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Worm Flow Farm set up

continuous flow through worm (CFT) farm operation procedure
Diverting food waste from landfill is a significant step towards reducing greenhouse gasses and part of climate change action. This valuable waste can also make a huge impact on soil regeneration. The microbes which are mostly now missing from our soils can be cultivated in a properly set up Worm Flow farm. Applying them to our plants/soils will help to reestablish these little superheroes, ensuring food security, carbon draw down and ecosystems restoration. We can all do our bit and I am here to help with making this happen.
So here are the steps to set up, take care of and harvest worm castings from the Worm Flow wheelie bin.
If you don’t have one (contact me at to create one with your community through a hands-on workshop).
1. Place 10cm of cardboard on the slats - this will initially hold the bedding, worms and their food, eventually the cardboard will decompose and you will be able to harvest your castings, which should stay intact if there is enough moisture in the castings, 80% moisture is ideal for composting worms.
2. Add bedding for the worms - this needs to be something that does not easily decompose and is carbon based eg. coir brick is ideal for this (place the brick in water until it swells up and is easy to disintegrate). Other materials include sugar cane mulch (must be without pesticides), dry hay, shredded cardboard, brown leaf litter. A mixture of these materials is ideal. Always soak the bedding and then squeeze out most of the moisture. These materials will also be decomposed over time and worms will eventually feed on the microbes living on the decomposing bedding.
3. Add worms - get worms from a friend or buy some. The more worms the better, the recommended number is a 1000, however you can add a handful and they will multiply rapidly. Add a small amount of food (fruit and veg) scraps, making sure these are not fermenting and producing harmful alcohols). As the food is decomposed by microbes, the worms will settle in and soon begin to consume the diverse microbes feeding on the scraps. You can also add some weeds or cuttings of cultivated or native vegetation to introduce and cultivate the microbes that naturally live on vegetation.
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4. Add a generous layer of soaked carbon-based organic matter, at least the same amount as food scraps. This is organic matter from dead plants, from which the nitrogen has been depleted, it can be sugar cane mulch (organic), leaf litter, shredded paper. The diversity of the carbon materials is important, being especially beneficial if they come from nature, a small electric garden shredder/mulcher is a good way to process dry weeds, twigs etc. These materials from nature contain beneficial microbes, especially fungi which specialise in decomposing carbon based organic matter.
5. Add more food when you see that majority of it is gone. Make sure not to overfeed your worms, especially if you have only a handful to start with, then add more as the population grows. You know when you’re overfeeding your worms when it takes longer than a week for them to process the food, it begins to ferment and vinegar flies begin to breed. A layer of scraps covering the whole surface of the farm is good and you can add food continually in small amounts or store food scraps in the fridge or freezer and add these once a week or once you notice the worms have processed what’s already in the worm farm.
6. After feeding, always add an equivalent or greater amount of soaked carbon-based layer to cover the food to ensure a good balance of carbon to nitrogen. While you can overdose on nitrogen based foods such as food scraps, you can’t really overdo the carbon-based foods, so don’t be shy and be generous with the diversity and amount of carbon added. It is entirely possible to have an excellent worm farm system which you only feed leaf litter, after all that is what composting worms would naturally be consuming on the forest floor. They love to eat fungi and fungi love to eat carbon-based organic matter. So the more carbon you supply, the more fungi will proliferate in your worm farm, the quicker the process of soil regeneration and carbon sequestration.
7. Cover the contents with some material - this may be a piece of cardboard, carpet liner makes a good blanket, thick hessian or any other organic material. This will ensure moisture retention in the worm farm.
8. Always make sure there is enough moisture in your worm farm, even though the food has moisture and the plastic bin will ensure good moisture retention, it is advisable to add some moisture. Soaking the carbon-based materials and adding them quite wet is one way to add additional moisture. A more precise way to achieve this, is to set up an automatic sprinkler with a timer which delivers a mist for one minute a day. This will ensure that you don’t over water the system, no liquid should drip out of the worm compartment. When the worm farm gets too anaerobic fungi struggle to stay alive and bacterial populations explode and the bacterial predator populations shift from amoebae and flagellates to ciliates and rotifers. These are bioindicators of the conditions in your worm farm, and can be detected using a microscope. Plant roots love oxygen so the microorganisms that are added to plants should also be oxygen loving to best support plant growth.
9. You can harvest your castings once the worm farm is nearly full or a year has gone by since you’ve started the system. This time frame allows for fungal development and fungi are super important to cultivate so we can regenerate our fungi-depleted soils. To harvest, open the bottom door of your Worm Flow and drag a small hand rake along the bars to harvest castings. You can place a piece of cardboard or plastic or a tub underneath for easier harvesting and less mess. Note that if the castings are allowed to mature and build up for a year or until your bin is full, the bottom layer which you harvest should be free of worms.
10. Applying castings to plants - a small amount goes a long way so you can dissolve a handful of castings in a watering can and apply to plants directly. A more economical way is to make a “tea bag” by placing the castings in a nut bag or a paint strainer bag and into a bucket of water, then massage out the microbes, by gently squeezing the water through the bag for about 30 seconds. this will dislodge the microbes off the organic matter into the water in the bucket and you can tip out the rest of the contents back into the worm farm. You can drench the soil around the plant, or apply the liquid in a spray bottle or through a watering can onto plants and soil. The microbes will benefit the plant above and below ground. They will find nooks and crannies on leaves and stems and will travel down into soil to find roots and collaborate with your plant.

Useful tips
Never feed citrus, onion, garlic, meat or dairy, or lots of pasta, grains or bread to your worms.
Always make sure to take off plastic stickers on fruit and avoid adding any plastic waste to your worm farm. Microplastic is really detrimental to all life forms so we need to take real care not to add more to the already polluted ecosystems and our own bodies as a result.
If you want a fast turn over you can chop food scraps into smaller pieces, this increases the surface area for the microbes to feed on the scraps and worms will hunt those juicy microbes.
Never let food scraps ferment in a bucket and then add this to the worm farm. The alcohols which form are not good for the worms and create acidic and anaerobic conditions in the farm, potentially killing your worms.
If you see ants in your worm farm, it indicates that it is too dry, ensure enough but not too much moisture is maintained in the worm farm.
If you see black soldier fly larvae (big maggots), it means you’ve overfed your worms or some of the foods you are adding are more suitable to soldier fly larvae eg. cooked foods. It is not a big issue and you can leave the larvae there to do their job, but watch how much you feed your worms and the quality of the food you provide. Adding more carbon is always a good idea and always add the carbon to the top to cover food scraps. Black soldier flies are not likely to get into a Worm Flow bin as it not open enough to allow these medium sized flies to get in, but this does not mean they would not be there if the right conditions have been created for them and the system was more open to let them in.
Adding leaf litter is always recommended, however if the litter is fresh Eucalyptus leaves, this might be an issue. You can harvest these leaves and place in a bucket with holes on the bottom, keeping the leaf litter moist until you see decomposition a few months down the track, the Eucalyptus oil should have evaporated by then. Decomposing litter from gutters is a good addition to your worm farm with loads of interesting microbes!
If you have any questions please email
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Yours wormly

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