If you are thinking of starting a worm farm, or perhaps you already have one, it's good to understand what issues you may face.
Firstly, let’s wriggle back a bit. What is a worm farm? A worm farm is basically an enclosure for worms and compostable material – things like vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds and eggshells. It composts the organic matter by feeding it directly to earthworms, who turn it into valuable fertiliser and worm castings (droppings).
However, there are a few basics you should learn before you set up to avoid encountering problems. What problems, you ask?
To ensure you get all the best info, we have enlisted the help of our friends at Tumbleweed! These guys are worm-farming experts. They sell a whole range of brilliant worm farm products that suit a whole range of homes.
Here are the most common ones so you can avoid them or get underway with fixing them.
1) Too wet
Often, the most common issue with your worm farm may be that the contents get too wet. This is generally because the balance of Carbon and Nitrogen materials is off. Remember, the ratio is 50:50 browns to greens. The easiest fix to a wet worm farm is to simply add more brown materials – shredded paper or cardboard would do the trick. Don't forget to aerate once you have added this as well.
2) Too dry
There are a few reasons why your worm farm may become too dry. As mentioned, a worm farm needs a healthy balance of 50:50 browns to greens. When your worm farm is looking quite dry, it indicates that you are putting in more carbon than nitrogen. To solve this, simply sprinkle water inside (take care not to drown your worms) or put a pause on adding more carbon materials until the balance is right again.
3) Feeding your worms the wrong foods
Worms love a balanced diet, so it is best to feed your worms 50% nitrogen and many other nutrients (greens) and 50% carbon rich materials (browns).
Nitrogen creates heat and carbon helps cool it down. Combined with a regular water supply, the carbon and nitrogen balance the pH level, aeration and temperature in the worm farm, creating an optimal environment for your worms to break down waste efficiently.
Here are some examples of what to feed and what not to feed:
Nitrogen (greens): Fruit and veggie scraps, tea leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells
Carbon (browns): Cardboard, shredded paper, toilet rolls, egg cartons and dried crunchy leaves
Go easy on: Onions, citrus, avocado pits and bread
Avoid: Meat, dairy products, chilli, fats or oils and bones
4) Overfeeding your worms
During the first few weeks of owning a worm farm, it is important to note that your worms need time to get used to their new environment and start breeding to increase their numbers. A perfect amount to start with is a handful of food scraps and a handful of shredded paper to balance it out. The smaller the pieces, the faster the worms can digest the food. Things such as avocado seeds need to be broken up (a blender does a good job of this) so the worms can get their mouths around it.
Keep an eye out and see how your worms are going and only add more food once most of it has been eaten. Once your worm farm becomes more established and the population increases, then you can start gradually putting more food in.
Hopefully you're feeling better prepared to get your worm farm underway. Be sure to check out the many fantastic products and more tips at Tumbleweed.