Worm Inn Q&A

I’ve received a LOT of great questions about Worm Inns over the years – yet strangely, I’ve never created any sort of FAQ page…not until now that is!

This will definitely be a “work-in-progress”. I’m sure I will think of other questions – and I strongly encourage you to submit any additional questions you have as well (simply email me with the subject line “Worm Inn Question(s)”).


What are the benefits of using a Worm Inn?


When used properly, a Worm Inn will process wastes more quickly and effectively than most other “home” systems. This is largely the result of its incredible air flow – oxygen is vitally important for the health of the worms – and just generally for the proper functioning of the vermicomposting process.

The increased air flow, along with the tightly-closing zippered lid also greatly lessen the hassles associated with various vermicomposting “critters. They stay down and they stay contained! Even if you end up with a bad outbreak of fruit flies or gnats, you don’t have to worry about them getting all over your house!


What is a Worm Inn made out of?


The main body of a Worm Inn is constructed from breathable cordura fabric. It also has a synthetic mesh, zippered lid and rot-resistant drawstrings at the bottom.


What is the capacity of a Worm Inn?


Regular Worm Inn: ~ 2 cu ft
Worm Inn Mega: ~ 4 cu ft


How much space do Worm Inns take up?


Regular Worm Inn (PVC) stand: ~ 18″ x 18″ x 36″
Worm Inn Mega Wooden Stand (highly recommended): ~ 23.5″ x 21.5″ x 42″


Do Worm Inn purchases include the stand?


YES & NO – Because Worm Inns are so incredibly compact and lightweight, it just doesn’t make sense to mail a full stand with them. This would GREATLY add to the labor/shipping costs.

Regular Worm Inns and Worm Inn Megas DO however come with the “PVC Stand Building Kit”*. This kit consists of 8 PVC corner pieces + zip ties – the lengths of Schedule 40 3/4″ PVC (you will need 8 x 18″ + 4 x 36″ pieces) will need to be purchased at a local hardware store (you may also need to have them cut them for you as well).

*IMPORTANT UPDATE – The PVC corner pieces are no longer available with Mega purchases . While I did demonstrate for myself that the PVC stand can support a Mega, my switch over to a wooden stand has made me realize just how superior it is. All customers have access to plans for the easy-to-build DIY wooden Mega stand, which now includes modifications for a Regular (wooden) Worm Inn stand as well.


Can Worm Inns be used outdoors?


I like to think of the Worm Inn as the “ultimate” INDOOR vermicomposting system. To take things a step further, I actually DO NOT recommend using them outside.

Here’s why:

  • It is an open system – when it rains, the contents get drenched (worms may even evacuate out through the hole in bottom)
  • It is made of synthetic fabric – exposure to sunlight (and the elements in general) will cause it to break down much more quickly than if indoors
  • It offers NO insulation – performance will be completely dependent on environmental conditions
  • It will dry out VERY easily during warmer months – exposure to warm/dry air and sun will accelerate the evaporation of moisture from the system

When you keep Worm Inns inside in a controlled environment you’re much more likely to enjoy all the great benefits of this system (listed in an earlier answer).


What are some of the other Worm Inn limitations in general?


One of the limitations of this system – especially the regular model – is its tendency to dry out. If you live in a region with very low humidity, you will almost certainly need to add additional water to keep things moist. Even if you live in a region with higher humidity, you may need to moisten periodically – especially if you are not adding water-rich food wastes on a regular basis.

Again, I HIGHLY recommend keeping your Worm Inn indoors (plenty of better options for outdoor vermicomposting) – and if you live some place where even indoor air is incredibly dry, you might try using a humidifier in the same room as your Inn or simply some open buckets of water sitting in the same room (I also recommend choosing a Mega over the regular model).

Worm Inns are ideal for ACTIVE vermicomposters! If you tend to neglect or completely forget about your vermicomposting systems, a regular plastic, enclosed tub system may be a better option!


How do you set up a Worm Inn?


The process is VERY simple!

  1. Lay sheets of newsprint across the bottom of the Inn.
  2. Add a few handfuls of dry shredded cardboard/newsprint etc (some form bulky/absorbent bedding)
  3. Mix up some food waste (ideally frozen-then-thawed) with more shredded bedding + some “living material” (eg. good compost, well-aged manure, rotten leave litter), then moisten before adding to the system.
  4. Add a thick cover layer of dry bedding over top

This is just a guideline of course – but I do recommend making sure you have a false bottom, a composting zone, and an upper bedding layer.
Here are some articles showing how I’ve set up a Worm Inn and Mega, respectively, in the past:
Worm Inn Journal-08-02-10 (regular Inn – also talks about PVC stand)
Worm Inn Mega Re-Boot – Part III (I didn’t bother with the thick upper bedding layer in this case since I was covering with a thick layer of aged manure).


