Cold Compost & Worm Inn Maintenance

A couple of questions from Ria

I have 2 32 gallon trash bins of cold compost ‘cooking’ in my back
yard. One of the bins looks half composted (reduced in size, small
particles, brown/black. Can I use that as worm food? Or is it
composted? It only stinks when I turn the bottom to the top. Am
intending to scoop a cup or so from the top of bin to feed the worms.

Or should I stick to ‘fresher’ stuff?

And re the worm inn. How much and how often should I water it? The
middle looks okay but the edges are dry? I usually water about 100mL
every day and nothing leaks out. Wondering if I should water more or

Hi Ria,

My hunch is that the “cold compost” material would offer some value. Even if the nutritional content has been reduced, it should at least serve as a valuable “living” habitat material. DO make sure, however, that you are not adding any of the foul smelling stuff. It may contain compounds that can harm/kill your worms. Ideally, it should have an earthy smell or no real smell at all. Starting with just a small amount of the compost (as you suggested) is a good idea – it’s always best to test new materials out on a small scale before going too crazy with them!

As for the Worm Inn…

In all honesty, you may be better off to avoid watering it altogether – assuming it is not sitting someplace hot and dry, and/or assuming water-rich food materials are being added fairly regularly. The aim is to keep things fairly moist up top, but to let the lower reaches dry out a fair bit. If it stays wet down below the draw-strings may start to rot, and more worms will likely want to hang out near the bottom. You will likely also see some drainage from the Inn which is not an ideal scenario (better to produce quality vermicompost and then simply make “tea” using that).

Don’t worry about the dry outer shell – this helps to protect what’s referred to as the “sweet spot” in the middle where the real magic happens. The dry sections can simply be recycled through the system again (serving as a valuable “living material”).

All that being said, regularly spritzing the upper zone (or occasional light watering) shouldn’t create issues – I do this myself.

Hope this helps!

UPDATE: I received an email from Jerry Gach, Worm Inn brand owner. He had these thoughts to share:

I water the Inn regularly (At least 2x a week in the summer). If I want, I water till some comes out the bottom…usually a little less though.
The strings will not β€œROT”. The original Worm Inn used cotton string. The string I use is crab pot material. It is not cotton, and will not rot.

Thanks for sharing this info, Jerry! You are right, I am likely remembering the string rotting in one of the original Worm Inns I owned (it was definitely quite some time ago). Glad you shared your watering schedule as well! Highlights the importance of A) personal preference, and B) location (i.e. surrounding conditions). I don’t want water dripping out the bottom of my Inn so I am biased towards keeping it on the dry side. My Inns are also usually kept down in my cool basement so it is much easier to keep them moist! Anyone keeping their Inn outside, in a garage, or even indoors with A/C in an arid region will likely need to add water.

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  1. I put my aged leaf compost as a top bedding for my Worm Inn. I ground the leaves through a 1/8 screen first. I never thought of the Worm Inn as having a sweet spot (I am a bin fluffer) The Worm Inn is doing better than my expectations, I can’t keep it full. I do get the really wet stuff as Bently mentioned. What I do in that case is overfeed and put the wet stuff, worms and whatever comes out of the bottom and cover the food I added. It seems to work for me. I do collect the runoff from the bottom and have been diluting it to dump on a patch of grass in my front yard. I don’t think it has helped or hurt the patch of grass, it looks the same as the rest of the lawn. What I want to start doing is match the bin juice to some paint swatches and maybe come up with a mix that will give me an indicator on which way the juice may help my grass.
    On another note, it seems my fungas gnats have left, they must have moved to Canada.

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark!
    Another reminder of the fact that everyone has their own personal preferences, and that no one opinion (certainly not MINE – haha) should be treated as “gospel”!

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