How to look after and feed your wormery

Wormeries are easy like riding a bike - easy once you get the knack.

(Including a downloadable worm menu – with gourmet treats!)

It’s easy once you know how

Wormeries are easy to run once you get the knack – you just need a bit of practise and info to get you on the right track. I must confess to killing two whole colonies (traumatic days!) before I went to the library to get a book on how to do it. Here’s the essential, ‘need to know’ facts to avoid the common pitfalls.

As long as you’re starting with a well designed wormery (an easy DIY one, here), there’s really only three things you need to do to keep it healthy: site it in a sheltered space, keep it moist, and most importantly, feed it carefully.

1. Feeding

Feeding is where things can most easily go wrong when you’re starting out.  Here’s the four golden rules

  1. Little at first: When starting your wormery, your first job is to feed it carefully and patiently while the worm population multiplies. You’ll probably have 300 – 500 worms in your wormery starter pack. But a mature, fully productive wormery has several thousand! Your worm population will double in size every two to three months, so it may take 12 – 18 months until your wormery is at full capacity. It’s better to add too little food than too much (particularly early on). Add too much and the food will putrefy (go off and get smelly). In optimal conditions, worms can eat about half their body weight a day. In cooler weather it will be a lot less.
  2. Add 20 – 30% carbon rich, ‘brown matter’ – that’s cardboard, newspaper or wood chips – in addition to the food waste. Cardboard and wood chip will also help create air spaces in the wormery (worms, like us, need air).
  3. Don’t add any one ingredient in large quantities (particularly processed foods).
  4. Feed it a varied diet. This will help create a healthy wormery and a rich worm compost full of nutrients and trace elements – good things include banana skins and comfrey leaves (for potassium), coffee and nettles (for nitrogen).
Examples of staple foods for a wormery: veg pelings, tea bags, coffee grounds and banana skins. Remember to mix in 20 - 30% card or wood chip as well
Examples of staple foods for a wormery: veg pelings, tea bags, coffee grounds and banana skins. Remember to mix in 20 – 30% card or wood chip as well

How do you know when to feed?

When you lift the lid of your wormery, can you see a few worms scouting round the surface? If yes, it needs feeding. If not, wait until you do. Usually you’ll find they need feeding once or twice a week.

In this image you can see a few worms on the surface - this is usually a sign that they are hungry and need feeding.
In this image you can see a few worms on the surface – this is usually a sign that they are hungry and need feeding.

Worm Menu (including gourmet delicacies)

Yes to:            Mix about 20-30% carbon rich (brown font) with 70 – 80% nitrogen rich (black). Gourmet delicacies        Add when you find  –  none are essential. OK (in moderation) to: Wise to avoid completely until your wormery is established. No to:
Fruit peelings (worms love banana skins – a good source of potassium) Composted manure (add a 1 or 2 inch layer every 6 weeks) – adds valuable soil life. Worms love it! Onion skins (too acidic) Meat and Fish – these will be broken down in a wormery but may spread disease eg BSE.
Veg peelings eg potatoes, carrot, (not onions) Garden soil (just a handful here and there) – adds grit for worm gizzards and soil life. Citrus (too acidic) Dog / cat pooh
Cardboard – tear up in small pieces, and sprinkle with water to dampen it. Nettles – chop up and add a layer occasionally – rich in nitrogen and trace elements. Oily food
Newspaper / waste paper – shredded. Comfrey leaves – chop up and a layer occasionally – rich in potassium and trace elements. Spicy foods
Wood chip – composted if possible. (Avoid fresh pine wood chip) Liquid seaweed fertiliser – adds trace elements and promotes soil life. Effective but expensive and far from essential. Anything very salty (eg fresh sea weed)
Coffee grounds and tea bags. Fine sawdust
Leftover cooked foods (avoid adding in large quantities) Grass cuttings
Bread, rice, cereals, pastries, cake Garden waste
Egg shells – crushed Processed food
Green waste compost Cheese
Cut flowers

 

You can also download this menu as a pdf,

Holiday feeding

Worms are quite happy for two to three weeks without feeding. Don’t add excess food before you go away, as this may become rancid. Feed them as normal, perhaps adding extra damp cardboard and / or a layer of green waste compost or manure (this will provide food for the worms but won’t go off).

2. A sheltered site

Worms do best in a constant temperature, not too hot or too cold. A shady is spot is best (15 – 25 oC is optimum). If possible, it’s also good to place it somewhere protected from strong winds (to avoid it getting too cold) and rain (to minimise risk of flooding, see tip below).

Tip: If your wormery will be rained on, leave the worm juice tap (if there is one) open with a collection jug underneath. This will help prevent flooding and possible mass worm extinction.

 3. Keep the wormery damp

A healthy worm bin should be damp (like a squeezed out flannel) not dry or wet. Water lightly if it gets too dry. Add more paper and card if too wet.

Trouble shooting

The wormery should smell sweet and healthy. An unpleasant smell is a sign that something is wrong. The two most common causes of a bad smell are:

1. Overfeeding leading to putrefaction of uneaten food. Solution: feed less.

2. Adding too much green matter and too little brown matter. Solution: add more torn up card or newspaper or wood chippings.

 

That’s it! Do you have any other wormery tips or stories to share?

270 thoughts on “How to look after and feed your wormery”

  1. Hany Sobhy Ibrahim

    Hello, I need to buy compost worms for a research matter but I need them strictly pure strain (not mixed), Eisenia fetida or Eisenia andrie or Eudrilus eugeniae or Perionyx excavates or lumbricus rubellus are my concern.
    Can you guide me to any supplier may provide any of these species please ?!

  2. Hiya I’ve got a wormery what I have had a few months first one ever ! my soil is moist not wet through when you squeeze it ,my question is a few worms go to the bottom tray where the tap is and soil falls through do I leave the worms to crawl back up ?
    I also leave the tap open and a dish underneath but I haven’t had any liquid come out should I or not am I doing everything ok
    Regards Ann

    1. Hi! Yes, all seems to be OK with your wormery. We have just cleaned the ‘sump’ this week where there was a good amount of ‘compost’ along with worms. Just cupped them by hand back in to the tray. Cleaned the sump & tap and put in a small roll of corrugated cardboard which worms seem to enjoy!

      I’ve discovered that worms don’t like pineapples! Keep clear! Also, adding some lime helps top make a productive wormery.

      Enjoy!

  3. Are wormerys supposed to have flies in them and if so how many is normal in a healthy wormery if anyone knows and reads this?!

    I seem to have a lot of green fly. Seems to be composting as is quite black.

    Also maybe a stupid question but when do I take compost out of it? Mind has 2 layers so assume I need to take conpust out the bottom layer that’s composted but need to woat until the worms have gone up maybe to the top level. Also how full should the bottom layer be full to the top so they can get into the top level?

  4. really helpful information and comments too…
    can my worms work in wood ash? does it have good nutrients for them
    having to move onto another layer today really excited and a little nervous…layer of some chopped nettles and some coffee grounds and some garden waste with old egg shells…wish me luck!

  5. Hi,
    I have an issue. I’ve had my wormery for a few days now and the worms keep trying to “escape” to the bottom level (fluid retainer), which doesn’t contain fluid yet. Can they go back to the ground level? I keep putting them back into it but they keep leaving. Wormery is indoors. Could it be too warm ?

  6. I have a 3 level wormery made from very large buckets complete with ventilation and drainage holes. It’s about 4 months old and it looks successful as they are breading well. The top layer of the wormery is layers of damp newspaper. Sometimes when I open the top lid many worms are climbing up the sides as though they are trying to escape.. Is this normal?

  7. Hi,
    We have a 4 level wormery, in operation for about 3 months. The worms appear fine and live between the bottom/bedding level and the next level up, which we put the food in. The food level is almost full now with decaying food/compost and there are loads of worms in it. At what point do we start putting food in the 3rd level and remove the compost from the bottom level ?

  8. Hi,

    I finally think I have the knack of my wormery. The first time I tried it out I think I over-fed them and it was a bit messy. I’ve been going much more slowly with it this time round, but am trying to increase the amount that goes in, so I’m putting less in landfill. (The council has stopped collecting our food waste…) They seem to be quite happy but every so often they see to climb up the sides – in quite large numbers. Why do they do this? Am I doing something wrong? Overfeeding?

    Thanks,

    1. hi all,

      When worms leave the material the cause is typically fermentation or excess water or excess salt. Worms are repelled by heat, acidity and alcohol, all of which build up if the material ferments. This happens if the bin content is too high in nitrogen.

      Pre-composting or adding less food waste at a time prevents fermentation. Also porous bin walls keep the material aerated, which prevents fermentation as well. I used felt containers for vermicomposting, and the porous felt walls allow enough air into the material (waste, vermicast and earthworm mix). These containers wick water from a reservoir below to keep the material from drying. Such a set up prevents excess moisture too. In your case I would add un-amended compost or potting mix, or saw dust to increase the carbon to nitrogen ratio in your bin, to prevent fermentation. This would also wick away the excess moisture if any and increases the amount of air within the material, which also prevents fermentation.

      Excess salt is not a common issue unless you add potting media enriched with synthetic fertilizer (to be avoided).

  9. Allan Mornement

    I am not using up leachate as fast as it is being produced. How long does it keep ( 2 litre milk containers) before it has ‘reached its expiry date’ for dilution to use as a vegetable nutrient?

    1. HI Allan, Most people now recommend that leachate is not used on edible plants. This is because research has shown that it can sometimes contain toxins and pathogens. If you want a liquid feed, the finished worm manure can be used to make a worm tea (recipes online) that is reputedly safe to use on edible plants. BTW, a healthy wormery should not produce much if any leachate. To reduce the volume, you might need to try adding less cooked food, or adding more air holes to improve air circulation and water evaporation. Another common reason for too much leachate is when a wormery has holes in the top and it is left outside where rain can get in. If this is the case, I’d recommend trying to find a way to shelter your wormery from the rain. Hope this helps.

      1. Hi Mark. Many thanks for this useful and timely advice. I’ll switch the leachate use to the flowers/shrubs feed (unless that is also not advised). I don’t add any cooked food, and my office shredder will no longer accept cardboard, so I am adding shredded office paper. I that going to give the worms indigestion? For wood chips, will the ex-tree surgery size chips be OK for size, or do I need to break them down to a smaller mesh size. I’m using a Worm City assembly 4 tray assembly which might explain the lack of evaporation, and leave the tap open to fill a plastic carton. I like the idea (previous advice on this site) of moving the bottom tray to the top and leaving exposed to dry out. I then add the bottom tray contents into my garden compost bin together with any residual wrigglers.

        1. Hi Allan:
          “I then add the bottom tray contents into my garden compost bin together with any residual wrigglers”.
          I tried this once to improve the quality of the compost in my 450 litre compost bin.
          Now my bin is being turned from wet compost to moist wormcast by the many hundreds of worms that have reproduced in there.
          My problem is that I need more mild compost than pure wormcast at this time of year.
          Saludos from Andalucía.

