Worm Hotel FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do you have questions about your worm hotel? On this FAQ page I try to answer the most frequently asked questions. From purchasing and starting a worm hotel, to harvesting the compost from your worm hotel.
There are 3 types of worm hotels: The stackable tower is the most famous. In addition, you have the ‘funnel model’, and worm bins that work with horizontal displacement of the worms.
The round wormbin , the Wormery and the Urbalive the worm paradise and wooden worm hotel are traditional staple worm bins. They are made up of a pile of compost rings. With underneath a container for the released moisture.
In the top ring (or bin) you put compost worms. You feed the worms uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps. Seal each layer of food with a layer of torn cardboard. The worms also love coffee grounds.
When the top bin is full, place an empty ring on top and fill it layer by layer with waste. The worms crawl through the holes in the bottom to the food. Continue in this way until all layers are full. When the last bin is full, the first bin is composted. You empty this container and put it back on top to fill it.
You drain the moisture through a tap. You dilute this with water and give it to your plants. This is the worm leachate
Horizontal Worm Bin Systems
In the Gevelbak and the Buurtbak , the two compost compartments are located next to each other instead of one above the other. The big advantage is that one bin can dry while the other bin continues to compost, releasing a lot of moisture. At the worm crate there is only 1 compartment within which the worms migrate from one side to the other
Funnel Worm Bins
The Aerobin is a funnel worm hotel: You fill it from above with waste and cardboard. And after a while you take out the compost from the bottom. After which the uncomposted content (with most of the worms in it) sinks to the bottom.
We removed the Hungrybin from the range because at a certain point the bottom could no longer be put back properly, and sometimes all the waste fell out when we opened the bottom.
Simple Worm Bins
You can use any bin as a worm bin: grab a bin, put worms in it, feed them, and they’ll make compost. When the bin is full, the worms are at the top, and the compost is at the bottom. A little tricky but doable in itself. The Balconyton Classic also works this way: you dig out the compost from above. Worms you encounter you put back. Harvesting compost is not the first goal with the Balkonton Classic. The compost is spread by the worms through the Balkonton and directly absorbed by the plants.
View all worm bins in the webshop
Compost worms eat a mix of carbon-rich (brown) and nitrogen-rich (green) waste.
Do not give your worms ‘red’ waste (see red block below).
Make sure to alternate between ‘brown’ and ‘green’ waste. This is important for the moisture balance and for the acidity.
Brown, high in carbon
Cardboard, coffee grounds and filters, paper from finely shredded prunings, sawdust, dead leaves, straw, hay, corn on the cob.
Green, high in nitrogen:
Uncooked garden and kitchen waste, potato peelings, fruit and vegetable residues, banana peels (only from organic bananas), manure from small herbivores such as a guinea pig or rabbit, remains from vegetable and ornamental gardens, pruning waste (green), farmyard manure.
Red, never give the worms any of the following.
Cooked vegetable and fruit remains, pasta, bread, meat, bones etc (attracts vermin), Cut flowers and non-organic banana peels (contain a lot of poison). Go easy on the onion, garlic, chilies and citrus peels. And with all the green waste that is clearly contaminated with fungi or diseases.
Have you ever seen a worm crawl out of the earth to crawl over the sidewalk or against a lamppost? The answer is probably: NO. You will not soon see your compost worms going for a walk. Unless they have just entered the worm hotel and have to get used to it a bit. The explanation is simple.
First, worms don’t like light.
So compost worms always look for a nice dark spot. If you just got a new wurm composter bin and your worms are just in the bin, they can still be a bit unfamiliar and start exploring. If you have your worm hotel inside, it is wise to leave a lamp on near your worm box for the first 2 weeks. This prevents them from crawling out of the tank. Once they are used to it, the night light can be turned off.
Second, compost worms like a moist environment.
They breathe through their skin, and when that skin dries out, they die. If they crawl out of your worm hotel, they won’t get more than a meter, and then suffocate. If the environment gets too wet, they drown, which is why earthworms crawl to the earth’s surface during heavy rains.
Third, they don’t like being too cold or too hot.
Make sure it’s not too hot, in the summer in full sun it can get warmer than 35 degrees and the compost worms don’t like that.
Here are 7 tips for hot summers.
When it gets very cold, the worms go into a kind of hibernation rather than try to flee. In case of prolonged severe frost, you can protect the worm bin with a box, bubble wrap or old blanket. Also read ‘ How do compost worms survive the winter ‘
Finally: Make sure you have a good acidity.
Feeding your compost worms too much waste or adding too little cardboard can make them sour and smell bad. There is then so much rotting waste that the worms cannot handle it and the bacteria get free rein. The solution is: remove some excess waste, and add some extra sawdust or cardboard.
