A Beginner's Guide to Worm Farming

Worm farming is a fun way to turn your organic waste, like kitchen scraps, into rich fertiliser for your garden in the form of worm castings and worm tea.

Follow our guide below to learn how to make nutritious fertiliser for your garden. 

Shopping list

Tui Worm Farm 

Setting up your Tui Worm Farm

1. Purchase your Tui Worm Farm from your local DIY or garden centre, or check out some of the guides online to make your own.

2. Choose a shady position for your worm farm and ensure it is easily accessible to feed your scraps straight to the worms.

3. If you have purchased your worm farm, assemble as per the instructions.

4. Once you have your worm farm set up you need worms. You will need about 1000 (250g) worms to get started, and they can be purchased from a garden centre or DIY store, or if you know someone with a worm farm they may be willing to share!

5. Next you need some bedding material for your worm farm. Worm farm kits will usually supply coir brick. Other suitable bedding materials include: shredded newspaper, office paper or cardboard, brown leaves and straw.

6. Add some compost to help get your worm farm started.

7. Add the worms to the top tray and let them settle in.

Feeding your worms

8. Allow your worms a few days to settle into their new home then add a handful of food scraps to the surface area. Your compost worms will eat raw and cooked food and vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Coffee grinds, tea bags, dust from vacuum cleaners and soaked egg cartons can also be added. Chopping up scraps, or even blending them, will make it easier for the worms to eat your leftovers, quickly!

9. Avoid feeding meat, dairy products or bread as these can attract unwanted pests. Onions, citrus peel and tomatoes are very acidic, so are generally not added, however, small amounts can be used as long as they are well mixed in with other food.

10. As a rule of thumb worms eat approximately ½ their body weight in food, so if you start with 250g of worms, you can feed them approximately 125g of food a day.

11. Place a worm blanket or wool blanket on top of the worms to keep the worm farm moist and dark.

Using your worm castings and worm tea

12. Worm farms generally have a tap so you can collect the worm tea in your watering can as it is produced. Water it down to the colour of weak tea before using on your garden.

13. While you can collect and use your worm tea at anytime, collecting the castings (or worm poo), will depend on how many worms you have and how active they are. Generally, once the worms have processed the food scraps in the lower tray, you can remove this tray to use the castings in your garden, or collect small amounts to use in potting mix or seed raising mix at other times.

The contents of your worm farm should feel like a damp sponge. If it is too dry, a spray of water on each layer should provide the moisture needed to keep worms in a stable environment.

If your worm farm collects rain, your worms could drown. Move it into a more sheltered position and add shredded newspaper to absorb excess water.

Tui Worm Tower 

1. Purchase your Tui Worm Tower from your local DIY or garden centre and assemble as per the instructions.

2. Choose a great spot in the middle of your garden bed for your worm tower and ensure it is easily accessible to feed your scraps straight to the worms. Bury your worm tower into the soil leaving the top  flared section exposed.

3. Once you have chosen your spot for your worm tower you will need about 1000 (250g) worms to get started, and they can be purchased from a garden centre or DIY store, or if you know someone with a worm farm they may be willing to share!

4. Next add some bedding material and compost. Bedding materials include: shredded newspaper, office paper or cardboard, brown leaves and straw.

Feeding your worms

5. Allow your worms a few days before adding a handful of food scraps. Your compost worms will eat raw and cooked food and vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Chopping up scraps, or even blending them, will make it easier for the worms to eat your leftovers, quickly!

6. Avoid feeding meat, dairy products or bread. Onions, citrus peel and tomatoes are very acidic, so are generally not added, however, small amounts can be used as long as they are well mixed in with other food. Throw in tea bags, coffee grounds and crushed egg shells, even hair will do the job.

7. As a rule of thumb worms eat approximately ½ their body weight in food, so if you start with 250g of worms, you can feed them approximately 125g of food a day.

8. The worms in the Tui Worm Tower will travel back and forth through the feeding holes to deliver nutrients directly to the soil.

Tui Tip

  • The Tui Worm Farm & Compost Conditioner is a specially selected blend of natural minerals to help neutralise acidity and balance pH levels in your Tui Worm Tower. Correct pH levels help worms to digest larger quantities of food waste. In compost, this conditioner promotes efficient conservation of essential nutrients by soil bacteria, and helps increase the availability of nutrients for plants. Follow the directions on packaging for how to use.

Click here for our guide to making your own compost >

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A Beginner's Guide to Worm Farming Comments

  • Brought tigerworms ,used a small wheelee bin with drainage holes with a open bottom flap ,read instructions as required,had farm for 2 weeks now seems to be not slot happenings,am i being impatient or have i done something wrong.

