Establishing your worm farm

What type of worms does WormBiz supply?

Wormbiz offers our customers a mix of breeds for climate, season, food types and breeding cycles. These include the Blue Worm, Tiger Worm and Red Worm.  These composting worms are bed run meaning they are consistently harvested, ensuring diversity of larger breeder worms, lots of babies and cacoons thereby giving your worm the best start.

You will find further more detailed information on the types of worms further on in this FAQ section.

How many worms do I need to start?

This will depend upon the type of worm farm you have and how many people are in your household.  Consult the user manual of your purchased worm farm for the recommended minimum.  Wormbiz recommends starting your worm farm with 2200 worms; this pack includes both baby and breeding worms and will have your worm farm performing faster with fewer problems.

How do I unpack my worm order?

Your package of worms has made it to your home.  What do I do next?  Preparing your worm farm first is the best idea.  If you would like to check out the worms before they go into the farm, unfold half a newspaper on the ground or table, open one end of the tube and pull out the contents onto the newspaper.  The worms will be inside the cardboard, wrapped up in a calico cloth. Release both ends and unravel the cloth and you will see the worms in a large clump.  These are your new workers! Tip the contents from the newspaper into the farm and remove the calico.  You can use this as a worm mat temporarily as it breaks down fast. Pull the newspaper out and wet the material and worms in the farm with approximately three litres of water. Add the packet of worm starter food (link to cart) to the surface of the worm farm bedding material and cover with damp shredded newspaper or cardboard and/or worm cover.

What role does newspaper and cardboard play in a worm farm?

Shredded newspaper serves as a wonderful cover for your worms. The damp environment also serves as a good breeding ground for bacteria which the worm feeds on. Similarly, cardboards are great too. Cardboards have fats in the glue and the worms enjoy these corrugations of the cardboard. This trick comes in handy when you have to leave for a prolonged time and don’t want to worry about your worms starving. But you must remember that the cardboard needs to be wet first.

How much water should I add to my worm farm?

There is a no ‘one fits all’ answer to this question. On hot days it pays to give them a good wet down.  Make sure the tap on your worm farm is not blocked.  What is common with each type of worm farm is each farm requires abundant water supply (3-5 litres per week is fine during summer). Most of the time, the worms will have enough moisture retained in the castings. However, it is recommended that you deposit a minimum of 1 litre of water through your farm per week.  You can add more water into the system if you would like to harvest worm liquid or on hot summer days.

Where should I position my worm farm?

Summer heat is the biggest contributor to worm farm mortalities.  Worms will move away from hot areas if they can and prefer a stable 24°C environment. Positioning the worm farm in the shade for all parts of the day during summer is ideal. If nowhere can offer your farm shade you can cover with a wooden lid and/or shade cloth. Watering is especially important in the summer months.  Late afternoon and early morning on a hot day would be most ideal.

In Winter the material inside your worm farm can become very cold. It is advisable to place your worm farm in a sunny position as the exterior transfers heat into the farm allowing the worms to be more active. Due to the cooler temperature, food scraps might take longer to break down and therefore longer for the worms to process. Placing in a warmer position will help with this. In extremely cold conditions you may like to cover your farm with a tarp or some sort of cover to keep warm overnight.

Do I need to cover my worms?

Covering your worms creates a more comfortable area for them to process your waste. It is beneficial to cover with a breathable cover leaving a gap around the edges to allow ventilation. You can use damp shredded newspaper/cardboard or a store-bought long-lasting worm blanket.

What is bedding material?

Bedding material is the medium that is used to start your worm farm.  This material is where the worms live and feed.  It is different than worm castings, as the castings have already been eaten several times over.  The bedding material often holds moisture well and is light and fluffy.  Some examples of bedding material are – coco coir, horse manure, shredded cardboard/paper/newspaper, wood chip, mulch, leaves, brown grass clippings.  Some of these materials need to be used in small amounts so the material does not heat up and become unfavourable for the worms.  Anything above 35°C is not good. Worms like 24°C.

Can I add garden waste?