Never make the layer of waste more than 10 cm thick. Above all, leave your worms alone.
A well-functioning worm hotel will smell like fresh forest floor, with perhaps a hint of coffee or banana, just what you last fed your worms.
Compost worms eat your waste as soon as it starts to rot. Before the bacteria that cause the rotting fruit stench can develop.
The bacteria (and the worms) do need oxygen for this. Sufficient torn cardboard, dry leaves, etc. also provide lightness in addition to carbon.
Even if the worm bin is too wet, not enough oxygen can reach your waste and you get anaerobic composting. And that stinks.
The solution is: remove some excess, smelly waste, and add some extra sawdust or cardboard. And always leave the tap open to prevent moisture build-up.
You can easily leave your worms alone for 2 to 3 weeks in the summer. If you are going to be away for a longer period of time, ask a good neighbor to feed them once a week. What you really shouldn’t do is add a supply of food for several weeks at once. That will stink and scare your worms away. In winter you can leave a wurm composter that is outside for longer. Composting will then be slower.
In the summer you can ask your neighbors to feed your worms once a week. You make this easier by having worm food at home.
In all cases, make sure that your worm hotel is well filled with compost or growing soil in case you are going away for a longer period of time. So wait until you get back from vacation to empty your wurm composter . In this way, the worms also have the compost they have made themselves to chew on.
Growing soil consists of worm compost mixed with worm food. With a fresh container full of growing soil , your worms can go 2 to 3 weeks.
Often these two terms are used interchangeably. Worm leachate is the moisture that is released during worm composting. This is the moisture from the waste that consists of 75% water. Mixed with minerals and bacteria that dissolve in it as the moisture trickles down. The nitrogen in this leachate is delivered directly to the plants. So you have a chance of over-fertilizing, even if you mix it 1 in 10 with water as recommended. this leachate can also be acidic and contain anaerobic bacteria. It is a good natural nutrient for your plants, but use it in moderation. If you have a lot of leachate, it usually means that your worm hotel is too wet. With the wooden containers you have much less leachate because the moisture evaporates more easily here.
You make worm tea by putting some worm compost in a water, possibly supplemented with sugar. Aerate this for 24 hours so that you get a strong growth of aerobic bacteria. This tea has a neutral pH value and the nitrogen has been absorbed by the bacteria, which will slowly release it to your plants.
Also on this site the terms are (still) used interchangeably. And you might come across an old post somewhere encouraging the use and induction of worm leachate. Progressive insight means that nowadays we are more worried than happy with many worm leachate.
The answer is simple: compost worms CANNOT stand the heat. Outside temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius can be disastrous. Especially in a dark plastic worm bin that is in full sun, the temperature can easily rise above 40 degrees. From 35 degrees they will really try to flee from your worm box in order to survive. And in the worst case, die.
At normal summer temperatures, up to 28 degrees, it is sufficient to keep the container out of the sun. If it gets extremely hot or very hot for extended periods (over 30 degrees), take some extra precautions.
NB: The Balkonton Classic and the larger wooden containers such as the worm paradise and the worm crate can handle higher temperatures better.
A compost worm is always an earthworm, but an earthworm is not always a compost worm.
Confusing? pay attention:
In the Netherlands there are 25 to 50 species of earthworms. It’s kind of a collective name. You can divide them into three main groups:
-Diggers or commuters
Compost worms are litter worms. They aid in the digestion of the bedding such as dry leaves. You will therefore always find them on the surface, under or between leaves, or in manure and compost heaps. Within this group there are again different species. To make it easier, they have all kinds of different names and they are difficult to distinguish from each other. You can recognize them by their reddish brown color with yellow stripes. Hence the name tiger worm. The best known compost worms are the Eisinia Fetida and the Eisinia Hortensis. The compost worms that you buy at Balkonton are a mix of these two compost worms.
The somewhat gray light brown worm that you encounter everywhere when you stick a shovel in the (healthy) soil and let it vibrate, we call the ‘common gray worms’ or ‘porrectodea calliginosa’. It digests less waste, and lives in the soil and not in the litter. It is very important for healthy soil. For he digs tunnels and pulls the waste and droppings of the litter worms deeper into the ground. Up to about 40 cm. It can survive in the worm bin but does not really contribute much to composting. It is useful in the Balconyton Classic.
The somewhat purplish worm that you find everywhere in healthy gardens in the soil is a pendulum worm. A deep digger that digs deep tunnels down to the groundwater. This ‘Lubricus terrestris’ is also called ‘common earthworm’. The tunnels this worm digs are perfect tunnels for the growth, aeration and watering of the plant roots. These deep diggers obviously have nothing to do with your worm bin. They are very important in nature.
