How to be an expert home composter

Top 10 easy to follow rules for ultimate worm farm and compost bin health.

1. What is the best advice for someone new to home composting?

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Follow the main guidelines and don’t get too anxious about the details and all will be well. From all the enquiries over the years we notice people sometimes worrying about their worms and compost much more than is needed. Remember worms are resilient and are great survivors and have been on the planet a lot longer than humans and know what they are doing. All organic material eventually breaks down and even if you feel that your compost system is not perfect or is struggling a bit, it is usually pretty easy and quick to get it back on track. There is no such thing as failure, only a minor setback!

2. Can I overfeed my worm farm?

Definitely! A worm community is limited by the size of the space available and even when you have reached the maximum population size there is simply a limit to how much food the worms can eat in a given time. There are two main guidelines in how much to feed them: never more than a 25-50 mm layer of fresh food at any time, and only add more food when ½ the previous feed has been eaten. With a compost bin you can add more you will need to be sure you have the right carbon to nitrogen mix.

3. Should I aerate my compost bin or worm farm?

Yes, aerating your bin definitely helps speed up the decomposition process. By turning the contents every week or two you will add more oxygen to aid the aerobic bacterial process and improve efficiency. In a compost bin you can turn as much of the contents as you want with a garden fork, but with a worm farm you only need to aerate the upper few inches; use a cultivator to “fluff” this top layer and do it gently so as not to stress the worms.

4. Do I need to use a worm blanket?

Yes, use a worm blanket! This will help retain moisture in dry weather and add a bit of insulation in cold weather. You can use an old blanket, thick layers of newspaper or for best results use a thick, durable Wormlovers worm blankets (of variable sizes) that won’t break down.

5. Should I chop up my food scraps?

By chopping up your food scraps into smaller pieces they will break down a lot quicker and will mix with your carbon source much better. This is especially the case for tougher more fibrous food such as cabbage leaves and apples. However, there is no need to chop up softer organic material such as lettuce and tomatoes which tend to break down quickly. Unless of course they are large, you don’t want anything larger than about the size of a golf ball.

6. What should I do if my worm farm smells?

Your nose is a great instrument to tell you how well your worm farm of compost bin is performing. A healthy worm farm should never smell. If it does smell, most likely you have been adding too much food and the excess has rotted and created bad odours. And/or you haven’t added enough carbon material to balance the wet rich food waste. Remember worms can only eat so much food and wont eat rotting food. So, back off on the quantity and/or add plenty of carbon material to any sludgy rotting food and mix in well. This should remedy the problem in no time.

In fact, it is vital that you add a carbon source such as shredded paper, old toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and other cheap paper products (never use coated paper) to balance the nitrogen in the food scraps. If you don’t do this the food scaps will be too rich and become soggy and smelly. Once this happens the rotting matter is less attractive for the worms to eat. So always add at least us much paper products (preferably more!) to your food scraps at all times.

7. What should I do with my bin if I am going away on holidays?

Worms are resilient and can last a long time without regular feeding and can even go into a dormant state if they run out of food and can survive for months. Just be sure the worm farm is in a cool place where it wont overheat if you are are going away in summer. Here are some great tips to keeping the farm alive during holidays:

  • Lay thick layers of wet newspaper over the top of the food which the worms will slowly eat.
  • Cut a big pumpkin in half and sit it over the top of the feed layer which the worms can slowly munch rough
  • Spread a thick layer of tougher fibrous food such as cabbage or straw which they can slowly eat through.
  • Always use a worm blanket or similar over the top of the food

8. Should I use worm farm conditioner in my worm farm?

Using a good quality worm farm conditioner adds vital minerals and nutrients to the worms’ diet and provides them with grit to aid digestion. The food scraps you are feeding your worms may not always contain all the nutrients for tip top worms so this is a good safeguard. Equally importantly by using conditioner you are ensuring the worm castings and worm juice they are producing have a complete range of these minerals for your garden soil health. Read more about how worm farm conditioner works.

9. What’s the best way to keep my worm farm cool in warm weather?

There are lots of things you could do to prevent your worm farms from heating up and cool it down if needed. For instance, you can add a frozen water bottle in hot weather to create a cool zone for the worms to move to when the temperature hits 30 degrees. Read more about hot weather worm farm management.

10. How do I manage my food scraps from kitchen to bin?

We recommend use a food scrap caddy to help store your food scraps in the kitchen safely until you are ready to add them to your worm farm or compost bin. But don’t leave them there too long as the food scraps may become wet and smelly and may be toxic to the worms.


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