Troubleshooting Worm Compost

Overview

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is a way to turn your kitchen waste into compost. Worm bins require minimal space and work well as an indoor composting system. If your worms are dying or there is a bad smell coming from the bin, you have a problem that will get worse if ignored. Most problems in vermicomposting are easy to troubleshoot and then solve. The sooner you do so the sooner your worms will return to making compost for use in your houseplants and garden.

Step 1

Check the bedding material for uneaten food. Remove any food that has been in the bin for more than seven days and dispose of it on an outdoor compost heap or the trash. Meat, dairy and greasy food is usually the culprit, but sometimes worms also avoid foods they normally eat.

Step 2

Check the bedding for moisture. Add water to dry bedding or add new moistened bedding. Dry bedding leads to dead worms and the rotting worms may begin to smell.

Step 3

Check drainage holes if the bedding is too wet. Bedding should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Remove anything blocking the holes or drill additional quarter-inch holes into the bottom of the bed if it is not draining properly and is collecting water.

Step 4

Reduce feedings if the worms aren't eating. Feed 1 pound of worms approximately 5 pounds of food a week, spread out over two or three feedings. Worms may eat slightly less or more than this, so adjust feedings until it balances.

Step 5

Bury food in the bedding to prevent attracting flies and insects. Place a ventilated cover over the bin to keep these pests out.

Step 6

Check for proper ventilation if worms are dying but moisture and feedings are correct. Drill additional ventilation holes in the bin lid or around the top rim of the bin to provide the needed oxygen for the worms to survive.

Step 7

Change bedding and harvest compost. Worms can't survive once their bedding is gone. Move the finished compost to one side of the bin and put fresh bedding and food into the empty side. Wait two weeks for the worms to move into the new bedding then remove the finished compost.

Tips and Warnings

  • Too much citrus fruit attracts fruit flies. Feed in small amounts.

Things You'll Need

  • Bedding
  • Drill

References

  • Clemson University Extension: Worm Composting
Keywords: troubleshooting worm compost, vermicomposting methods, fixing worm bins

About this Author

Jenny Harrington is a freelance writer of more than five years' experience. Her work has appeared in "Dollar Stretcher" and various blogs. Previously, she owned her own business for four years, selling handmade items online, wholesale and via the crafts fair circuit. Her specialties are small business, crafting, decorating and gardening.