Setting up a Wormery

Setting up a wormery


Siting your wormery.

If you are siting your wormery outside:

  • it must be in the shade for the summer months, worms hate being heated up!
  • In the winter, it should be in an area where it will not freeze, a bit of frost and ice is not a problem but heavy freezing will again, cause problems for the worms
  • Other considerations, how far do you want to carry your waste to add it to the wormery? if it drips will it stain your new patio slabs? When its full, it will be heavy, are you going to need to move it when it comes to emptying? In the summer, the little fruit flies can be a nuisance.

Wormeries can also be sited indoors in a garage or shed, this can have a lot of advantages, the temperatures are more stable and the worms will tend to be more efficient.

Setting up your wormery

Once you have sited your wormery, the next step is installing the worms, all worms need to be put into a bedding material, irrespective of the make or type of wormery.

The bedding material is where the worms will live, they do not appreciate being forced to live in neat waste food! By far the best bedding is compost that the worms have been living in, it is home from home, it will have high levels of the bugs, bacteria and fungi, i.e. food already present and unlike the sterile ingredients above, will inoculate the new food waste to get the whole system off to a flying start. This bedding needs to be 6 inches deep or more.

The worms, that are used in a wormery have to be composting or litter worms not soil dwelling worms such as Lumbricus terrestris or Lob worm. There are only two types to use: Dendrobaena and Brandlings.

Feeding your wormery (Vermicomposting waste)

Feeding your worms is putting your kitchen waste onto the worms who will then feed on it and pass it out as worm casts. When the worms are established in their bedding material, the first layer of kitchen waste is put on top. This should only be a couple of inches thick, if it were any more it is in danger of composting on its own and producing heat. It is the production of this heat that we want to avoid.

  • When the food waste is in contact with the bedding it will be inoculated by all the bugs, bacteria and fungi in the bedding. This will then start the waste to decay and the worms will move in to feed.
  • As it decays and is being eaten, more waste is added, a couple of inches at a time, and it is crucial that the worms are given time to really get stuck into the kitchen waste before adding the next layer so it doesn’t start to heat up!
  • Over a period of many months you will notice that the layers are turning into compost and the worms are moving up to the fresher layer, at the same time they will be breeding and increasing the population.


  • Green waste, i.e. kitchen scraps
  • an equal amount of paper, cardboard and/or dead leaves

This makes a balanced diet for the worms. The ideal condition of the kitchen waste should be chopped up but is not essential.

  • Tough woody or straw based waste takes a long time for worms to deal with and is best left out along with bones, meat, fish, oil and fats.

Certain green wastes should also be avoided:

  • raw onions and members of the onion family
  • citrus fruit skin and not too much citrus fruit itself.

Harvesting the compost.

At some point your wormery will need emptying of the compost that has built up. For the multiple tray systems the theory is that the worms will have moved up to successive trays allowing you to empty the compost from the lower tray - not always the case!
For the simple box, single tray or a worm bed in the ground you have no option but to clean out the compost. There are several ways this can be done from feeding them on one side to encourage the worms to move over to up ending the lot and sorting by hand. You can just put the whole lot into the garden, worms and all and start from fresh, this is probably the easiest way but some people like to get their hands dirty and save every last worm!

The best way is as follows: A few day before harvesting is necessary feed plenty of the favourite food- any soft fruit always encourages the worms, after a couple of days, choose a bright day, quickly remove all the uneaten food waste, including worms from the surface and put to one side in a bucket, on a clean sheet either on the ground or preferably on a large table up end the box or if its too big, carefully dig out all the compost and pile it into a pyramid, you will notice the worms will burrow away from the light towards the centre of the pyramid, carefully remove as much compost from around the pyramid until you come to worms, leave it for 30 minutes or so and repeat, do this as many times as necessary until you are left with a large lump of worms and compost ready to go back into the wormery and start again, you will not need new bedding just use as much of the harvested compost as necessary and that's it! it really is the best way and technology has not helped much in this case