Worm Compost Care & Use

A new question rolled in this week in Ask Gardenerd:

“I have a worm bin that is great for disposing of my kitchen scraps but I really don’t know what to do with the liquid it produces. Also I don’t know how often to “harvest” the compost produced.  I am new to your website and am so happy I can ask questions. Thanks for your help. – Emily.”

Well Emily, first of all, thunderous applause for using a worm bin!  Kudos all around.  Worm bins, as you already know, are a great way to dispose of your kitchen waste, and to make wonderful compost for your garden without very much effort.  Here is a suggestion or two about how to use the liquid (A.K.A. worm tea) from your worm bin:

Worm tea, for those new to the concept, is the run-off of water and nutrients that collect in a reservoir at the bottom of a worm bin.  This liquid is highly nutrient rich and plants LOVE IT.  To use it, some worm bins have a spout at the bottom that conveniently drains the bin of liquid anytime.  For those without a spout, you have to drain it off without disturbing your happy worms.  Worm tea can be used full strength, but I would recommend using it diluted by 50% with water to feed and water your plants each week.  You will see such a difference in our plants after a very short time.

Now about harvesting compost: Depending on what kind of worm bin you have, be it a “worm condo” with different levels that the worms climb up through, or a rubber bin where they live in communal harmony, you can harvest compost when the worms move to a different level or area of the bin.

Condo: Worms will move up the levels of a worm condo all by themselves as you feed them, then the bottom levels of the condo become available to you as compost.  Simply empty it out, replace the bedding and move it to the top level.

Communal harmony: Push all the bedding and compost to one half of the bin. Lay down new bedding and food scraps on the cleared side and wait.  In a week or two the worms will migrate to the other side of the bin and you can harvest your compost.

For those interested in getting a worm bin, check with your local Bureau of Sanitation to see if they have a subsidized compost bin and worm bin sale, or you can order one online:

Click below to check out the Worm Factory

Worm Factory

Keep us posted on your worm successes, Emily. Thanks for writing in.

Keep those questions coming!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Christy Wilhelmi

    Good question.  I was reading of several options for keeping your worm bin cool over summer.  Basically worms like the same kind of comfortable temperatures that we like, so you want to keep them in the shade over the summer. 

    Some people moved their worm bins to cooler spaces, like well-insulated garages, while others moved them out of uninsulated garages to give them a helping hand and a little air circulation.  Here are a few ideas I saw in my research:

    • Put a fan over the bin to keep it cool (not my favorite choice)
    • Place the bin in a crossbreeze between two windows
    • Run drip irrigation to the bin with a slow-drip system
    • Insulate the bin with carpet or insulation
    • Ice – lots of suggestions about ice – from freezing water in a two-liter bottle and leaving it on top of the bedding to melt slowly over time (cap off, of course), to throwing a handful of cubes in each day.
    • Some others suggested using huge spaces as a worm bin, like an old refrigerator of freezer, so the worms can move to space where the compost is “cooking” less during warm weather. 

    Frankly, I think the ice solution is the best one I heard.  And know that if you do lose your worms, you can always get more via mail order or at some feed stores.

  2. Jeanine

    This worm bin sounds great, but I have a question about it. It says it works in 54-70 degrees – so what happens in So. Ca. in the summer? Isn’t it hotter than that even in the shade?

    1. Blue

      You can actually keep them inside! They don’t smell as long as there’s enough bedding, and a small bin will fit nicely under the sink 🙂

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