Trouble Shooting - Worm Composters
Worms are an efficient way to quickly compost a variety of food and other organic scraps found around the home. In nature worms are natural composters found in fields and on forest floors.
Red wiggler worms are the preferred worm for vermicomposting. Common earthworms are not good for compost bins. They burrow with their food before they eat and prefer to live deep underground. Red wiggler worms live 6"-12" from the surface and eat on the go which makes them ideal for compost trays. Red wigglers also reproduce faster and can thrive in a larger temperature range than common earthworms.
Setup and Start
DAY 1 - Make the bedding and let your worms get accustomed to their new home.
- When you first get the composter add a few layers of wet newsprint to the bottom tray.
- Soak the coconut fiber and shredded paper to create moist, fluffy bedding. Add this to the bottom tray as well.
- Add worms to the bottom tray.
- Place the empty tray and lid onto the unit and leave it for a day.
When you first add the worms to their new home, they will be very active and need about a day to calm down. The newsprint in step 1 is added to prevent the worms from falling through the holes into the base. You only need to do this the first time you add worms because once they figure out where the food is they will say in the tray.
The worms don't like light. If you leave a light on above the composter overnight, it will help keep the worms from escaping.
DAY 2 - Start Adding Food
- Once the worms have calmed down you can start adding food scraps to the bedding.
- It’s best to bury the scraps in the bedding to make the food easier to find.
AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS - Moving the worms between trays:
- It will take several weeks for the worms to eat through all the bedding, paper, and food scraps. As you continuously add food to the bottom tray it will fill up. Once the bottom tray is full, and the dirt is touching the upper tray, it’s time to move the worms.
- Make more bedding for the upper tray with more coconut fiber and more shredded paper. We want the worms to pass through the holes so don’t add the newsprint.
- Start adding scraps only to the upper tray. The worms will move upwards to follow the food.
- Check the lower tray after a week. Once all the worms have moved you can remove the lower tray to harvest the compost.
Things To Remember
- Do not overfeed. Excess food creates excess water which will slow down the composting process and reduce the worm population.
- Always bury your food scraps. The worms will find the food faster if it is buried .
- In order for the worms to migrate upwards stop feeding in the lower tray and add food to the upper tray only. The bedding in the lower tray will need to contact the migration channels in the upper tray to allow the worms to relocate.
- Drain reservoir base as necessary.
- To speed the process you can create a slurry of food scraps in your blender mixed with equal parts fiber (newsprint, napkins, etc)
- Add a small amount of baking yeast to the surface of the tray. Yeast contains vitamins for healthy worms.
- Your composter should be placed in a covered location that is not too hot. If people are comfortable then the worms should be too. On hot days make sure the bedding stays moist.
Managing Moisture and Airflow
Keeping a balanced moisture level is critical to healthy reproductive worms.
The Squeeze Test. Take a handful of compost material and squeeze it as hard as you can with both hands. If a few drops of water escape between your fingers you have an ideal moisture level. A stream of water indicates the mix is too wet. Any less and it is too dry.
If your Living Composter is too wet. Add dry fibers such as coconut coir, peat moss, shredded paper, cardboard, etc to absorb the excess moisture.
If your Living Composter is too dry. Recycle water from the reservoir base or spray with a small amount of fresh water.