Garden waste should be kept out of the worm farm unless you are using broken down mulch sources such as leaves or composted woodchips. Sticks, twigs, and green grass clippings should be used as mulch in the garden or placed in a slow compost pile as they will almost certainly cause your worm farm to become hot.

Feeding your worms

How much can worms eat?

The generic answer is:worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day and can double their population every few months. This depends on two things:

  1. The type of food they are eating.
  2. How often are they being fed.

Compost worms will eat manures faster than food scraps and will eat fruit and vegetable waste before dairy and meats.  The rule is: Big worms eat lots of food and lay lots of eggs.

You will learn how much they can eat as you become familiar with your farm.  Checking on your worms every couple of days in the beginning is the fastest way to learn what your worms like and don’t like.  It will take several weeks for your worms to establish themselves in their new environment.

How much should I feed my worms?

When starting your worm farm, we recommend 250g or two handfuls of chopped food scraps every couple of days.  Make sure to include a minimum of 1 litre of water after feeding.  As you check the worms add a handful of soil, woodchip or mulch and then more food a sprinkle of conditioner or lime will help minimise any unpleasant issues. As your worm population grows the amount of food you can feed also increases.  A worm farm working at full capacity should be expected to process 1-2kgs of food waste every week.

How can I help the worms eat more?

Chopping your food into extra small bits, spreading it evenly and not in large heaps, and pour 1 litre of water over the food once deposited.

Giving the worms more area to feed in is another great way to process more waste.  This might mean having two worm farms or using in-ground worm farming techniques.  There are a variety of different ways you can extend your worm farming success. Why don’t you try up sizing your farm to a DIY bath tub.

What kinds of foods do worms feed on?

Worms feed on the bacteria’s, fungi’s and algae’s that cover the foods as it breaks down. Food waste breaks down at different rates, with fats and proteins taking the most work. Fruit and vegetable scraps work well, along with cereals, grains and carbohydrates.

Organic materials such as manures and compost already contain large amounts of organisms so the worms can eat more of it faster.  Worms should not be fed manures where the animal has been wormed within two weeks of collecting manure.  To be safe, manures with worming agents should be avoided altogether.

What food do worms not like?

There are some certain types of foods that worms don’t enjoy and can also take a long time to break down. These types of foods can cause your farm to become smelly and could encourage unwanted visitors. Most of these foods are okay in smaller amounts and/or burying deeper in the layers.

  • Onion is on the bottom of the worms ‘favourite food’ list.
  • Citrus is best in the compost or dried out and used as tinder.
  • Dairy works best diluted with water.  For example, yogurt with 2 litres of water and poured over worm material. This helps disperse the high protein/fat evenly so the worms can eat it before it has a chance to turn smelly.

Can I feed my worms meat?

Worms will eat meat, just not big chunks.  The best way to feed meat to you worms is to chop it up and bury it deep. In the summer months, fly larvae (maggots) can feast on uneaten food.  Covering with soil and a sprinkle of lime can reduce the chance of maggot infestation. It is worth mentioning here that a worm farm performing above 60%, will have greater ease processing tougher foods like meat and dairy.  i.e.:  A worm farm with over 10,000 worms = 60%.

What happens if I over feed my worms?

Your worm farm could become smelly and you might find evidence of fly larvae (maggots).  Some foods are high in energy and when breaking down release that energy in the form of heat through a relationship with bacteria.  As the populations grow, more energy is consumed, resulting in a bi-product, heat.  When food is clumped together and is not spread in a light even pattern then worms have problems eating so much food before the heat sets in and then worms can’t eat it.  Once the temperature exceeds 35°C worms are in survival mode and often leave the area where the food and heat is. During winter this can be an advantage, as the increased temperatures suit the colder conditions.

How do I manage the lime and pH levels?

Feeding food scraps to the worms causes the pH to lower.This can be managed by adding carbon in the form of leaves and mulch or by adding a sprinkle of lime or conditioner when feeding your worms.

Garden

Can I use worms from the garden in my worm farm?

