Worm Farms of the Great Indoors

Urban Permaculture Adventures

Growing up in a gorgeous permaculture garden builds some unusual adult expectations. Our children played with worms, cuddled chickens, climbed trees, nibbled on flowers and sometimes fell into patches of stinging nettle. When our son grew up he was shocked by the city waste and frustrated that he could no longer compost.  Confined to a totally indoor existence, his idea for an indoor worm-farm was conceived.

Our first worm-farm towers were developed by one of our permaculture design course graduates, Robyn Crossland. The worm-farm adventure is ever developing.

Waste in a Tiny Space

We looked at old worm-farm systems which are pretty cool and decided to create a tiny version. The coffee-addict indoor worm farm was the smallest prototype.  Then we up-sized to an old kitchen bin.

Even though we have plenty of space outdoors, we didn’t expect the indoor worm-farm to be so convenient. We loved it. The waste items that are not suitable for the poultry (such as banana peels) go directly into the worm-farm.  So, we kept one for ourselves.

Do Worms Like being Indoors?

Worms like a steady temperature, they don’t like hot black housing in the full sun. Worms instinctively hide from sunlight. Nor do they thrive in cold mouldy places. Compost worms, [Perionyx Excavatus and friends] come from the tropical treetops. Our great indoors are cosy for worms, especially in winter.

Are Worms Smelly?

Worms don’t smell bad.  Rotting food smells bad. Imagine having house-mates who not put the garbage out until it gets smelly. How could worms living in the food waste possibly be worse than that?  The first challenge is to learn what can be put into the worm-farm.  Worms can eat anything that was once living, but they prefer not to eat citrus or onion. Meat can be a problem because it goes off quickly. So leave out meat, onion and citrus and add some shredded paper and cotton rags every now and then to reduce wetness.

What Do I Need?

For a Simple Worm-farm You need:

  • a fully sealed but not air-tight container. It is important to be able to keep out other creatures (like cockroaches, flies or vinegar flies)
  • Use a recycled strong plastic bag (grain bag) with small holes cut into it for drainage.  This protect the worms from accidental drowning
  • Position an upturned pot or two to support the bag off the base. This provides space at the bottom of the farm where fertilizer-rich fluid may collect. Also, the pots provide something for any lost worms to climb back up.
  • Include some bedding inside the bag. Bedding is usually an open-weave fabric. It holds the worm eggs. You can use hessian or a loose weave rag, preferably no nylon or plastics, only natural materials.
  1. What Do I Need To Do?

    Feed the worms kitchen scraps and torn plain paper. Worms love coffee grinds and banana peels. If you are going on a vacation, fill up the bin with fallen leaves and weeds from the street or your potted plants.

  2. Take the worm bin outside periodically to tip out the liquid build-up.  How often depends on how much liquid you put into the farm. We check ours each week. We don’t put any liquid into the farm, just coffee grinds and banana peels.
  3. Sort out the worms from the castings outside or in a bathroom as it can get messy. Use the castings for potting mixture for more potted plants or feed the castings and liquid manure on a street tree or in a local park.

Advanced Potted Worm-farm system

layers in potted worm farm tower invented by robyn crosslandFollow the instructions for a Basic Worm farm then add plants on top. You need:

  • a tight fitting pot to sit on top with potted herbs and
  • a feeding tube that runs all the way down the pot plant and to a hole to the worms in the next section down.
  • add a cap over the feeding tube (you can use an upturned pot)

Are Worms Fast? Yes But…

Worms are not the fastest composting organism but they are low risk. If you want fast composting, make a black soldier larvae farm.  [Don’t have a larvae farm indoors without really strict hygiene controls].

What Kills Worms?

Like everything else, neglect is one of the biggest killers for pets. Indoor worms are likely to die from too much liquid, too little food or too much food. But there is one killer lurking in many household kitchens – insecticide. Poisons would account for sudden deaths. Avoid sprays and cleaners entering the worm bin.

Happy Worming!

small indoor worm-farm made from old water filter