Good Worm Bin Progress?

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

Hi Matt,
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!

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    • Peter
    • January 25, 2012

    Hello, this brings up something I’ve noticed and always wondered about. Btw I’ve got a worn inn that’s working fine so this is just curiosity as opposed to having a problem.

    I freeze my feedings before giving them to the worms. When it all breaks down and turns to mush 3-5 days later, I always have it go stinky. It doesn’t smell sitting in the inn, but if I dig into and inside the ooze, it smells. It doesnt’ seem to be an issue as I can have that smell and still have worms going through it eventually (it all gets eaten). If I add cardboard, I have the same pile of ooze but now with some cardboard floating around inside, it’s like tossing cardboard into a bucket of water heh. Unless it’s mostly cardboard, I can’t stop it from turning into an ooze pile, not with every piece of food going soft at the same time.

    The only way I haven’t gotten a ooze pile is to not freeze food. Then things like broccoli, which takes ages, keeps it chunky and airy for a long time. Also things rot from outside in so the whole feeding keeps it’s structure much longer. On the negative side, takes MUCH longer to all go and can be a breeding ground for flies/gnats. This also reminds be of the Worm Inn overfeeding challenge that didn’t go nuclear, iirc I believe one thought was because it was raw and very chunky as well as the system itself .

    So is this ooze smell a concern if it’s local, or more sp in a bin system as opposed to a cloth inn system? Or just mean the worms will keep away for a while until it sorts itself out before they eat it, but will still be faster than raw food? All my feeding get eaten and have a ton of worms, just curious on this non stinky fast tracked food :).


  1. Hi Peter,

    I’m Jerry Gach, the manufacturer of The Worm Inn. Bentley is very generous about letting me chime in about the Inn ;), so I don’t think he will mind here.

    No matter how much a system breathes, if you let the waste itself turn into a swamp, it’s going to stink. Oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the mass. No different than if you just put a bunch of defrosted produce waste on a table….it will soon stink, even though you can’t create a more breathable environment.

    I practice the K.I.S.S. method with The Worm Inn. Instead of filling with defrosted produce waste, I simply throw the waste in whole or in chunks, cover it well with bedding, mist, and walk away.

    I’ve got 5 cored pineapples in one Inn right now, along with a bunch of other hunks of produce waste. The vegetation in The Inn breaks down more slowly than in a bucket or other non breathable container……it does not get stinky this way. This also allows the worms to keep up with the decay….as portions of the pineapple begin to get mushy, the worms are all over it….by the time they have eaten the mushy areas, the rest of the pineapple has begun to break down.

    Can’t get much simpler.

    • Peter
    • January 25, 2012

    Oh yeah, tried it that way and does work…but I don’t get my anti fly and gnat freezing in :). So far with freezing everything I put in first I’m over a year now without any fruit fly or gnat issues (don’t get them period), and being in an apartment that’s a big deal lol. That’s with veggies, citrus, banana’s the whole deal.

    So I’ll keep freezing stuff, as I mentioned it all goes no problem and the stink is only internal to the goop. LIke the old joke with the Dr. “Dr it hurts when I poke it” “so don’t poke it”. I was just curious on some thoughts, as fast processing seems to be able to cause the stink due to fast breakdown and/or water release as you mentioned.

    Anyway, love the system, keeps things simple with things like moisture. And with that tight seal netting lid on the inn and freezing stuff, no flying bugs. Yeah!!

  2. I have had a very stinky bin this week. I live in Perth, Western Australia and we just had a bit of a heatwave where it topped 42degrees celsius (that’s about 106 degrees fahrenheit). I have only been venturing outside to feed the worms.

    I managed to keep my worms going by keeping them in full shade (even though they are outside), and by feeding them “worm icypoles” which is whizzed up food with some extra water frozen into blocks. Or, frozen 2 litre water bottles filled with water, with the cap off letting the water melt into the system.

    It amuses me that while Canadians are concerned about keeping your worms warm, those of us down under struggle to keep them cool!

    As the worms are not inside, the smell doesn’t bother me. The worms otherwise seem pretty happy too, the food goes fast, they are moist without being soggy and well aerated with added shredded sugar cane mulch. There is no mould or infestation. So is a bad smell always indicative of an unhealthy bin? Is it likely just a side effect from the heat? If the worms are otherwise happy, should I be worried?

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