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Worm Composting Failure. Or Not.

The reason for worm composting is pretty clear, even if it’s slightly different for different people. The intended outcome is more or less known, which can also be slightly different depending on the household that is starting the compost. And for the first month or two, it all seems like it’s going OK.

If you’ve ever accidentally had a worm compost failure, this one’s for you.

You’re SO not alone.

I’ll end this letter with a few awesome comeback stories, but first, let’s really look at this.

The people who come to me wanting help with their worm composting efforts, usually come because they’ve either currently got a worm compost that really isn’t working, or they’ve had a worm compost in the past that went all wrong and they’re nervous to start again.

If you’re harbouring a little guilt about worms that died while in your care, or some disappointment about the cost and effort of starting a worm compost that ended in failure, I want you to know that this is actually quite common.

Knowing that this is common usually brings some relief.

If you’re not the only one, then doesn’t that make it possible, even likely, that it’s not your fault but rather just a lack of knowledge?

From my perspective as a worm composting educator, that’s exactly what it is.

Good Worm Farm Intentions

We all start our worm farms with good intentions.

And we put money, time, and effort in. Usually some or all of those $$ spent is on getting the full setup from the shop – worm farm, worm bedding, worm farm conditioner, and the worms themselves.

It’s not hard to spend well over $100 getting started.

The reason for worm composting is pretty clear, even if it’s slightly different for different people.

The intended outcome is more or less known, which can also be slightly different depending on the household that is starting the compost.

For example most people compost with worms to get the excellent fertiliser for free. For others there’s the inclusion of wanting to teach children some animal husbandry or food gardening. Often it’s also about looking to recycle some organic waste in a more earth-friendly way.

Whatever the reason, it’s a pretty fun thing to decide to go ahead, and then to set it all up, and then to put the worms in their new home and consider the worm compost now underway.

And for the first month or two, it all seems like it’s going OK.

What is the worm compost doing?

At some point the questions arise.
How wet or dry is it meant to be?
Can I feed them this, that, or the other?
Someone said not to give them citrus, is this true?
Is there anything else I’m supposed to be adding or checking?
Am I doing this whole thing right?

It’s at about this point that a lot of worm composts begin to ever so slightly head off in the wrong direction and most people don’t spot this as it happens.

We might do a bit of googling, maybe a bit of youtubing, perhaps there’s a book about all this.

I’ve had people tell me they googled and youtubed and booked, only to end up with new confusion.

What I’m trying to point at here is the general lack of good, usable, relevant and correct knowledge out there.

So if you’re having a worm compost challenge, or worse, a worm composting disaster, it’s very likely just a lack of proper knowledge.

Which means it’s simply a matter of accessing that proper knowledge so you can go again.

Yes you might have killed the worms or ended up with a farm full of sludgy castings mixed with only-half-decomposed slimey banana peels and slow-to-go carrot tops.

Yes you may be feeling bad for the worms, disappointed for yourself, and disillusioned with the whole “worm composting thing”.

Like I said at the beginning of this letter – You are far from alone!

Worm Farm Comeback Stories

Tania once worm composted. Complete disaster, in her words. No castings at the end, no worms either. A pricey worm farm sitting in the shed doing nothing useful. And trepidation about trying again.

These days Tania is breeding compost worms, pumping out lots of perfect castings, brewing worm castings tea (the real stuff) every fortnight and growing so much food in her garden that she has plenty to share with her neighbours (who are now asking her for her worm knowledge!).

Michelle had a worm compost outside in a bathtub. She really didn’t know what she was doing, but she knew what she wanted out of it. The compost was sodden wet, the worms seemed scarce, and Michelle’s goal of having those lovely castings was still out on the horizon, no closer than when she started.

The last I saw of Michelle she had not only completely turned that bath tub compost around and harvested a huge barrel of light, fluffy, totally usable worm castings, but she also had another worm compost running happily in a 40 litre tub and her confidence to keep the worms and composts in optimal condition and to produce the volume of castings she needs, had skyrocketed.

Vic has worm composted in a bathtub for years. His results over those years were all over the place. Finally culminating in a bath tub full of unusable smelly sticky mess with no worms in it.

Now Vic has the whole process nailed. He stopped using the wire baskets he had in the bathtub, stopped overloading it with food scraps, learned all about good setup and management of the whole process, and is now running a healthy and productive compost in that same bath tub. After such a long time of trying to get it right, he’s enjoying having a much easier and much more fun time… and he’s currently got two more worm composts going!

Jane bought a small “wheelie bin” type of worm farm along with 2,000 worms, and decided she also wanted to take a little course to really do this right and well. Just a couple of weeks in, and before the course had even started, her worm farm had a major overheating problem and her whole project and vision turned to custard within just a day or two.

While taking the course she was guided through a full recovery of the situation and now she has a very happy healthy worm compost in a 30 litre storage tub, friends and neighbours think it’s the most amazing thing, and the “wheelie bin” has been fired. Jane nearly quit due to the fright she got from things going so wrong so early, whereas now she is confident and skilled and finds a lot of peace and enjoyment in her worm farm.

I share these worm farm comeback stories..

to try and really make the point that messing up a worm compost is not at all uncommon.

If it’s happened to you, it’s OK, and I have no qualms about saying: it’s not your fault. With the correct knowledge you can still arrive at the original outcome that you intended when you first started.

Every Sunday morning there’s a new Letter From The Worm Compost. By deep diving into a different topic each week you’ll be reading all about the skills and knowledge of successful worm composting.

If you want to move faster and more comprehensively than a Letter a week, have a read through the Worm Composting Success page, particularly under the headings “What You Get” and “What’s the Community and How Does It Work” – both about halfway down that page.

Even if taking a hands-on worm composting course is not your thing, you’ll see via that page that learning this skill and knowledge is a valuable thing that many people choose to do.

And for good reason. There are more good (and short) stories right at the bottom of that same page.

Whatever you do, don’t stop worm composting. It’s such an easy way to feed your garden and get outstanding results. And when you’ve got it right, it’s a rather delightful addition to life.

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Hello friend! I’m Val
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My Friend’s Compost is my Walk of Life where I talk, write, teach and do all things Worm Composting.

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