Help the worms
All these earthworms have an important function in a healthy ecosystem. Unfortunately, you come across them less and less due to over-fertilization and the use of toxins. That is why it is so important that we switch to circular agriculture for greater biodiversity. Support farmers in the switch and buy organic as much as possible. With this you not only help the farmers but also the worms! And ultimately the entire cycle that depends on it.
What we know is that the worms eat almost nothing below 10 degrees. Below 4 degrees they even go into a kind of hibernation. This means that you should feed your worms less to nothing during those really cold frost periods. Do you also want to continue converting your GFT into compost in the winter? then you will have to ensure that the temperature in your worm bin remains above 10 degrees. Of course you can do that by putting your tank inside. Or by other measures as described in this article.
Worms produce a lot of heat themselves. When it gets colder, they pull together like polar bears at the South Pole. They keep themselves warm by continuing to move. With a good insulation layer you keep that heat in your tank.
In a larger container such as the Gevelbak , which is also insulated by the wooden casing, the temperature inside the container will therefore remain above the required 10 degrees for much longer.
With the Balconyton Classic, the earth around the worm tube provides extra insulation. With a regular worm bin, you can wrap the bin in bubble wrap or an old blanket.
Postpone your compost harvest until spring
The compost in your worm hotel also forms a natural insulation layer. The worms have more protection in it than in a freshly emptied container. If possible, postpone your compost harvest until spring.
Nice in the sun
You can place portable worm hotels in the sun in the winter, out of the wind as much as possible. In the summer, of course, the opposite applies. Well-insulated containers (such as the Balkonton and the Gevelbak) do not have to be moved.
The colder the more eggs the worms lay
As soon as it starts to get cold, worms start laying more eggs. Of course, if even in the middle of a worm bin the temperature drops below freezing, the worms will eventually freeze to death. Fortunately , this rarely occurs due to the heat they produce themselves, combined with the heat from the regular composting process.
In this way, the worm colony can survive a period of frost, while individual worms do die. So in the spring you often have an abundance of new worms.
This recovery is easier with the help of a worm bin (re)start package. This contains breeding ground in which the eggs thrive, and worm power food that your worms digest easily.
Balconyton Classic and Aerobin are well insulated
My own experience is that the compost worms survive nice and cozy in the middle of the Balkonton Classic. The only time a population has died was when I kept a Balkonton Classic out of the rain, didn’t add any food, so let it dry out completely. So make sure that the soil remains moist. Either by occasionally throwing in some cutting waste, or by adding some water now and then.
The compost worms in the Aerobin also get through the winter more easily, especially in a full container.
Questions when buying a worm hotel
Most worm hotels (except the Balkonton Classic) are made to be indoors or in a sheltered place. Worms like a moist environment. But if it gets too wet, they drown, there is not enough oxygen in the waste and your tank starts to smell.
So preferably you put your worm hotel under a roof. Especially the lids of the worm crate and the Urbalive are not suitable for falling rain. In addition, you must protect the wooden models (worm paradise, worm hotel) on the outside against the weather. With a stain or oil.
A wooden worm hotel has the advantage that the wood breathes and ensures moisture regulation. Provided that the box is out of the rain, you are less likely to suffer from a too wet box. Plastic worm hotels last longer. Depending on the model, they can sometimes be outside. Always make sure there is enough cardboard and leave the tap open. I wrote a separate blog especially about wooden worm hotels
The complete (re)start package contains 2 hemp mats, lava meal, worm food and growing soil. You especially need the breeding ground if your worms have had a hard time (hot summer or extremely cold winter, or little food during your holiday). You also use the worm food if your worms need to strengthen or if you ask the neighbors to feed you worms when you are away for a longer period of time. The hemp mats help to prevent fruit flies. You can also use an old cloth instead of a hemp mat. The lava flour is good for acidity and also helps against fruit flies. Dried and powdered eggshells have the same effect.
If you also order worms, they are in a large amount of breeding ground , and a small bag of worm food is included. With this you can easily start the worm bin.
The starter package is therefore not necessarily necessary, but it is useful.
Note: Some worm bin suppliers provide coconut fiber to start up the worm bin. Instead, we supply the cultivation soil with a hemp mat as the first bedding. Our own tests show that the worms give a better start than the coconut fiber.
Unless you’re just planning to go on vacation, the best time is always NOW. And this is why:
In the spring you can finally go out into the garden. And at that time, I also see a spike in orders for worm bins every year. Because at that moment most people realize that they need compost. That’s actually quite a shame. Because how handy would it be if your compost was already ready at that time? Well, governing is foresight. Then you will have to start earlier. The sooner the better.
