5 things you need to know before you start worm composting

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As a beginner vermicomposters, you will learn a lot of things along your journey. Today I want to talk about 10 things that I learned along my journey. I hope that these ten tips will help you have success throughout your worm farming journey.

Let’s jump into the top ten things you need to know!

Worms breathe through their skin

As you build your worm farm, you need to understand that worms breathe through their skin. After heavy rain, you will notice worms on the sidewalk or grass and dirt. This is because the rain has saturated the dirt, and the worms can’t breathe.

If worms stayed in the ground, they could actually drown!

In a worm bin, as food decomposes, it releases its excess liquids. If left unchecked, these excess liquids can actually drown your worms. Signs of too much moisture include worms pooling at the top of the bedding, climbing the walls, or fully crawling out of the bin.

Worm Composting Containers tote bin with compost

Worms have a gizzard

Worms, like many invertebrates, do not have teeth. Instead, they have a gizzard similar to that of a chicken. A gizzard is a muscular stomach of some fish, insects, mollusks, and other invertebrates. It uses items such as small rocks and rock dust to break down their food.

Sketch of earthworm anatomy
Sketch of earthworm anatomy

Since worms have gizzards and not teeth, chopping or blending their food can make a big difference. Along with blending their food, you should have items like eggshells, oyster shells, or coffee grounds to add grit. Worms use this grit in their gizzard to break down their blended food.

Worm bins contain other insects

As your worm bin grows and matures, you will start to see other insects make a home in your bin. Insects like mites or pot worms will also make a home in your worm bin. Under the right conditions, these additional insects assist in the decomposition process.

If you find that there is a sea of little white mites or pot worms, it is often a result of overfeeding. To remedy the situation, remove as much food as possible. After removing the excess food, add dry bedding to absorb moisture. Wait to feed your worms or significantly reduce feedings until the outbreak of insects goes away.

Worms lay eggs

Like many insects, worms create an egg-like cocoon to reproduce. Generally speaking, one worm will line up with another worm. Both worms secrete a mucus called albumin so one worm can provide the other, and the other provides the sperm. As each worm wriggles away from the exchange, the mucus turns into a cocoon.

New light red wiggler egg
New, light worm egg
mature red wiggler compost worm egg
Mature, ready to hatch, dark worm egg

Redworms create a cocoon after mating. This cocoon often takes anywhere from 3-6 weeks to mature. In good conditions, you can expect cocoons to hatch every 3 weeks. It is common for 6 worms to hatch from a single cocoon!

Composting worms prefer a specific pH

Worms do not like an overly acidic or alkaline habitat. Instead, they prefer the pH level of 7 or the same level as water.

In an outdoor bin, worms can avoid foods and items that they do not like. They either wiggle into the ground or a different area of the bin. However, in a small apartment bin, they can’t avoid problematic foods.

Items like tomato, citrus, onions, and garlic can irritate your worms, and left unchecked; it could kill your worms. Signs that your pH is off in your bin are if your worms climb up the sides or away from the food. You can check out a full guide to feeding compost worms here.

Summary

There you have it, five things you need to know before you start vermicomposting. In the first few months, note how much your worms can eat and what they like to eat. Make sure to add dry bedding at every feeding to absorb excess liquid. As the population increase, feedings slowly to avoid attracting too many unwanted bugs.

If you have any additional tips or tricks someone should know before starting their own apartment worm farm, leave them in the comments below.