    Roy Cresswell

    • Hi Roy, ideally worms need bedding to establish. We're not sure what the open bottom flap is for, are the worms escaping? They need to be kept moist and require regular feeding. Food needs to be small rather than big chunks so it is easy for them to break it down. Ensure the worm farm does not get too hot as this will ‘cook’ the worms. Check out our worm farming guide here for more information.

      Tui Team

  • love the beginners guide to worm farming. very easy read

    Alaina Wirangi

    • That's great to hear Alaina, thanks for sharing this feedback. Happy spring gardening!

      Tui Team

  • Hi, I've had my worm farm for a few years now and it's been mostly pretty successful. However, I've just noticed quite a few slugs in my worm farm! Should I pick them out? Will they eat the worms? Also, when I drain the worm juice out, there seems to be quite a few dead worms coming out of the tap too. Any ideas why they are making their way to the bottom and not top? Thanks, Sally

    Sally Park

    • Hi Sally, is your worm farm too hot and in a really sunny position? The worms are heading to the bottom as they are trying to get cool. Add some bedding to the top layer (damp newspaper, cardboard) to encourage the worms upwards. Is the worm farm food too dry? Add a little moisture if it is. Happy worm farming ^Tui Team 

      Tui Team

  • Hi there, Thanks for the introduction. I have bought a small worm farm for under the sink. Now I realised that the holes on the lid are not covered i.e. by mesh. I am worried about both- worms escaping and attracting unwanted visitors such as cockroaches. Can you please advise what to do? Thanks :)

    Kathryn

    • Hi Kathryn, we suggest you purchase a fine mesh to fit over the container or use nylon pantyhose. You are correct in thinking that fruit flies and other small insects will find their way in to the bin. 

      Tui Team

  • What ratio of worm oil to water do I use?

    Pam Winthrop

    • Hi Pam, water the worm tea down until it is the colour of weak tea :)

      Tui Team

  • We have found some red worms in our compost bin, can they be used to make a worm farm?

    Joanne McPherson

    • Red worms, also known as Tiger worms are compost worms and they are ideal for worm farms. They don't live in garden soil, but in rotting organic matter. Tiger worms are typically used in worm farms as they have a big appetite and reduce organic matter quickly. 

      Tui Team

  • Hi I bought into a worm farm kit from mitre 10 mega and it doesn’t include a worm blanket. Are they meant to still have warm blankets on them because the instructions assumes that I have one from the kit.

    Dominika White

    • Hi Dominika, thanks for getting in touch. If the kit you purchased included a sticker with 'free extras inside' it would have come with a worm blanket and compost & worm farm conditioner inside. This was a spring promo product only with the free extras included, the usual kit doesn't have a blanket included. Worm blankets are however available at Bunnings or you can use old woollen carpet, a woollen blanket or thick damp cardboard - the idea is to keep the farm cool and moist. Happy gardening from the Tui Team. 

      Tui Team

  • My worm farm has developed a whit fungus looking growth which seems to be spreading over it. I put lime on it also use the worm compost I bought a new worm blanket for it as it seem to completely cover the old one. What should I do?

    Faye Bly

    • Hi Faye, white bits in the worm farm are a sign that the conditions are acidic, applying lime is the right thing to do. Make sure you are not over feeding the worms and only feeding them what they can eat. Chop the scraps up a bit for them to breakdown quicker. Shred some newspaper or cardboard and put that in the worm farm for the worms and the balance should come right.

      Tui Team

  • I have read online that the leachate worm tea is bad for plants as it is full of anerobic bacteria. Apparently the "real" way to use worm tea is to brew it using the castings, molasses and air pump! Any thoughts as to what is the truth?

    Warren Mah

    • Gardeners have used worm juice (tea) on their gardens diluted at a 1-10 ratio for years with great success. Leachate and worm juice tea are not the same thing. Worm tea is a light amber liquid that comes from the worm farm, it is aerobic and has been through the gut of healthy worms. Leachate is a dark, sometimes foul smelling liquid that has not been through the gut of healthy worms and so contains bacteria that is not safe. This liquid is anaerobic and is a tell tale sign that the eco system within the worm farm is out of balance and more bedding needs to be added or the worms fed less. Leachate can be used on non edible plants at a dilute ratio of 1-2, as long as there are no edible plants in the garden.

      Tui Team

  • Populate the farm with Red Wigglers This part is fairly simple: simply add the worms to your container. Don’t worry too much about putting too many (or not enough) into the farm, as the worms will self-regulate their population fairly quickly.

