Worm Care

Worm care - food for your worms

In order for Red Wigglers to live in a comfortable environment there are few simple things to know:

What to feed your composting worms

In the beginning, feed your worms a small quantity once a week. If you see that they are not eating in the last feeding spot, stop adding food to the system because you are giving them more than they can process. Remember, the key is to be patient with your worms. Learn by observation. You will learn to understand what they need.

Don’t forget that softer and smaller bits of food are easier and faster for the worms to process. For this reason, we recommend chopping the food that you give you worms. Blending is not necessary, but you will see a big increase in the speed that your worms will process your kitchen scraps.

Moisture Level

Red Wigglers like an environment of 75 to 85% moisture content, and will drown in too much water. Worms breathe through their skin and to do so, they need to be in a moist environment.

The bedding in your vermicompost system should always be as wet as a wrung sponge. In order to measure your moisture content, squeeze a fistful of your bedding material. You should be able to see a maximum of a couple of drops. More than 2 drops means that your composter bedding is too wet and you will need to add some dry bedding. Increase the air flow by fluffing up the bedding and by leaving the spigot open for few days. Often, the bedding will compact in the bottom tray if your system too wet. This will reduce the air flow, creating an anaerobic system and will likely produce an odour.

With composters such as the Vermihut Composter Bin, you shouldn’t need to add any extra moisture as the vegetables and fruits that you feed your worms provide enough. Keeping the lid closed will ensure that evaporation will collect and return to the bedding, regulating the moisture.

If you’re building your composter out of wood, be sure to check your bedding regularly because the wood is most likely going to “suck” the moisture out of your system. You may need to add moisture by spraying water on it. The problem is much more likely with any kind of “flow through” systems.

Temperature

Temperature is one of the most important factors in having a functional vermicomposting system. The ideal temperature for composting worms is between 15 to 25 C. Even though Red Wigglers can live through extreme temperatures (5 to 30 C), don’t expect your worms to do anything other than try to survive!

Composting worms should not be subjected to great or sudden temperatures changes. If you leave your composter outside in temperatures below 5 C or above 30 C, you will kill your worms. It is best to keep your compost bin in a location with ideal conditions and consistent temperatures all year round to encourage the overall health of your system- inside your house, living space, basement or garage.
It is also very important to not leave your composter bin in direct sunlight. The temperature will get too warm too fast and will kill your worms. If you have to leave your Red Wigglers outside in the summer, make sure to place them in a shady spot with good air flow to keep the system cool.

PH balance (acid vs alkaline)

Red Wigglers are not so particular in terms of PH, but you do need to make sure your bedding stays within 6 to 8 on the PH scale. That’s why it is not recommended to add citrus to your bin, but regularly adding crushed egg shells is very beneficial.

The first sign of too much acidity will be the presence of small white worms. These are not baby Red Wigglers! To remedy this problem, the first step is to remove citrus from your composter. Add dry crushed egg shells and a bit of crushed oyster shell to your bin. If you’re still not happy, you can use a PH strip test to check the PH level by mixing a bit of your bedding with some distilled water. Most of the time you will not have to go that far. In extreme cases you can add some lime (calcium carbonate, Ca CO3). When purchasing your lime, look for a Ca CO3 of at least 95%. The wrong type of lime could kill your worms.

As a basic rule, adding crushed egg shells regularly and avoiding citrus will create a balanced PH. Using peat moss as bedding can be a PH issue. For PH and ecological reasons, you are better off using coconut coir.

Bedding

The bedding is where the worms live. It will also be a source of carbon in your bin. A lot of different materials can be used to create your bedding, the most popular source being paper. Even though today, most newspapers are printed with a soy base ink, make sure the paper you are using is not printed with chemicals.

Coconut coir and a mix of shredded cardboard or paper is our choice. It’s important to get a mix that’s going to hold moisture as well as let air flow through. Through experience, we have found using coconut coir to be the best way to keep your worms happy as this bedding holds the perfect amount of moisture and is easy to fluff up once in a while to create a maximum air flow.

If you are using sawdust, make sure to not use cedar, or any treated or painted wood. We also don’t recommend using peat moss or saw dust because of the PH problems. (see PH Balance above)

FOOD

ACCEPTABLE FOODS:

  • FRUIT AND VEGETABLE WASTE…
    especially love watermelon!
  • TEA BAGS
  • COFFEE GROUNDS AND FILTERS
  • EGG SHELLS
  • SHREDDED CARDBOARD, NON-GLOSS PAPER, PAPER TOWELS

FOODS TO AVOID:

  • OILS AND FATS
  • MEAT, POULTRY AND FISH
  • DAIRY PRODUCTS
  • ACIDIC FOOD LIKE ORANGES/LEMONS
  • SPICY FOODS LIKE CHILLIES, GINGER, GARLIC, ONION ETC.
worms will eat your food scraps

Light

Composting worms are highly sensitive to light. They will always try to protect themselves against light by burying themselves deeper and deeper. This fact gives us an easy way to harvest them. (see Using Your Composter to learn more)

Composters such as the VermiHut Compost Bin are made of an opaque plastic material. The lids have a tight fit so no light will disturb your worms during their work. Minimal light coming into your bin creates the best environment for your worms.

Vibration

You will quickly realize that composting worms dislike vibration. It’s important to make sure your composter is placed in a safe spot, away from shocks and vibrations. At the most, you will need to access your bin twice a week, so a closet, the laundry room or your quiet basement would be perfect.

Most popular bedding materials:

  • Shredded newspaper
  • Shredded paper from your office
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Shredded paper towels

Other bedding materials:

  • Coconut coir
  • Shredded leaves (not treated)
  • Chopped straw (not treated)
  • Dried grass clippings (not treated)
  • Manure (good source of carbon and nitrogen for your worms)
  • Peat moss (not recommended for PH and ecological reasons)