Seasoned vermicomposter enthusiasts know that when they smell a bad odor coming from their composting bins, something is out of balance. A healthy composting bin and the worms inside should have an earthy smell. The avid vermicomposter enthusiast also knows that whatever produces that horrible smell can be easily remedied. Before taking action, we need to identify the common causes underlying this stinky situation as described below:
What Are You Feeding Your Worms?
Did someone in your family accidentally slip oil, sauces, meat, bones, gristle, or dairy into the kitchen scraps? Foods of that nature can easily become rancid. Please avoid placing these scraps into the composting bin. Broccoli, cabbage, and even banana peels are also famous for causing a stench, especially if you compost indoors. If the smell from cruciferous vegetables bothers you, cut them into small pieces, and place sparingly into the bin. Avoid acidic foods, e.g., tomatoes, citrus, and pineapples, because they throw off the pH balance and can get your worms ill.
How Much Food Did You Add?
Under ideal conditions, your worms can eat their body weight in one day. A rule of thumb is that for every pound of worms, you can feed them up to a pound of food scraps a day. We suggest that you feed your worms every other day or every three days. In this way, there should hardly be any undigested remains in the bin. If you see a pile of undigested scraps in the bin, you might be adding too much food in a short period of time. Remove some of the food and either freeze it, cut it up smaller, or toss it in the garbage. Adjust the amount of food scraps you are adding as needed. They slow down in colder temperatures. Before adding more scraps, make sure the worms have started eating the last feeding. A feeding should be gone in about a week.
What is the Bedding Status?
Sopping wet bedding is not good for your worms. Worms breathe through their skins and can drown in wet bedding. Make sure the bedding is as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Squeeze a handful of bedding to find out. If your bin has a lid, keep it on, especially when it rains.
If the bedding is wet, add shredded black-ink only newspaper, cardboard, or 100% pure peat moss. Gently mix this into the bedding. This will soak up excess moisture and restore pH balance.
Another problem associated with a wet bin are clogged ventilation and drainage holes. Clear these holes of any debris and mud. Ventilation helps regulate the bin’s moisture levels. For those with home-made bins, you may need to add more air and drainage holes. With ready-made composting bins, there are sufficient air holes, but the lids are sometimes loose-fitting. This could allow rainwater to enter. To avoid rain, keep your bin under cover, such as an awning or shed. If your vermicomposting bin has a spigot, open it to release water. If you still have any puddles of water in the bin, use paper towels to soak them up, then throw out the paper towels.
Once you have restored the bin back to normal, your worms will be happy and healthy once more. In return, they will continue to give you that precious black gold – organic natural fertilizer.
For more information on this and other topics, feel free to read our blog. Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is the top American supplier of live worms. We grow Red Wigglers at our farm in rural PA. We also have European Night Crawlers, great for composting, aeration, and fishing bait. Plus, we produce mealworms for pet food, wild birds, fishing, and scientific experiments. Check out our website to find the worms, supplies, and equipment to meet your every vermicomposting need.