It is true that your worms digest much less waste in the winter if your worm hotel is outside. But there are several reasons to start in the fall anyway:
1: Compost worms need time to get used to their new environment. It takes 2 to 6 weeks for them to really get going. You can also get used to it in the fall or winter.
2: Once they get used to it, they will reproduce within themselves. They lay a lot of eggs in early spring. So that your worm colony is already growing nicely when spring really starts.
3: In winter, especially in the city in a sheltered sunny spot, it is often still warm enough to compost to some extent. Only if it gets really cold for a long time should you protect the worm bin against the cold.
4: Finally, you can of course always put the worm bin indoors. it doesn’t matter what season it is.
As a guideline, you can use about 15 liters of space per person in your worm hotel. With a minimum of 2 rings for the proper functioning of your worm bin.
For the round worm bin, with a household of 4 people, you need 4 rings. With its 78 liter capacity, the worm paradise is suitable for a household of about 5 people.
But there are several factors that come into play: How many vegetables do you eat? Do you only eat the cauliflower florets or do you also eat the stump? The circumstances are also important. Is your worm bin indoors or outdoors? In or out of the sun?
In our webshop you can compare and buy different worm hotels. You can first come and view them in the Expo Garden (by appointment).
Questions when starting up your worm hotel
You can easily store the compost worms for 2 weeks in the bag in which they are sent. They are packed in a generous amount of growing soil. That is compost, bedding and food for at least 2 weeks.
Make the contents of the bag with compost worms nice and moist
It is important to make this compost nice and moist upon receipt. Think of the moisture of a squeezed sponge.
Start feeding your compost worms a bit
You can also add a handful of waste with cardboard every few days. That can already start to decay so that the worms can eat it when the original food is used up.
Keep your compost worms in a cool place
Keep the bag out of the sun, preferably in a cool place. And make sure you close the bag again when you have finished moistening and/or feeding. You can also put the worms in a bucket and close the bucket with a cloth. The colder it is, the less the compost worms eat. Fish stores keep worms in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. The compost worms then go into a kind of hibernation.
Receive your worms on arrival on a bed of torn cardboard, or a hemp mat. The worms are supplied in a large amount of breeding ground. So you don’t have to add soil, peat, coco peat, compost, or extra growing soil.
It is nice to add a layer of moist leaves, forest soil or compost from a well-functioning worm box. This ensures the presence of fungi and bacteria that help the worms with digestion.
Place the worms in the worm bin and give them a little bit of food. This can be special worm food or waste from the ‘green’ category.
Worms have no teeth. They crawl over the waste and leave bacteria and enzymes on your waste that ‘pre-chew’ the waste. After a few days, the waste is pre-digested and the worms can only eat it.
Our compost worms are shipped in a generous amount of compost and food. Enough to survive 2 or 3 weeks. Gradually get them used to eating kitchen waste. For the first few days, occasionally give a few spoonfuls from the bag of worm food that came with it.
Always cover the kitchen waste with a layer of cardboard or other waste from the ‘brown’ category. It may take a while for the worms to switch from the food they are used to to the kitchen waste. Make sure that the total layer of undigested waste never exceeds 10 cm.
Note the following:
Shred the waste before tossing it in the worm bin.
Do not overfeed your worms. If your tank starts to smell bad, you are feeding your worms more food than they can process and they will die. Start with a handful every other day and increase gradually.
Always close each layer of ‘green’ with a layer of cardboard or other ‘brown’. Sufficient cardboard is very important for good acidity, oxygen supply and moisture management.
After a few weeks (sometimes up to 3 months), worm leachate can drip from the bottom of your drain. Dilute this 1:10 and fertilize your plants with it.
Download the manual
This is especially common if you have just installed a new worm hotel and is not a cause for concern. During the first 2 to 6 weeks, your worms are still getting used to it. They will investigate and can also try to crawl out of the box.
You can prevent this with the following tips:
If your worm bin is indoors, leave a lamp on above your worm bin at night for the first 2 weeks. Worms don’t like light and at least stay IN the tank.
Make sure your worm bin is not in full sun in the summer. And that the soil in the container is nice and moist. If necessary, add some water in the beginning until you reach the moisture level of a squeezed sponge.
Important: Leave your worms alone! If they are somewhere in the tank where there is no food, they are simply not hungry. They smell where the food is and crawl towards it.
So it’s no problem at all if your worms crawl all over the tank. They tend to crawl down. With the Urbalive and the Wormery, the mat prevents them from falling into the moisture. With the round worm tray, the elevation in the drip tray forms a kind of worm ladder, so that they can easily crawl back when they are hungry. So leave them alone.
