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Setting up your Can-o-Worms or Worm Cafe stacking tray wormery

We get many enquiries regarding tray system wormeries, stacking system wormeries they are all pretty much the same, some may have 2, 3 or even 4 working trays, what is obvious is that the instructions leave many people understandably confused! Please read this in conjunction with the information found here: We know it is a lot to read but it could save a lot of disappointment!

The main components of a stacking wormery are the sump tray with a drainage tap and to which the legs are attached, then you have 2 or 3 “working” trays, these can be identified by having holes drilled across the base and finally, a lid.

Stage 1
Once the tap and legs have been assembled, a working tray is next put in place, a couple of sheets of newspaper or similer should be cut to cover the holes in the bottom, this is simply to stop the bedding dropping through into the sump area, when the paper is in place you will need to add the bedding and worms

Stage 2
You may have received just worms with no bedding and it is expected you supply this, you may have received just worms and a coir block or the wormery may have been supplied with no worms or bedding depending on what you have ordered and the supplier.
If the wormery has been ordered from Worms Direct along with worms and bedding this will be supplied as a complete kit, the complete kit is added to the first working tray, this will almost fill this first tray and has been designed to do so, it is most important that the worms have a sufficient depth of bedding to establish themselves.

Stage 3
We now have our worms all set up and it’s time to give them their first meal, do this asap after installation, use a large MUG to measure the first meal, spread it on the surface in the middle then cover the whole bedding surface area with a piece of cardboard (the shipping box is good!)newspaper or even a piece of plastic cut to fit, this is to encourage the worms to the surface to feed, you do not need to purchase “worm rugs” or “worm mats” unless you really want to.
The worms will then start to feed on your waste, it may take them days or even weeks to get stuck in, do not be tempted to keep adding more and more food, once you see the worms really active in this layer then add another, slightly larger mug full, only add more when you see the food disappearing, continue this until the whole tray surface is covered don’t feed to a depth of more than a couple of inches or 5cm. as the worms reduce the food keep adding a bit more at a time, ignore any advice that tells you worms will consume twice their own weight or 2kg or 10kg per day or whatever.
When the tray is full right to the brim add a new tray, the bottom of this new tray must be in contact with the surface of the full tray below, this now becomes the feeding tray and you just continue putting your waste into this tray. The worms will now move up and down from the first tray into the second tray but they can only do this if there is not a gap between the two so it may be necessary to continue topping up the first tray as the compost settles, once you are happy that the majority of the worms are living in the second tray the first one can be removed and emptied, you will always find some worms still living in there, you can pick them out or put them onto the garden with the compost, the second tray will now become the only working tray, this cycle continues.

Problems you may encounter on the way.
The first problem may be you find on a new set up is the worms crawling up the sides and out under the lid, if you have used our worm and bedding kit this will stop most of this but it can still happen, if you use coir, just newspaper/cardboard as often recommended or any unsuitable bedding such as garden centre potting compost it will almost certainly happen, it can happen when the weather is wet and forecasting rain and the pressure is low, the fact that the worms have been harvested, packed and transported can also cause this, they are just agitated!
Migration usually occurs at night and you find them all over the floor in the morning, after initially setting up the wormery it is a good idea to stand it on wet newspaper/cardboard, cloth or sacking, this way any escapees can be retrieved in the morning before they have dried out, if the problem persists for more than a couple of nights which can happen when there is a few days of wet or stormy weather then it would be best to place the wormery, with the lid off, under a low level light at night, the problem should settle after a night or two.

Overfeeding can cause all sorts of problems, decaying food is covered in mould, bacteria and fungii this is what the worms actually feed on but when it turns stagnant it becomes a different thing altogether and worms will be driven away so always keep the food layer to under 2″ or 5cm this may mean that you do not add any more for several days or even weeks it all depends on the time of year and the size of the worm population in the wormery, feed a little at a time and watch what the worms have done with the last feed, winter is a quiet time for worms.

Feeding the wrong waste
things to avoid – onions and members of the onion family, the skin of raw citrus fruit, cooked they are ok, you will often see “advice” that this is because it turns the wormery acidic, it is not, if you really want to know read up about a substance called d-limonene and why it is in citrus fruit skin.
Fat, meat and oils are to be avoided, some that are “recommended” but we do not advise are tea bags, the tea is fine but the bag is usually man made and will not decay, another one often “recommended” the contents of the vacuum cleaner! don’t worms do not eat hair and bits of plastic etc that have gone up the spout.

