Question from Matt:
My bin sat for 2 weeks prior to adding worms and was smelling pretty
bad, as expected. Two and a half weeks after adding the worms the
smell went away which is a good sign. The contents of the bin have
settled at least 6 inches so I added some shredded newspaper on the
top and moistened. I check it once per week and am finding 10-15 worms
crawling on the side of the bin above the bedding. Is this normal?
Should I add additional scraps to the bin? Do the worms eat the
Let me start by saying that an aging bin actually shouldn’t smell bad. The idea is to mix in enough bulky, absorbent bedding (such as shredded cardboard), and provide enough air flow so this doesn’t become an issue. A smelly bin is typically indicative of anaerobic conditions – which can develop when: 1) too much food is added, or 2) not enough bedding is added, or 3) conditions become too wet, or 4) there isn’t enough air flow. Most often it is some combination of these (for example – moisture and aeration tend to be inversely proportional to one another – so if conditions are “too wet” you are basically guaranteed to also have “poor air flow”).
Anyway – I’m really glad your worms were able to remedy the situation. They tend to mix things up and aerate the materials, thus helping to eliminate some of those major anaerobic zones.
It sounds like everything is proceeding nicely (a drop in the level of materials is a good sign for sure)! I wouldn’t worry TOO much about having a handful of worms on the sides – this is VERY normal in an enclosed plastic bin. You might want to add more air holes in the sides and lids (can’t really have “too many”) just to make sure there is decent air flow – I also highly recommend keeping a nice thick layer of bedding up top at all times. When you add this material dry, it serves to absorb moisture in this upper zone making it less appealing to the worms. It has the added bonus of guaranteeing that you will always have plenty of bedding to mix with your food wastes – I really like this K.I.S.S. approach since it means I don’t need to remember to add any bedding with my food. All I need to do is make sure I keep that layer at the top nice a thick all the time.
As for feeding, if the worms have processed most of the food you added when setting up the bin, by all means add some more. The key is simply to use their progress as your guide. If materials seem to be piling up a bit, definitely slow down your feeding until the worms catch up. To help them along, be sure to optimize the materials as well (age, freeze, chop etc). To answer your question – yes, worms do indeed consume bedding materials so don’t worry too much about starving them! (much easier to over-feed)
Hope this helps!