Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I have come across in relation to keeping compost worms, as well as a few wormery hints and tips.
I have maggots in my bin. What should I do?
Maggots are a sure fire sign that meat/fish.dairty food waste either cooked or raw has found it's way into your wormery. The only way to deal with this is to bury the contents of your wormery and start over again. Revisit the section about what you can and cant feed your worms.
I checked the wormery and all my worms have died. What can have caused that?
There are a number of things that might have gone wrong. The most common causes of a dead colony and the solutions are;
- the woermery is too hot - move to a sheltered spot out of direct sunlight.
- the wormery is too cold - protect from frost and the extreme cold by either moving the wormery to a shed or garage, or covering the wormery with bubble wrap/old carpet etc.
- the worms have drowned in leachate - leachate is a natural by product in the production of worm compost. It will build up over time and must be drained off regularly.
- the worms have suffocated - worms are living creatures and need to breathe. If there are insufficient air holes they will die. Drill additional air holes into the sides/base/lid of your wormery.
- the worms have starved - whilst extreme this is possible if they have not been fed for some time, it is easy to forget them as they do not need constant care.
In all cases you will need to bury the contents of your wormery and start again. Revisit the section about looking after a wormery.
I checked the wormery and I couldn't find my worms. What can have happened to them?
If your wormery is home made and relatively new it is possible that the air holes you put in are too large and your worms have made a dash for freedom. The only thing you can safely do is replace the container and drill smaller holes. It is unusual for them to have all left but it is highly likely that they will have escaped if the lid or section has not been replaced properly. Check around the wormery for evidence of worms, if they were there yesterday they wont be far away.
I have a single unit wormery, how can I harvest my worm compost without loosing most of my worm collony?
Compost worms are not naturally lovers of light however they are surface dwellers. If you empty the wormery onto a ground sheet the worms will seek cover and safety. The best way to help them and yourself is to remove the top layer of food plus the first 15 - 20 cm of worm cast. You will have removed the majority of the worm colony as well. This layer can then be returned to the empty bin on top of a layer of bedding, soggy paper/compost. Any worms remaining in the worm compost will wriggle away and seek shelter in your garden. if you want to catch them the easiest way to do that is to provide shelter on the ground sheet with some of the worm compost and your worms will gravitate towards it.
I have lots of fruit flies in my bin, what can I do about it?
Fruit flies are not a problem for the wormery however they can be unpleasant if they fly up when you lift the lid off. When there is an excess of fruit and vegetables in the wormery the fruit flies will multiply rapidly. The correct balance of greens and browns is 75% green to 25% brown. Wrap your food waste in paper before you feed the worms, this will bring the balance back. Revisit the section on what to feed your worms.
My wormery contents smell terrible, is that right?
The contents of a wormery should smell like damp soil. If you have a bad aroma coming from the bin you may have
- over fed the worms resulting in the food rotting. Remove the top layers of food waste until you come to the worm cast bedding. Assuming your compost worms are still alive give them a small amount of fresh food. Do not feed them again until this food is almost gone.
- mistakenly added some cooked meat/fish/dairy, possibly from the scrapings of a plate. It would be best to remove the meat.fish/dairy and avoid the problem in future. If you have maggots please see the guidance given above. Revisit the section on feeding compost worms for more information about what not to feed them.
I have so much leachate I don't know what to do with it all. Can you suggest anything?
Leachate is a good liquid fertiliser. It can be used to feed all plants and trees, whether thery produce food, flowers or leaves. Dilute the leachate 1 part to 10 parts water and use on your plants when you would normally apply a liquid fertiliser. If you feel generous pass some to your friends, family and neighbours to use in their gardens and allotments.
If you are having a problem and none of these quite fits then feel free to ask me.