Unfortunately worms from the garden do not perform well in your worm farm unless conditions are perfect.  Worms from the garden are traditional earthworms that like drier soil conditions.  Even though they will live in the farm, they will not thrive like their cousin the compost worm, who like high moisture and rich nutrients.  The best thing to do, if you find earthworms in the garden, is to try and grow the population that occur naturally by spreading handfuls of worm castings throughout your garden. The soil earthworms love feeding on compost worm castings and take it to the lower depths of the soil where the root zone is. The many holes that the soil earthworms make act as a watering service to the deeper soil and roots.

Worms do not like chemicals and even small amounts can burn their skin. Worms are sensitive and will move to more comfortable areas in the garden. Worm castings offer a great alternative to chemicals and fertilisers.  Even chook poo in large amounts can upset the worms in proportion to the application. Compost and worm castings are the best way to encourage native worms in the garden.

Can I put worms in the garden?

Compost worms require different conditions than soil earthworms.  We recommend the option to put compost worms in your garden once your worm farm has reached capacity.  Compost worms will survive in your garden if you have adequate mulching and water supply.  It also helps if there is a lot of compost for your worms to eat.  Once your worm population has built up they will live naturally in your garden.

How to deal with leeches and other critters in your worm farm.

It is not unusual to witness other critters in your worm farm every so often. You need not concern yourself over most of them.  For example the little brown or white mites, beetles and antsare fairly harmless.  Some leeches and flat worms may attack your worms.  This can be a concern as they can build up in numbers and can decrease your worm population.  Pick unwanted pests out of the farm, or use a heavy application of lime.

What are Fruit flies and vinegar flies?

Fruit flies and vinegar flies are small flies that can be found hovering above food scraps in your worm farm.  These small flies can be annoying but shouldn’t cause any problems.  It is hard to avoid them.  Covering the food will help minimise the amount of flies.

What about white worms?

Sometimes confused with little baby worms, white worms are another type of worm also known as enclyadhaties that prefer slightly acidic conditions.  They have a visible, slightly raised,piece of skin one third down one end of the body. This is the sexual organ for the mature worm and can be identified easily by the trained eye. You can either let them be as they do not cause any harm or you can take them out and feed them to the chooks. The latter can be done by distracting them with the help of bait.

Information about worms

Breeds of composting Worms WormBiz supply

Blue worm

The blue worm is a summer worm and thrives in the top layer of the farm where the temperature is warmer. In winter below 10 deg they do not perform well.  The blue worm has lovely ocean blue iridescence when looked upon in the light (other earthworms have a greener iridescence). A torch shows this well at night time.  The iridescence shows the protective layer that surrounds the worm allowing it to breath and exchange with its surrounding environment. Blue worms have an inverted clitellum and is one way of determining blues from the rest. They are a long, slender worm that can move very fast when disturbed. Blue worms lay more cacoons with fewer eggs inside each cacoon.  When temperatures are just right, blue worms breed faster and eat more than red or tiger worms.

Tiger worm

Suited to warm and cold climates.  The tiger worm is the fattest of the three and doesn’t quite beat the blue worm in length.  Tiger worms are banded with dark rings and enlarged clitellums.  Larger tiger worms like to move around and you will often find them sticking to the sides of your worm farm.

Red worm (or manure worm)

The smallest of the three types of worm, the red worm is cold tolerant and heat sensitive.  Manure worms prefer manure over food scraps.  They are happy with food scraps and you will often find these worms deeper in the layers.  Red worms are similar to the tiger worm in shape and also have an enlarged clitellum.  Red worms seem to mature at approx. 3/4 of the size of a tiger and even though they don’t have pronounced rings, they are certainly segmented. Red worms seem to lay less cacoons and have more eggs producing higher hatches than the blue worm.

Shipping information

Why is there a shipping cut-off?

To ensure that your worms arrive fresh and unharmed we only ship Monday to Thursday. Orders received after 12:00 pm on Thursdays and anytime on Friday, Saturday or Sunday will be shipped the following Monday.  This eliminates the risk of the package sitting at the Post Office over the weekend without the appropriate care.  This isn’t as applicable during the winter months as hot temperatures are not as likely to affect worms in transit.

What if I have missed the shipping cut off?