Myths and almost Myths!
A lot of absolute rubbish is written and repeated about worm composting, equally there is also information that many people involved in the industry are not so sure about, after 23 years in the worm game, preceeded by 15 years in the nursery trade, preceeded by 10 years in the “Topsoil” game I am happy to stand by my own views however much they contradict others, so……….

The liquid produced by water and condensation running down through the wormery makes an excellent plant feed, it is no more than that, it MIGHT have collected a few bugs and a tiny amount of nutrient but the time you have diluted by the “20:1 ratio” recommended every where you might as well just water the plants! even worse if it smells! – myth.

You need to add eggshells, worms will graze the inside of eggshells but it is the lining they are after, crushing them to a fine powder increases the chance that some may be used by the worms to aid digestion, as a powder the rest will just be mixed in with the compost, whole eggshells, even if broken up will remain just that, in fact, they can be a pain when left in the compost! – almost a myth.

Add the contents of your vacuum cleaner, no, worms will not eat the hair and very little of the other junk that’s in there, they may consume the dead skin but why bother when there is a better choice elsewher all you end up with is hair mixed in with your finished compost. – myth

You need to keep the pH at neutral, worms are tolerant of a wide range of acid/alkaline conditions you do not need “conditioner” – myth.

Worm feed and treats, why? they are perfectly happy with proper food in the form of your waste so why spend money on treats? – myth

I will add more as they come to me.

I have written this for the benefit of customers, not so other websites can copy and use on their own websites.
The above information is subject to copyright protection.

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Ressurecting an old wormery.

This is a question that often comes up, sometimes the wormery has a few worms and some compost still in it or just old compost, providing the wormery is complete and in reasonable condition then it should be put back to good use. If there are any worms present then it may be useful to try and use them, they will need to be picked out of the compost they are in, generally it is not a good idea to use any compost left, it is usually too old or even stagnant best just to start again.

Worms can be purchased from us either loose ( or in a complete worm and bedding kit ( or using the Boxa worms ( if you purchase the worms on their own you will need bedding material, this can be suitable material you have to hand, this is dealt with here ( )or you can purchase just bedding ( the easiest way is to use one of our worm and bedding kits. Having aquired all the necessary components then you can set it all up, advice on how to do this can be found here:

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Which worm is best for composting?

Different composting worms

At Worms Direct one subject that comes up with our customers time and time again is “which composting worm is best” this question arises due to the amount of confusion that has been generated over the years by companies selling worms and pretending they know all about worms and just repeating what others have written! some will quote scientific studies completely out of context, hopefully we can clear away some of this confusion.
First it is important to understand that different species of worms are not available in different countries, therefor you will often see, particularly on forums, that such and such worm is best, yes it is in their country but may not be applicable elsewhere when other worm species are available, as an example, an Indian Blue is an extremely efficient worm in hot climates but in the UK it will die, secondly, particularly in the UK common names are mostly used and have been applied to different worm species – Tiger worm is a prime example, often this is done by sellers who are not aware of the differences! so lets start from the beginning.

The most talked about worm (using a common name) is “Tiger worm” the latin name for this is Eisenia foetida or Eisenia fetida, this the most commonly used worm in the US also known as Red Wiggler and a lot of worm composting information on the internet comes from the US, it is stripey in appearance.

The most commonly grown worm for composting (and fishing) in the UK is “The Dendrobaena” the latin name is Eisenia hortensis or Dendrobaena veneta, it is also stripey in appearance and has therefore been called “Tiger worm” by many growers.

You now have the situation where 2 different species are being called and sold as “Tiger worms”

Apart from ourselves, we are not aware of anyone who is growing the original Tiger worm (Eisenia foetida) as a clean species, many growers will have them mixed in with their Dendrobaena stock.