Can I collect “worm tea” from my Worm Inn?


It’s important to note right off the bat that any liquid draining down from a vermicomposting system is NOT legitimate compost tea – and using it as such can be somewhat risky, depending on the maturity of the system (the older it is, the closer the liquid will be to decent “tea”), and what you plan to use it for (sensitive houseplants in small pots vs general outdoor garden application, for example).

In other words – NO, I don’t recommend attempting to collect “tea” from your Worm Inn.

Liquid CAN drain out from the bottom – and I personally recommend keeping either a bucket or an actual open worm bed (my preference) sitting below – but the goal should be to keep the lower reaches as dry as possible. Not only are you decreasing the potency of your vermicompost when leachate drains out, but you are also greatly increasing the likelihood of having lots of worms stay down in the lowermost zone – making effective harvesting more difficult.


When can I start harvesting my Worm Inn?


Typically – for best results – you should expect to wait at least 2 or 3 months before you start harvesting, especially if you’ve started off slowly with a small number of worms. I highly recommend waiting until the level of material in the Inn is consistently up near the screen lid. i.e. once you’re up near the top and the level of material is not going down much between feedings, it’s probably time to do your first harvest.


How do I harvest the Worm Inn?


Once you have determined that it is harvesting time (see previous answer), I recommend feeding – ideally with food materials the worms really go for (eg. chopped melons, mixed with well-aged horse manure). This will serve to draw the worms upward, away from the lower reaches of the system.

As far as the actual harvesting goes…

Position it over an empty catch bin, loosen the drawstrings, and start scraping. It’s as simple as that (but see next question as well).

If you are seeing lots of worms, you have started harvesting too soon, OR you’ve been keeping the system too wet, OR you’ve simply scraped up too far. Close up the bottom


My false bottom was completely intact when I harvested – have I done something wrong?


Absolutely NOT! In fact, I would say that if your false bottom has completely rotted away, you’ve probably been keeping the system too wet (refer to my “worm tea” post above). I always expect to recover most, if not ALL, of my false bottom materials when I do my first harvest. This, along with other bulky materials (which can easily be screened) can be recycled back through the system as a sort of “living material” mix.


How do I add a new false bottom once I pull out the first one?


You don’t!
🙂

The false bottom serves mainly as a means of absorbing excess moisture and of discouraging worms from leaving the system EARLY ON, when the overall level of material is quite low. Once you have lots of vermicompost in the system and the bulk of the worm population is up near the top, the false bottom is no longer needed. Simply close up the drawstrings after you harvest, and away you go! As the worms continue to work away, everything will settle down to the bottom.


After my first harvest, how often can I harvest from the Inn?


Hard to say for sure. This will depend on a wide range of factors. If the system has been, and continues to be well maintained (and is sitting in a controlled environment), and if you didn’t remove too much during your first harvest, my guess is that you could get away with doing some harvesting every few weeks. This is especially true with a Worm Inn Mega, since it has basically double the volume of the regular Inn.

The key is to test things out for yourself!

Let the level get back near the top – then see how things look down below. If you can scrape vermicompost without getting lots of worms, feel free to harvest. If not, just wait longer!
🙂


Do I ever need to completely empty out the Worm Inn?


Performing a TOTAL system “reboot” (maybe once a year or so) isn’t a bad idea, but in theory this shouldn’t be vitally important. Unlike with a regular bin or bed, the Worm Inn is a flow-through system, so vermicompost (which contains the worms’ waste product – castings) is being continually removed. As such, it is much easier to maintain a healthy habitat for the worms.


Is mold growth on the outside of the Worm Inn normal?


If a Worm Inn is kept in a high-humidity environment – especially if the system is kept really wet – this is not uncommon. Whatever you do, DON’T wrap the Worm Inn in anything (I still shake my head thinking about someone who wrapped their Inn with plastic and wondered why mold was growing all over it! lol). Aim to maintain really good air flow, and follow my advice about not allowing the lower reaches to get too wet.

If you DO get a bit of mold growth on the outside walls this is not the end of the world (obviously if you have a severe mold allergy you should take this more seriously – but my guess is that you won’t be a vermicomposter at all if this is the case). You should be able towipe it off easily with a damp cloth (maybe a bit of vinegar/water solution for good measure)


If I order a Worm Inn with worms will they be shipped together?