If you require an urgent supply of worms, please contact Wormbiz and, depending on weather constraints and your shipping location, we may be able to supply what you need.

worms@wormbiz.com.au

My worms have arrived dead.  What now?

The worms haven’t survived their journey! WormBiz apologises for your disappointing discovery. Even though we do everything we can to maximize the worms survival in transit, unfortunately, due to the nature of our product, this is a possibility. Please feel free to contact Wormbiz within 24hours of delivery to discuss replacement options.

worms@wormbiz.com.au

A note on worms in transit.  Wormbiz refrigerates the tubes before dropping them to the Post Office and double walled insulation helps keep the tubes at an ambient temperature whilst in transit.

Shipping information.

Unfortunately we do not offer live worm products being shipped to Western Australia, Northern territory or Tasmania.  Due to complications with quarantine, heat stress and long distances we are regretful to turn your sale away.  We would however like to offer you access to the information provided by our website.

Can I expect to receive my bait order the next day?

Not always as Australia Post can take up to 2 to 3 working days to deliver and as long as payment has been cleared and you have your order placed by Tuesday 9am and you are in Australia posts Express Network , this allows Australia post up to 3 working days to deliver to remote areas and avoids bait sitting around over weekends in Post Offices.

PLEASE CHECK AUSTRALIA POSTS EXPRESS NETWORK POST CODES TO SEE IF YOU ARE IN THE NEXT DAY DELIVERY NETWORK.

If you are not home or live in a country area your posty may leave a card for you to collect your bait from the local post office so please check your local Post Office first or email us and we will check on Australia Posts tracking site for you.

I am a country customer or shop in Victoria, can I order my bait on a Thursday?

We prefer to send country orders out Monday Tuesday and Wednesday in Victoria only especially if you`re post code is not in the Australia Posts express network.

In summer does your bait come with any type of cooling ?

Yes all bait is delivered with a frozen bottle or ice pack and deliveries are packed in a polystyrene box.

Troubleshooting

What happens if I over feed my worms?

Your worm farm could become smelly and you might find evidence of fly larvae (maggots).  Some foods are high in energy and when breaking down release that energy in the form of heat through a relationship with bacteria.  As the populations grow, more energy is consumed, resulting in a bi-product, heat.  When food is clumped together and is not spread in a light even pattern then worms have problems eating so much food before the heat sets in and then worms can’t eat it.  Once the temperature exceeds 35°C worms are in survival mode and often leave the area where the food and heat is. During winter this can be an advantage, as the increased temperatures suit the colder conditions.

Why is my worm farm hot?

The first question to ask is how much sun is it getting.  If the worm farm sits in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, the chance of the worm farm heating up increases dramatically.  If the worm farm is in mostly shade for the summer duration then it could be an overfeeding problem. Too much food and/or bedding material results in overheating and needs to be mixed around and aerated to cool before worms can eat it.  It is recommended that you pour 5 litres of water over your worms when heat is a problem.

What is a Safe zone?

This is an area with castings or damp bedding material that does not exceed 32°C degrees.  Sometimes, without a safe zone, worms can be driven deep into the bottom reservoir if the whole farm is hot.  One way of avoiding trapped worms is to open the tap and place shredded paper or cardboard in the bottom reservoir where the liquid stores.  This will act as a refuge to the worms that make their way down away from the heat.  Once you have a safe zone established try feeding more food through the other levels of your farm.  Refer to rotating trays.

How do I manage the lime and pH levels?

Feeding food scraps to the worms causes the pH to lower.This can be managed by adding carbon in the form of leaves and mulch or by adding a sprinkle of lime or conditioner when feeding your worms.

Worm castings and liquids

How long will it be until I can use the liquids?

It is best to wait several weeks before using the liquid from your worm farm on your plants.  The worms need to turn the bedding material into castings before the liquid is full of beneficial bacteria.  If you collect the liquid too early, it could contain leachates from the uneaten food.  Once you see a good layer of worm castings is the time to use the liquids on your plants.

What are worm castings?

The short answer is ‘worm poo’.  The long answer is, worm castings are organic compounds that pass through the worm’s biological digestive system that result in a thick black soil which is home to many thousands of species of beneficial microbes that make nutrients available for plants. Plants react well to worm castings because of the symbiotic relationships between fungi, algae and bacteria.

