Nature's Wormery™ Setup and Getting Started
The Nature's Wormery™ Standard is the original Nature's Wormery™, and comes with two trays. It also includes a bedding kit and instruction manual.
The Nature's Wormery™ 360 is the new deluxe model and includes four trays. It comes complete with everything that is included with the nature's Wormery™ Standard (bedding kit, instructions) but also boasts a redesigned base and stand that comes preassembled, a larger lid which fits over the top of the tray, an instructional DVD that shows how to set up and use the worm bin, a worm ladder to help the worms climb back up from the collection tray, and a three piece accessory kit which includes a thermometer, rake, and scraper.
Here are the specifications for each model:
Standard Nature's Wormery™:
- 40.64cm x 40.64cm x 53.34cm H (approx.)
- Flat lid
- Small base w/ 2pc collection tray
- Spigot, washer, nuts & knob for lid
- 2 composting trays
- Shredded paper
- 250g Coconut coir block
- Instruction Manual
- Expandable to 7 trays
Nature's Wormery™ 360:
- 45.72cm x 45.72cm x 63.5cm H (approx.)
- Domed lid
- 1pc base/collection tray w/ worm ladder, taller legs
- 4 composting trays
- Expandable to 7 trays
- Accessory Kit (includes thermometer, scraper, rake)
- Shredded paper
- Instruction Manual & Instructional DVD
- 250g Coconut coir block
- Expandable to 7 trays
We recommend starting your worm bin with a half a kilogram of red wiggler worms, which is approximately 800- 1000 worms depending on size. Your worms will reproduce inside the worm bin if conditions are ideal. Their population will grow and shrink depending on how much they are fed, how much stress they are subjected to and how much room they have.
Not all worms are the same. Worms are separated into 3 classes based on their eating and living requirements and habits. It is important that you select a “composting” worm for your vermicomposter. We recommend using red wiggler worms. Small and reddish-brown, they are perfect for worm composting. Red wiggler worms are usually 2-1/2 to 11cm long, live in the top 30cm of the soil and only eat decomposing matter. This makes them perfect for a wormery because their natural habitat can be duplicated in a wormery. In addition, they reproduce quickly and are happy to live in high-population, high-density situations where they are able to handle fluctuating temperature and environmental conditions. They are also voracious eaters, consuming up to half of their body weight in decaying organic matter per day. Red wiggler worms are tolerant of handling by humans and have a very wide range of potential foods.
Worms are classified based on their eating and living requirements and habits. The name of a worm does not necessarily mean it is or isn’t a composting worm. Some composting worms have “nightcrawler” as part of their name. However, when people think of earthworms they usually mean the big garden nightcrawlers, which can be 20-25cm long and 1cm in diameter. These worms are not composting worms and are not suitable for use in your Nature's Wormery&trad;. They like to live deeper in the soil and feed on subsoil and little if any decomposing matter. They will not adapt to living in the confines of a wormery.
For more information on composting worms, see Vermicomposting Worms.
It's important to have your worms new home set up and ready when they arrive in the mail to minimize the shock of being in the box. Refer to the “Getting Started” section of your Nature's Wormery™ manual on how to prepare the wormery in advance of their arrival. It may take the worms about a week to fully adjust to their new environment after transport.
Worms do best in a bedding temperature range of 12° to 24° Celsius. The air temperature can be higher or lower than this – bedding temperature is generally an average of the air temperature on a given day. So, if it is 4° C at night and 27° C during the day, the average temperature is 16° C and your worms will be fine. They can be kept indoors or outdoors as long as they are protected from bedding temperatures over 29°, freezing cold and direct rain. You can check the bedding temperature with a soil thermometer. More information on maintaining a good temperature for your Nature's Wormery™ can be found here: Worm Bin Temperature.
A properly maintained wormery will not have any offensive odour so keeping it inside should not be a problem. Because of its small footprint, the Nature's Wormery™ can be kept almost anywhere – a closet, in the kitchen, bathroom, living room, garage, or basement. Outside, just make sure that your worm bin is not in direct sunlight or overly exposed to rain and wind. If you do not have an overhang, placing it underneath a leafy tree or a porch can work. If you do keep it outside, you should move it indoors in extreme weather (prolonged excessive heat or cold).
