How to take care of your worms
Your wonderous worms!
Only a few species of earth worms are used in vermicomposting. The worms we use are a combination of Red Wrigglers and European Nightcrawlers. Both of these species have their own preferences to what they eat and have a good appetite! They are top-dwelling creatures and don’t mind some disturbances caused by feeding them. Perfect for your worm bin!
Worms are smart creatures that typically have a long tube-like body with no limbs. A worm is not ‘just a worm’, there are actually around one million different types of worms. They come in many different sizes, some microscopically small, and some are as huge as 58 metres! Some prefer to live in the earth, some in the water, some even inside other animals. They all have one thing in common though, they are decomposers!
Some interesting compost worm facts:
- Worms don’t have eyes! They are sensitive to light though and will move away from light.
- Worms have no teeth! They have a gizzard which grinds their food, just as birds do.
- Worms breathe through their skin.
- Worms can live for more than 10 years.
- Worms reproduce very quickly, your population could double within 2 or 3 months
Where to place your bin
Worms are really easy to keep, as long as you take some basic things into consideration.
You can basically place your worm bin anywhere you like, your balcony, garden, basement and even in your kitchen! Just make sure the worm bin is in the shade and out of the wind (you don’t want flying worms do you!) and protect them from extreme temperatures like too much heat or frost.
And of course place your bin in a convenient place where it is easy for you to feed them!
How to set up your bin
Once you have found the right place to put your bin it is time to set it up. This is an easy process, just follow these few steps!
- Place a layer of 7 cm shredded paper (soaked for about 1 hour in water) on the bottom of your bin
- Place your worms with the bedding they travelled in on top of this shredded paper. Your worms will burrow down and immediately start feeding on the bedding and paper. Don’t worry if your worms are not all the same size, they come in different sizes depending on their age!
- Start adding food in small quantities at first: about 1 cup per day for 500 worms. Place the food on top of the bedding (worms are top feeders) and cover it with the newspaper or cardboard.
- That’s it! Your bin is set up!
For the first few weeks you can check often if everything in your bin is well. Look out for the following things:
- Worms might not be too active for the first 2 weeks, they have travelled a long way.
- Worms like a moist environment. If it gets too dry, add some water but don’t soak it as the worms can drown. If it’s too wet, drain excess water and add some more bedding.
- There should be no smelly odours! If this does happen you are feeding them too much! Take out some of the food and feed less from now on.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary with your worms or in your bin and you don’t know what to do about this, feel free to contact us!
What to use as bedding
Your worms need bedding as a safe area where they can retreat to. It’s very easy to keep your worms happy but there is always something why the individual worm might want to move away (it might be too warm, too dry or too crowded for that little individual)!
There are lots of things that can be used as bedding for your worms and most are easy and inexpensive to get. Shredded cardboard or newspaper, garden compost, partly decomposed animal manure (stables always have plenty!) or a mix of these work well.
Your worms prefer to have around 10 cm of bedding.
Feeding your worms
Worms will eat anything that has once been alive. You can feed them your kitchen waste, your garden waste (but the bigger, the longer it takes to decompose so maybe leave the sticks out) and even aged animal manure (from horse manure to your little bunnies droppings). Avoid meat and dairy, the worms will eat it, but it might smell bad and attracts unwanted visitors. If you are using animal manure as bedding, they will slowly work their way through that as well and even the shredded newspaper will get eaten.
They are not fussy eaters!
When setting up a new worm bin start with feeding less and slowly adding more to see how much the worms will consume (which will be quite a bit over time). The main trick is not to overfeed them. Imaginably divide your bin in four or six sections. Feed each section at a time, a couple of days or a week in between. When you get back to the first feeding your worms should have finished everything before you feed again. This way the worms are never hungry and your bin won't turn into a nasty acidic smelly mess that could kill your worms. It takes a bit of trial and error to get it right and it's often better to start by feeding less and slowly start feeding more until you notice that they don't eat it fast enough.
When to feed your worms
Worms can be fed as frequent as you like, some people feed them daily some every fortnight. It's important not to overfeed your worms as this will turn their food supply into a smelly nasty goo, not very pleasant for you or your worms. The best thing is to make sure that the worms have finished their previous supply before feeding them again. If you have more waste that they can eat, the best things is to get more worms!
If you would like to know more about how to take care of your worms we highly recommend Mary Appelhof's book 'Worms Eat My Garbage'. A classic, both in age and in content. This book is a complete guide in how to take care of your worms and your worm composting system. We love it!
The book has been out of print for years, but if you can find a copy in your local second-hand bookshop or online, make sure to get it!
But lucky for you we have a book for sale that is just as much a treasure chest of information on how to get the best out of your wormery! Composting with Worms by George Pilkington. It's full of great info, troubleshooting and instructions on wormeries, feeding and lots more. Make sure to order yours right now!
Any other questions?
If you like to know anything else about taking care of worms, you're always welcome to contact us.
We'll do our best to answer any questions you might have (as long as they are worm related).