  10. Hi
    I was just wondering about growing veg in a worm farm. would it be a good idea or totally daft. My worm farm is a raised old bath which works well. I’m thinking of having a layer of soil on top and growing lettuce on top

  11. Ok so new wormery is setup. Coir block, worm food and a little green waste in with wet cardboard and shredded paper. I’ve wrapped in a bin bag under a light to stop wandering.
    I will aim to feed 2 times a week. My question is, if I keep adding food until it’s full then the food will puteify. Do I start the second layer when the first layer has no more food left to eat and it’s full of castings, is that what you mean by full?
    Also what do I then put in the second layer? Do I have to keep buying coir to add to each layer and setmit up like the first layer each time? Or do I just add food waste?
    Bit confused with what I need to put on next layers and when.

  12. Afternoon, I have a fairly new wormery which I think is going OK. I worm wrangle most days to retrieve the odd ones from the sump and have some mixed worm feed which I am sprinkling very lightly for them. I have started adding a few small bits of banana peel etc.

    Am I am supposed to just put that on the top or cover it over/dig it in a little?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  13. Hi I recently inherited an Original Wormery when we moved to this house. I cleaned it up and put it in a sheltered spot with no direct sunlight. On 17 May it was re-started with new worms placed on sheet of newspaper and coir bedding and a handful of food. As per instructions I left it alone for 7 days, then as it looked a bit dry I added more moist coir, damp shredded newspaper and a bit more food. (At this point the worms were visibly exploring and were up round the lid etc.)
    After another week I added another small handful of food and since then I’ve added a few small bits and some coffee grounds. I am now worried as nearly 4 weeks on, I can hardly find any worms and they don’t seem to be eating.
    Should I just leave it alone until the worms get active, should I try to take out the food I put in, or is there anything else I can do / should have done?
    Any advice gratefully received!
    Thanks

    1. It does take a fair bit of time for new worms to settle. Make sure the bedding stays damp (adding cardboard soaked in water can help), and the wormery is not getting too hot (or cold) and keep half an eye on them. Hopefully they will soon become more active. If you are still not having much luck in a few weeks time, you may want to try another model of wormery – the ones with larger surface areas are easier to operate (there are instructions for how to make your own on this website).

  14. Greetings from Cumbria!
    i’ve made my first wormery from a plastic recycling box and lid, waiting on the worms coming to christen it. ive everything sorted and with the pleasant weather it’s ready for a shady corner of my garden.
    My Question i have is;
    should i be bringing in my worm house in in the winter? most of the advice i’ve seen isnt from Blighty.

    thanks:)

    1. It should be fine outside in winter – I’ve had mine outside here in Newcastle for the last six years and they have survived every year. Good idea to put it in a sheltered spot out of the wind and make sure it is at least two thirds full for winter (the more biomass, the less likely it is to freeze).

    2. Hi Jolo, I have had a successful wormer for a few years now and living in the north west the weather can be harsh. Bringing worms into the house is probably not ideal as they will need rain water not tap water which can kill due to the chlorine. Also they can smell a bit at times.

      I lag my wormery in winter with some cheap foil lagging from B & Q, just wrapping round the sides leaving to top exposed to catch rainwater.

      Make sure they have plenty of bedding so they can hibernate when it gets cold, cut back on feeding – I only fed once a fortnight during very cold times. Most wormeries that go wrong are down to feeding, either the wrong food or simply too much – too little and a few may move away to a new home- too much >mass death and horrible smell. Wishing you every success.

  15. I have a dedicated workers and the population seems to be booming. I add shredded cardboard and feed 1-2 times a week and throw on a wee bit of lime now and again to neutralise. My issue is the in the lowest level there’s not huge activity and the contents haven’t fully composted down. Do I re-mix all the levels? The smell isn’t great but not too bad so maybe there was over feeding and maybe not cutting the contents up pre-feeding.
    Thanks for the help.

  16. Phil's new worms

    I had an open bag of softwood pellets that I don’t need until November, so I tried an experiment; I put some pellets into an equal quantity of water and within 5 minutes I had a huge amount of moist wood chippings and sawdust.
    I’m mixing increasing proportions to the coir bedding, hopefully replacing coir altogether
    The pellets are a third of the price of coir, have an eco certificate and are only transported from the north of Spain to me in the South, not much carbon used.

    1. Interesting experiment and always great to use local. Keep an eye on how the worms respond – i think some softwoods (ie pine) might sometimes contain some strong chemicals that worms might not like. Be interesting to learn from you how it works, keep us informed.

      1. Phil's new worms

        Your advice was exactly right.
        The worms do not like fresh pine.

        However I now use the bottom level above the sump for pellets. I put a 2cm layer of moist pellets into the bottom container, result:
        The worm pee expands the pellets which I use in my hot composter; the worms avoid the pellets and none pass through into the sump, none at all 🙂
        Works both ways for me as I am always short of browns for my compost.

  17. Phil's new worms

    Hello again.I hope that you are healthy and safe in this terrible crisis.

    Well, I’ve learned a lot over the last 3 months and I’m about to put the 5th level onto my wormery.
    I’ve now stopped putting the sump worms back onto the top level, I just empty the sump into my enclosed compost bin.
    I always add a handful of casts into each bucket of kitchen waste, with coffee grounds and cardboard. It seems that I must have transferred some cocoons with the casts because the bin has lots of juvenile worms, along with the more mature worms from the sump.
    Now I’m wondering what effect this will have on my compost. Can I make my plant mix with 40% compost and 60% coir, or can I use more or less than the 40%?
    Stay healthy,
    Best wishes to all.
    Phil.

  18. Phil's new worms

    The worms are content, seem to be breeding already.
    Now eating into their second level.
    For their third level I propose to change their bedding and food experimentally by making a mix of the two. I am making a single mix of 45% spent coco fibre compost complete with nitrogen fixing roots, 45% pulped brown cardboard,, the remaining 10% is a mix of coffee grounds, banana skins, other kitchen peelings and some ground whole oatmeal to dry it a little. ¿Will this be sufficient as an all in bedding and feed mix?
    😉 it almost smells good enough to eat 😉
    Un feliz y próspero año nuevo de Andalucía.

    1. It’s not a mix I’ve tried but it sounds good to me. In my experience, the most important thing is to stay vigilant and try to spot any issues (bad smells are usually the give away) early on. Also, not to add large quantities of any one thing (particularly green wastes) at a time – although this probably applies less to brown wastes like card and cocofibre that you can usually add in higher quantities without causing too many issues. I’m sure you could add a higher percentage of food waste if you wanted – and that would probably make for a richer compost.

  19. Phil's new worms

    A second question: in 1990 I met a guy, from North of Rochdale, now long dead who had taken up vermiculture on his retirement; his wormeries were simple wooden devices, no base, laid on the bare earth, fed mostly on part rotted stable manure and kitchen waste.
    He claimed that to “seed” a new wormery, all he needed to do was to leave a dozen used tea bags just beneath the surface for 2 weeks, by which time he had sufficient worm larvae in them to start from fresh on an adjacent plot.

    Is this credible enough to try out?

    1. Yes, I would say so, but it might take a bit longer than two weeks in some places. They do definitely arrive fairly quickly if the wormery is above healthy soil. However, in his case, because he already has established wormeries in the vicinity, it is easier to be confident that there will be lot of worms wandering around at night looking for homes!

  20. Phil's new worms

    Vermiculture.
    Hello and thanks for the advice on your pages.

    I set up my first wormery, a Worm Box from France just 10 days ago.
    I have set it up indoors where the temp varies between 20º and 24º all year round (no aircon, just much insulation and ventilation

    Having offered the worms a mix of fresh ingredients and separately the same mix but part composted, it is clear that the worms much prefer their food to be part rotted. I removed the fresh and put it in my compost bin.
    They are due their next feed tomorrow, there were a few worms on the surface today until the light hit them: they move pretty quickly!

    My question is about feed and compost:
    As I live in Andalucía the food I give them is mostly green: locally grown Mediterranean and tropical veggies and fruits, many banana skins and coffee grounds (my main compost heap is 20% coffee grounds from 2 local bars, 10kgs minimum per week).

    As bedding I mix last year’s coir based compost from pot grown peas with nitrogen fixing roots along with 50% by vol of brown cardboard put through a food
    processor until it is just dry fluffy pulp, with a handful of spent coffee grounds.

    As there is so much brown material in their bedding, do I need to add more to their food mix?

    Saludos de España, Phil.

    1. Hi Phil
      sounds like you have an excellent setup. In answer to your question, I don’t think you need to add extra greens. I’ve met people who’ve run wormeries using almost entirely paper. In my experience with wormeries, too much greens can be a problem, too much browns rarely is.
      Interesting observation that the worms like the partially rotted food. I guess this will be easier for them to digest and will already contain many beneficial microbes to help release more nutrients from the food.
      Good luck!
      Mark

      1. Phil's new worms

        Hi Mark, the learning curve is still steep 🙂
        I have been soaking brown corrugated cardboard to delaminate it and to wash off the glue. I then dry it and “fluff” it using a food processor. OCD helps!
        If the bedding is too wet I add the card dry, if too dry, or as food, I add the cardboard moistened with plain filtered water.
        Along with onions, the only vegetable waste that we neither compost nor put into our wormery is the rich water that comes from boiled vegetables or legumes.
        My question is: wouldn it be better to use veggie water or agua haba to rehydrate the cardboard rather than just water?
        Saludos, Phil de Canillas.

        1. HI Phil, A recent book I read on worm farming (by Rhonda Sherman) mentions that the glue in cardboard boxes can provide a useful nitrogen source for worms. I haven’t looked at the evidence myself, but it might be something you want to look into. In answer to your question: yes, it makes sense to soak cardboard in water you’ve boiled veggies in, good idea. Some people also use this water (once cooled) for watering their plants (it will contain a few nutrients). The learning curve is steep – but you’ll find looking after worms is like riding a bike – once you get used to it, you do it without thinking!

    2. After just 2½ months I decided to harvest the bottom tray of my Worm Box.
      A full 15litres of wormcast came out. I expected to find some mature worms down there, but what a surprise!
      No big worms at all, just 250+ hatchlings no more than a centimetre long, some with little colour, also I gleaned hundreds more of cocoons, at least 400.
      All now returned to the now bottom tray.
      With they survive or do worms eat others cocoons?

      What I thought would be a half hour job in the sun outside turned out to be hours of hand filtering the casts.
      Is this commonplace?

      1. Phil's new worms

        Correction, they were all put into the top tray, which is now almost full and ready to add another level.
        I’m enjoying learning!

  21. Hi
    Would be grateful for your advice please. Renting a house with an up and running wormery. I have been putting my food waste into the wormery in compostable bags (suitable) for home composting for the last 3months, but now notice that the wormery smells. Should I stop using bags? Do I need to go through it and empty the ones that are in there?

    1. It’s a great question. I would tip the contents out of the bag so the worms can get access. The other issue might be the current cold weather (assuming you are in the Northern hemisphere). As worms slow down in winter, they can process much less food than in warmer months. So you need to feed them less, too or it can go rancid and smelly. If the food has gone off in the bags I’d throw them away – or put them on an outdoor compost heap if you have access to one. You don’t want to introduce large amounts of rancid food to the worms.

      1. Thank you. Am used to a compost heap and clearly a wormery is not the same. I guess worms can’t make it through a plastic bag, biodegradable and compost-friendly or not! That’s going to be a fun job clearing it out.