The wormery’s fleece wears off over time, but then your worms are settled.
Dead worms in the worm tea were probably already in bad shape and have died for that reason. If there are a lot of them, remove them to avoid stench and mites (although mites can do no harm on their own).
Only when they really try to flee from the tank en masse or if the tank stinks, something is wrong.
More explanation about feeding your compost worms
The Eisinia Fetida can, under ideal conditions, convert about its own weight in waste per day into vermicompost. In addition, the volume of your waste decreases to 20% of the waste volume. The Eisinia Hortensis eats a little less, but has other positive qualities.
If you start your Balcony barrel with a handful of worms, you can therefore put a maximum of a handful of waste in your barrel per day. Better start with half. As your worm population grows, you can feed them more, but be careful not to give too much. Overfeeding is the biggest problem with worm composting.
The purpose of the compost worms in the Balconyton Classic is to keep the potting soil in your Balconyton well fed and ventilated. And occasionally (every 2 to 3 months) you can harvest some compost from the bottom of the tube to top up your Balcony barrel and possibly fill some other pots. Do you really want to compost large amounts of waste? Then put a worm bin next to it.
NOTE: Start slow. don’t overfeed your worms. As a rule of thumb, make sure there is never more than 10cm of debris above the worms.
Another rule of thumb: you need about 15 liters of worm hotel per person in your household. So the worm paradise (76 liters) should be big enough for a family of 5 people. It also very much depends on how much vegetables you eat, how much cutting waste you have, whether it is inside or outside, etc.
You read it in every manual for worm composting: always alternate the kitchen waste that you feed your compost worms with a layer of cardboard, or other waste from the ‘brown’ group. Such as branches, straw, dry leaves.
Still, I notice that many people forget about adding cardboard at some point. And that’s a shame. Not only because worms feel wonderfully at home between the ridges, but also because you can prevent many problems with enough cardboard.
Why do you need to add cardboard? And which cardboard should you use? I answer these questions and more cardboard-related compost questions in this blog.
Why do you need cardboard in your worm hotel?
Every worm hotel needs a ‘bedding’: A carbon-rich base that ensures:
1: A good C/N ratio and therefore good acidity . Cardboard consists (except for the glue) entirely of wood fibres.
2: Moisture regulation Cardboard is an excellent moisture absorber.
3: airiness, supply of oxygen . Corrugated cardboard, in particular, provides oxygen in your worm bin due to the fine channels. Loose twigs or leaves also give structure and provide air supply.
Which cardboard is best to put in your worm bin?
From the answer to the previous question, you can already conclude that corrugated board/corrugated board is preferable to solid board. Solid cardboard (you know, from rice packaging for example) is water resistant, so absorbs poorly. And you miss the advantage of the air channels. Certainly if this solid cardboard is also printed and coated, it has nothing to do with the worm bin.
How much cardboard should I add?
On average, almost half of your waste should consist of the ‘brown’ component. So cardboard, straw, twigs, dry leaves. In practice it is difficult to really add 50% cardboard, but don’t be too frugal with it. It is important to add sufficient cardboard (or other brown material) especially in the plastic containers, which become a bit too moist earlier than the wooden containers.
What can I use as a bedding if I don’t have cardboard?
Instead of cardboard you can also choose: Shredded paper (preferably not bleached paper), dry leaves, straw, coco peat, straw.
Use common sense: a whole layer of sawdust or a ream of paper will not let much air through. Crumple the paper or run it through the shredder.
Can the cardboard or paper be printed?
I read conflicting articles about this. The printing industry says that nowadays no heavy metals or toxic substances are used in paper printing. Several worm gurus swear by only black printed paper. I myself use printed cardboard boxes, which are often only very lightly printed. And when I use newspaper wads, I leave out the colored pages. I also leave high-gloss glossies in the trash, if only because they absorb moisture less well.
Do the compost worms eat the cardboard?
The moist, waste juice-soaked cardboard is an ideal substrate for all kinds of micro-organisms. Worms do not eat the cardboard or kitchen waste, but prey on the micro-organisms, which in turn feed on the waste and the moisture from the waste that absorbs into the cardboard. And in that process, they naturally also swallowed the waste and cardboard that had been broken down by the micro-organisms.
How small should I make the cardboard before putting it in the worm bin?
Large slabs of cardboard can block the air supply. So just like the waste it is best to make the cardboard small. The smaller the better. 5 by 5 cm is ideal. But I have to admit that I’m a bit lazy about this myself. It helps if you have a container of torn cardboard next to your worm bin.