I think I’m missing a part for my Nature’s Wormery™ Standard or Nature’s Wormery™ 360. What comes in the box?
Your Nature's Wormery™ Standard or Nature's Wormery™ 360 comes with everything you need to get started and manage a successful worm composting operation, minus the worms.
Check your receipt to verify which model Nature's Wormery™ you purchased. Then check the instruction manual and locate the parts list for the model you purchased. Each model has different parts.
Because we package everything efficiently to save on shipping and space, it is important to unpack and turn over every part to make sure you have everything the unit comes with, as described in the instruction booklet.
The sprinkler tray fits nicely under the drainage spout to collect the liquid that leaches out of the wormery. You can also use it as a watering tray or for anything else that works for you.
Pumice is a lightweight, porous, volcanic rock which has some mineral content. It provides excellent aeration and drainage for the wormery. We recommend you add a cup to each new tray you start.
There is no exact point in time when the bottom processing tray is ready to be emptied, but it generally takes 3-4 months to complete the first tray. Because you have multiple processing trays working at one time and your worm population has increased, you should be able to harvest compost about once a month, although this varies. When the material is nearly black and the chunks of matter are small and crumbly, your compost is ready to be harvested.
- Nature's Wormery™ 360 - Remove the lid and turn it upside down next to your wormery. Remove all trays except for the finished tray on the bottom and place them on the lid. Nature's Wormery™ Standard – Remove the lid and set it aside. Remove all trays except for the finished tray on the bottom and set them to the side as well.
- Remove the bottom (finished) tray and place it on top of the stack of trays on your lid. The finished tray should be directly on top of the current feeding tray.
- Check the collection tray to see if it needs attention. Worms sometimes land in the collection tray. Remove any buildup of compost or worms and put them in the feeding tray. Drain your leachate if you have any and flush the spigot with water to ensure that it is not clogged.
- Replace the stack of trays on the base – the tray that was previously second from the bottom should now be on the bottom, and the finished tray should be on top, stacked on the feeding tray.
- Leave the lid off, allowing light to enter the tray. Worms do not like light and will begin to migrate downward into the lower feeding tray. Use your hands or the rake and spatula that came with your system to gently loosen the compost, pulling it away from the sides of the tray to the center, forming a hill or a pyramid. This exposes more surface to the light and will encourage the worms to migrate down into the lower tray. It also starts to dry out the finished compost, which worms will want to avoid. Wait a few hours and then begin to scoop off the compost until you encounter worms. Repeat this process several times, always allowing time for the worms to move down into the lower tray. After you’ve done this a few times most of your worms should have migrated down and the tray should be emptied. It is now ready to reuse or set aside for later use.
Partially decomposed organic materials in a vermicomposter continue to break down during storage. For this reason decomposing organic materials should not be placed in an airtight container. Doing so would encourage anaerobic (without oxygen) organisms to take over decomposition with their range of foul-smelling, plant-toxic by-products. Drying vermicompost halts decomposition and can cause polymerization, meaning the material becomes impossible to re-wet. It is best to first dry it down so that it is damp, not wet, thus ensuring sufficient air penetration through the material to prevent anaerobia. Keep it in a non-airtight container. Stored this way the vermicompost slowly stabilizes in an aerobic environment and has a shelf life of more than three years.
Worm castings on average contain five times the available nitrogen, seven times the available potash, and one and a half times more calcium than found in average topsoil. The nutrients are water-soluble and are immediately available to plants. In addition, worm castings are 50% higher in organic matter than soil that has not moved through worms.
There are several reasons that worms try to escape from worm bins, especially when they’re just getting started.
One reason is moisture: if your bin is too wet your worms will try to leave. This is because they breathe through their skins and will drown if conditions are too wet. Think of when you see worms on a sidewalk after a heavy rain – they drown in saturated earth and so come to the surface to escape. For more information on controlling moisture, see Worm Bin Moisture.
Another reason is temperature: if it is too hot, your worms might try to escape. Maintaining a comfortable temperature in your bin is important. For more information, see Worm Bin Temperature.
A third reason for escape is food. You may have added something the worms dislike in your last feeding. Did you add anything spicy, salty, or that might have had chemicals on it (like plant clippings that you used pesticide on)? In addition, if worms aren’t getting enough food in the worm bin, they may try to leave to look for more food. For more information on feeding your worms, see What to Put in Your Worm Bin.