What is worm mucus and enzymes – or worm slime?

Worm castings can also be soil that has been excavated and passed through the worm’s body, resulting in little soil like balls that are bound together with enzymes from the mucus that is created from the worm.

Worms excrete mucus full of enzymes that help break down organic material.  We know that worms are a powerhouse of bacteria, leaving what comes out on the other end full of beneficial microbes.  Worms are also covered in a sticky slime which helps protect the worm from their sometimes harsh environment and also helps them breathe through their moist skin.  Worms could in fact use this slime as a catalyst to help the bacteria start breaking down the food (much like human saliva) or perhaps this is the first point of contact for the bacteria covering the worm’s skin.  It helps them exchange, and communicate with other worms and be extremely receptive to influences in their environment.

Are there pathogens in worm castings?

Worms eat pathogens and pure worm castings should be free of pathogens.  This is not to say that worm castings cannot be contaminated with uneaten food or liquids containing pathogens.  It is best to assume that there is a chance that they could contain pathogens and avoid using worm castings directly on edible plants that are not washed previous to eating.  Apply to soil surface in solid or liquid form.

Is there anything I can’t use worm castings or worm liquids on?

Worm castings will not harm your plants.  The answer is very different when asked about liquids because there is a higher chance liquids can containanaerobicbacteria.

It is best to dilute worm castings or liquids 10-1 with castings/worm wee- water

Liquids can easily turn anaerobic which has come from too much leachate.  If the tray at the bottom becomes blocked and fills up, it is possible for your worms to drown.  If worms drown in the liquid it can turn the liquid sour very quickly leading to a soupy mixture of anaerobic bacteria.This is why it is important to dilute the liquids coming out of your worm farm.

If using liquids for food plants, add to the soil as a drench and not as a leafy spray.  This will also reduce the risk of passing on anything harmful.

How do I use worm castings?

You can use worm castings in a potting mix or you can apply directly to the soil surface or, when transplanting, place some worm castings in the hole before the plant.  The castings can also be turned into a liquid and applied using watering cans.

Worm farm management and maintenance

Who will look after the worms if I go away?

Going away is easy, even if you don’t have anyone to watch over your worms.  Trips from a couple of days to a week is easily manageable and won’t require any looking after if a few things are done right.  For an extended stay, say one to three weeks and depending on what time of year it is and how many worms you have in your worm farm, things will slow down considerably by the time you get back.  Nonetheless worms are very hardy and can eat worm castings several times over. Moistened cardboard or shredded paper will provide a food and bedding source for your worms whilst you are away also.

Is it possible that I have too many worms?

Yes! But it does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. It can mean that you are worming along nicely. The more worms, the more worm castings can be produced hence leading to the growth of more vegetables.Worms regulate their population, so by taking worms out and putting them in your garden or using them for fishing, you are encouraging the worms to breed faster.

What role does newspaper and cardboard play in a worm farm?

Shredded newspaper serves as a wonderful cover for your worms. Thedamp environment also serves as a good breeding ground for bacteria which the worm feeds on. Similarly, cardboards are great too. Cardboards have fats in the glue and the worms enjoy these corrugations of the cardboard. This trick comes in handy when you have to leave for a prolonged time and don’t want to worry about your worms starving. But you must remember that the cardboard needs to be wet first.

How much water should I invest in my worm farm?

There is a no ‘one fits all’ answer to this question.On hot days it pays to give them a good wet down.  Make sure the tap on your worm farm is not blocked.  What is common with each type of worm farm is each farm requires abundant water supply (3-5 litres per week is fine during summer). Most of the time, the worms will have enough moisture retained in the castings. However, it is recommended that you deposit a minimum of 1 litre of water through your farm per week.  You can add more water into the system if you would like to harvest worm liquid or on hot summer days.

Do I need to cover my worms?

Covering your worms creates a more comfortable area for them to process your waste. It is beneficial to cover with a breathable cover leaving a gap around the edges to allow ventilation. You can use damp shredded newspaper/cardboard or a store bought long lasting worm blanket. (Link to worm blanket in shop)

What is a Safe zone?

