Composting and Worm Composting

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.

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