In order to discourage escaping, you can leave the lid off your Nature's Wormery™ for a few days, and leave the unit in a light room. Worms are very sensitive to light and will burrow down when confronted with it. This will keep them in their bedding instead of on the sides and top of your bin, and help them learn that they really do love their new home. Just make sure that when you have the lid off you are maintaining a moist environment. Moisture evaporates more quickly while the lid is off.
Here is an extensive guide on preventing and eradicating fruit flies: Fruit Flies: Prevention and Control in a Worm Bin.
Most “insects” found in worm bins can actually help with the composting process, or lend clues as to what the environment in the bin is like. Some bugs prefer wetter or drier conditions and can help you manage moisture in your bin. Others are attracted to certain foods. Rarely is a worm bin critter actually harmful to your worms or the composting process, but they can be unsightly or annoying all the same. For an extensive list of worm bin critters and what to do about them, see Bugs! Creepy Crawlies! What’s in my Worm Bin?.
Moisture control is a big part of managing your Nature's Wormery™. To determine if your bin is too wet or too dry, we recommend taking a handful of bedding and compost in your hand and squeezing it tightly in your fist. Ideally, your bedding should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If you find that more than a couple drops of water come out, you have too much moisture. If no moisture comes out, your bedding is probably too dry. If it is too dry, you can add high-moisture foods or a few drops of water. If you find your bedding is too moist, stir in some dry shredded paper or cardboard. If it is too dry, you can add high-moisture foods or a few drops of water. For more information on Nature's Wormery™ moisture, see Worm Bin Moisture.
Basically anything that causes the worms "stress" can result in them balling up. They huddle to protect themselves. Things that can cause this are:
- Temperature extremes: below 4° or above 26° Fahrenheit
- Moisture extremes: too wet or too dry
- Sudden changes in food supply or adding food they don’t like
To manage these conditions, see the “How do I keep my worms happy?” FAQ.
As long as your worms aren’t “jumping ship” in large numbers, it’s probably ok. Try to pinpoint the problem and alter conditions so your worms relax and move freely throughout the bin again.
Ants shouldn’t be attracted to your bin unless you already have an ant problem. If you have an ant problem where you live, you will want to prevent them from entering your worm bin. Keeping bedding moist helps discourage ants because they prefer drier conditions than your worms do. You can also place each of the four legs of the Nature's Wormery™ in a shallow plastic container with water in it. Ants cannot cross the water and will stay out of the bin. For more information on worm bin pests, see Bugs! Creepy Crawlies! What’s in my Worm Bin?.
How it Works / Feeding / Worms
The Nature's Wormery™ does three things for you: it helps you recycle household waste, produce high-quality fertiliser for your garden, and save money.
Recycling is a valuable method for keeping unwanted materials out of landfills. Landfills produce gases during the decomposition process which are harmful to our environment and ozone layer. By recycling, you can help to save the environment and reduce your household’s carbon footprint.
Composting is the most basic form of recycling – taking organic matter, breaking it down into its elemental forms, and returning it to the earth. However, many people do not have space for a backyard compost pile or they want to compost year-round, more efficiently than with a backyard heap. That’s where worm composting with the Nature's Wormery™ comes in.
The Nature's Wormery™ allows you to recycle household waste such as kitchen scraps, shredded paper, coffee grounds, and unwanted junk mail with the help of worms. It is small enough to fit in a closet, on a balcony, or under a kitchen sink, yet efficient and odorless so you can recycle year-round, indoors or out. Plus, the Nature's Wormery™ involves much less work than a traditional backyard heap where you have to turn the material to aerate it.
The compost that your Nature's Wormery™ produces is of a higher quality than that produced in backyard compost heaps. Worm compost is 15% higher in nutrients than soil that has not moved through a worm. It also acts as a soil amendment, increasing water holding capacity and discouraging pathogens and plant disease. Worm compost bought in garden centers is very expensive. Why pay for it when you can make your own all year?