If you have small children around you, save up cardboard for a few weeks and organize a tearing contest. Or do it yourself if you want to de-stress.
Do I need to wet the cardboard before feeding it to my compost worms?
Wetting cardboard should only be done in the beginning when you just put the worms in the worm bin. Because then there is still no moisture that is released from the waste. After a while you can simply put a layer of dry cardboard on top every time. This will get wet on its own.
If it gets very hot, you can put a good layer of wet cardboard on top. This provides cooling. You then leave the lid behind, so that the moisture can evaporate and it does not start to heat in your container.
What happens if I don’t use enough bedding in my worm bin?
With too little cardboard, the contents of your worm bin can become too acidic, too wet, or anaerobic. All things that scare the worms away.
A good layer of cardboard on top also helps against all kinds of insects such as fruit flies and mosquitoes. It forms an extra barrier, and these critters prefer a very wet environment.
Citrus peels are full of minerals that are good for your plants. but often oranges and the like have been heavily sprayed with some kind of brightener and poisons.
Another reason to be careful with citrus peels in the worm bin is that these peels get moldy quickly. And this particular fungus releases penicillin. That penicillin kills the bacteria in your worm hotel, which in turn help the compost worms with pre-digestion.
My point of view is: Natural is better organic and unsprayed. But if you do have sprayed peels, it doesn’t matter much whether you throw them in the organic waste bin and then collect non-organic compost from the municipality, or whether you immediately compost the sprayed peels or use them in the garden.
But I use them minimally in the worm bin, because of that penicillin.
In 1998, 1000 trucks of orange peel and pulp were dumped over a piece of land in Costa Rica. 17 years later, the area had been transformed into a green paradise. Princeton researchers published this article in 2017. Fortunately, there is also a more accessible piece written about this project. Both are in English. The conclusion is that orange peel contains many substances that contribute to soil improvement. So a shame to throw it away.
-No citrus peels in the worm bin.
-For the organic vegetable garden, only use organic peelings in the normal compost bin, but cut it well into small pieces (so that it is broken down faster with less chance of mold). Especially if you have a ‘cold’ compost heap.
-Non-organic peels can be put in the regular compost bin in the same way
-You can also simply bury the peels in your plants.
I recently received a whole bag of orange peels from the supermarket for my rose bush. At the press machine they have bags full every day, they were happy to get rid of them. I dug them into the ground randomly around the bush and now waiting for the ‘Costa Rica’ effect.
Many people have a worm hotel because it is a fast way of composting. Worm composting is a composting method that takes up little space due to its speed. Sometimes the work rate of the compost worms is unfortunately a bit disappointing. I have listed five possible solutions for you.
5 ways to process waste faster in your worm bin
1: Cut your waste nice clay before feeding it to the compost worms
Compost worms begin the digestion process even before the food is in their intestines. They do this by crawling over the waste with their bodies, leaving a trail of enzymes on the waste. These enzymes start to break down the food. After a few days, the surface of the food has softened and the worms return to eat tasty. After all, they have no teeth to bite the waste into pieces.
Simple math teaches you that the smaller the waste you feed, the greater the surface area the enzymes can work on. Your art even goes so far as to throw your waste in the blender first and feed your worms with smoothies. That’s something I sometimes do in the winter, when I’m already making a smoothie and the blender is already dirty. Because, especially in winter, the work rate of the worms can drop considerably. Then add extra cardboard because the moisture is released much faster in this finely ground waste.
2: Keep the temperature in your worm bin above 15 degrees
Make sure your worm bin does not cool down too much. At temperatures below 10 to 15 degrees, the compost worms hardly digest waste. If you cannot put the worm box indoors in the winter, at least provide a place out of the wind and in the sun. Or keep the box you got your worm bin in and turn it upside down over your worm bin. Old blankets or bubble wrap can also keep the temperature high.
Keep in mind that compost worms produce a lot of heat themselves, so if you keep that heat inside, composting can continue outside even in winter. Even in very long harsh winters, your compost worms can survive in your worm bin.
3: Give your compost worms a caffeine shot
Just like humans, worms become active from caffeine. And active worms are more hungry. According to some worm experts, you should not give compost worms too much coffee grounds. Because it stresses them out. Others swear by coffee grounds, because it is said to stimulate reproduction: The worms also seem to be more active in terms of sex when it comes to caffeine.
There are professional worm farms that allow worms to live almost entirely on coffee grounds. This is possible because the carbon/nitrogen ratio is almost ideal. Coffee does belong to the green group, but you have to add relatively less brown material. Having said all that, for the average worm bin owner I think it’s just a fun fact. Be sure to put your coffee grounds in your worm bin. It may increase the composting rate and the size of your colony. In addition, the grain structure is good for the intestines and therefore for digestion. But a diet of only coffee grounds seems a bit one-sided to me.