        1. Phil's new worms

          Too many worms?
          I have 4 levels running for my wormery.
          The bottom level is just pine pellets, the layer above has many worms finishing off the last scraps of food, the top layer is now at least 50% worms the rest being food and bedding. Tomorrow I will add another layer with. mixed coir, cardboard and coffee grounds and some regular fruit and veggies…
          Should I evacuate some of my worms to my compost bin? The bottom half of which is pure finished compost, cool too.
          The top 25% still manages 50+ºC.
          Thanks, stay safe.

  22. I’ve just started with a wormer, one with 4 trays. Two are already full and all looks well. I’ve added the third and started to add some more kitchen waste along with a little soil from the second tray. After a while, I was interested to see what was going on below and lifter the top tray, I was worried to see worms dangling from the bottom of the tray I’d lifter. When I put this back down will it squash the worms, if so how can you check on progress below without causing harms to the guys dangling down?

  23. I have had a wormery since they first went on sale …mine is the antique variety ..use it for all my food waste ….and use the run off liquid , diluted ,,,as plant food … Worrued about them in the heat at moment have been putting the odd pint if water in …. Found they were all coming to top so thought perhaps I was drowning them so added shredded newspaper last week … Opened up today and find there are lots sitting on top …too wet ? Too dry ? Too hot ?

    1. The run off is leachate and not necessarily a good thing for plants – better to turn the digested worm poop into a tea. I tend to give mine a regular covering of compost as its this that the worms eat, not the veggies themselves. You shouldn’t ever need to add water but any excess should just drain through to the sump so I wouldn’t worry about it. Have you got an overpopulation? If they’re up on the surface and on the sides of your container they’re searching for food. Happy worms are hidden worms.

      1. Worms on top and on the sides? I too have experienced that distressing sight! The first time it occurred was when I’d added the remains of a pineapple; it must have been too acidic! The second time, the Ph was definitely ‘out’, so I added lime and they settled down again! Have had the wormery for 18 months now and it works – or should I say – ‘they’ work well!

  24. Hi Mark – i set up a wormery in spring and it was initially doing well, but recently the worms all seem to have gone to the bottom (there is no worm tea just castings in the sump) and there are far fewer. Any ideas what it might be? The same thing happened last summer and eventually they all died/disappeared… it just seems to be a gradual decline over the summer and I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

    1. The most common causes are overfeeding (wormeries take time to establish) and too little brown stuff (cardboard or woodchip). Could it be either of these? Also needs to be in a place not too hot and sunny, particularly in this weather!

    2. Hola from Spain
      I have to agree with TJ.
      This will be my 4th year that I have been running a wormery.
      All is well throughout the year but once the warm weather arrives I move the two wommeries to a shadier spot. Then in June I spray water on the top level daily and it drains slowly down to the sump. Fine!
      In July I cannot cope the worms eat less, in other levels the worms are going down instead of up and many fall through down the sump.
      I recuperate with a plastic palette not to harm them and place them back in two levels above. By August temperature rises further, fewer worms too much liquid (however all used for good cause for large garden) and soon my livestock dwindles further until have l too few to continue!
      Should I refrain from beginning again. Weather Jan Feb. 6 – 15c onward 23-34c is constant throughout the rest of the year.
      Is it time to hang up my Worm juice bottles?
      An avid reader since I started.
      Jack

      1. Hi, I live in Portugal so have a similar climate.
        I keep my wormery in the kitchen which is north facing. In the winter months temperatures are 10-15C, in summer around about 25C. My wormery runs like a Rolls Royce.
        I did have it outside the kitchen in the shade but in the summer months it still got too hot and the worms evacuated the wormery. The trick is to find somewhere where the temperatures remain well below 30C.
        Hope this helps and don’t give up !

        1. Phil's new worms

          Hi from La Axarquía.
          I just keep my wormery in our well insulated house.
          My “study” stays between 20 and 24º all year round 😉
          It seems to be perfect.

  25. Please help! I have a new 3 tier wormery but cant figure it out.it arrived with bedding so I put that on the bottom tier and commenced worm feeding then I noticed other wormerteers were putting food on top tier!! What should I do my new food additions are on the middle tier but not.many worms there

    1. Hi Barbara, just use the bottom tier until it is full. When it’s full add the second tier and fill that up, then the third. By the time the third is full, you should be able to harvest the first (bottom) one.

  26. We have a newish wormery and the bottom layer does seem to have putrified. It smells terrible and in the sump at the bottom I found at least ten dead worms. Please can anyone help with how we can rectify this situation? Should we throw away the bottom layer or is there something we can do to help it?

  27. I started a small wormery about two months ago and it is doing very well. How do I harvest the ‘compost’ without damaging the worms?

    1. Usually it takes more than two months until the first compost is ready to be harvested – unless it is warm where you live. Six months is more common. When the wormery is full, take off the top third (which will contain most of the worms) and put to one side, then harvest the bottom half – two thirds to use as compost. Put the top third back into the wormery.

    2. hi,

      You can harvest the worms by placing the material (worm and vermi mix) in a plastic basket and putting the basket on top of the material (remaining vermi and worm mix in the bin). Worms will exit the basket into the material below, as the vermi in the basket gradually dries out.

      Incidentally in my felt-lined, sub-irrigated earthworm crate the turn over time is 2 week, but I do pre-compost the feed first. I make a mix of moist vermi and chopped food waste (1:1 ratio) and let it sit for a week, then feed it to the worms.

      1. Wow, two weeks is super fast Hala. Are you composting in a high temperature or is there another reason? I might be able to achieve that in summer if I combine the food waste with bokashi bran and chop it up fine. Usually 6 – 8 weeks is more common in my established wormeries (with thousands of worms). In my experience, new wormeries which usually have far fewer worms can take anything from 6 months to a year until the worm population is established enough to harvest first time – and it slowly gets faster after that.

    3. At first I spent hours separating the worms from the compost by hand but this method isn’t practical and is way too time consuming. What I do now is , remove the lid , select the tier that I want to harvest , place it as the top tier and simply leave it exposed to the daylight which they don’t like . You will find that the worms will naturally migrate away from the light down into the tier below. It will take some time and you might want to try breaking the compost up every now and again in order expose the worms thus encouraging them to skedaddle pretty pronto like. I`ve no idea if this harms the worms but then again I don’t know if handling them causes any harm either . So like I said , this method takes time , so , say for instance you want to pot something up I`d say do this first before even looking for that spare plant pot that`s hiding somewhere in the shed

  28. Hi

    First year with my wormery and generally going well although much slower than expected.
    First batch compost is ready to use but I am worried about residual worms and wondered if it is ok for Tiger worms to get loose in your garden?
    Also found huge slug today.Not good for the garden but what about the wormery?

  29. Hi, I made my own wormery a couple of months ago. I used a plastic cube box with lid. I drilled lots of holes in the bottom and top. I lined the bottom with newspaper and added worm bedding purchased from a commercial wormery along with some worms. I have put the wormery underneath the caravan ( to keep dark and stop rain getting in) where we stay at weekends. The worms appear to be thriving along with new babies. I feed once a week, mainly fresh veg, paper, cardboard. I use some worms for fishing too.
    My questions are, would I be better with a layered proper wormery? Do I need to change the soil and how often and when? This would cause major disruption to the worms I would imagine. Fishing is my prime goal, compost is a by product. I suppose at some point the soil level will increase too much by keep adding.
    Also should I relocate the wormery during winter as I may only be able to feed every 2-3 weeks and I am worried about the cold?

  30. Pingback: Compost, its actually quite interesting! - Part 1 - Little Green Duckie

  31. Hi Everyone. I’m just wondering if anyone has ever fed their worms fresh blanket weed straight from a garden pond. Is this a good idea or will there be tiny microorganisms in it which will be a problem for my little chaps? Any advice or ideas welcome.

  32. hi all,

    I noticed that people regularly post an issue with what is essentially fermentation in worm bins. This causes odours , flies, repels earthworms, results in leachate that worms can drown in, and it’s basically due to lack of oxygen in the bin. Some recommendations involve managing the feed to slow down fermentation, but while controlling the amount of nitrogen is important, it is porous walls that will ensure enough air diffusion into the bin. This is different than having a few aeration holes, or drainage holes. Porous walls, made of a material like felt, ensure that worms and the material they’re in have enough access to oxygen. Most existing equipment for housing earthworms is made of solid walls, instead of porous walls that allow air to diffuse in. Earthworms were the topic of my graduate theses and hardware I developed later on as a product developer. I’ve lined baskets with felts and produce earthworms and earthworm casts in them. I found that the porous felt walls let enough air in, and the material is never soggy enough to drain, in fact it needs to be wick-watered to remain wet. This is done by connecting the bin to a water reservoir underneath it. Here the system I described. I didn’t commercialized it yet, but I’m happy to answer questions or help you make your own: http://www.urbanfarmsorganic.com/vermisystems.html

    1. Thanks for sharing this Hala, very interesting. I’ve used wooden wormeries and I’ve noticed that these don’t produce leachate (I’m quite happy with this as I don’t use the liquid myself) which I’ve assumed is because the wood is more porous than plastic and so it evaporates. The other feature of my wooden wormeries is that the floor is wire mesh, and the lid is not tight fitting, so that there is also some airflow through the wormery. What do you think of this design – is the wood playing a similar role to your felt or is it not as porous as that?

      1. thanks Mark, I’m sharing this on here hoping to hear back from experienced worm growers. My guess is that is your wormery the mesh bottom is a main source of aeration, and possible space between wooden slats, and around the lid might be helping too. Do you even have to water the bin to keep it wet? If so you might have a bin that’s aerated enough that it could use some wick-watering. IN the case of felt-lined, porous crates the amount of air that diffuses into the material through the felt walls is high (felt is very porous), and water evaporates from the material at such a rate that the bin continuously wicks water from a bottom water reservoir. This also means fresh air and oxygen enters the bin continuously, and earthworms thrive on the combination of water and oxygen. If the feed has been pre-composted, and has a good balance of nitrogen and carbon, aeration and wick watering result in a higher feeding rates and more offsprings. As more test-users try out the Earthworm Crate, I’ll find out if their experiences confirm that.

  33. After emptying the bottom tray of wormery due to the awful smell and loads of smelly liquid, the new bottom layer is now the same. I am using veg peelings,paper,egg shells and some unsweetened dry cereals What am I doing wrong, any tips???

    1. hi all,

      Many of the problems here are du to how little access worms have to oxygen. Earthworms were the topic of my graduate theses and hardware I developed later on as a product developer. Most existing equipment for housing earthworms is made of solid walls, instead of porous walls that allow air to diffuse in. A few aeration and draininage holes ina solid container are not sufficient to create an aerated medium. I’ve lined baskets with felts and produce warthworms and earthworm casts in them. I found that the porous felt walls let enough air in, and the material is never soggy enough to drain, in fact it needs to be sub-irrigated to remain wet. This goes against most methods of grwoing worms, but that’s because existing methods don’t really utilize the available science. Here my system, write me if you’d liek help creating your own or you’d like me to make you one: http://www.urbanfarmsorganic.com/vermisystems.html

    2. A foul smell indicates that the wormery has gone anaerobic. It could be that you are feeding too much, the food is too wet or that not enough browns have been mixed in with the food. Don’t add any new food for a few weeks, add a load of browns like shredded newspaper/cardboard and really fluff up the contents of the wormery to incorporate some oxygen. If the location of your wormery permits it, leave the lid off for a while to let the excess moisture evaporate. I would suggest baking the egg shells then grinding them into a powder and adding a couple of pinches to the wormery every so often; the worms won’t do much to big bits of shell.

