Setting Up an Earthworm Farm Setting up an Earthworm farm can be simple and inexpensive. With a little careful management your kitchen waste can be processed by earthworms into compost that can be used in the garden and for indoor potted plants. You will need… Food for Worms DO Include: Coffee and tea bags 1. Plastic Storage bin with lid (40 – 80 litres) Fruit pulp and peelings 2. Drill and drill bit for creating aeration and drainage holes Vegetable peelings 3. Pile of old newspapers Egg shells 4. Bucket of water Bread, pasta, rice and cereals 5. 5 litres of finished compost Cooked vegetables 6. 5 litres of garden soil 7. 200 to 500 Earthworms DON’T Include Garlic 8. ½ litre of vegetable or fruit scraps cut broken into pieces. Onions 9. Container to catch the liquid worm tea Citrus Meat or dairy products A 70 litre storage box is ideal for a worm farm and can be purchased for between R80 and R90. 1 Use the drill to make aeration holes in the sides of the bin and drainage holes in the bottom of the bin. Position the drainage holes so that the worm tea can easily be collected for use as a liquid fertiliser. 4-5 holes should be sufficient to ensure good drainage and still make sure the material in the bin remains moist. Here the drainage holes are being drilled in the front edge of the bin so the worm tea can be collected in a recycled 2 litre ice cream container (see later) 2 Tear the newspaper into strips and soak for a few minutes in a bucket of water. Newspaper is used as bedding for the earthworms and needs to be moist to create the ideal conditions for the worms 3 Place the soil, soaked newspaper, earthworms and compost in layers in the bin and mix together. The bin should be about half full to leave space for the food waste which will be added gradually up to three times per week. 4 Bury the food waste in the material and cover with a layer of soaked, shredded paper to prevent fruit flies being attracted to the food waste. May types of insects may be attracted to the worm farm. Fruit flies are the most common problem insect and good management is required to prevent them breeding in the worm farm – keeping food waste covered and not over feeding with food waste will keep them away 5 Put the lid on the bin and place it in a shady place raised up on bricks with the worm tea container placed under the bin to catch the worm tea liquid fertiliser. Angle the bin forward so that the worm tea can easily be collected and used as a liquid fertiliser 6 Once the bin is full and the food waste has been turned into vermicompost empty the contents onto a piece of plastic. The earthworms will move down into the compost and the finished compost can then be removed. The earthworms and any undecomposed material can be returned to the bin. Vermicompost is rich in nutrients and can be used as an organic fertiliser for indoor and outdoor plants Tips For Successful Worm Farming Tip #1: Never Over-Feed Your Worms. Never feed your worms more food waste than they can eat in a 24 hour period. The waste will sour and create an acid condition in the bedding, which will make your worms sick and can kill them. Tip #2: Keep Your Worms From Crawling Because of the Cold. Make sure the material in the bin is deep enough for the worms to crawl down into or they will become too cold and stop eating the food waste. Tip #3: Keep Your Worms Protected From the Heat. In the heat of summer, you must monitor the temperature of your outside bins. Also, maintain the moisture levels of the bedding to keep your worms cool. Earthworms breathe through their skin and need a moisture layer to do this effectively. Even if the outside temperatures are very high, if the bedding is shaded and moist, it will remain cool. And so will your worms.