You will then see growers claiming “Tiger worms” are best but which one? you will see growers claiming the original Tiger worm (Eisenia foetida) is the best and backing this with findings from scientific trials, I have yet to read of any scientific trials that were carried out in domestic wormeries using household waste by inexperienced people!
The truth is that both worm species work and breed better in different conditions:
E. foetida (original Tiger worm) work better in warmer bins, Dendrobaena prefer it cooler.
E. foetida (original Tiger worm) work better in drier conditions, Dendrobaena prefer it wetter
E. foetida (original Tiger worm) work better in denser populations, Dendrobaena need more space
E. foetida (original Tiger worm) are more delicate, Dendrobaena are generally tougher.
E. foetida (original Tiger worm) breed more quickly than Dendrobaena, yes, when its warmer

So you can see, it all depends on the conditions the worms will experience in your wormery, if you can guarantee the right conditions for one or other species then use that worm, if you cannot then play it safe and use a mix of both species (if you can get them). Do not be taken in by sales blurb.

I truly hope this has gone some way to clearing the confusion.

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What is Composting?

Composting is the means that organic materials break down, decompose and reduce in volume, without it the planet would be miles deep in leaves, let alone anything else! In breaking down this organic matter provides food for millions of different living creatures, from bacteria and fungi, through small bugs, larger bugs up to and including worms, not only is this food provided but once eaten by the worms it has to be deposited back, okay, it’s worm poo but the proper name is worm casts. These casts have now become enriched with nutrients, minerals etc and are then used by the plants that started the decomposition in the first place, a self contained, self supporting, recycling, circle of life.

Types of composting.

There are many different ways to compost organic waste but there are really only two that are of interest to readers and users of this website, these are “aerobic composting” and “vermicomposting”

Aerobic composting.

Starting with “aerobic composting” this simply is the type of composting when a bin or a heap is used to rot it all down. This method relies on the bugs, bacteria, fungi and oxygen present in the waste to decompose the material, in doing so it will generate heat as a by product, if heat is being generated (and this has very little to do with the sun) then the decomposition is working well, the waste will reduce and you will end up with a good compost .To achieve this situation, ie. bugs, bacteria etc working well, the right conditions have to be in place and this is where most compost bins and compost heaps fail to work properly. Like all living things, bugs, bacteria, fungi and micro life need a good balanced diet, in this case it is made up from a mix of nitrogen and carbons found in the waste provided for them in the compost bin along with a good supply of oxygen from the air, the nitrogen comes from all the veggie peelings, the left over table scraps, the grass cuttings etc, these are the “greens” The carbon is provided from, paper, cardboard, leaves etc, these are the “browns” The “green” and “browns” should be half and half, this should all be mixed together which also allows air into the material, not only should this be done when adding these materials but also the older contents should be stirred up to allow in more air, hence the reason for “turning the compost heap over”.

Vermicomposting (Worm composting)

Next we come to “vermicomposting” or worm composting, in this system we use the worms to do the work, instead of letting the waste heat up we keep it cold and this is done by putting it onto the worms in thin layers instead of piling it up as you would in a compost bin or compost heap, when it is in thin layers like this, the bugs and bacteria still get to work but any heat produced escapes and is not trapped in the waste, this is good for the worms because they feed on all of this and don’t get burnt doing it! Naturally, as they feed, what goes in must come out and this is known as “casts”, these casts and the mix of compost that is left behind are very beneficial to plant growth (I wonder why we have worms in the soil, living all around the plant roots?) So there we have the two main methods of composting.

But why should we compost?

If you have a garden, an allotment or even a farm you will know why, as said before it is a very simple and effective way of producing something that your plants will thrive on and the added bonus is you get rid of your green waste but if you live in a flat or house with no garden, why compost? You can always use it in tubs, baskets and troughs but is that enough?
Global warming, climate change, the planet is heating up etc are all fairly new buzz words and everybody is trying to use these buzz words to jump on the band wagon, from turning your washing machine down to buying car insurance where they will plant a tree for you!
One of the most genuinely useful ways of “doing your bit” is to first to cut down on the amount of organic waste you produce by trying not to buy so much, remember organic waste includes all sorts of things not only your kitchen and garden waste but think of the amount of paper and cardboard thrown out, certainly you can recycle it through kerbside collections but wouldn’t it be better if the dustcart didn’t have to collect it? A few facts to think on, something like 75% of all waste still sent to landfill is compostable, “ordinary” composting would reduce this waste by about 50% vermicomposting or worm composting would reduce it by up to 80%! Even if you had no option but to put the finished compost out for the dustcart to take to landfill, it would be a lot less dustcart trips and plants could grow in it once it was there, got to be worth a bit of effort.