NO. I always recommend that people set up their vermicomposting system BEFORE adding the worms. In the case of a Worm Inn, there is also the matter of getting your stand built, so I try to make sure customers have a decent amount of time with their Inn before the worms get sent.

If you place your order early in the week (Sunday-Tuesday), the Worm Inn will more than likely be shipped out that same week, while the worms will go out early the next week. If the order comes in after Tuesday I usually skip a shipping cycle before sending the worms (so not early the next week – but early the week after that).

The good news is that pricing includes ALL shipping – both for worms AND Worm Inns!


Are Worm Inns available outside of U.S.A.?


YES!

If you are from Canada, I have Worm Inn Megas available via my Canadian site: Worm Composting Canada
For international inquiries, simply email me >>HERE<< and I'll get you pointed in the right direction.




What are you waiting for? Why not order a Worm Inn today!

All RWC Worm Inn customers have access to the private Worm Inn Facebook group and email list, so you are guaranteed to stay updated on all-things-Worm-Inn-related, and can get all the advice and assistance you need!
😎

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Comments

    • Robyn
    • October 22, 2014

    Thank you so much for publishing this Bentley! Sounds like a great Christmas gift for me! No better time to order with the sale and all!

    • Thuan
    • October 23, 2014

    Hi B, You recommended that the worm inn stays indoor but for me it was not an option. The two worm inns and the VB 24 are outdoor in the shade but under intense 100deg heat during the summer. After three years, the worm inns are holding up OK. The heat has taken a toll on the mesh cover (plus the rat chewed through it). One of the zipper doesn’t close properly anymore but the main part of the worm inn, the bag and lower drawstring cord are holding up well. So a cheese cloth cover goes over the worm inn and the zip ties were replaced. For me the worm inn produce better vc and it was much easier to take care than the VB 24. If I have a chance to do over, I would just get two mega worm inn and that would handle all the waste!

    • Bentley
    • October 25, 2014

    ROBYN – You share your first name with the person who actually invented the Worm Inn (Robyn Crispe). Coincidence? I think not! LOL
    😉

    THUAN – Thanks very much for sharing that! I’m really glad you’ve been able to succeed outdoors (especially considering the conditions you’ve dealt with). I guess I just felt it was better to err on the side of caution as far as my location recommendation goes – but hopefully people will see your comment as well and be able to make their own educated decision!

    In thinking about it some more, I do think the Worm Inn actually has some advantages over outdoor bins. Because it is so breathable, it is likely a lot easier to keep it cool (due to evaporation). You mentioned draping cheese cloth over it – reminded me of a cool strategy a worm farmer friend of mine shared with me. During really hot weather he drapes wet sheets over his outdoor beds and blows air at them (this is in a hot outdoor shed) to help keep them cool.

    Anyway – this really makes me want to do some outdoor testing with a Worm Inn! Alas, I will need to wait until next Spring since it won’t be long before the snow starts to fly up here.
    🙁

    • Darryle
    • October 28, 2014

    I recently purchased a mega from you with plans to transfer my stackable bin system to the mega. However I have a concern about it drying out while I’m on vacation for 4 weeks this winter. It will be indoors, but I’m in a very dry area of southern California. One of the few advantages of the bins is that you can leave them and moisture is usually not an issue. Any advice on my mega as it relates to long vacations? A worm sitter isn’t really an option.

    • Bentley
    • October 30, 2014

    Hi Darryle,
    I’d suggest keeping it in a smaller room that can be closed (a bathroom maybe?) and putting some open buckets of water (or tubs with water) to help keep the humidity at a decent level.
    Feed it well (with water rich materials) leading up to the trip and then put some sort of damp towel (obviously not a good one – lol) in on top of your cover bedding.

    OR you simply clean it out and move everything to bins while you are away and start fresh once back!
    🙂

    • daniel
    • February 26, 2015

    If kept indoors and optimal conditions how many years should this last?

    • Gary
    • April 8, 2015

    How many worms can the Standard Worm Inn and Mega Inns support?

    • Bentley
    • April 9, 2015

    Daniel – strange! Could have sworn I replied to your question (maybe you left it on another blog post as well?). Under optimal conditions (indoor vermicomposting, proper use), I could see a Worm Inn lasting for many years. Hard to say for sure since I don`t know of anyone who has kept the same Worm Inn active for years on end. I myself tend to go through cycles with them – setting them up, working with them for a while, then taking them down (usually to free up space for something else).

    Gary – I would recommend allowing your worms to grow INTO the system rather than starting with the maximum amount the system can support. Especially since the maximum supported when you first set it up will likely be different than further along the line. A good starting place would likely be 1 lb for the Standard, 3 lb for the Mega.

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