What is Leachate

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

After a few months of worm composting, you may start to notice excess liquid in your bin. Maybe you’ve noticed your worms trying to escape. If you have a flow-through system with a spigot, you may have the ability to drain this liquid. Let’s talk about this excess liquid and how to manage it.

Let’s dig into the problem so we can start digging ourselves out.

What Is Leachate

Leachate is the liquid runoff from rotting and decomposing food. It is a liquid that has not gone through the decomposition process, as noted by its smell and color. Leachate does not contain the beneficial bacteria associated with compost tea. Instead, it can contain phytotoxins that can kill plants and make animals and humans sick if ingested.

How to prevent excess liquid

The good news is that you can avoid any extra liquid through proper maintenance. This means you need to figure out how much dry bedding to add in ratio to how much you feed your worms. You can prevent extra liquid by knowing how fast your worms eat, not overfeed your worms.

If you want to learn more about feeding your worms, check out the full guide here!

How to deal with a bin with too much moisture

Worm factory 360 compost bin with leachate spout
The Worm Factory 360 has a convenient drainage spout

If you are on this page because your bin has too much leachate, and you don’t have a spigot to drain it, the fix is easy. Add dry shredded paper, cardboard, or coconut coir. The dry bedding will absorb any excess liquid. This will make the bin more hospitable for your worms and allow the worms and bacteria to digest the liquid.

Can I Use Leachate On My Plants?

Overall, I’d give the general advice not to use leachate on your plants. However, some people have found success by diluting 1 part leachate to 10 parts water. Apply the liquid after regular watering to the soil and not directly to the plant. Avoid using this diluted liquid on food plants; use only on ornamental plants.


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Difference Between Leachate & Compost Tea?

Many people confuse leachate with compost tea. Compost tea is not the excess liquid in the bin. Instead, it is an aerated probiotic liquid created with vermicompost (worm poop). Vermicompost is the final product of the composting process. Leachate is the excess liquid that has yet to go through this process.

There are a lot of different recipes and strategies to make compost tea. The simplest version is to take 4 tablespoons of worm castings, a teaspoon of molasses and mix it with 1 gallon of water. You will need to wait 48 hours until you can use the final product.

I shake everything together and leave it uncapped. Every 3 to 4 hours, I come back, recap, shake and uncap. You could use a fish tank bubbler in more technical setups and just wait the two days without shaking.

This compost tea is great for all plants and contains all sorts of beneficial microbes and bacteria.

Summary

So there you have it, a basic overview of what leachate is and how to prevent or use the leachate you have. Leachate should not be confused with compost tea made from the worm castings in a specific process.

If you have any comments, tips, and tricks on dealing with or using leachate, leave them in the comments below.