This is an area with castings or damp bedding material that does not exceed 32°C degrees.  Sometimes, without a safe zone, worms can be driven deep into the bottom reservoir if the whole farm is hot.  One way of avoiding trapped worms is to open the tap and place shredded paper or cardboard in the bottom reservoir where the liquid stores.  This will act as a refuge to the worms that make their way down away from the heat.  Once you have a safe zone established try feeding more food through the other levels of your farm.  Refer to rotating trays.

Can I add garden waste?

Garden waste should be kept out of the worm farm unless you are using a broken down mulch source such as leaves or composted woodchips.Sticks, twigs, and green grass clippings should be used as mulch in the garden or placed in a slow compost pile as they will almost certainly cause your worm farm to become hot.

How do I manage the lime and pH levels?

Feeding food scraps to the worms causes the pH to lower.This can be managed by adding carbon in the form of leaves and mulch or by adding a sprinkle of lime or conditioner when feeding your worms.

What do I need to know about rotating trays?

If you rotate trays, check on your worms during hot weather. Always have a safe zone. There will come a point where your worm farm has too many worm castings and not enough space for more food.It is best practice to rotate the top two trays so the food can be spread evenly through the worms working loads. If the bottom tray is to be used in the rotation it is best to have a cardboard floor to stop the worms from heading all the way down into the reservoir. Once the top tray is covered with a thin layer of food scraps place the top tray aside, ready to bring the second tray to the top. This allows more worms to sit at a bigger table. Spreading the food over two or three trays increases the amount of area for worms to eat the food, allowing your farm to function better. This method does require a little more attention and can offer better results but requires checking on regular basis. Keep a close eye on the worms in heat waves.

Worm farms and methods

Which is the best worm farm?

There is no such thing as the best farm. All worm farms work in a similar manner. You put food in, the worms eat the food, and worm castings are produced. The most common system used is a‘tiered’ or ‘tray’ system. These systems allow worms to move through the trays making it easier to manage.

Another type of worm farm is called the continuous flow through system. Without the stacking trays, what goes in the top eventually comes out the bottom. A common design element is the tapered shape of the farm, pushing the worms to the top as the lower levels compact and harden allowing for easy cast harvesting.

What is the difference between tiered/tray system and a continuous flow through system?

Tiered tray systems work in a stacking manner, where one tray is placed on top of the other so the worms can move through the farm.  Put simply, you could liken the bottom tray to a bedroom where the worms rest (no food in the bedrooms). The second tray might be considered the living room, and the top tray the dining room. This allows the worms to always find a nice cool spot.

The continuous flow through system – you put worm food in the top and worm castings come out the bottom. Sometimes it can be difficult to harvest the cast from the bottom because the worm castings have become quite compacted. In some flow through systems (particularly the large commercial systems), a wire or knife is dragged along the bottom cutting the cast to fall through to the bottom.

Is there are drawback to either system?

Both systems work but both have their drawbacks. The tiered trays can be heavy to lift and often worms find themselves trapped in the bottom reservoir, unable to save themselves. The tiered trays systems can be limited on size whereas the flow through systems are often bigger in volume and are claimed to house more worms. This can be a down fall as the volume of material stacked up can be prone to heating. Surface area is what worms like and sometimes flow through systems can be lacking in surface area.

What do I need to know about rotating trays?

If you rotate trays, check on your worms during hot weather. Always have a safe zone. There will come a point where your worm farm has too many worm castings and not enough space for more food.It is best practice to rotate the top two trays so the food can be spread evenly through the worms working loads. If the bottom tray is to be used in the rotation it is best to have a cardboard floor to stop the worms from heading all the way down into the reservoir. Once the top tray is covered with a thin layer of food scraps place the top tray aside, ready to bring the second tray to the top. This allows more worms to sit at a bigger table. Spreading the food over two or three trays increases the amount of area for worms to eat the food, allowing your farm to function better. This method does require a little more attention and can offer better results but requires checking on regular basis.  Keep a close eye on the worms in heat waves.