  34. I have a tray workers. I have collected 5litres of liquid this Spring already from the sump tap. The bottom tray is
    Wet and a bit smelly and although worms are moving into the next layer, I have put lots of shredded paper in the bottom one in case any worms are still in and to dry it up a bit. Hope it will be okay.

  35. I have had a wormery for around 10 years and mostly it is fine, it never smells I keep the tap open permanently with a bucket underneath to avoid it getting too wet and I always have worms everywhere including the sump. Over the last year woodlice have taken over, 100s of baby woodlice and fewer worms – I think less food waste has made it to the wormery as the council take food waste and that is easier if it is mixed with bones. Should I be concerned?

  36. Mark,

    I just wanted to thank you and all the commenters for all the very useful hints and tips. I’m waiting for my wormery to be delivered but I was already collecting matter for it which clearly would result in over feeding which wouldn’t have been a good way to start. Glad it is arriving in warm weather which will give them the chance to get going.

    Anna

  37. roger davies

    I currently farm my worms in a purpose-built Original Organics wormery and always throw away my left-over onions into the garden compost pile instead of depositing them in with the worms as most of the blogs state ‘no onions.’
    Is this true or can we feed our worms the onions in moderation?
    Roger Davies

    1. Onions in moderation are fine in my experience. I tend to feed my wormeries most of our onion waste in the summer, but less (if any) in winter when the worms are operating much more slowly.

  38. Christopher Kelly

    Hey everyone,

    I am having a wormery nightmare! My Tiger Wormery is infested with fruit flys and white maggots. I followed some advice to start removing the maggots but there are so many and more everyday that I feel its a battle I won’t win. Also when I added the second tray to the stack system there was quite a gap around the edges which is, i’m sure where the flys got in. The full tray (the bottom tray) is very moist, is this correct? Any advice very welcome!

    Thanks you!

    Chris

    1. The bottom tray is usually the most moist since all of the liquid from the top trays drains through there. If it’s sopping wet and smelly, you might want to fluff it up with some shredded newspaper or other brown material. The gap at the side of the tray is normal and will reduce in size as the top tray compresses the contents of the one below.

      I’ve not had a problem with maggots, maybe because my wormery is kept inside. Are they proper maggots or just small, thin white worms (these are potworms and not much to worry about, though they may indicate that the wormery is slightly acidic)? For fruit flies I used a cider vinegar trap, that got rid of them pretty quickly. Also make sure to bury the worm food under a thick layer of shredded newspaper to prevent flies getting in.

  39. Hi,

    We have a pet rabbit, and I was wondering if we could add the cage bedding to the wormery, and how often we should do this and if it counts as green or brown matter?? Her bedding is straw and hay and of course there will be rabbit droppings in there too.
    Many thanks

    1. I’d probably compost the bedding for a while before giving it to the worms. The raw poo/wee could be a bit harsh for them.

  40. I have had a wormery for over 25 years. However it is wearing out so I decided to buy the layered tiger wormery. I hate it. I am continually rescuing the worms from the water in the sump. I have tried all sorts of methods to stop this. I even emptied it and left it for some months and complained to company. I recently decided to give it another go and exactly the same problem. Meanwhile the old one chugs on. It has been the biggest waste of money

    1. Maybe try lining the bottom tray with some water permeable weed barrier or other synthetic material (they will eat anything cotton or wool!). My worms love taking a swim in the sump, but they can’t get in there now!

    2. Michael Owens

      I’ve just come across this site after searching for info about the contents of a wormery sump.
      I note there are a few folk who have had worms drowning in the sump so perhaps they ought to think about the WormCity wormery which has a sump with steps in it to enable the worms to climb back up to the bottom tray. I bought mine just because it had this feature. I empty the contents of my sump about once every 3 weeks and there are normally about 50 worms in there enjoying themselves and I have yet to find a dead one. I just fish them out and throw them back into the top tray.

    3. One thing I have noticed – My sump has a fleecy screen across it to stop worms dropping in – it really works well.
      bottom layer is sump, with layer of agricultural fleece stretched over the top, (wormery came with it .)
      1st layer is almost ready for garden
      2nd layer is full
      3rd layer is full
      4th layer is half full

  41. Hi, I’ve been wondering if there are specific foods the worms don’t like, ie corn husks? I’ve got a white mould on top and the worms seem to have buried deep down. Also, I’ve got uncomposted horse manure available but was told that you should soak this first as it’s too acidic. Is this right? Thanks everyone.

  42. I just left a comment left by Jennifer and didn’t watch what I was doing so answered the wrong person! Sorry Helen, who must be wondering what I was talking about. I was replying to Jennifer who left a question about how worms come in the post. Sorry about that. I hope you see this Jennifer. As I said, mine came in a plastic bag!

  43. Hello,
    Today I set up my first worm farm, which was brought in for me by courier as I live in a remote area with a hot climate (37C maximum). When I emptied the worm starter pack onto the bedding material I couldn’t see any worms at all – just moist ‘soil’ and cardboard. Are the worms in tiny eggs, or have my worms escaped or died in transit?

  44. On the menu above it says you can add composted manure to the wormery, we buy bags of composted stable manure at the local garden centre, would this be suitable to add in small amounts to the wormery?

    1. Hi Helen, one of the big benefits of manure to worms is that it is full of microbial life. Sometimes the manure sold in bags in garden centres has, I think been pasteurised (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) – particularly if it comes from a large horticultural supplier. If that’s the case, then a lot of the beneficial soil life will have been killed. It won’t do any harm to your worms, and my guess is they will still like it – but it won’t have the full benefits. However, if the manure in your garden centre comes direct from local stables, it probably won’t have been pasteurised and so will be ideal! If you ask them they should be able to tell you. And with anything new, it is usually a good idea to test small amounts first to see how the worms like it.

    2. hi Helen,

      Feeding the manure to earthworms would actually improve its quality as a fertilizer and soil conditioner, as long as the manure isn’t supplemented with synthetic fertilizer. As to the nutritional value of manure to the earthworms, they do feed primarily on fungi but even if the manure has been pasteurized fungi and bacteria would grow again in the manure once it’s exposed to non-sterile environments like an earthworm bin.

      Here is why the quality of manure as a fertilizer improves, when it’s fed to earthworms: most of the plant nutrients in manure are immobilized (unavailable to plants), and feeding it to earthworms breaks down these nutrients. Earthworm mineralize the material they digest, meaning they make the plant nutrients within it more accessible. Earthworms excrete the material in the form of mud-cased granules (casts), and these act like a natural slow release granular fertilizer in the soil, which is ideal for plants.

      If the manure had NPK added to it however, the salinity level can be lethal to earthworms. You can check on the bag if the manure was supplemented with any synthetic fertilizer or herbicide/pesticide (which could also harm earthworms at certain levels).

      Here is more information on how earthworms influence the material they ingest: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/10-009.htm

      I hope this helps!
      Hala

      1. Just a thought, but has anyone tried adding mycorrhizal fungi powder to their wormery? The resulting castings might already be colonised for plant use then (and it might help the worms break things down) – if mycorrhizal fungi will live in an environment without living plants…

  45. Hi mark
    Just found your page while searching for plant nutrients, are wormeries different from a compost bin or can they be treated the same, my thinking is to turn one of my bins into a wormerie, this being of the plastic variety, conical in shape and about 4ft high with a plastic lid and lower opening for compost extraction.

    1. They are similar. The main difference is that wormeries are designed to offer the best possible conditions for worms eg large surface area, lots of air holes. Having said that, most compost bins will support a healthy worm population and operate in a very similar way. I haven’t tried it myself but drilling extra air holes in your compost bin might help support more worms.

      1. My council supplied garden compost bin supports a natural wormery all around the I nside lid of the bin. All I have ever done is fill the bin with green kitchen waste eg all types of vegetable and fruit peelings, banana skins and grass cuttings. There are scores of tiny worms all the time. How they get up there is a mystery because I have never encouraged worms and the waste is never more than half filling up the bin! Curious, I looked up any site mentioning worms and found this one . Makes a good read and maybe someone might find my contribution interesting. I hope my worms flourish.

  46. Hello! Thanks for the info.

    Seems I may have given my worms too much food; there is putrefied matter in the top layer (but the levels below look great). I have broken up the smelly layer (quite traumatic) and added some brown material, do I need to remove putrefied matter as well?

    Thanks in advance!

  47. Hi Mark, Thanks so much for your helpful articles on wormeries and growing in small spaces! I’ve just started a tiger wormery (1 week) but all the worms are sitting at the bottom of the tray and don’t seem to be active or eating. I found a number in the sump tray having got through the paper lining, so I moved them back up. Should I be worried or does it just take a while for them to settle down? Anything I should try? Thanks!

  48. Hi, I am just starting up, I have got a wormery stacker bin, it’s not new I bought it from someone. What I want to know is can I use the worms from my compost bin to put in the wormery or do I have to buy Tiger worms? Hope to hear from you soon so I can get started! Regards Sheila.

    1. Yes! Worms from your compost bin will be perfect – the more you can add, the faster your wormery will become established. Add some of the compost they are in, too – this will be the perfect ‘bedding’ to help them settle into their new home.

      1. Hi. Enjoying reading your site. Iv had 2 wormery for à for few years now. I always was under the impression you used the liquid run off for plant feeding. However read a few posts on this and other sites saying not a good idear. To make a tea with the castings instead. Which one is best. Also if got pot worms in one of my wormery. If I used that as a worm cast feed is it bad for my vegetable patch? Thanks for all great info on previous postings
        Kind regards
        Kim

        1. you are correct, the liquid run-off is variable in quality, and can sometimes contain harmful pathogens. Some people do use it on their veg without any ill results (and it will usually benefit their growth), but there is a risk which you should be aware. I particularly would recommend staying well clear of it if it smells bad. But to be totally safe, it’s best to avoid using it on edible crops altogether.

  49. Hello! Apologies if you have already answered this question! I have a 2 tray tiger wormery which is has been established for over 4 months. I have a lot of liquid in the sump tray which I drain weekly but I also have loads of worms casts. So many in fact that I have developed a small leak! What do I do with these very soggy casts in the sump tray? Many thanks, Leanne.

  50. Pingback: Making a Mess of Things: Sustainable Waste 101 | This is Courager

  51. Thanks for the information. Im interested to have one. But im thinking what to do with the worms when we are away on holidays? Please respond. Thanks

    1. Unless you live in a very hot climate, they should be fine for four weeks or more – just feed them normally before you go. I sometimes add extra card or wood chip – this will provide food for them but won’t go stale or rotten like lots of extra waste food would.

  52. I noticed several comments on water logged worm bins (earthworms stay near the lid, flies, odors…). These are typical solved with good aeration and drainage. Aeration and drainage are a quantitative, not qualitative thing, this means that a few holes in a plastic bin don’t drain and aerate the material sufficiently, not the way a porous milk crate does. A porous milk crate lined with felt would retain moisture and aerate the material as well, provided its regularly watered . This was my experience from raising new earthworms in labs for years . I hope this helps.