    Stremove.com

  • The worm casings themselves are the result of the digestive process the worms go through. The material itself naturally mixes into the soil of the worm farm, producing the highly valued fertilizer.

    Stremove.com

  • Hi. My worms are doing a great job and the top part of the tower is getting full, so the lid isn't closing properly. In the pamphlet which came with the tower it told me what to do, but unfortunately I have misplaced it.

    ANNETTE

    • Hi Annette, once the worm tower is full you can either dig it out and move it to another site leaving all of the organic matter and worms behind or scoop out the organic matter (using a gloved hand is best) and dig this into the garden. You will remove worms in doing this but it won’t matter as more will migrate to the tower when you start adding scraps to the tower. Click here for instructions on how to set up your worm tower

      Tui Team

  • Hi Tui, I have flies in my worm farm, what's the best way to manage this and reduce the flies?

    Deirdre Johnson

    • Hi Diedre, the worm farm should be fly-proof, small flies may be able to get in, make sure the lid is on securely. Be sure to only feed plant based material to your worms, such as vegetable and fruit scraps and peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, vacuum cleaner dust, cardboard and paper soaked in water first. Do not add dairy, oil or meat products as this attracts flies. Make sure the food is chopped up so that the worms can digest it quickly, only feed them as fast as they consumer the scraps, maybe every 2-3 days. Add a layer of soil over the food scraps and place a worm blanket or layer of damp cardboard or newspaper over the top to help keep flies out. Add lime or Tui Worm Farm and Compost Conditioner to the worm farm to help speed up the break down of the organic material. The Tui Team.

      The Tui Team

  • I am only using the 1 working tray at the moment. When do I add the next tray to the worm farm?

    Rachel Millington

    • Hi Rachel, it takes about 3-6 months to fill up the first tray, when it gets to approximately 3/4 full, stop placing food in the first working tray. Prepare the second working tray by placing bedding down, either more coir, compost, soil, damp shredded newspaper, damp cardboard. Place chopped up vegetable scraps in the second working tray and place on top of the collector tray (with the tap). Place the first working tray on top, the worms will find their way to the new food source and you can use the nutrient rich castings they have created, give them a week or so to move, before using the castings. Make sure once the worms have moved you cover them with damp newspaper, cardboard or woollen carpet to keep them cool and damp.

      The Tui Team

    • My worm farm seems to be taking a long time. I’ve had it since last winter and added donated worms, and set up as per instructions. During summer more worms have been added. It always seems to remain 3/4 full. I blend their food and added plenty of moistened paper/card material too. How will they travel further up at 3/4 full if they cant touch the next level?

      Camellia Yuen

  • Hi, is there any garden waste that can't be used in the worm bin? We have lots of dried fern fronds I was hoping to use as bedding. Thanks.

    Sally

    • Hi Sally, I assume you are referring to bracken fern? It could be used as bedding but would need other bedding placed on top such as compost or top soil. It is unlikely to break down easily, worm farm bedding needs to be moist and damp, bracken fern is likely to be too coarse. Give it a go and see if it works, you will quickly find out if it isn't suitable, the main thing is that worms need a moist environment.

      The Tui Team

  • Hi, I have had a worm farm for several years. This year slaters have moved in - hundreds of them - they seem to be breeding in the worm farm. The worms don't appear to be bothered by them. Any suggestions on how I can get rid of the slaters?

    Sarah Roil

    • Hi Sara, the slaters aren't doing any harm, they are good guys in the garden and are helping the worms break down the organic matter in the worm farm. To remove them try placing an empty cardboard toilet roll filled with potato peelings into the worm farm, hopefully they will go in there and you can remove it and place them somewhere else. Or, try half an orange hollowed out, they will feed on that and you can remove it along with the slaters. Another trick would be to place damp corrugated cardboard or newspaper over the layer of food in the worm farm then remove, hopefully with the slaters attached. I hope these suggestions are helpful.

      Lianne

  • I've had 2 small worm farms in my existing gardens since late summer last. I have noticed the plants in place, early cabbage and broccoli, taking off much better than previous years.

    Colin T

    • Hi Colin, that is great, happy worms and a happy garden!

      Lianne

  • Hi, is it safe to water strawberries and lettuces with diluted worm tea? Thanks.

    Anna Brown

    • Hi Anna, it is safe to use worm tea on strawberries and lettuce, in fact, all garden plants will benefit from nutrient rich worm tea. Use at a rate of 10 parts water to 1 part worm tea, so, 100ml of worm tea to 1 litre of water. Use the solution all at once, do not store as it will start smelling.

      Lianne