4: Provide family expansion
Have more compost worms in your worm bin. A worm colony can double in size in three months. And can therefore digest twice the amount of waste. If you have little patience, you can try to encourage reproduction by adding some extra coffee grounds.
In good conditions, a kilo of worms can digest 1 kilo of waste per day. Incidentally, at a certain moment the colony reaches an equilibrium: if there is not enough food or space, reproduction will go to a lower level. So make sure that there is always enough food and space available.
5: Buy more compost worms
Do you also suffer from Japanese knotweed? Then you may be wondering if you can just pull these plants out of the ground and throw them on your compost pile or in your worm bin?
Throw it in your regular trash so it goes into the incinerator. Or ask your local waste company if they have the permit to compost this.
Complete composting takes place when all green waste to be composted has been at least at a temperature of 55 °C. The Japanese knotweed is killed in composting when the temperature has been at least 50 °C for 72 hours (Bardos et al. , 2011).
With Japanese knotweed it is important to compost all plant parts at that temperature . Just killing the seeds as with the giant hogweed is not enough. Every piece of plant can grow into a new plant!
To be sure that all parts of the plant have been killed, you need to control and monitor the temperature of your compost pile. And ensure that all plant remains reach that temperature. This is not feasible for amateur composters.
There are no such high temperatures in a worm bin anyway. On the contrary: your worm manure is an ideal breeding ground for exotics. So don’t!
Do not put the plant remains of the Japanese knotweed in the organic waste container. Because not all central composting companies have the ‘ approved processor of invasive exotics ‘ certificate. This certificate sets high requirements that only a handful of composting companies meet.
Pulling the plants out of the ground and disposing of them according to the book is not enough to get rid of the Japanese knotweed. Because this plant continues to grow underground and every piece of root can grow into a plant again
Problems in your worm hotel
It is normal for a white mold haze to appear on the waste, especially during the first weeks. You don’t have to worry about that. If you have pieces of waste that really start to mold heavily green, it is better to remove them. Also, do not throw in any waste that already clearly has mold on it.
A special word about mold on citrus peels (orange, grapefruit, lemon). This fungus releases penicillin. That will kill the bacteria in your worm bin. And those bacteria help your worms with the pre-digestion of the waste. It is therefore preferable to put no or very few citrus peels in your container.
A few ants in your worm hotel can’t hurt, but if there is an invasion it can get annoying. Luckily I don’t have any experience with this myself. I can list a few tips that I have collected here and there. Asking if you would like to share your experiences.
Add a lot of coffee grounds. Worms love it, but for ants, caffeine is poison.
Tea leaves seem to work even better than coffee
Ants do not like moisture, worms can tolerate this better. So keep your worm hotel on the moist side for a while by spraying it with water
Does a worm hotel cause nuisance from fruit flies?
I am often asked that question. The answer is: Yes, there will be fruit flies on your worm bin. But….. you can do something to prevent nuisance.
If you suffer from fruit flies, it is usually in the (late) summer. The eggs that are already in your fruit peels will start to heat nicely in your warm, moist container. As soon as you open the lid of the tank, they all swarm out. In addition, your worm bin can attract new flies to lay eggs with your waste.
You can do something about this!
First you have the design of the worm hotel . With the Balconyton Classic , the worm tube is not closed from above. This ensures that it does not start to heat and that any fruit flies do not accumulate, but gradually leave the nest. With the worm tower it helps if you leave the tank with the lid open in the sun for a while so that the top layer dries out. That also helps against many other annoying critters.
Secondly, it helps enormously if you always cover your freshly added kitchen waste. This can be done with a thick layer of cardboard or sawdust. But better still with a hemp mat or an old towel. This blocks the entry of new flies as well as their escape.
Break the cycle. By covering the top with a layer of sand or a hemp mat for a week or three and not feeding your worms during that time. flies that crawl out of hatched eggs have nowhere to go and die. TIP: use a good layer of growing soil to cover your waste. You cannot feed your worms for 2 to 3 weeks, but they will then have the nutrition from the breeding ground.
Increase the acidity by sprinkling some lava flour through the cover sand or through the waste. Many insects, including fruit flies, do not like that.
And finally, you can catch the flies that still fly in and around your worm hotel with a fruit fly trap. I have a fruit fly trap in AND near my worm bin in late summer/fall, when the fruit flies are most present.
