My step-Dad has a wormery and showing interest, he bought me the Ferme Du Moutta worm bin, which included coir bedding. The worms arrived soon after. Starting a wormery is a fantastic way to turn food scraps into nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden and indoor plants through a natural process. Our beginner’s guide will talk you through the basics of setting up a wormery, maintaining a wormery, choosing the right worms and feeding them the correct foods.
Whilst there are may types of worm bins ranging in price, DIY plans, or creating a bin from a plastic tub to keep costs down, my YouTube playlist shows you my journey from February 2023 with the Freme Du Moutta. I’ve made mistakes and learned from them too. In 2024 I shall be using a plastic tub as a worm bin and recording the process. The good thing is, as worms breed, I can take some worms from my French wormery and use them in the new bin. However, if you dislike the idea of handling worms, Bokashi composting might be an option for you. This method allows you to compost cooked, uncooked and even unwanted pet food – the outcome is liquid and solid fertiliser for your garden. The juice can be used to clean drains too!
YouTube playlist: The Worm Gang
YouTube playlist: The Bokashi series
What is a wormery?
Instead of throwing your kitchen scraps in the Council collection bucket or in your general waste bin, consider feeding them to your composting worms. Over time, these organic leftovers will transform into valuable decaying material that our wriggly friends adore! In about 6 to 12 weeks, these worms will work their magic, producing what’s affectionately known as ‘black gold’ – a nutrient-rich plant fertiliser. By consistently supplying your specialised worms with fresh food waste, you’ll also generate a fantastic liquid fertiliser called leachate or “worm juice or wee,” which works wonders for indoor and outdoor plants. Episode 11 of The Worm Gang series show you how effective the liquid is.
However, if you’re squeamish and not too keen on handling worms, turning soil, or collecting that precious ‘black gold,’ a worm bin might not be your cup of tea. Worms require hands-on care, including picking up any initial escapees, removing them from the liquid collection tray and returning them to their bedding.
Buying a complete wormery includes:
- Organic coir bedding
- Worm feed
- Worms: European Nightcrawlers or Red Tiger
The first point to make is composting worms are not earthworms.
What is needed to start a wormery?
- Ferme Du Motta Wormery farm composter (with a top planter optional) or an alternative worm bin
- Coir bedding
- Feed (optional)
- Composting worms
- Food scraps
Various wormery designs are available. For example, do-it-yourself with downloadable plans or small worm bins for beginners or children. Or, buy a tub and create your own – video coming in 2024. I will focus on my WormBox, available as 32 or 48 litres.
What are the best composting worms ?
Red Tiger worms:
These were are red and smaller than European Nightcrawlers. Even if worms escaped from your bin, they would survive in ‘the wild’. Red Tiger worms are called Brandling worms too.
These worms are a reddish brown and you’ll notice a yellowy tail. They tolerate damper conditions and are adaptable to the environment.
Additional items you will need to set up your wormery:
- Black and white newspaper or circular cardboard
- Clean gardening gloves
- Bucket or tub with a wide base to soak the initial block of coir bedding
- Three litres of water to soak the coir bedding
- Empty cartons to collect the leachate
- Household food scraps
Table of Contents:
- Initial setup of your wormery farm
- Where to order composting worms
- Setting up the bedding inside your wormery
- Introduce your worms to their new home
- Help! My worms are escaping the wormery
- Where do I position my wormery?
- When do I feed my worms?
- Which scraps can I feed my worms?
- How do I keep compost worms alive?
- When will the worm tea and vermicompost be ready to use?
Initial setup of your wormery farm
Assemble your wormery before your worms arrive because you must transfer them into their new bedding from the delivery box when they are delivered. Accompanying the Ferme Du Moutta box is a booklet called Worm Composting Instructions in English (except for the diagram).
- Attach the four casters, with nuts and washers, to the roller plate (base) first.
- The first tray is the upturned cover with ventilation holes around the edge.
- The liquid collection tray is next. Attach the tap and washer to it. This is where the worm leachate (liquid) collects, and in a few months, you can use the tap to drain the liquid into empty bottles. The worms will consume less in the colder months, so it wasn’t until the warmer weather that I started getting leachate.
- Put a coloured tray on next and cover the base with about three sheets of newspaper in readiness for the coir bedding and composting worms.
- Add the second coloured tray – this will be for household food waste.
- Lastly, add the second black cover with ventilation holes.
- Put the third tray aside – when you have more scraps, you can add the extra tray.
If you prefer visual instructions, I recommend watching the video below.
Watch the video: WormBox Ferme Du Moutta UK – Unboxing and Set Up
Watch The Worm Gang series: Video 1: Starting a Wormery With a Ferme Du Moutta WormBox – First Steps
The Ferme Du Moutta, or Worm Box is available in a selection of pretty colours and comes with an optional planter too and can be bought directly from their store. Alternatively, there are a variety of other styles available on Amazon. But if money is an issue, watch episode 8 about starting a small worm bin with a plastic tub.
