Composting With A Wormery Is It Worth It?

So you’re considering buying or building a wormery or worm farm and wondering whether it’s worth it? In general wormery’s work well and are an efficient means of creating compost or just reducing your waste for properties that have small or no gardens.

However they are no means exclusive to this situation. There are many, myself included, that use several composting techniques, having a wormery being one of them. It is a fascinating way of being aware of how items are decomposed and nature works, reducing waste and providing a high nutrient rich compost called vermacompost and a natural organic fertiliser.

Before making your decision it’s worth considering some or all of the following questions expanded upon in this post to see if its the right choice for you :

  • Why Do I Want A Wormery
  • Does It Take Up Much Time
  • Does It Take Up Much Space
  • What Items Can I Put In My Wormery
  • What Items Should I Avoid
  • Does A Wormery Attract Rats
  • How Often Do I Need To Feed The Worms
  • What Happens If I Go On Holiday
  • How Much Compost Does A Wormery Make
  • How Long Does A Wormery Take To Produce Compost
  • What’s The Best Way To Use The Compost Produced
  • How Do I know If My Worms Are Happy
  • Can You Have Too Many Worms In Your Wormery
  • Where Can I Get A Wormery
  • Where Can I Get The Worms
  • Can I Use Worms I Find In The Garden
  • Conclusion
  • Helpful Links

Why Do I Want A Wormery

Wanting to create your own organic compost, a convenient way to reduce food, garden and home waste, even being interested in how decomposition works, and the fun of watching it all happen for yourself or with your kids, are all good reasons to compost.

Having a wormery or worm farm helps to keep things much tidier, and little space needed. They can be particularly helpful for people with small or no gardens. It can also mean being able to continue composting over winter periods, especially if you are able to keep the wormery insulated or in a shed, garage or even inside.

Does It Take Up Much Time

Not at all. The time it takes to open the box say hello to your worms and drop in some food. Sometimes I have cut up the scraps smaller and sometimes not, depending on the time I have.

Initially I was visiting them most days to see how they were doing, what worked best, and checking in case of escapes. I’ve since on occasions when tied up with other projects, or away have neglected them for a week or two, they were fine and had been busy eating and mating!

Setup may take longer depending on if you are creating a DIY version or purchasing a ready made. I went for a ready made tower version. It took far longer for me to read the extensive instructions and worm care than it did the 10 mins to put it together.

Does It Take Up Much Space

As with most things you can get varying sizes and large versions, or if doing a DIY version you’ll create to size. In the main, this is one of the benefits for minimal space in the garden or no garden. They can fit on balconies, in sheds and basements.

My 100 litre Worm Tower L=43 cms W= 43cms H=110 cms was purchased from Wormcity through Amazon, there are more compact versions.

What Items Can I Put In My Wormery

Kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable leftovers or peelings, coffee grounds, tea leaves and bags, dried crushed egg shells, stale bread, pasta, rice, cakes and biscuits, vacuum dust and hair (including dog hair), shredded newspaper and egg box type cardboard which will need to be pre soaked first. Small pet faeces like rabbit, guinea pig, gerbil The greater the range of these items the better.

Acceptable in small amounts

Onion, leek, citrus fruit.

What Items Should I Avoid

Meat, dairy products, spicy foods, eggs, bones, all tend to attract vermin, flies or go rancid and smell so should be avoided.

Salt, garlic or cooking oils

Soaps or cosmetics

Dog, cat or chicken faeces/manure

Insecticides and pesticides

Weeds or grass/lawn clippings other than a couple of handfuls.

Does A Wormery Attract Rats

A wormery in itself won’t attract rats. Keeping it well managed, tidy in the area with no scraps falling about on the floor and lids secure will keep unwanted fury neighbours at bay.

Avoiding putting it near other water or food sources such as ponds or wet areas, fruit trees and bird tables where extra food will be dropped around the worm farm and therefore highlight a food source will also help deter them from checking it out or even being aware of it.

How Often Do I Need To Feed The Worms

It is generally better for the worms if you feed them smaller amounts frequently than large amounts in a big heap which may begin to smell.

A good general guideline is that a worm will eat 1/2 its body weight each day. So if you have 200g of food you will need 400g of worms. 1000 worms weighs around 1 Ib or 500g in weight, therefore equating to 1/2 Ib or 250g of waste a day.

According to Wormcity the company I purchased my worm farm from, a 75 litre wormery should be able to manage 2-3 kilos of food per week. Although this is dependent on the time of year and the maturity of the worm farm.

When worms are in optimum conditions ie enough space and food, they will multiply roughly doubling every 60 days. If you want to increase your worm population there needs to be enough food to keep eating and producing.

They are self regulating so if you don’t want to increase the population keeping the food to the minimum needed or under will keep them from reproducing too much.

What Happens If I Go On Holiday

As a rule of thumb 6 weeks is the maximum suggested length of time a worm farm can be unattended. In reality as long as they’re are in an optimum environment and have enough food, this is likely to be longer.

If you are going on holiday for 2-3 weeks feed them their normal food and place a piece of cardboard on top. Once they have eaten the rest of the food they will start on the cardboard.

For a longer period you may need try and work out how much food they are currently eating times by the length of time you will be away.

Also consider conditions. If its winter and they are outside and the temperature is lower than 10° they are going to eat a lot less than they would normally.

If you are expecting a lot of rain, and it is uncovered you may want to consider leaving the tap open so any excess water can drain away so that they don’t drown.