Are you sure they are mosquitoes and not fruit flies? In both cases it is important to add enough cardboard and perhaps let the container dry out a bit at the top (lid off). Check whether your drip tray drains well. If there are water accumulations in the lower compost rings (or in the drip tray), mosquitoes can lay eggs in them.
If they are really mosquitoes and your worm bin is dry enough, check for other places with standing water in the area.
In a regular compost bin you can add some extra citrus peels. (see also article on orange peels in your worm bin ). In a worm bin, keep the citrus peels to a minimum. In case of mosquito infestation maybe a few peels (cut very small) as defense.
Do your worms look like they are ‘constricted’? As if they have a tight rope around their body and can fall apart in two parts? Then they probably have a protein surplus. This can be caused by certain vegetables, such as beans. This protein surplus also causes too low an acidity. Follow the following steps:
1: Remove smelly waste,
2: Sprinkle a layer of lava flour or ground egg salve over the remainder
3: cover with ample cardboard, and mix in ample cardboard the next time you feed.
4: If necessary, add a large heap of breeding ground so that the colony can recover faster.
It is not necessary to remove dead worms because they will eventually compost. Unless there are so many that it stinks or attracts mites.
When this happens it is almost always because the worm bin is too wet or because there is not enough oxygen available,
-Check if the tap is open
-Protect the worm hotel from the rain
-Remove wet cloth and throw it away
-Mix through the remainder of the torn cardboard
– Take it easy with feeding, and add enough cardboard after each layer of waste.
-Add a layer of lava flour or ground eggshell to increase the acidity
During the first few weeks it is normal for a few curious worms to investigate and crawl out of the tank. You can prevent this by leaving a lamp on at night.
If you are still bothered by escaping worms, or if there are suddenly a lot of them, then something is wrong.
If the tank is too wet or too sour (it will also stink). Then follow the tips in the previous question.
Check that it is not too hot. Is the container in full sun in the summer? Then it quickly gets too hot, especially in the dark plastic worm hotels. See the tips in this blog
When your worm hotel is full
By the time you get to the point where you want to start harvesting the bottom compost ring of your worm bin, most of the worms will have migrated to the top bins already. After all, that’s where the food is.
But there will always be more or less worms in the bottom bin. Worms feel at home in their own poop. Especially when it’s nice and warm and humid there.
You can use the compost with remaining worms and all in the garden. You can also choose to remove the worms first.
The easiest way to get the worms out of the compost is the following :
Place the container of mature compost (the container you wish to harvest) on top of your worm hotel.
Put a bright lamp on it or make sure your worm bin is in the sun for a while.
Gently fiddle through the top layer of compost.
The worms run down.
Remove the top layer of worm-free compost.
This will drive the worms further and further down.
They will eventually crawl through the holes in the bottom to the container below.
This process is even easier if you let the compost bin dry out for a few days while it is on top.
Another way to get the worms out of the compost:
Deposit the contents of the compost ring with worms and all on an old newspaper
Drive the worms to the center by lifting the edges of the newspaper and removing the compost from the top and sides.
The worms will crawl to the inside of the newspaper.
Put the tangle with leftover worms back in the worm bin.
Third way: Lure out the remaining compost worms.
Empty the full compost ring into a bucket (with a layer of absorbent cardboard on the bottom).
On top of this compost you can put some waste so that you attract the worms there. Preferably something they like, banana, avocado, melon
Cover this waste completely with a cloth so that it is nice and dark.
Then immediately use the empty ring again, and leave the bucket for a while.
After a week, see if the worms are already gathering around the waste and take them out.
Repeat this until no more worms come to the waste. This can take a while because your compost also contains eggs that have yet to hatch.
There can be several reasons that the top ring is already full before the bottom ring is composted: From too low a temperature to too much waste. Anyway, you have an acute problem. What to do? Here you have four options:
See if the compost in the bottom 2 rings has shrunk so far that you can combine the contents of these 2 rings .
Remove the largest pieces of undigested waste from the bottom ring and place them in the top ring. The bottom ring now mainly contains compost. This one is allowed in your garden. Worm compost has a neutral acidity and does not need to mature. Leftover undigested waste will simply turn into compost in your garden.
Grab a tub or bucket. Make a bottom of absorbent cardboard and put the entire contents of the bottom ring on it. Leave this container in a quiet place while the worms do their work. By the time (almost) everything has been converted into compost, you can remove the worms. If necessary, place a handful of waste on top of the compost so that the worms migrate there. You can then easily remove them. Cover this with a cloth.
Order an extra compost ring. Also read the post about how many compost rings you need.
And for the future: see if you can put your compost worms to work harder. You can read all about this in the blog post ‘ make your worms work harder’ .