Five Common Myths About Composting with Worms

Five Common Myths About Composting with Worms

Compost, Indoor Composters, Red Worms

worm mythsComposting with worms is easier than you might think! Hesitating before starting a new composting project? Take a look at these five common vermicomposting myths.

Myth: Composting is a Ton of Extra Work

Facts: The worms do most of the work. They convert kitchen scraps into valuable fertilizer 24/7. Initial setup takes less than an hour; more if you build your own composter from a tote or wood pallets. Collecting kitchen scraps add very little time to kitchen cleanup. Feed the worms every few days in about two minutes. Several times a year, you can harvest the valuable worm castings. Typical harvesting times:

  • Tray-based composters: Takes 1 minute to remove the bottom tray. The worms should be fed in the top tray, so the bottom tray should have few or no worms. Or
  • Compost bin with a door in the bottom: 5 minutes. Open the door and scoop out what you need. Or
  • Generic compost bin, tote, or pile: Choose from manual sorting, making piles, or sifting through a screen. 30 minutes or more depending on the amount of worm castings. Or
  • Add 10 to 20 minutes to sift the fertilizer through a screen. Optional. Screening removes sticks, rocks, debris, indigestible items, fruit stickers. Screening also makes the compost fluffier, which helps regulate soil drainage.

Myth: Composting Stinks

Fact: A well-maintained vermicomposting bin has an earthy smell. Composting with worms is aerobic because air is circulating. Stinky anaerobic bacteria proliferate in trash cans, landfills, and composters that are not aerated. Composting depends on bacteria and fungi to start breaking down the food scraps. Worms then quickly gobble up the organic matter. Some factors that keep vermicomposting smelling sweet:

  • The decomposition process is faster because the worms eat the organic in a few days or a couple of weeks.
  • Bacteria and fungi start predigesting the scraps, and this makes a little odor. Bury the scraps to keep down odors. And avoid over-feeding so the worms can keep up.
  • The worms aerate the bedding by tunneling. Their castings have tiny air pockets. Oxygen promotes aerobic bacteria populations.

Learn more about worm composting odors.

Myth: I Have Nowhere to Put the Bin

Fact: Actually, a worm bin can be as small as a plastic tote. Slide a small bin into a closet or under the sink. Tray-based composters have a footprint of less than 4 square feet. These types of composters can go anywhere in the house, or outside – even on a patio or balcony! Worm composters of any size fit into most suburban and urban yards. Pick an area sheltered from rain and sun. Read more about where to put your worm bin.

Myth: I Will Have Too Many or Too Few Compostable Scraps

Facts: So long as you feed regularly, your worms will adapt. Learn some of the tricks for regulating scrap volume.

Before starting a composting bin, estimate how much organic matter you will produce. Choose a composting bin size that matches your output. A composting worm can eat approximately its own weight in scraps each day. Therefore, a pound of Red Worms will each up to a pound of scraps per day under ideal conditions. One pound of Red Worms is 1,000 worms.

Too many scraps? Don’t over-feed the worms.

  • Freeze some scraps for later. Or
  • Add more worms. Add more trays. Expand the bin or get a bigger bin. Add another bin. Or
  • Throw out scraps that you can’t use. Or
  • If you have space, start an overflow outdoor compost pile.

Not enough scraps? If you have a bumper crop of worms and few scraps:

  • Don’t worry about it. The worm population will self-regulate. Just feed them what you have. Or
  • Share the love. Give some worms to a friend. Or
  • Appeal to a neighbor, co-worker, or restaurant to provide additional scraps. Coffee shops have plenty of coffee grounds and tea waste. Refrigerate or freeze until you need them.

Myth: It Won’t Make Any Difference to the Planet

Fact: Organic matter that you toss in the trash contributes to climate change. Some landfills capture the methane produced by organic material decomposing. Methane is a major greenhouse gas. Burning off the methane produces carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. Incinerating converts the waste to heat, but also produces pollution. However, the cycle of life depends on decomposition. Tossing scraps “away” is out of touch with nature. Composting produces very few greenhouse gasses. Fertilizer from composting helps new plants grow. Composting is far better for the planet than trashing scraps.