In addition to compost, the Nature's Wormery™ allows you to collect liquid fertiliser and drain it through the spigot at the bottom. This liquid fertiliser is called leachate, and it is the moisture that drains through the system, collecting valuable nutrients as it goes. Dilute it and use it on your houseplants or garden. A third fertiliser option is to make worm compost tea with the compost from your Nature's Wormery™. You can “brew” the compost to increase microbes in the solution and then use it as a liquid fertiliser and plant spray.
Around 33% of the average household’s waste can be composted. Using the Nature's Wormery™ to compost food and paper scraps reduces your curbside waste and recycling volumes, which in turn can reduce your garbage bill.
By using worm compost to fertilise and amend your garden, container garden, raised beds, or houseplants, you can save on buying fertiliser and compost at the store. Adding worm compost to your soil also increases its water holding capacity, so it saves you water over time. The Nature's Wormery™ is an investment which will pay for itself many times over.
Worms require certain temperature, moisture, oxygen, and food conditions to be happy and healthy and create compost.
Worms thrive when their bedding temperature is between 12° and 24° Celsius, so it is important to make sure they aren’t exposed to conditions much below or above that range. Here are some tips on managing Worm Bin Temperature.The bedding in a Nature's Wormery™ should be moist but not wet, about the same as a wrung-out sponge. Here are tips on keeping your worm bin at the optimal moisture level: Worm Bin Moisture.
Worms breathe oxygen through their skins, and beneficial microbes also thrive in oxygen-rich environments. Therefore, making sure the compost and bedding are aerated is very important. Here’s how: Worm Bin Oxygen.
Worms enjoy a wide variety of foods, including kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee filters and grounds, shredded paper, newspaper and scraps of cardboard or paper egg cartons. Make sure you’re feeding your worms regularly but not too much. Here’s how: What to Put in Your Worm Bin.
We recommend feeding your worms a diet of 50% food scraps (nitrogen) and 50% fiber and paper scraps (carbon). This will give your finished compost balanced nutrient levels and maintain the proper moisture level in the trays. You do not have to follow an exact recipe. Chopping up food scraps, especially hard items like carrot chunks or raw potato, before adding them to the bin can help to speed up the process.
Do not add meat, foods that contain meat products like dry dog or cat food (check ingredients), dairy products, spicy foods, oils (such as in salad dressing), or foods with high salt content. Do not add foods that generate a lot of heat like yeast, grass clippings, or feces (manure). Do not add pine, cedar or fir sawdust. Hardwood sawdust is ok. The goal is to recycle what you would usually throw away. You don't have to buy food for your worms. For much more information on what to feed your worms, see What to Put in Your Worm Bin.
The frequency and volume of feeding will depend on you and your family. Some people feed their worms every day; others feed them once a week. Worms can eat up to half their weight in food per day in a fully established, well managed vermicomposter. Because worms increase their population over time in favorable conditions, you will be able to add more food over time. Make sure that worms are actively engaged in eating the food you added most recently in the top feeding tray before adding more food. If they are not, this is a sign of overfeeding. On average, most people can fill a tray in about one month. It may take more or less time than that depending on how much kitchen waste you generate.
If you go on vacation, your worms will be fine for up to a month. Just add extra food, both kitchen scraps and paper scraps, before you depart and make sure the Nature's Wormery™ is in a safe location with moderate temperatures.
The general rule of thumb is worms can eat half their weight in food per day! This means that if you start with one half kg (or about 800-1000 worms), they can eat a quarter kg of food per day. As your worm population grows, they will be able to process more food at a faster rate. Use the rule that when you see the worms are actively engaged in eating the food you most recently added in the top feeding tray you should add more food. For more information on feeding, see What to Put in Your Worm Bin.
Most paper is fine to put in the worm bin. Shredded/ripped up printer paper, newspaper, junk mail, envelopes (no plastic windows), cardboard, paper egg cartons, and tissues/paper towels are fine, as long as they don’t contain plastic or chemicals. Make sure to remove paper clips and staples before adding paper to your worm bin. You want to avoid paper or cardboard that is coated in plastic, wax, metallic covering or foil. Most printers use soy-based inks for color, so colored paper is generally ok for your worms.