  53. I started my wormery a few months ago and it seems to be doing quite well and I see lots of new tiny worms but today when I went out to put some food in I saw quite a lot of worms had crawled up the sides and were high up near the lid. Do you have any ideas as to why have they left the soil?

    1. Hi,
      I have had a three tier wormery for about six years. Loads of worms, no smell, no flies and trays with compost. The conpost is rather wet and clumpy. How do I separate the worms from the compost?
      Any good ideas anyone?
      Tera

      1. Easy. Leave the lid off. The worms dislike light and burrow deeper. After half an hour or so you can remove the top worm-free layer of compost. Then leave another half hour for worms to burrow again, remove the next layer and so on.

  54. Have,nt got a wormery yet but have been reading up on the subject.nice website Mark enjoyed it. Can’t wait.to get a wormery started.thanks.😊

  55. Hi all
    I have enjoyed reading all your comments which are very helpful as I only started my Wormery a month ago. I committed a cardinal sin by feeding them too much before I went away for 10 days but was able to remove putrid veg on my return and the worms all seem very happy now. My question is when do I put on the next layer as it seems to me that if I keep building up the first they will get squashed by the next layer because of the design of the integral spacers. Also how do I protect the wormery in winter as it will be outside.
    Thanks for your replies.

  56. Hi, the answer to my question may be included in one of this fantastic list of hints, tips and suggestions so apologies if it’s a repeat….
    Two out of three trays in my wormery are almost full of compost. How should I separate the worms so I can keep them and take the compost?
    Thanks

  57. Hey guys I have just started my can o worms again with 1kg of tiger worms. It’s been up and running a weeks nearly and they seem to be active. My question is how much food should I be putting in and do they eat it when it’s fresh or does it have to start breaking down first?

    Also should I get the other common composting worm too so I have a mix? can’t remember it’s name lol

  58. Hi,
    Have just collected a wormery that someone was giving away. It hasnt been used forma couple of years. Do I need to clean it out before setting it up again? It has a bit of compost and even an apricot that has set down roots!
    Many thanks

    Becka

  59. hello everyone.

    i could use some advice on my wormery.
    i think i got the basics right and it doesnt smell. but the worms don’t look very lively.
    i was wondering how i can check: if its too dry for worms, and if they have enough air coming in.

    any comment is highly appreciated.

    judith

  60. thanks for all the information!

    even though i only started growing vegetables in pots myself, im already expanding to a small greenhouse in my mothers garden
    and i’ve researched where to obtain the items for my own wormery here in the netherlands.
    i know worms still creep me out a bit, but i decided to give it a try.
    i’ll put the wormery outside, somewhere in the shade, so that when they decide to flee, i won’t have them in my home. jikes

    i didn’t want to try the bokashi. mainly because its a bit expensive to try out.

    and for an update on my plants:
    i’ve harvested a fair amount of rocket over the past few months.
    in the beginning i nearly drowned them, and now they sometimes shrivle up a bit because they are drying out. (laughing out loud)
    i haven’t tried out that self watering system just yet. but i most certainly will in the future.
    since then i planted some cherry tomatoes and more recently some carrots, cucumbers, unions, rosemary and a few other vegetables i dont know the english names of.
    the cucumbers started sprouting in a few days!
    and the tomatoes have a few… what look like burn spots on the leaves.
    i have no idea why.

    im sooo happy with this website and the tips and advice everyone gives.

    now all i need to do in 6 months is look up a lot of recipes so i dont wast any food that i might harvest.

    might be a good idea for a few links on the website if you’re interested mark.

    thanks again all of you. i’ll keep you posted

    judith

  61. Where did we get the idea that worms can’t survive without us providing a wormery or bin? Worms have survived in the “wild” for millions of years without the help of humans. Just make a small pile outside, no higher than 18 inches but as long as you need. Keep it covered with shredded leaves. Bury the food scraps so the pile doesn’t attract critters, and you’ll have worms for years with no work.

    1. It’s an interesting observation, and you’re absolutely right that worms will survive without a bin – what you are suggesting is like many compost heaps. However, for those without a garden, having a worm bin makes sense for several reasons. Not least it enables you to keep worms in a small space like a balcony (where a pile of food waste and leaves in the corner would not be so practical). I also know that our local black bird population would be delighted if I didn’t keep my worms in a bin as they would be straight in there to eat as many as they could!

  62. Hello,
    I have has a stacking tray style of wormery for about 9 months now and it seems to be thriving. The bottom tray is completely full of compost and the second tray is half full. I have 2 more trays that I am not using yet, do I need to wait to the second tray to be full before I add them or am I meant to put a little food in each tray so the worms can climb up?
    Thank you

    1. HI Rebecca, no strict rules as such but normally you’d fill all the trays and then use the compost in the bottom one. But there’s nothing to stop you from using worm compost in the bottom tray before the other ones are all full – just check it is ready to use. It should have stopped looking like food waste – and smell and look like soil instead of waste food! You also want to make sure that most of the worms have climbed up from the bottom tray before you use – but there will probably always be a few in there.

      1. I’m just getting going with a worker with 4 trays. I’ve filled two and just added the third. All seems well. Im a bit curious about what’s going on underneath the top tray so lifted to have a look, I was a bit worried when I saw lots of worms dangling from the bottom of the tray I’d lifted up. Not that they’d fall to their doom, but what about when I put it back down, am I going to squash the little wriggler dangling down?

  63. Anne Woodworth

    Hi Mark

    I’ve had my wormery for about 10 years and the worms still quite active – however is there anything I can do about the flies – they seem to be a type of mosquito – which breed constantly in the wormery- I’ve tried taking out the larvae but to no great avail and obviously I can’t use a chemical – Thanks, Anne

    1. HI Anne, they sound like they could be fruit flies? Try burying the food in the worm compost instead of putting it as layer on the top – hiding the waste food from the flies. Or try a mulch (ie layer) of damp, torn up newspaper over the top to hide the food from the flies. Neither of these methods will always get rid of them but they can help.

    1. You’ll have to get some more worms Viv – either from a friend with a wormery or compost heap or you can buy them online (Bubblehouse worms are good). You’ll also want to remove any putrified or smelling food thats in the wormery. If the whole thing is a nasty, gunky mess, I’d be tempted to remove it all and start again from scratch. But if you have some nice worm compost at the bottom, keep that as it will make good bedding for your new worms. Good luck! (Ps i killed two colonies before I got the hang of it!).

  64. I started a bought wormery with 3 levels about 6 weeks ago. The worms seem to be thriving but how long is it before the worm tea collects. There is none in the bottom catchment area.

    1. I have the issue as well – I have a happy population with lots of baby worms after around 3 months but no liquid. One of my online suggests flooding (as a large rainstorm) to generate wash through a load of nutrients and as long as the water rapidly drains through the worms shouldn’t drown.

      1. Do you need the liquid, Mat? I have several worms that produce no liquid because they are well ventilated so all the liquid run-off simply evaporates. I’m more than happy with this as it means all the nutrients remain in the compost, making it richer and more wonderful. Personally, I think I prefer to use the compost than the liquid…. some gardeners swear by the liquid, but others say that it can be rather variable in quality.

        1. I want the liquid only because I don’t want to disturb the worms (and their eggs) because I have just a large plastic box rather than one of these fancy multi level mechanisms that automatically separate worm and compost

          1. Another question I cannot find the answer to on wormy websites – how much of my super worm poop should I use to fertilise my veggies with? I have a fair amount now and wondered whether its something I should be delicately measuring by the gram or just grabbing handfuls for each plant.

          2. Hi Mat, how much you use depends on several things including how rich your worm compost is, what you are growing (fruiting crops like tomatoes or courgettes will like more than leafy crops like rocket), how large the pot is, and how many nutrients are left in the existing compost. But, as a rough rule of thumb I’d probably mix into old compost 10 – 20% worm compost by volume for salads and other leafy crops, and 20 – 40% for fruit crops like tomatoes or runner beans. If I’m using new compost I normal just chuck a couple of handfuls into each pot, primarily to add soil life. I also add a couple of handfuls to each pot of hungry crops like squash about two thirds of the way through the growing season – just to give them a final boost. So I guess the answer to your question is much more about grabbing handfuls than fine measuring – it’s also about observing and experimenting and finding what works for you. But hopefully this is a rough guide to help get you started! Good luck, mark

          3. One last question for the moment – my worms have been in their box for around 3 months now and very happy they seem too. I have a massive population of babies and am quite the proud parent. They have however eaten through all of the bedding material that I put in when I first established the wormery (mainly newspaper). Do I need to replace this or add more ‘dry’ material? I’m concerned it might get too funky in there

  65. I have had a wiggly worms wormery for 4 year and had no probs until today when I looked and all worms are dead! The contents smell bad and all liquidy. The last thing I put in was a load of cardboard from some ikea furniture which has been fine before. Maybe I put too much in? Not sure, any other suggestions?

    1. Adding too much green food can be a problem, but too much cardboard shouldn’t. Sometimes with those wormeries, the tap gets blocked and the whole wormery fills up with water, particularly if open to the rain. The worms get flooded and drowned. Is that what could have happened?

  66. Hello Mark,

    I have just started my wormery today! I just have one question (for the moment), I made my wormery myself with a plastic box. The plastic box is clear but I lined it all round with newspaper to try and keep it dark. Do you think this will be enough? I was also considering wrapping cardboard round the outside, should I do this or leave it as it is?

    1. Congratulations on making your own wormery, that’s brilliant Sophia. Worms do need the dark so wrapping something round the outside is a good idea as the paper inside will decompose quite quickly. You do also want to make sure that plenty of air gets into that plastic box, so make sure that there are plenty of holes in it so the worms can breathe. Wishing you every success with it.

  67. I have an old can o worms that is neglected but am intending to revitalise. I have read your question and answer section and have picked up some useful tips. I have some fresh worms on order. My first question is how chopped is meant when you say chop food and shred cardboard? Not purée? Also the liquid waste that comes from wormery…what ratio to water to use as a liquid feed? How long can you keep this liquid if have too much to use straight away.? Thanks

    1. Hi Chris, some people do puree food for the worms but I think it is better to chop it up – as this gives a much more airy mix than a puree (worms like us need air). You don’t have to chop it up at all, but it does help it to break down significantly faster.

      There are no hard and fast rules about how much to dilute the liquid as it is not a consistent product. About one in ten is about right – probably best to go weaker than stronger. It’s best to use it fairly soon – one of the biggest benefits of the liquid is the microbial life it contains, and this will die off if left too long.

      1. Thanks Mark. Have found info on your site very helpful and has inspired me to revitalise my old wormery and look at growing some pea shoots on my window in a pot. Don’t have a sill wide enough for a box like you use so pot. will do..only two of us after all

  68. I have just emptied my wormery and the fluid. Floating about in the fluid are hundreds on tiny wiggle things that eventually gathered into on mass, any idea what these might be please.

    1. I think they are probably pot worms, is so they are harmless and won’t do any harm (you can email me a picture mark@verticalveg.org.uk if you like). Most other life in a wormery (in addition to the worms) plays a role in the natural process of breaking it down. Some people say that lots of white worms mean your wormery is too acidic (others don’t agree) but you might want to add some more torn up paper or another carbon source to help neutralise it a bit. Having said that, they won’t do any harm.

