want to use gloves - and take out your worms. You can use a sieve to seperate the worms from the compost. Put aside some worms for restarting your farm. The rest you can feed to your chickens, give to friends, start yet another worm farm, or perhaps even sell.

Another way of harvesting the worms, if you have a small worm farm, is to turn the contents out onto some sheets of damp newspaper, spread the contents and pick out the worms. (That is, if you have the space.)


Once the worms are removed, take out the compost for use on your garden, as potting mix, for sale, or for giving away. Keep a little as bedding for a new worm farm, mixed with wet newspaper and crushed eggshells. The castings can be spread around the bottom of vegetables in your garden, and covered with a small amount of mulch. Your veggies will love it and it will improve your soil tremendously.

Liquid Fertiliser - "Worm Juice"

Make a liquid fertiliser which is fantastic for watering your veggie garden, pot plants or flowers, by pouring water over the castings and collecting it. (If you're watering tomatoes, which love worm juice, don't forget to water from the bottom of the plant and avoid the leaves.)

If you have your worm farm in an old fridge, drill a hole and put a bucket or bowl underneath to catch the liquid.

If your worm farm is a poly box, make a couple of holes, about 2 inches (4-5 cms) apart in one corner of the bottom and hold the poly box over a receptacle for the liquid to drain into.

Commercial, ready-made worm farms sometimes have taps for releasing the liquid, or a bottom layer where the liquid collects. I recommend you check this out before you buy, as the liquid is a very useful resource. As far as plastic bins are concerned, unless you want to make a small hole or two in the bottom, use them as a last resort.

Things worms like and dislike

Worms like moist, soft food and a moist, warm environment.

Worms dislike excessive cold or heat, dry bedding, vibrations, light and rats (although the rats love worms and will eat them).

Keep your worm farm away from direct sunlight, or put it in a place with as little direct sunlight as possible. I keep my worm farm on the back porch which gets morning sun but is shady for most of the day and my worms do really well there. If you need to take the lid off, such as when harvesting, do it when the worm farm is in shade.

Worms need to live in a moist environment because their bodies are moist, so keep an eye on your worm farm. If the bedding gets dry, sprinkle with a little water and mix it up a bit, then cover with newspaper soaked in water. If I have some stale bread around, I sometimes use moistened bread slices and then put an extra sheet of wet newspaper on top. Flat breads such as nan or pita are fantastic. The worms will eat the bread and the bread will help keep the worm farm moist and block light from the open lid.

To avoid losing your worms to rats, make sure the lid is only open about 1-2 cm. Mice may still visit the worms, but they are more interested in the food scraps than the worms. An even better solution, is to make a interior lid out of some metal net.

Worm Links

Vermiculture (Worm Farming) Resources - very good.

City Farmer Urban Agricultural Notes

World-wide list of Worm Suppliers

Uncle Jim's Worm Farm

Cape Cod Worm Farm

Wormschool Projects

Article about an Australian Vermiculture Newsletter

Impact Worm Farm - Queensland, Australia. They have how-to videos and other resources.


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Updated 01-10-24 at 13:56