You’ve watched a program or maybe read an article. It was about using composting worms to turn your household scraps into nutrient rich fertiliser.
Perhaps you wish to be a responsible custodian of your little patch of the planet and keep your scraps out of landfill or you might want to try using worm castings as a soil amendment on your flowers or vegetables. Some people want to farm worms to feed a beloved pet or to supply affordable bait for their fishing interests.
Whatever your motivation or how you came to be here, you are now wondering how to buy compost worms. It basically comes down to two choices – locally or online.
Compost worms are available locally
The easiest way to buy compost worms is at your local garden centre or hardware store. To date, I have purchased 3 lots of compost worms and I got them all from my local Bunnings store. This is a national Australian hardware and gardening chain. They have a section where they supply you with everything you will require to begin a worm farm from scratch. They offer a selection of worm farms, worm blankets and bedding, worm farm conditioner and lets not forget the worms themselves. The only thing they don’t supply are the food scraps to feed the little wrigglers.
If you are beginning to think that you will need to tuck your new little friends in, read them a bed-time story and turn out the lights, then you’re not far of the mark. Except for the story, that is. You don’t want to put them to sleep, they just prefer life to be warm, dark and moist.
Worm farming needs
Although you will require all the above listed items, you don’t need to buy them as you will likely have alternatives at home or they can be bought cheaper elsewhere.
The shop will sell you a block of coco coir as bedding for your worm farm but torn newspaper and/or cardboard works great. The worms will appreciate a blanket on top of the farm to help keep things dark and moist. You can use a newspaper, hessian bag or anything that is made of natural fiber. I have personally used an old pillow case and teatowels.
Whatever you choose to use, just be aware that they will decompose over time and be absorbed into the farm, so they will need to be replaced from time to time.
Store bought or DIY?
You may choose to buy the farm itself. This is generally a set of stacking plastic boxes with legs and a drainage tap. They are convenient, easy to set up, come with instructions and include some things you will need (eg coco coir). The cheapest will set you back $AUS50-60.
If you are skilled with tools or want a custom farm to fit your circumstances, its easy to whip up a diy farm. They can be wood, plastic, an old bathtub or fridge. The only limits here are your skills and imagination. There are lots of ‘how to’ guides and custom designs for worm farms on the internet, so have a look around, pick your design and get building.
Whatever farm you choose, it will need to block the light, to keep your farm dark and have drainage so you don’t flood your worm farm – think moist not wet.
There are cheaper options
Lastly, I advise you to steer clear of the conditioner. It is basically an overpriced pH buffer. Instead, you can get garden lime cheaper in the gardening section or dry out your used egg shells and crush them up very finely. This is to prevent your worm farm from becoming too acidic, as high acid levels will lead to health problems and eventual death of your worms.
You will need to have your housing arrangements sorted out before you buy your worms. Worm suppliers recommend leaving the worms in their packaging for no more than a week after purchase. So buy or make and set up your worm farm before buying any worms, so you can tuck them in to their new home straight away.
What about the worms?
The cost of worms will vary depending on the quantity of worms you buy and the life stage you buy them in.
Worms will generally be sold by quantity. It is recommended to start a household farm with 1000 worms. Quantities larger than this are for people who want to dispose of a large amount of waste or produce a large amount of vermicompost. These will include cafes, schools or farms.
Worms are proliferate breeders in ideal conditions and they will self adjust their population size to fit the size of your farm, the conditions within your farm and the amount of food available to them. So, save your wallet and don’t be tempted to buy more than 1000 worms.
Worms can be sold as either 1000 adult worms or worm rich material equivalent to 1000 worms. I have also recently found a company that sells worm eggs (called cocoons) equivalent to 1000 worms. These are the cheapest I have found at $AUS29. Prices for adult worms can go up to $AUS50.
Worm rich material means you will receive bedding material containing cocoons and juvenile worms with some adult worms mixed in. If you have a choice, I recommend picking worm cocoons or worm rich material. My reasons are:
- Juvenile worms adapt better to new environments than adult worms. There is even research* that states that worms adapt to their environment whilst still in the cocoon, so the worms will grow up adapted to the conditions in your worm farm. This will result in a healthy population faster than transplanting adult worms.
- If you are reading this post then you are a novice worm farmer. You are going to make mistakes and learn by trial and error. The conditions in your farm may not be ideal for worms to thrive in. Adult worms, accustomed to life at a commercial worm farm, may suffer shock, they may decide they don’t like life in your farm and depart for greener pastures or they may even die. Juvenile worms will be more lenient and forgiving to beginner mistakes and adapt themselves to your style of worm farming.
- Cocoons and juvenile worms weigh less and take up less space than adult worms, therefore they cost less.
- Most worm cocoons contain 3 or 4 babies in them, however this is not a set number. Cocoons can contain 10 or more worms in them. So, if you buy 1000 adult worms you receive 1000 worms. If you buy worm rich material equivalent to 1000 worms you will usually receive more than advertised. Who doesn’t love a bargain?
Its up to you of course and what is available in your area. If you want to be able to hold a handful of worms like in the photo above then adult worms will be the go for you. Just be aware that they will need a period for settling in and feed then lightly for the first few weeks as it is possible to overfeed worms and turn your worm farm sour.
No one in my area sells worms!
If this is the case, its time to get on the computer. Many suppliers of worms and worm products have online stores and are able to ship their worms nationally. Do a search for worm suppliers in your country. I searched for ‘worm suppliers Aust’ and found 6 possible suppliers to choose from. When you are choosing who to buy from there are a few things to consider apart from price and quality. Does the supplier ship to your area? And what are your weather conditions like?
In Australia, one of our states, Western Australia, has added charges and quarantine when posting live products. Because of this, many suppliers in other states won’t post there or recommend a buyer finds an in-state supplier.
Another reason why a supplier may not post to your area is extreme weather conditions. Compost worms can survive temperatures between 5 to 30 degrees C. Beyond these ranges worms begin to die. Therefore, it is better to wait for more favourable weather to buy worms and start a worm farm.
One benefit of buying from an online supplier is the ability to interact with the seller. They want you to be a happy customer, to buy from them in the future and recommend them to your family and friends. Because of this they are usually happy to answer your questions, give you advice on setting up your worm farm and provide ongoing support with any problems that may arise with your farm.
Another benefit of buying online is that the supplier will harvest the worms from their farms on the day that they post them to you. This way you know how long the worms have been out of the farm and in packaging. When buying worms from a store I often wonder how long they have been on the shelf. This can affect the health of the worms you are buying.
Can’t I just go dig up worms from the garden?
Well, if you are after worms to feed a pet or go fishing, then yes, of course you can. However, if your intention is to put the worms in a container and farm them then unfortunately, the answer is no.
Native garden worms are a different species than compost worms and they don’t tend to cope well in worm farms.
Compost worms live in the top layers of soil, whereas garden worms tend to dig down deeper into the soil. Compost worms can also cope better with close living quarters while garden worms tend to spread out and roam around. These qualities make compost worms the ideal choice for use in worm farms.
The good news is that worms are great breeders. This means, if you maintain your farm well and provide the conditions the worms thrive in, you will only need to buy worms once, as they will self populate your farm.
Let’s get started
So there you have it. I’m thrilled that you are interested in buying compost worms. Whatever your reason for doing so, you will be contributing to making our planet a cleaner, healthier place.
All the best in your quest to buy compost worms and enjoy the adventures ahead of you. If you have any questions, tips, comments or stories to tell, be sure to post them below and I will get back to you.
* “How to breed, Raise and Maintain A 100-pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room” by Brian Paley