  69. Hi Mark, I always enjoy the questions asked and your prompt positive suggestions. The worm bug is certainly alive in me too. I have a further question:-
    I will shortly need to empty the lower tray in the Vermihut bin. I plan to empty the tray onto a plastic sheet. Is there another way to empty the tray without having to fondle and remove each worm one by one and to leave these little creatures to daylight which they dislike? I have emptied the tray before but would appreciate a more efficient method.

    1. If you move the bottom tray to the top, disturb it a bit, and leave the lid off on a bright day, you may encourage quite a lot of the worms to move down into the tray below. Might be worth a try? If you find a better way, do let me know!

  70. Just been out to see how the wormery has survived the winter and, 12 months after starting it, we now have two full levels really mature with the top level actively being digested.

    Now I start to have choices: do I go for expansion and create 4 wormeries, to start using stuff next year, or should we start using the vermicompost this year??

  71. I’ve inherited a wormery, we haven’t added anything over the winter, and it’s quite full on top, and there’s lots of worm-tea (v. thick, drainage blocked) in the bottom. What worries me are the thousands of little white larvae-like creatures on top of this thick liquid – they flit around, they are very small, so difficult to strain them out, especially as the liquid is very thick. Seems a shame to throw all this stuff out but I don’t want to add anything nasty to my garden! Thanks for any advice.

      1. Thanks so much, Mark, that’s great, I’ve unblocked the tap, it’s now working beautifully and I’ve got loads of lovely worm-tea (more like chocolate!) for my garden.

  72. Hi,

    I have started a trial on doing wormery. Last night before going to sleep, I poured some water into the container to damp the soils (in the dark).Sadly,, this morning when I checked my wormery I have just realized that I literally flooded my wormery. Mass production are dead and turned white. Any suggestion on reviving them?Please.

    Clumsy & Desperate,
    vivi

    1. Drain out the water as much as you can. Mix in some dry cardboard to try and dry out the remaining food compost a bit. And good luck! Btw you don’t often need to add water unless the weather is very hot – I guess as you are writing from Aus you might be in a heatwave at the moment? You might also adding damp card in the future – that might be a more controlled way of introducing moisture.

  73. Hi Mark, I have purchased a Vermihut Worm Bin five months now. I have a few issues!
    a-The liquid collection tray has very little liquid and once in awhile I check and find a few worms have slipped down into it. Is this normal?
    b-The trays are full and contain a good variety of fruit, vegetables, card, fibre, grass, flower blossom, grounded egg shell, newspaper. Am I over feeding?
    c-No fat or milky products have been given but some worms have a white coloured ring around them, what could be the concern?
    c- I have not chopped up all the above waste should this be done? Would it help? Is is overfilled? Am I too eager?
    many thanks for your help.
    Jack

    1. Hi Jack, apologies for the slow reply. Yes it sound like you are over feeding. It takes a while for a wormery to get up and running – at least a year normally before it is at full capacity. And even then most wormeries will only cope with one caddy a week of food waste in spring, summer and autumn, and less in winter when it is cold. Add the food in thin layers and don’t add more until you see worms on the surface. It does require some patience I’m afraid while you wait for the worm population to multiply. But it will be worth it in the end. If you have a lot of food waste you might want to get a second wormery or build a larger one (surface area is the key thing) or try bokashi as well. Good luck! Mark

  74. Hi I have just inherited a 3 storey wormery, the bottom has a thin layer of worm casts which is dripping liquid through the tap, the next layer has a thinner layer of worm casts and a small amount of composting waste, with no visible worms but wood lice! The top layer has slightly composted waste. What do I do now? I have a plentiful supply of food waste as well as newspaper and can put in shed for winter.
    Advice welcome.

    1. Hi Ann, woodlice are good in a wormery, they will help break things down. You don’t mention any worms… I assume that there are some in there! Can you put your hand in (or a trowel in) to turn over the compost and check? As long as you have worms you should be fine. Where are you living? If you are in the UK then you will only need to feed the wormery occasionally over winter months as the worms will eat less when it is cool – yes, good idea, do keep it in the shed, it will be warmer and the worms will be able to eat a bit more. Add little at a time and check once a week or so to see how it is doing – don’t add more until it looks like the food is being broken down. Too much fresh food will go off and start to smell. Good luck!

      1. Hi – thanks for that – sounds positive!
        Have found couple of worms and woodlice have gone into hiding now I’ve mentioned them but we’ll see how we go on.
        I’m in Peak District so one of highest allotments in England, have put the wormery in the shed with some well torn up newspapers. No smell, tap dripping into tray, I’ll leave them and see how they are in a week.
        I’ve also go wood ash which I think I can add in moderation so that is a possibility.
        Cheers and thanks again.

  75. Hi Mark.Wrote to you once before after id read your advice on starting a wormery. Things since then have gone great. My wormery is just magic, thanks to you. The main thing i use it for is to feed my koi carp and They love the large fat juicy worms. About two months after setting up my wormery i started feeding them to my fish. I pick out ten worms a day for the fish They love them. Thing is Mark I’ve miles more worms now than when i started. Yes of course the worms are only part of the fish diet. Same as feeding the worms A good variety of different foods. My worms i feed mostly fruit [ no citrus ] I always cut it up really small. Got a small blender for blending egg shells to almost a powder. Also use a fair bit of chopped up cardboard. The worms and my fish [ some of my Koi are 25yrs old ] Well thanks again Mark for all your help with my wormery. I keep reading all your articles. Keep up the Good Work. Gone 1oclock now Mark. will text you this in the morning. Night night-God Bless. Sorry gotta do it now. Hope it don’t wake you up. By

  76. Hi all , desperate for some advice. My wormery is an old one that is basically like a wheelie bin, one be void and its been used for maybe 2 years. Lately all the worms are stuck to the sides when I open it. I think that the compost is too wet. I always add shredded cardboard but I’m not very regular with feeding. Also the liquid has stopped coming out of the tap. Any help will be appreciated, thanks

    1. Worms crawling round the sides is quite normal, Pam. But you don’t want your wormery too wet. If no liquid is coming out the bottom, it sounds like it might have got blocked – and this is not good as it can lead to all the worms drowning. I’d try emptying the wormery, harvesting the worm compost and seeing if you can unblock it at the same time.

  77. Just come across this website and wondered if I could get some advice. I have had a wormery for some years and there is a very healthy looking worm population. When the lowest layer is thoroughly composted and I go to collect it I find it still has a large population of worms in. I have been picking them out and relocating them to the newest layer but I’m wondering if this is a sign that I have too many worms and should just leave the worms in the fresh compost when I use it on the garden. Or is there some way to encourage the worms to move up to the next layer? Appreciate any thoughts.

    1. Hi Katheryn, I have a slightly similar problem in that I’ve always got worms in the bottom layer of compost. I’ve read advice that says that as long as there is anything at all to eat, the worms will stay there. I think in my case I put eggshells in when I heard worms liked them, but before I read that they should be finely crushed! Hence it it probably the bits of eggshells keeping them there. I also read that you can just put the layer of compost on the top of the wormery with the lid off for a while and because worms don’t like the light, they will burrow down through the holes to the next layer. If there are still a few left they will be perfectly happy being tipped onto the garden with the compost. As you say you’ve got plenty of worms, it sounds as though you can afford to lose a few! Hope this helps. It’s quite a responsibility isn’t it, looking after our little wormy friends?!!

  78. Mark

    9 months after setting up the wormery, things are now going really well. We’ve got a pretty full first layer and a second layer half filled, so it’s looking like that by the end of the summer/early autumn, we should have a first wormery full.

    My first operational issue has just emerged in that the sink for collecting excess liquid is now failing to drain, presumably as solid particles have got through and started blocking things.

    I’ve started adding more cardboard and newspaper to try and balance things up, but the short-term issue is how to stop this happening again. I originally underlaid the bottom tray with newspaper, but presumably that has now been digested and, hence, any excess liquid will just drip through. I”m not objecting to the juice as I’ve used it to feed courgettes, tomatoes in pots with great success, but a blocked drain is a bit of a pain.

    Have you had such problems before and did you come up with a neat solution to solve it??

    Cheers

    Rhys

    1. Sue Richardson

      Hello Rhys, The only advice I can think of, and you have probably done it, is to take the layers off and try and unplug whatever is blocking up the outlet. I have put the square of filter type material that came with the wormery on the very bottom layer, and I think it does keep the outlet from clogging, as it always has compost stuck to it, which I I rinse off every so often and put it back. I have a question about the juice you said you have fed your courgettes and tomatoes with, as I have heard conflicting advice on the liquid from wormeries. Some say it’s leachate and that it’s actually not good and shouldn’t be used, but you have obviously used it successfully. Did you dilute it? Can you tell me, Mark what is correct about the liquid that comes out of the tap in a wormery?

  79. Sue Richardson

    Hello, just an update on my query regarding now many layers I can have in my wormery. I thought ‘In for a penny…’ and put both the new ones I had bought on top with some food and newspaper, so I ended up with five layers because I hadn’t time to sort the bottom almost compost layer out and left it where it was. I’ve just had a look and there are worms happily noshing away in all five layers! I will be harvesting the bottom one, maybe two soon, but they seem fine so far.

  80. I’ve just ordered a wormery – Nature’s Wormery 360 4-Tray Kit – 64 Litre Volume by Nature’s Footprint Ltd.

    I’ve read many articles on the internet and trawled through loads of discussion forums and I would like to say “thank you”; I believe your blog has provided me with practically everything that’s necessary to know in an easy-to-read (both visually and intellectually!), concise and uncomplicated article.

    I now feel far less daunted about getting my wormery started and established!

  81. Sue Richardson

    Can anyone tell me how many layers I can have on my wormery? I have a bottom layer, nearly composted and two other layers with organic matter in them which the worms are working on, but the top layer is getting full already – we eat a lot of veg! Can I start another layer, or will the worms be too busy working on the others and leave the top one to get smelly and putrid?

    1. Hi Sue, to be honest, I’m not sure – I think I’ve seen wormeries with four layers, not sure how far you can push it. Would be an interesting experiment. You just want to make sure that the worms can cope with all the food – too much and it can start going rancid and smelly, probably not what you want! The obvious solution if you have space is to get (or make) another wormery. I have three now. You won’t need to buy new worms as you can just transfer some from your existing wormery.

      1. Sue Richardson

        Thanks Mark. I think I’ll experiment and see how I get on. If I find the wormery is getting yucky I’ll start another one. I should have thought of this before I bought two more layers!

  82. I have just investigated an old wormery for the first time in several years. It still had a dribble or two of liquid worm manure coming out of the tap, but the “compost” inside contains lots of almost whole egg-shells and tea-bag fabric, making it unsuitable for putting on the garden as it is. And not a worm in sight. Should I just buy some new worms and tip them in, hoping they will break it all down further, or do I have to start again from scratch….?

    1. Hi Tina, I’ve not had an old wormery like this before – but I would probably keep some of the compost as bedding for your new worms and sieve the rest of it, putting all the eggshells and teabags bag into to the wormery, and using the sieved compost for your plants. If you crush egg shells well before adding them to the wormery it will help them break down a lot faster.

  83. Hey Mark! Amazing article, thank you!!
    Started on an allotment plot, and I’ve always wanted to have a wormery. I’d seen people use a bath before, but before even finding one, I got my hands on a fridge! I’ve been reading the comments on here, and have seen other articles, but I can’t find specific information for this question, so I hope you can help!