Ordering composting worms
Now you have assembled your wormery, decide how many worms you would like in your worm farm. Remember that these worms will quickly breed, so order about 250g to 500g. My wormery has been in operation since February, and by mid-April, I noticed babies, which you can see in episode 4.
Here are my recommended companies to purchase worms and starter packs. My worms came from Yorkshire Worms.
1: Worm Starter pack with 100g, 250g, 350g, 500g or 1kg with mixed worms, coir bedding and feed are available at Yorkshire Worms shop on Amazon.
3: Wormcity starter packs with 250g, 500g or 1000g Tiger worms, with coir bedding and feed, are available at Amazon.
Setting up the bedding inside your wormery
I use a 48-litre wormery with three trays, and it comes with coir bedding and feed. You’ll only need two trays when you start, but it’s good to know that you can purchase extra trays if needed. Each additional tray costs around £30 from Amazon. However, if you aim to harvest nutrient-rich ‘black gold’ rather than worm leachate, a more cost-effective option is to create a second wormery using newly hatched worms.
The newspaper under the bedding serves a purpose – it soaks up the excess moisture from the food scraps as they move down the trays. However, the newspaper eventually becomes so sodden that it falls apart and you cannot replace it unless you empty the bedding tray weekly. If you add fresh food scraps, any liquid produced will drain through the holes in the base and collect in the leachate tray. After about eight weeks, I found no worm leachate in the tray. But after four months, there’s enough liquid to fill several old milk bottles.
While waiting for your worms to arrive, prepare the coir bedding by filling a bucket with three litres of water. Only use the required water illustrated in the instructions. The bedding must not be soggy or water-logged.
The coir bedding typically comes in a compact, brick-shaped package. Once you remove the outer wrapping, place the brick in a bucket of water. In just a few minutes, it will soak up the water and break apart into small, manageable pieces of bedding.
With your dependable garden gloves on, break the bedding into loose, crumbly soil-like texture. After that, carefully spread it evenly across your bedding tray to ensure a uniform distribution.
The bedding tray is now ready for your worms.
Introducing your worms to their new compost home
When my worms were delivered, they came in a cardboard box with holes on the outside and a “live creature” sticker in red and white. Inside the box were two plastic bags filled with soil, and the worms were snugly tucked inside.
To release your worms into their new home, carefully empty them onto the bedding you’ve prepared, including the soil they travelled in. Be gentle as you spread the worms and the travel soil over the bedding. You can also separate the worms into smaller groups and place them around the bedding; they’ll eventually burrow into their new environment.
Watch the video: Wormbox Ferme Du Moutta – Adding Worms to My Wormery
Buy worms and kits from Wiggly Wigglers and receive a £2.50 off coupon
Your worms will escape the wormery
It’s normal for worms to try and break for it from the wormery, but this usually only happens during the first few days.
My initial mistake was not setting up the wormery before the worms arrived. I did open the bags of worms to let in some air, but during the night, in the dark, quite a few of them managed to wiggle out of the bag and box, ending up on my kitchen floor.
Worms can also slip between the sides of the wormery, especially in the dark. My wormery was in the utility room on the first night, and several worms escaped. I stood the wormery outside on the second night, but two or three escaped again. Unfortunately, it was February and a frosty night and they froze on the cold ground. However, by the third night, the worms decided to stay put inside the wormery. November or December 2023 I shall be filming how I provide warmth for them in the wormey.
Experts recommend adding a container of garden soil to the bedding because it contains the bacteria and nutrients that worms are familiar with, which helps them settle in. Worms often escape their new home because the fresh coir bedding is not balanced.
Worms don’t like light, so if keeping your worms indoors, a ceiling light or a battery-operated lantern on at night can prevent them from trying to escape. Alternatively, you can do what I did and gently pick up the escapees and return them to the wormery!
A USB charges the Lepro Camping Lantern is fantastic and lights up an entire room. It is perfect for keeping your worms in their home and also for Winter use at home to save money on electricity.
Watch the Video: Lepro 3 in 1 10W lantern for pets, camping, outrages, winter at home instead of electricity.
Where do I put my wormery?
When I lived in Yorkshire, my wormery was in the garden, tucked away in a shaded corner. However, in March, I moved south and took my wormery with me. For now, it’s found a temporary home in a cosy, sheltered family garden, but come Winter, I will store it in a shed. It’s vital to protect worms from the cold weather elements, so follow The Worm Gang on YouTube as I’ll be prepping my bin as the temperatures plummet (2023).
- Never put your wormery in direct sunlight
- Do not store in the shed during the summer because the interior will heat up
- Opt for a shaded place outside, away from too much noise and vibration
- Or store it in your garage
- In the colder months, insulate with cardboard, hay or an old carpet
Ideal bin temperatures for your worms:
- 15 – 25 degrees Celsius
- 59 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit
When do I feed my worms household scraps?
