How to make a worm farm

Great for the garden and reducing your carbon footprint, worms are definitely our favourite critters. Here's how to make a DIY worm farm at home.

Worms are the dynamic superstars of the garden. While they may look a little creepy, after a few weeks of harvesting their highly-fertile castings and experiencing the reduction in your household garbage waste, you'll fall in love with the little guys.

Worms are essential elements in a biodynamic soil and their vermicast can be easily absorbed by plants and contain millions of beneficial bacteria and other organisms.

While ready-made worm farm kits with tiers of trays to hold the worm bedding, worm food and catch the worm's castings are available at gardening and hardware stores, Angie Thomas, horticulture consultant to Yates, has some tips for you to build one in the own backyard or on the balcony.

Option 1: Buckets

  1. Stack a series of three large and sturdy buckets. Drill multiple holes in the base of each bucket, except for the bottom
  2. In the bottom bucket, you can choose whether to install a small tap, which will enable you to easily extract the worm liquid, which is useful once the buckets become heavier. Otherwise, simply remove the top buckets and pour off the liquid when you need it
  3. Place a layer of shade cloth over the holes in the second bottom bucket and then half-fill it with worm ‘bedding’ which can be a mixture of shredded newspaper, coconut (coir) fibre and compost worms
  4. The top bucket can be filled with kitchen scraps, shredded newspaper or cardboard and leaves
  5. As the worms eat through all the food in their original bedding layer, they will move upwards to fresh sources of food. You can swap rotate the top and middle bucket as they move upwards
  6. Place a layer of damp hessian or carpet over the top bucket to help keep the worm farm moist
  7. The worm vermicastings will drain into the very bottom bucket, which you can use to fertilise your garden beds and pot plants

Option 2: Styrofoam boxes

  1. Stack two styrofoam boxes on top of each other
  2. Drill the top box with multiple holes and use the lower box to collect the worm castings
  3. Place a layer of shade cloth over the base of the top box and then partially fill it with worm bedding, worms and kitchen scraps
  4. Worms will eat through the scraps and the worm liquid will filter to the lower box
  5. Put the styrofoam box lid over the top box or place a layer of cardboard or carpet over the top to protect it and keep it moist

How to keep your worms happy

Worm farms should replicate a worm's natural habit, so must be kept cool, moist and dark.

It’s very important to keep the worm farm out of the elements and in the shade, as hot temperatures will kill worms. If you don't have an outside space, you can even try keeping them in a cool room in the house, like the laundry.

Keep the worm farm moist but not soggy or flooded and regularly top it up with fresh food scraps as the worms eat through the previous scraps: Little and often is the best approach.

Worms love any fruit and vegetable scraps, except anything too acidic, like onions and citrus fruits. They adore coffee and tea bags, and will happily munch on paper, eggshells, pasta, bread and grains.

They'll even gnaw on natural fibres like cotton and wool, if you have any going spare! Try to chop your scraps into smaller pieces wherever possible (or whizz them in a food processor), as the worms will find it easier to chow through the food.


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