I hope this has been of some help and I hope you now feel that composting is worth a go.

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The Different Types of Wormery

There are many different types of wormery on the market and several different means of working (or not, as the case may be!) The following advice sheets are designed to help you choose the right one if it is your first time or to offer advice on how to improve on a “difficult” one if you already own one and are struggling.

The simple box

A simple box is a very good starting point, ideally it would be of wood but often plastic can be more practical, to be efficient it would need to be no smaller than the kerbside recycling box as supplied by your local council, with a lid.The main considerations for any wormery are surface area and a really good air supply, drainage holes in the base will be necessary, particularly with a plastic box.

The single tray

This the next step up from a box, constructed from plastics, it consists of a base box with a “working” tray that sits just inside the base box, the lower box acts as a drip catcher and usually has a spout or tap to drain off any excess liquid that may be produced. The working tray has a perforated bottom to allow any excess moisture to drain away.

The multiple tray

The multiple tray wormery is the next step up from the single tray, the idea is that when the first tray is full a second tray with a perforated base is placed on top of the full one and waste is added to this second tray, the theory being that the worms will move from the first (now full) tray, via the perforations up into the second tray to continue feeding. There are also systems with 3 or more trays. An example of this system is the Worm Cafe as sold on this web site

The Flow Through

The flow through system is considered to be the Rolls Royce of worm composting systems, it is usually based on a wooden box but the bottom is replaced by a riddle mechanism, this mechanism, usually produced out of galvanized steel allows the operator to riddle the finished worm casts/compost from the bottom, settling the contents and creating more space for adding waste feed, the theory being a continuous cycle of feeding, riddling and feeding removing the need to separate worms and compost when the bin is full.

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Worm Compost and Worm Casts – is there any difference?

This article will hopefully explain the difference between worm compost and worm casts and the use and benefits of both, as the names suggest, both of these are produced by worms.

1. Worm compost

Composting worms live and feed on organic matter that range from fresh to really decomposed! this can be anything from natural heaps of leaves, dead grass and vegetation to the garden and kitchen waste we put in our compost heaps, bins and wormeries, as the material starts to break down it is invaded by a myriad of different bacteria, fungii and 101 different bugs and creatures it is these fungii and bacteria that the worms actually feed on, in doing so they continually move up and down through the layers looking for better food, somewhere to rest up and somewhere to lay cocoons (eggs). To enable them to do this they exude a mucuus allowing them to wriggle through the compost, this mucuus is full of benefits to plant root systems, of course, all the time they are feeding they have to get rid of their waste, basically worm poo and this is left in and eventually all mixed up in the compost, if the worms are removed before they have consumed (several times) all the organic material we then have “worm worked compost.”

2. Worm Casts

Worm casts are a different product entirely from worm compost, casts are essentially the pure poo from worms. When worms are living in a compost, they feed on it, if no more green waste is added they will eventually have eaten all the waste available, continually replacing it with an increasing percentage of casts, as the waste becomes less available they will also feed on the casts themselves, in fact, they can do this many times over (waste not – want not!) eventually all the material left is almost entirely worm poo, this is proper worm casts.

The use and benefits of each.
We can now see that there is a difference between the 2 products and this means there is a difference in the use and benefits of each.

It is easier to understand if we deal with worm casts first, as originally stated, casts are produced only when the whole amount of waste (or near enough) have passed through the worm, in doing so it is ground up into tiny particles and mixed together with different secretions, the resulting casts are not necessarily high in nutrients as often claimed but after they have “matured” they are absolutely jam packed full of hugely beneficial bacteria, fungii and other organisms. these qualities are utilised directly by plants via the root system providing the plants are already planted in soils with good structure, that is the job of the worm!

Now we can see that worm compost, due to its lower levels of processed material is not going to work in the same way as casts directly with plants, however, being a compost, they create a highly beneficial environment regulating air and moisture around the root system of plants particularly where the existing soil structure is not so good this in turn allows the roots to benefit from the casts within the compost. Because there is still compost (uneaten worm food) in and around the plant roots this will encourage worms to stay or even move into the area to feed and in turn they will raise the level of casts for the plants to utilize! As can be seen, it is very important that the right balance of processed and unprocessed material in the compost is achieved otherwise the conditions created for the plant will be wrong.

Whichever you use, worm worked compost or pure worm casts your plants can only benefit.