Still have concerns? Contact Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, or check out other articles in our blog. Connect with us on social media. We are here to answer your questions!


21 thoughts on “Five Common Myths About Composting with Worms

  1. Reminder, don’t put fresh garden trimmings or cut grass in your worm bend. These scraps generate too much heat and force the worms to leave the bend. Once worms leave the bend, depending where it is located, they will perish.

  2. Have you found any parasites or other unhealthy vectors to be present in a worm bin? Thank you for your answer.

  3. I “puree” my kitchen greens and veg’s once a week and dump it in my barrel worm bin. i then roll the bin once. every so often i add extra dirt and take a shovel or two out and mix it into my garden soil. i LOVE it and it has worked perfectly.

  4. I thought That sun dried grass trimmings that have lost their green color were fine for worms. The fresh cut green grass is the problem correct?

  5. I have Too many red wiggles now. If I put some of my extra red wiggles in my vegetable garden, with other varieties of thriving worms, will the red wiggles thrive or die right away. Presume there is plenty to eat and suitable moisture.

  6. Just started in June so far so good did my first what do you call it ?( Worms had three feedings loved potato peels not so much lettuce)good bin of fertilizer so cleaned out. Worms nice and healthy or so it seems even have seen pods (?) So are breeding getting ready for fall trout season got red wigglers also give them our coffee grounds. So far so good

  7. True. Easiest way to dispose of clippings is to leave them on your lawn. Brown clippings have more carbon and less nitrogen.

  8. When I put food scraps in my worm bed I wind up with hundreds of maggots.They the eat everything else input in. What can I do?

  9. @Jim Hughey
    I like a clean bin too. Therefore, I use scraps that don’t attract maggots or ants such as: banana peels, coffee, shredded newspaper, potato peels, lettuce. Avoid scraps that have any grease or sugar like watermelon rind that still has the red part on it.

  10. try covering the food scraps with damp newspaper or damp cardboard. keeps the flys out so no maggots. keeps moisture in so the worms are happier. they also end up eating the paper – win win.

    will also control fruit flies this way.

    cockroaches can still be a problem if the worms are not in a bin with fine mesh

  11. As long as the temperature is not drastically different, your red wigglers will thrive right alongside the local earthworms as they inhabit different strata and don’t compete for food.

  12. I am considering starting a worm bed in a discarded freezer. (1) will I still need to insulate it for the winter (2) where should I place drainage holes and how many (3) where should I place air holes and how many or can I just crack the lid open with something or should I completely remove the lid? I thought maybe leaving it on would help keep it warmer in the winter and I can just adjust it in summer. I live in east Tn on the Cumberland mt. plateau. It can get down in single digits in winter.

  13. I learn to deal with red wiggles in the environmental lives in compost in five years, seen worms are fine. Worms force enemies are only raccoons or squirrels love to eat them.

  14. Our farm is in an old freezer. Works great. I did drill holes in the sides above the bed itself to allow some air circulation. I bought a moist detector to help me know if the bed was too dry or too wet. You can find them at any hardware or garden store. I have been feeding once a week, but the population boom I saw today, I will increase to 2 times a week. Also cover the bed with a piece of burlap, helps to retain moisture and the worms seem to stay closer to the top of the bed. We do use the door to keep the bed covered. Wish I had left the hinges on it.

  15. I raise my red wigglers in a summertime food and drink cooler.I put holes in the top and a screen in bottom.

  16. I have some really small black / brown insects in my worm bed they are tiny maybe 1/64 ” of an inch you have look very clise to see them are these a concern does it mean i have a problem my worms seem happy and healthy

  17. Will order a 20-pound bag of “Black Gold,” and get a 4-pound bag for free. With delivery expense it will cost $50.00. I have to purchase a new “Amazon,” gift card to purchase. Want to dig down below 2 fruit-bearing trees, 1 “Arbor-Vitae Shrub, and one “Cyprus Pine Tree.” to add the “Black Gold.” We will order soon.

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