Success in anything usually comes down to following principles or a framework.
Worm composting success (as defined by me): regularly taking finished worm castings from the worm bin in easy ways while the worm composting continues.
So what’s the 4 step worm composting framework for success?
Step 1: Setup Properly
Step 2: Feed Correctly
Step 3: Moisture & Management
Step 4: Harvest Regularly
Step 1: Setup
Compost worms are not domesticated. This means if we’re going to successfully compost with them, we need to setup the type of environment they naturally live in.
If we don’t do this, results will range from poor to disastrous.
Poor to disastrous (as defined by yours truly): wet mucky compost, not pleasant to handle, smelly or maybe stinky, worms die over time (barely noticeable) or in one big die off (very obvious and can be kind of devastating to witness), not getting to harvest or harvest being sloppy and glunky, or totally going off the idea of worm composting and missing out on the cumulative and ever expanding benefits of this powerful fertiliser and soil builder.
Over the next few months we’re going to deep dive into each of the steps in my 4 Step Framework. We will look at each part of each step so you know exactly how to worm compost like an expert.
Step 2: Feeding
In nature, compost worms don’t swarm fresh food scraps and they don’t eat more or faster just because we give them more or give it more often.
Over feeding the worm compost is the number 1 most common mistake made with worm composting. It is SO common! Yet it is the easiest thing to fix.
I’ve talked about this before in this Letter.
Over feeding can cause the very same range of poor to disastrous results. Many people believe that worm composting only lasts a year or two. Nine times out of ten this is because their worm compost was over fed the whole time, and it destroyed it.
As I deep dive into each part of each step over the next bunch of Letters, you can follow along by implementing what I’m sharing. And I’d love to hear your results. I mean that. In whatever way suits you, let me know how you go. In as much detail as you like. I can’t get enough of worm composting!!
Step 3: Moisture & Management
This is where the 2nd most common mistake is happening in worm bins all over the place.
In a worm compost there are two main things happening. One is the composting, or the decomposition of the material (by the worms and the microbes) and the other is the life cycling of the worms and the microbes.
These things happen optimally when moisture and airflow are in the right balance. This is the case with any composting, not just worm composting.
Worms breathe through their skin and they need their skin to be moist to be able to breathe through it.
When we actively manage the moisture level in the worm compost, the whole thing is always a pleasure to work with. We should be able to put our hands in it without hesitation. That’s almost impossible when it’s gooey and buggy and slurpy and squishy. Here’s more intel on fixing an over wet worm compost.
Nothing about any of the steps in this framework is complicated. Once we understand the principles behind what’s happening in there and what we are supposed to be doing with it, it’s hard to not be successful with it. Isn’t that good!
Step 4: Harvesting
It’s uncommon knowledge that worm composts can (and usually should) be brought to harvest every 3 months (roughly, depending on a few things, and we’ll cover these as we explore this whole framework).
Most people who have a worm compost, have it in a tub or bin or container of some sort that probably takes up less room than, say, a wheelbarrow.
This is quite different to having a continuous flow through system or long beds either on the ground or in purpose-built structures that are up off the ground.
So in what we might call a “home sized” worm compost, the compost begins and then progresses and needs to have an end (and a restart, if you’re continuing on, which I hope you always will!).
We need to bring the worm compost to harvest. When it’s done, it’s done. The gold is ready for us to take and use. Just as importantly, in nature this is when the compost worms would move on to new pastures. In our container, they can’t, so we need to bring the new pastures to the worms.
The 4 Step Framework discussion and Q&A
In the Introduction To Worm Composting workshop I talk about all this stuff. In order. So you can follow along and have the same kind of results I have. Which is as much finished, top quality, ready to use worm compost as I want, all year long.
For all of 2024 I’ll be running this workshop every month. It’s online and it’s free. Even if you’ve come along in the past, you are always welcome to attend again. You’ll always be able to see when the next Introduction To Worm Composting workshop is happening over at this page.
So there we have the worm composting framework for success laid out. Start right, feed right, manage right, get the gold. It’s principle based and it’s easy.
Here’s some of that gold I harvested.
With this glorious result, it becomes all about using this compost to get stunning results in the garden. We’ll look at all the ways to do that when we’re up to Step 4.