How Much Compost Does A Wormery Make

In general a worm farm will produce in a ratio of 8 to 1, so 8 buckets of food will produce 1 bucket of compost.

How Long Does A Wormery Take To Produce Compost

Depending on conditions, the season and food, but if all are worm optimal and so they are fully active, it will take about 3 months for one tray of compost. Each tray in my images hold just over 25 litres of compost.

What’s The Best Way To Use The Compost Produced

The compost produced is called vermi-compost and is high in nutrients particularly nitrogen, because it is produced by the worms producing castings at a lower temperature than traditional composting.

The high nutrient compost will help soil structure and is best either mixed in or placed around plants, for seeds, or when transferring seeds place some with the root when planting. If you have some established sad looking plants give them a boost with some vermi-compost.

As with most things too much of a good thing can be harmful, so if you already have soil high in nutrients, you may be giving too much making the soil toxic, and subsequently plants become unhappy or die, The best thing to do is give small amounts to see how your plants respond before adding more.

It can be used to support grass, it wont stop weeds but will help it thrive, subsequently helping to push out the weeds.

What Is Worm Tea, Worm Wee and Leachate

Worm tea is created by soaking or steeping some of the compost or worm castings in a mesh material (a bit like a tea bag) with water overnight to create a tea for plants. As the compost castings is the finished nutritious product this creates a highly nutritious tea, that can then be sprayed on to crops.

The liquid often congregated at the bottom of a worm farm (leachate) can be called worm wee, depending on the setup of your worm farm, this can be the liquid dripped through, or from rain that has washed through the whole system including obviously decomposing food.

The liquid produced tends to be higher in amonia, so should be diluted 1 part leachate to 10 parts water.

What Is The Best Location For A Wormery

Earthworms like to be be in a moist dark area with an optimum temperature of between 15 -25. However they will still work between 10-30. They don’t like being too hot or too cold, and need protection from strong winds.

I keep mine outside. In January we had a cold snap for a couple of weeks hovering around -3- -5 for a week, the rest of the time it was around or just above freezing for most of January and into February. I kept them insulated using plastic underneath and around a box, with a bit of carpet on top all wrapped in some old tarpaulin. I had also put some hay and straw in the top to keep them cosy.

I kept them in a sheltered spot out of the wind but in an area of my patio that if we had some winter sun, it would help heat them up.

At the coldest point I just left them alone for a couple of weeks. I had noticed their eating had already slowed. On the odd day we had some sunshine I checked on them and they were definitely busy and on the move.

As its best they are not in direct sunlight I moved them off the patio to a sheltered shadier area for the summer.

How Do I know If My Worms Are Happy

If the temperature inside the worm farm is somewhere between 10-30 , the worms are moving (shoot out of the way of the light when you open up) are eating, reproducing and it doesn’t smell (an earthy smell is normal) then it’s safe to say they are happy and doing what nature intended – munching away at what is popped into their home.

One of the most popular types of worm are red worms often called red wrigglers. They are happy in a contained compost environment rather than plant soil, are easy to keep, hardy and are an extremely effective recycler!

Can You Have Too Many Worms In Your Wormery

Worms are self regulating, so they will respond to the environment. If there is not enough space and food they will stop reproducing.

Likewise if there is enough food and space they will breed. If conditions are optimum, you can be roughly doubling your the amount of worms you have every 2-3 months.

Where Can I Get A Wormery

If you are buying then tend to be found in garden stores, online and even on Amazon. I purchased mine through Wormcity on Amazon here. There are also different types, some not looking like a worm farm at all.

You can make them, there are plenty of DIY examples on You Tube, using various materials you may have at home or easily able to purchase. See DIY Below

Where Can I Get The Worms

Worms can usually be purchased with the worm farm as part of a starter kit, or via voucher for when you are ready to receive them. Alternatively they can be purchased online and even via Amazon.

There are different worms for different situations and climates. See my post

Worm Farm – What Worm For Me?

Can I Use Worms I Find In My Back Yard

Basically no! Garden worms you dig out of the garden or back yard prefer soil. They burrow down and move around. They are an important part of the Eco-system and won’t thrive in a worm farm.

You could possibly pop in red worms found in compost heaps, although you may find they keep trying to escape, or don’t reproduce as much. You would also need lots of them, vastly more than you can probably find!

Worm farm worms are a different type of worm thriving in colonies and decaying matter happiest confined at their food source and not keen in soil.

This means, once settled in they are more likely (if conditions are good) to stay put. They are prolific eaters and reproduce quickly thereby being able to accept more waste to consume and convert to castings.

Conclusion

I have been really pleased with my wormery. Not only is it an effective natural waste management tool, its provided a rich compost and the worm wee (leachate) collected is a nutritious fertilizer I dilute and use for my plants and grass.

Once setup you have a free and organic waste management system with huge environmental benefits. It probably won’t be long before family, friends and neighbours are requesting samples and possibly worms for fishing. Some people create a whole business from it.

In terms of time, its very negligible for the benefit. If you can call the worms a pet? Its the easiest and cheapest pet I have ever kept! No walking, vet fees, holiday cover or specialist food…they just love my waste, what is there not to like!

Helpful Links

DIY Worm Farms

For DIY versions you can start by using plastic containers, buckets, timber, and depending on your skills build something a little bit more adventurous. Here are some ‘how to’ links currently on You Tube.

Easy DIY Worm Compost Bin

How to Make a Worm Composting Bin, Quick, Simple and Inexpensive Gardening

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