When introducing your worms to their new home, it’s important not to feed them household waste for the first couple of weeks. They won’t go hungry during this period, and it gives them time to adjust to their new environment. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of feeding my worms too soon and too much, which resulted in about four of them not making it. One possible reason for this could be protein poisoning.
In researching suitable worm food, I came across conflicting information about bell peppers. While one source claimed they were toxic to worms, another suggested they were okay to feed. To err on the side of caution, I emptied the entire tray of scraps into the Council’s food bin and then cleaned the tray thoroughly. I also sprinkled some nutritious worm feed over the bedding to support their breeding and growth.
When the time is right to feed your worms household scraps, chop them into tiny pieces – worms have small mouths. My third mistake was adding large chunks and not crumbling the eggshells. Worms are happy if food is a little mouldy but monitor consumption. If food is uneaten, wait a few weeks before topping up the worm bin. Worms will eat when hungry.
An idea for using food scraps if in this situation, is a Bokashi, another method of creating plant food. Follow my Bokashi playlist on YouTube – this method can be applied even if living in a flat.
It’s important to remember that the more worms you have, the more food scraps they’ll require. However, it’s wise not to overdo it with feeding during the winter months since worm breeding will slow down in the colder weather.
Watch the Video: Video 1: Starting a Wormery With a Ferme Du Moutta – First Steps and Video 5: Making it Easier for Worms to Eat the Food.
Which household scraps can composting worms eat?
|Crushed Egg Shells||Fish|
|Tea & Coffee Grounds||Onion|
|Cereal||Citrus/acid foods (oranges)|
|Paper, Newspaper & Card||Dish in a sauce containing more than 5% fat|
How do you keep compost worms alive?
Worms live between 2 and 3 years, and there might be eggs in the travel soil that can be identified as yellow lemon-shaped eggs. Each egg contains 3 to 5 babies.
Watch the Videos: baby worms in video 4
In this image, you can see my worms clingy to the side of the wormery. This indicates that the contents are too acidic or anaerobic (lack of oxygen). I believe this contributed to the death of four worms too. It is essential to aerate the bedding, so turning it often will create oxygen and good bacteria, stopping the anaerobic bacteria.
I am convinced my fourth mistake was water-spraying the bedding was inadequate, leaving the bedding too dry, which may have contributed to the death of worms. In the initial stages of starting my wormery, only a limited amount of water-based food scraps would have filtered into the bedding.
Keep the bedding at a 70% to 80% moisture level. Since the death of four worms, I added much more water to the bedding until enough moisture from the food seeped into the bedding; wearing gloves, I gently turned the bedding to give the worms air, which they need to breathe.
If by squeezing a handful of bedding and water droplets appear, the bedding is moist. If water trickles down your arm, it is too wet. Before applying this test, ensure no worms are mixed in with the bedding, or you might squash them! Worms cannot survive in dry bedding – they need damp conditions. However, if your Ferme Du Moutta wormery is outside, cover the top to prevent too much rainfall from entering the wormery via the top ventilation holes and drowning the worms.
Never overfeed; remember, your new worms won’t consume much waste for the first few weeks.
Keep an eye on the weather. They need a dark and damp environment, with little noise, and the wormery needs insulation if outside in winter, with temperatures less than 4 degrees Celsius.
Food and crushed eggshells can be added to the bedding for those with a one-tray wormery. The crushed eggshells help a worm’s digestion too.
To make a healthy, happy wormery, fill it with 50% carbon-rich material (paper, newspaper, cardboard, straw, dry grass and leaves) and 50% green matter.
String of Pearls or sour crop can be caused by protein poisoning. It is possible my four deceased worms died from this, but I will never know. If protein contributed to their death, it was too much so I added calcium-based crushed eggshells to give balance.
Watch The Worm Gang Videos: Video 2: A Few Compost Worms Died in the 1st Month -Was It String of Pearls?
Watch the The Worm Gang Videos: Video 3: Composting Wormery Mistakes – Learn From My Errors
- Create your DIY worm farm or start with a mini worm tub
- Wormery YouTube playlist
- Tips for maintaining a wormery
- Bokashi series
Vermicompost & leachate
Vermicompost is an organic fertiliser from organic decomposed waste and worm castings used for plants and known as ‘black gold’ when you harvest for worm castings.
Leachate is the liquid drained from the tea collection tray and used as plant feed.
Worm castings are what passes through the worm.
As well as providing for your worms, your aim is vermicompost and liquid feed. Getting a full tray of leachate can take several months, giving you time to save empty cartons! Drain from the tap and dilute it with 10 parts water before using worm tea.
Check whether vermicomposting is ready between 6 to 12 weeks – look for dark brown crumbly clumps.
What’s coming next?
The Worm Gang series is now in its eighth month, and I’ve learned much. My wormery videos give a step-by-step journey and recently I’ve started bokashi. I plan to compare two large plastic tubs in 2024, and worm bin jars for kids.
Watch The Worm Gang series on YouTube.
Watch the Bokashi series on YouTube.
Poppy’s Pets has a column in the Withersea District and Community News.