Frequently Asked Questions
Does a worm composter smell?
No, it does not smell. If your compost begins to smell there is a problem with the balance in the bin, such as over feeding or too much water. Please see Caring for your Worms for more information.
How do worms eat?
Because worms don’t have teeth, they have little ability to grind their food. They are using their gizzards to grind in a bird-like action, using moisture and bacteria to help with the process. Small grains of sand and mineral particles mixed with food in the gizzard are compressed with the action of the gizzard muscle, which grinds everything into smaller particles. This mix can then enter the worm’s intestine to be digested. Undigested materials including soil, bacteria and plant residues pass out of the worm through its anus as worm castings.
Do the worms like fibres?
Yes. They love them! With vermicomposting we use fibres such as newspaper, paper towel, egg carton, package carton, straw, dry leaves and coconut coir as bedding. As well as feeding your worms, the above materials also help hold moisture in the composter.
What type of worms should I use for composting?
The majority of people use Red Wigglers (Eisenia Foetida), also known as Red Worms, because they are tough and have the ability to process a large amount of organic matter. Easy to handle, they can tolerate a wide range of moisture, PH and temperature conditions. They will reproduce quickly and can handle shipping very well. European Night Crawlers, way behind the Red Wigglers, are the second most popular variety of worms used for composting.
How many worms should I start with?
The amount of worms you need to begin is really up to you! Keep in mind that in optimum conditions, Red Wigglers will process about half their weight every day. So 1 pound of worms will eat 1 pound of food scraps every 2 to 3 days. Most of our customers start with ½ to 1 pound and let the population grow on its own.
In a new compost bin, the minimum we recommend our customers to begin with is ½ pound. We advise clients with children or those using worms in a classroom to purchase at least 2 pounds or more to see more dramatic composting results.
How much can worms compost?
It depends on the number of worms and the worm bin conditions. On average, 1 pound of worms can consume ½ pound of waste food per day. The worms will also reproduce very quickly, boosting the quantity they can process.
Do the worms compost the foods completely?
In the beginning, the worms will just eat the “soft” type of foods. It may take some time for them to digest harder things. Just wait until they have processed everything before harvesting.
Do I have too many worms?
No, not at all! The worms will regulate their population according to the space and the availability of foods. One 3-tray unit can house about 6,000 to 8,000 worms.
What do we do in extreme temperatures?
Worms work best between 15 and 25 °C. They can also handle extreme temperatures. However, in extremely hot weather, we recommend putting the worm bin in a sheltered place. In extremely cold weather, move it to a warmer place or wrap it with paper, bubble wrap, or an old blanket. We highly recommend putting your composter in a location with consistent temperatures all year round. Laundry rooms and basements seem to be the most popular locations.
Are flies around the system a problem?
Sometimes small flies may appear around you worm bin. They are harmless, but they do indicate a problem because you should not have flies. Make sure you always bury the food in the top working tray and cover it with shredded paper or natural waste material such as coconut coir. Covering the food is important to prevent fruit flies from laying eggs on your kitchen scraps and it also helps the worms in their work.
What do I do if I want to go away for holidays?
You can leave your worms alone for up to 3 weeks. Before leaving, feed them a bit more than normal, close the lid, and place a jar underneath the spigot and leave it open. Make sure you feed your worms as soon as you come back so you don’t lose a big part of your worm population…they’ll be hungry and ready to compost again!
If you have a question that we haven’t addressed here and you think we should add it to our list, please feel free to contact us and help us to make this website as complete as possible.
Empowering people in need throughout the world by sharing permaculture design and practical food production techniques – one project and one community at a time.
Okanagan-based Permaculture and Ecological design company offering education and solutions to harmonise with the natural environment.
Lawns to Legumes is an urban farm operating on a number of residential sites in Kelowna based on the methods of SPIN Farming.
OXA is a non-profit organisation geared towards providing in-depth information on xeriscaping (low-water gardening).
Leo’s has a great selection of documentaries focused on the environment, green living, simple living and do-it-yourself videos.
Bringing farm-fresh, organic produce right to your door and a great resource for what’s going on in the world of natural food and living.
Arlo’s has the best honey I have tasted in the Okanagan!