    Would it be better to take the doors off of the fridge, for perfect darkness and probably a more constant temperature? Or should I take the door off, so they can have some light and.. more oxygen?… I doubt they’d be affected seeing how small they are.. but not sure!

    Look forward to hearing from you!! thanks again in advance!

    1. Tommy, worms prefer darkness – they’ll actively crawl away from light. At the same time, they also need plenty of air – like us they need to breathe. I’m struggling to visualise your fridge wormery… but normally a lid of a wormery will have plenty of air holes – and then you cover the worms inside with a layer of card of similar to help keep them in the dark. Usually you do want a lid to protect the wormery from rain and also to prevent rats getting in. I hope this helps.

  84. Great website. Thanks for all the tips. I have had a couple of wormeries for a few years and aside from on a couple of occasions when the worms got down to so few numbers I could have given them individual names they are now operating ok. My question is that my wormeries are definitely on the acidic side (hoards of thin white worms). I know you can put crushed egg shells in which I do, is there anything else I can add. Eg wood ash from our wood burner?

    1. Hi Jenny, are you adding plenty of ‘brown’ matter – ie card, paper or wood chip? In my experience that can help. Also, if you think its getting a bit acidic, trying to add less citrus and onion skins will help.

      1. Thanks for your reply Mark. Yes loads of cardboard, at least 25%, by volume and I never add citrus or onions. I do confess to over feeding the worms and regularly have to mix up the top tray to get air to it. Just wondered whether wood ash could help to both soak up excess moisture as well as add lime/potassium?

        1. I’ve not had access to wood ash, Jenny, so I’ve not been able to try it but as I understand it you can add it to a wormery in moderation. It certainly contains valuable nutrients and it is slightly alkali so would reduce the effect of the PH. Definitely worth a try I would have thought – observing what effect it has. I’d also try not to overfeed if you can – this may be the main cause of the problem. If you have too much food waste you could think about another wormery or perhaps a bokashi bin. Food that is pre-composted in bokashi will, if added in moderate quantities, break down very quickly in a wormery and help speed up the composting in the wormery.

          1. Thanks Mark. I think you are right, the main culprit is my over feeding them because my wormeries look a lot less healthy than your picture above. So I’ve ordered another wormery and until that is up and running properly I will try and restrain myself from being lazy and emptying all our veg/fruit waste in them rather than the hike up to the garden compost bins at the end of the garden. I am going to try a little wood ash mixed in with a little soil and see what happens.
            Thanks again.
            Jenny

          2. Good idea. I’m sure you’ll have noticed that you can add a whole lot more food to your wormeries in the warmer months than over winter – so the winter months are the time to be particularly careful about over feeding.

  85. Hi,
    I live in a studio flat with a small balcony that I am using to grow food. I started a wormery in December and already harvested in early March. I Recycle food wast in cut off water bottles. Any ideas please of how to keep the wast from smelling?

    Many thanks,

    Miesha.

    1. Hi Miesha, could you put the food waste straight in the wormery? Wormeries are one of the best ways I know of recycling food in a small space without smell. (I haven’t tried this myself but one thing that might make a difference is to mix shredded cardboard with your food in your bottles – this is often a good cure for smelly compost so it might work a smaller scale, too. If you try it, do let me know if it works!)

  86. Mark

    I’ve had the wormery set up now for 2 months or so and although some large worms have developed and are clearly visible when you poke around a bit, there’s no evidence yet of any worm tea collecting and I’m not totally convinced that I have 500 worms doing their job yet.

    It is of course possible for a novice to have killed a few off I suppose at the start through incompetence, so I was wondering how many you would expect to detect easily if you’ve actually got 300 – 500 worms in a 2 month old bin.

    So far, we are two thirds of the way up the first tray of a Tiger Wormery, although much of the stuff still has to properly break down (newspaper shreds are nice and damp and carrot leaves are still green, but there’s no real evidence of compost yet).

    Should I be considering buying a top-up of worms or should I wait another 3 – 6 months before making such decisions??

    I realise you can’t say definitively, but any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Rhys, apologies for the slow reply. Are you in the UK or somewhere else cool? Wormeries are usually quite slow to get started, particularly when the weather is cool. As it warms up the worms should start breeding quicker and their numbers will soon multiply. In the meantime, its best to try and be patient (its difficult, I know, it’s a slow process) and also not feed too much food – your wormery will only be operating at a fraction of its capacity until the worm numbers multiply.

      1. I’m based in London and the wormery was in a garage until about a week ago when the warm weather pushed me to bring it outside under the carport, albeit still with the insulating coat still wrapped around it.

  87. Hi Mark, thanks for all the advice on here, it has given me some useful pointers. I have not had too much success with my colony having unfortunately killed on the first attempt and I think it is going pretty slowly right now on my second attempt. I definitely need to add some cardboard, I have never done that. One question however; I have thousands of tiny white threadlike worms, are these baby tiger worms or something less useful? I have often found a number of drowned worms in the sump tray, slightly concerned I am getting it all wrong? Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Will, the white worms are pot worms and are useful to have in a wormery as they contribute to the composting process. If you get lots of them it can may indicate your wormery is a bit acidic. This is not usually too much of a problem, but it might be a good idea to add add a bit more brown stuff (cardboard is usually easy to find and works well – dampen it with water first, if possible). If worms are drowning in the sump tray I’d recommend leaving the tap open with a plastic jug or similar under it – that should help solve that. Also, I’m not sure if your wormery is exposed to rain but if it is finding a way to protect it from the rain is a good idea (not essential though). Mark

  88. My wormery has been in the garage now for more than a year, with great success. But recently I find a fine white ‘web’ forming against the side on the inside. What could it be and is it harmful to the worms?

    1. Hi Suzanne, gosh, I’m not sure. Maybe a fungus? If that’s what it is, I think it is probable that it won’t do much harm, but is just another part of the decay process in the wormery. Does the wormery still look and smell healthy otherwise? If you can email me a photo to mark@verticalveg.org.uk I can try and find out more for you.

  89. Hi, just got a new Tiger Wormery which I set up last weekend.

    1. Should you keep a wormy inside in the winter (Like in the Garage or the Garden Shed) or will it be Ok leaned up against the side of the house under a car port?
    2 . How many weeks/months will it be before you are obviously increasing volume?

    1. HI Rhys, if you’ve got a garage or shed with space to spare, I’d keep it inside – particularly while you are getting it established in winter (ideally you want to get it established before winter but you should still be OK). If not, unless the weather is very cold where you are (you don’t say where?) it will usually be OK outside – I talk more about getting wormeries ready for winter here: http://www.verticalveg.org.uk/what-to-do-in-november/

      In your second question, do you mean how long until you will be adding food in larger volume? If so, its hard to give a precise answer because it will depend on the temperature (it’ll signigicantly slower if you’re starting in winter), the number of worms you start with, and how happy they are. The trick is to observe and only add a little food at first. In good conditions,the worms double in number every three months or so – so it will most probably be a few months at least. I generally reckon on year before a wormery is operating close to its full capacity.

      Does this help?

      Mark

      1. Yeah thanks, it does. I’ve shifted it into the garage for the winter and taken out quite a few bits of food after reading your stuff.

        The worms are definitely alive, but they are much, much smaller than the ones on the videos – I’ll have a look in a fortnight to see how things are going.

        Based on what you’ve said, it might be a good idea to flag up this seasonal issue to first-time buyers: we are probably pig ignorant simply through not knowing the life cycles of worms!! I’d have happily bought in March if I’d known that……

        From what you are saying I should look on waiting until 2015 before harvesting any compost. I can live with that…….got masses of horse manure down the garden rotting down for the spring……

        1. The horse manure will help speed the process up a bit – it will also encourage the worms to breed. Depending on how many worms you are starting with, it’s possible that you may have some compost in time for autumn plantings. The other thing that will speed up the process is the pickled veg you get out of a bakashi composting system – just add a layer to the top every now and then.

          Once you have one wormery established you can get additional wormeries established very quickly by simply dividing the wormery and its content in half. Half a wormery will have a few thousand worms and so will establish very quickly. (When you start a wormery from scratch you usually only have a few hundred worms.)

          1. Mark

            The worms now seem to be getting established – much bigger when I looked today. Also, they seem to respond well to crushing the food up in a food mixer with water added – you add a sludgy-like material and they seem to like it. I put in remains without slicing twice and nothing seemed to happen. Now with the sludge things seem to be moving.

            So it may be a good way to get things going quicker??

          2. Hi Rhys, in my experience also, chopping it up really helps in the early stages while you get the wormery established (less essential later on), although I’ve never tried doing it in a food processor – I’ve read different opinions about whether this helps or not. I’d go with what you find is working for you – the key with all these things is observing carefully the results and adjusting accordingly. You do want to make sure there is plenty of air in the system so if you are adding lots of sludge make sure you add something that will keep air gaps, too eg wood chips or cardboard. Mark

          3. I certainly will do as you say with regard to air. Maybe the next feed can be chopped up leaves and paper, no food processor.

            There’s still 50% of the surface not covered with sludgy material, so air should still be available for the worms.

  90. Hi – its been a while and with one thing and another I have neglected my wormery. This week I decided to get stuck in and sort the problems out (my son had been putting cat litter in my big green composter so have had to chuck that out and start again) and my wormery was really wet – I have drained a few bottles of the liquid out but the compost still feels very wet. Should I transfer that to the green composter and start again in the wormery. There are lots of other life forms in the surface area. Wondering if I should order a new supply of worms?
    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Sue, not sure of the ‘official answer’ but I’ve added them in small quantities and they seem to have been eaten by the worms OK. Try a few at first and observe what happens – and do let us know how it goes. Cheers, Mark

  91. The Worms are here!
    =================
    My worms have just arrived today, thanks for some great tips.
    I plan to run a ‘proper’ wormery in order to breed a good number of worms and then use them to populate my other compost heaps. The one is a green plastic bin (provide by the council). I put grass clippings, chicken poop and dirty straw, general garden rubbish and some of the kitchen waste in there. I am not a great fan of this big green thing, it sort of does a job but gets too compacted for my liking. Then, after 6 months to a year, I transfer the lot to a wooden framed composter, home made from old pallets.
    The theory is therefore, that the worms in the wormery should be fine and will thrive. I think they will do well in wooden composter but I am not sure about the green plastic bin thing it does get a bit too hot sometimes and I am not sure about the acid from the chicken poop.
    I’ll let you know how I get on.

    1. Love the sound of your system, Michael – thanks very much for sharing. Yes please, do let us know how it goes!

      Yes, once you’ve got a wormery established, you should get a good surplus of worms. In the right conditions they can double in number every six to eight weeks, so you can even remove half one day confident that the numbers will soon return.

      As worm composting is an aerobic process, anything you can to improve air flow through your big green thing (if you decide to add worms to this, too) should help the worms eg drilling holes in the lid and bottom (perhaps even sides) and perhaps adding something like wood chip or corrugated card into the mix.

      Cheers

      Mark

  92. A trick I have found when harvesting castings is to fill an empty plastic plant pot with the castings and then add some fresh food to the worm farm and place the pot full of castings on top of the food. The worms then migrate out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot back into the worm farm. Leave the top of the pot exposed to the light and that will help too. Then you just carry the plant pot full of castings to wherever you need to use it in the garden. Ive found that most of the worms have moved out of the pot after several days.