When your first tray is filled to the top, it is time to add a second tray. The material in the first tray does not need to be fully composted before adding a new tray, but the first tray should be full of partially composted material, bedding, and food. This ensures that when you add the next tray, the worms can climb from the first tray into the second through the grid on the bottom of the second tray. All you have to do to set up the second tray is add shredded paper and/or leaves to use as bedding for the worms. Then, add a handful of food to a corner of the tray to entice the worms to migrate to the next level. It may take a full week for most of the population to make it to the next level. The worms will move in between both trays to finish working on the food scraps in the first level.
The Nature's Wormery™ and Nature's Wormery™ 360 can both support up to 7 trays for increased capacity. The trays for both models are the same.
Partially decomposed organic materials in a vermicomposter continue to break down during storage. For this reason decomposing organic materials should not be placed in an airtight container. Doing so would encourage anaerobic (without oxygen) organisms to take over decomposition with their range of foul-smelling, plant-toxic by-products. Drying vermicompost halts decomposition and can cause polymerization, meaning the material becomes impossible to re-wet. It is best to first dry it down so that it is damp, not wet, thus ensuring sufficient air penetration through the material to prevent anaerobia. Keep it in a non-airtight container. Stored this way the vermicompost slowly stabilises in an aerobic environment and has a shelf life of more than three years.
Will the top layer of moist newspaper be eaten by worms or should I move it up when adding a new tray?
Since newspaper is food for worms, your worms will begin to break down the newspaper layer on top. If they do, just moisten another layer of newspaper and put it on top of the first. When you’re ready to add a new tray, just move the newspaper up to the new tray and continue feeding as before underneath the paper layer.
Sometimes the worms are not too excited about leaving their home tray and traveling upwards. First, give them some time to migrate up. If you have just set up your second tray, give them at least two weeks to migrate and acclimate to their new "home tray". If after two weeks your worms haven't made the move, you need to take a look at the second tray. There could be a food product that you have added that they don't like. Dairy products, meats or citrus products are items you should avoid. The bedding could also be too wet or too dry. If the bedding is too dry, add some water or green food scraps (fruit, vegetables etc). If the bedding is too wet, add some shredded paper or other carbon-based food scraps (corn cobs, coffee grounds etc.) to soak up excess moisture. A careful balance of food, moisture and temperature is important to keep your worms happy and healthy.
Your vermicomposter is an upward migration worm bin. Red wiggler worms always migrate upward to newer food. By always adding food to the top-most feeding tray, you encourage the worms to make their way up from the trays below, searching for the new food. This also allows the food in the lower trays to “finish”. You may want to consider starting with more worms to process the amount of food waste you are generating.
All trays below the top “feeding” tray are “processing” trays. Never add food to any tray but the current feeding (top) tray. Your worms will eat the food in your processing trays until they have exhausted that resource, and then they will move upward to the new food in the feeding tray, leaving nutrient-rich compost behind.
No. Worms live in the ground in nature. They are trod upon all the time without being harmed. They also live under rocks and logs without getting squished. They can do this because the soil is porous enough to let them burrow and provides them with oxygen. It is important to mimic this porosity and aeration in the Nature's Wormery™ composting system. The worms facilitate aeration of the bin as they burrow through and form little tunnels.
If the composter becomes too wet it hinders airflow. For information on how to improve oxygen circulation in your Nature's Wormery™, see Worm Bin Oxygen.
If maintained properly, your worm bin will not smell bad. With the lid removed the compost should smell like earth. There should be no lingering odour around the worm bin. The key to maintaining an odourless worm bin is moisture control and oxygen. Anaerobic bacteria (the kind that thrive without oxygen) are the main cause of odour. If you don't allow proper air circulation or if your system is too wet, this kind of anaerobic bacteria will grow inside your worm bin causing it to smell. Making sure your worm bin contents are moist but not too wet, and that it has sufficient bedding material to keep it well-aerated, will ensure that no bad odours occur. See Worm Bin Moisture and Worm Bin Oxygen for more information on proper Nature's Wormery™ maintenance.
Yes, worms will reproduce inside the unit according to their space limitations and the amount of food they are fed. The worms will regulate their population so you don't have to worry about overpopulation in your bin. Your worm population will double every three months if they have healthy conditions, allowing them to consume more food. If they are too hot, too cold, or don’t have enough food, they will slow down on reproduction until ideal conditions return. Their reproduction is an indicator of the environment they are living in. For more information on worm biology, see Earthworms: An Introduction.