Maintaining a Worm Farm

by Ruth
(New Zealand)

Hi there

I have set up my worm farm with shredded paper, a bit of semi-composted grass clippings (Not too fresh or old - the layer that had lots of tiger worms living in it), worms and some kitchen scraps, and from what I understand they need about a month to settle in before you add any more food. I was wondering if this is true and also, how do I maintain it? I know you add scraps etc, but do I need to keep topping up the bedding? also, how quickly do worms breed? Cheers in advance!
New Zealand

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May 08, 2011
Maintaining the Worm Bin
by: Pauly

Hey Ruth,
Congratulations on your new worm bin. You are going to love the results the worm castings can do for your plants. You were right by not putting too much grass clippings in.

Grass can heat up rather intensely creating a thermophilic process which can kill your worms if they do not have somewhere cool to retreat to until the heat has died out. This is mostly with fresh clippings. Don't expect to compost the grass very fast. It can contain higher amounts of cellulose.

This is a tough glue that can take bacteria a longer time to break down. You also did right by adding other food sources that can break down quicker while your worms wait for the grass to decay. Fresh clippings will decay faster than seasoned clippings, but one should really monitor the amount.

Usually it takes about 1 to 2 wks. to settle in but every situation is different.

Temperature &

I can get my worms to settle in on the first day by creating a wonderful environment using coco coir and food scraps out of the freezer. Usually it's pulp from a juicer. They attack it like bees on honey. Also I have just started to implement goat manure. WOW!! :-O

You can maintain a worm bin by monitoring the food level. Look just under bedding where the food should be and before it runs out just add more. Keep a spray bottle handy to control the moisture level if you leave the lid off like I do. Leaving the lid off keeps the worms down in the bedding where the food is but will dry the bedding out faster.

Keeping the lid off indoors is ok if your food is buried (it won't smell). Your worms should double every 3 months IF their environment is maintained properly. Again, this depends on the list mentioned above. Go through the free guide to learn how to create the best environment for your composting worms.

Cheers to you Ruth

May 08, 2011
by: Ruth

Thanks for your thorough answer, Pauly
Just a couple of questions for clarification - Would adding food at the end of the last lot being broken down mean the worms have a period of time where they are not chewing through scraps as they need to wait for the microbes to do their work before they can eat the plant matter?

Yeah, I did realize the grass would take a bit longer to break down so I added the bits from where the worms were present in large numbers - figured they would have something to feed on straight away as well as giving me a head start on all the micro organisms and invertebrate life needed to make they bin optimum.

Do I need to continually feed in paper? Or are kitchen scraps on there own fine?

Also, I was considering using fresh lawn clippings in winter (As I do not have an inside area to put the worms) To provide a bit of warmth, figured a layer on the surface would produce heat, but the worms can still move towards the bottom of the bin to find their optimum temperature. Do you think this would work?


May 08, 2011
Maintaing Worms
by: Pauly


Yes, worms do not have teeth so they depend on microbes to break the food down and then the worms will suck up the microbes through their powerful pharynx. The gizzard (much like a chicken) will grind the food down even more. There is now a war going on inside the worms intestines. The good microbes contained within the worm are feasting on the bad but much needed microbes (used in breaking down the original food source) which end up being cast out the end of the worm which is now wonderful plant food like: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes.

You need to maintain a C:N ratio of around 20:1. This brings a balance to the system. Too much nitrogen (greens) and not enough carbon (browns) can cause everything to turn sour and smell and the bad microbes will win over the good ones. Your worms will die from lack of oxygen. Always maintain moist and fluffy bedding for optimal air flow. Paper and cardboard and even coco coir do well at creating great air flow and adding carbon sources.

Believe it or not I once went without checking on my worms for 2 months and when I lifted the lid it was business as usual. Granted, I did not have as many worms but there were still enough to make castings and procreate.

As for winter and summer you need to have a bin big enough so worms can retreat to the center or bottom when conditions are too hot or cold. A trash barrel with a lid can work for this or a big wooden box lined with Styrofoam. In summer, always have it in the shade and in winter it can be in the sun if you want. Adding food sources rich in starches and proteins, like moist chicken pellets, will help heat up the bin nicely. Put it in one place like the middle. If it gets too warm they can move closer to the outer middle in the winter.

You need to be careful of adding to much material on top as this can smother the oxygen and be too rich even in the winter.
Happy Worm Farming Ruth,

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