  93. Aaaaaand, one more. Sorry! I put the second layer on my worm farm some time back now – probably around the time I asked my first question here, so 2 months ago. I just lifted the top layer to see what was going underneath and I can see a bunch of worms still down there on the bottom layer, plus a whole lot literally hanging out in the holes migrating to the top layer. Do you think they’re stuck? Is there something I can do to help them? Should I try and scoop some of the worms sitting in the bottom layer up and just place them in the top layer to make sure they can get up there?

    Signed, anxious worm owner 🙂

  94. Hi Mark

    Me again 🙂 I neglected my wormery for a few weeks and now there are these very small white things in there, that come out in abundance when I collect my worm juice. I don’t think they’re maggots, but I really don’t know. They seems very active, but I don’t think they can fly. They’re not fruit flies, unless they’re tiny baby ones? Any idea what they might be, if they’re a problem and how to get rid of them?

    Secondly, can you use shredded paper such as bills etc? Or would the bleach/chemicals from the ink not be OK?

    1. Just to clarify – the white things can definitely leap around/fly. When I fill my watering can with worm juice, they cover the surface and leap around all over the place. Will I harm my plants when they get watered with the worm juice and these jumping white things?

      1. I’m a few years too late but I have the same problem and have discovered they’re called springtails – apparently harmless.

  95. Hi, My garden is abundant and produces too much for my wormery, so I have a large black plastic rubbish bin with holes down the sides as well. Please tell me which herbs I can feed my worms and which to avoid. Can I feed ordinary weeds besides nettels? Nastursiu leaves? Lilla

    1. Hi Lilla
      The black bin with holes down the side is an excellent idea. All herbs (to my knowledge) and weeds will be fine in a wormery in moderation. Like anything else, worms don’t usually like too much of any one thing. But chopped up, and added with a carbon source like cardboard, they should all be good sources of food for your wormery.
      Mark

  96. Hala the bin is well aerated and the worms seem happy, there are none on the walls and plenty of cocoons although the bedding seems a bit too wet. The fizzing has slowed down some what. I’m going to stop feeding for a while but add some dry shredded newspaper and cardboard to help remove some of the moisture. Hopefully this will work.

  97. could be the sound of worms escaping a fermenting worm bin. Do you see any on the walls? Is the bin well drained and aerated?

  98. I’ve had my wormery for a month but there is now a strange fizzing noise coming from it, any ideas what could be causing it?

    1. Hi Gary, I’ve never heard of that Gary, and can’t think what might be causing it. Not some flies that have hatched inside and can’t escape? Would be intrigued to hear what it is if you discover. Mark

  99. I have inherited a neglected wormery. There are some live worms and a layer of half decomposted food waste which has been there for some time. the wormery has three levels and two are empty. can I revive it and should there be food at all levels? Do the worms migrate of their own accord. How do I know when the compost is ready to use.Should I put existing worms at top level or at bottom? Thanks. celia

    1. Hi Celia, yes you should be able to revive it.
      Just use one level at a time, only add the other levels when the first one is full.
      Put the existing worms in the bottom level.
      Make sure there is some cardboard or wood chips as well as waste food. If adding cardboard, dampen it before adding.
      If you can find some well rotted horse manure, that is a fantastic ‘pick me up’ for worms – just add an inch to the top. Or, if you can find some nettles, a layer of those will help get things going, too. Neither of these are essential, though.
      If there aren’t too many worms, be careful about how much food you add. If its going mouldy and getting smelly there’s probably too much food in the wormery – so add less.
      Once the first level is full, add the second level and begin adding food (and card) to it, and when that is full, add the third. The worms will migrate on their own accord.
      Once the top level is nearly full, remove and empty the bottom level – the worm compost will be ready.
      Avoid adding anything acidic like citrus or onion skins until the wormery seems happier again – also don’t add oily or spicy foods or too much processed stuff.
      Hope this helps and good luck!
      Mark

      1. thanks all for the worm wisdom, am going to revive my wormery!
        can i move worms from my compost bin into wormery?
        if i need more worms where is best place to get them..?
        thanks miranda

        1. Hi Miranda, yes, its fine to move worms from your compost bin – they’re the same variety that live in wormeries. (Earthworms you dig out of the soil are not the same though and will not do well in wormeries.) The best place to get worms is someone else’s wormery (friend, neighbour, community farm or growing project) or compost heap 🙂 Failing that, the worms (brandlings) sold by many fishing tackle shops are fine for wormeries. Alternatively you can buy them on line – many good places in the UK including Bubblehouse worms and Worms Direct. cheers, mark

  100. I started my wormery with a coir brick (watered) and some kitchen waste a few days old. The worms keep going down to the tap layer. Do I need to add more air (browns)?

    1. When worms are stressed they will often burrow down as low as they can – so it is quite common for them to do this when a wormery is first set up. Hopefully, in a few days they’ll settle in the bedding. Make sure that there is only a little waste food in the beginning (you don’t want it to go too rancid). Adding some card (I wet it first so that it is damp and easier for the worms to eat) is also probably a good idea. The other thing that can make worms dive is too much light – so check that it is nice and dark in the wormery. If light seems to be getting in then put a layer of cardboard to the top of the wormery to reduce the light reaching the worms.

  101. Hi there

    Thanks for this post. I didn’t realise the importance of cardboard, paper and so on and I’m not quite sure how I’d go about this, because I don’t buy newspapers or use a lot of products with cardboard. I do use paper towel a bit. Would that be OK, providing I haven’t used it to wipe with a cleaning agent?

    Cheers.

    1. Hi Jess, paper towel (as long as it’s not too oily or have any other chemicals on) would be OK, at least as part of the mix. If you can find some cardboard as well that would be good as it helps break up the mix a bit and add air into the system (its an aerobic process in the wormery). I’m not sure where you live, but most shops / corner stores throw cardboard boxes away every day so shouldn’t be too difficult to source them – you’ll just need a few each year.

    1. Thanks for the pic – yes that looks like a wormery that is designed to give you worm juice as well as worm compost. It’s unusual that it hasn’t given you any juice after a year, normally its the opposite problem – too much juice drowning the worms! You might want to check that the tap is closed / fitting properly and that there is nowhere else that it could be leaking out. Inside the wormery should feel damp, a bit like a rung out flannel. If it does, then no need to add water. It won’t do any harm not getting any worm juice – all the goodness will go into the worm compost instead. Hopefully you were also reassured by Hala’s reply that the app she left a link to on here is safe.

  102. Hi – I have had my wormery for over a year now. Its not smelly or anything and my worms are definitely breeding now its spring, as there are lots of tiny ones near the lid. I have never had any worm juice out of it though. Should i water it or something?

    1. Hi Jac, whether you get ‘worm juice’ depends on what sort of wormery you have. The juice is basically just the excess liquid from your veg that is released from the system – scientific analysis shows its variable in quality but a lot of growers swear by it so there must be something good in it! If your wormery lets a lot of air through the system then the excess liquid will be drying off and all the goodness going into your worm compost. Do you know what sort of wormery it is you’re using?

  103. Great post, Mark. Worm compost is great to mulch plants with and a handful mixed into a pot of spent compost will revitalise it so you don’t have to keep replacing it. It’s so much easier to make worm compost than regular garden compost – so much quicker. When taking out the finished compost, I find the only way to avoid getting a load of worms with it is to leave the lid off for a few hours. This makes the worms wriggle down to darker places (if you have a stacking system, they’ll head down into a lower tray). You can then scrape off the top few inches of compost and will find it relatively worm-free.

  104. Have you got any tips for overwintering? I was given a large worm bin and would love to use it, but have not started it as I have nowhere frost-free to keep it over winter.

      1. hi Jac,

        My app might be incompatible with your operating system but it’s definitely not a virus. It’s a compiled excel program. Email me and I’ll send you the programed excel sheet if you prefer. The app is an application of my graduate thesis in agricultural engineering, and my portfolio and publications are at http://www.halachaoui.net. As you can see I am not in the business of viruses.

  105. Pingback: Vertical Veg: Growing Food, Sharing Knowledge, Building Community

    1. Fruit flies help in the decomposition of the food but they can be a bit of a pain. One tip that can help is to bury all the fresh food under a layer of worm compost – fruit flies prefer the fresher stuff and will be less interested if its hard to find. The other thing you can do is put a layer of leaf litter (loads of leaves lying around Newcastle at the moment) on the top. This will also act as a barrier to the fresher food and will help keep the fruit flies away. Do come back and let us know if you have success keeping them at bay.

      1. Threw a whole lot of leaves on about a week ago and still a lot of flies, think I’m just gonna have to stop feeding for a few weeks and let the worms catch up, shall keep updated!

        1. Yes, keep us informed Danny. As you suggest, it could be that there is a bit much food in there for the worms to cope with. if there’s a lot of worm compost already in the bin, you could also try to bury the fresher food under a layer of that.

  106. Hi, I have a wormery that has been going well for a couple of years now and get lots of lovely worm juice from it. Never done anything to it – do I need to turn the composting matter? How do I do it (stupid question?) and how do I look after the worms when turning?

    It smells sweet, not fed it for a while but dont see worms around the top. Do I just dive in to see if they are still alive?

    Cheers

    1. Hi Jools, no need to turn it – but, if you haven’t emptied it before, it sounds like you should have lots of lovely worm compost to use. It’s a fabulous fertiliser, even better (IMHO) than the worm juice. How to harvest it depends on the wormery. Some have trays which make it supper easy (just empty the lowest tray). If its in one big container, then you’ll probably need to empty the whole thing – keep about the top half (the most recent stuff added) on one side to return the wormery and ‘harvest’ the bottom half to use. This will probably contain some worms – you can either pick them out and put them back in (time consuming) or add them to your pots where they’ll usually continue to live – and they’ll do lots of good in your pots. Does this answer your question?

      1. That’s fab! I have not emptied it as yet (its a commercial unit from original organics) but will do so soon. The worms seem content but since I have not seen them for a while its only guess work!

  107. I can second the comment about leaving the tap open if the wormery can get rained on. I destroyed my first colony by leaving it out in the rain unchecked for just week and found it submerged in water. I’m two weeks into my second colony and things seem to going OK so far ..

      1. Hi, I’ve just discovered this website and I love it, but I’m just realising that I don’t really understand my wormery. It’s a three layer one that I was given last year and after accidentally drowning a bunch of tiger worms during the winter, this year’s population (from May) seem happy enough. They live in the lowest level in their coir bedding and I’ve been putting their (carefully balanced diet) food in the second level. The worms are obviously feeding as they have grown and wriggle a lot, but I don’t understand when they move up to the next level. Do they end up living in the food layer, or what? I read somewhere that they dislike this and like to keep their bedding separate. Any knowledge gratefully received – I’ll be heart- broken if I kill this lot too!

        1. Hi Helen. I started my wormery off a few years ago the same as you. I sent off for them and they came in the post. I can’t remember if they came together with the wormery boxes or if they came separately, but I do know the worms came in a plastic bag all wriggling about as worms do. They werent eggs and they were happily alive. I remember being quite surprised! That’s my experience anyway. Did you have a good hunt about in the packaging? So far, I haven’t killed any of mine off, though I am not the most conscientious wormery owner.

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