I bought our Worm Factory 360 in August 2014 and since then have been diverting most of our kitchen and garden waste into it: vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, dead houseplants and weeds to recycle into the best plant food imaginable. The Worm Factory 360 is an example of a stackable, vertical “flow-through” system. You fill the tray with your organic matter to compost and when the tray is full you just add a new tray on top and start filling that one. The worms move up through the trays to reach the food leavings their castings below. Worm composting bins are designed to be kept INDOORS as the optimal temperature range for Red Wiggler worms is 20 – 30 degrees Celsius. I was worried about bad smells and fruit flies in the house but the bin has operated better than I could have imagined! You can store them outside as well if they are protected from the hot sun and freezing conditions. I kept our Worm Factory under the kitchen counter for the first 9 months and moved the bin to our shaded patio for the summer as an experiment. The weather has cooled down and its time to bring it back inside. Before I bring it in though, I’m going to harvest the finished castings to supplement my houseplants for the winter.
You can see that the bottom trays are squashed down more than the top trays, this happens as the worms convert the organic matter into Vermicompost. If you remove the lid and leave it upside down, you can stack the top trays onto it. I always have a layer of newspaper covering the top tray. This helps to prevent fruit flies from infesting the bin. I don’t have fruit fly problems when I remember to keep a thick layer of dry bedding or newspaper covering the top tray. This top tray was started Sept 2, 2015. I half filled it with straw and dead leaves and mixed it up with a scoop of finished compost from the bottom tray to inoculate the “bedding”. The bedding is the carbon material that the worms eat and live in. I sprayed it lightly with water until it felt slightly damp and then added my newspaper cover. To add food waste to the bin I pull back the newspaper and bury the food under the bedding. You only add new waste material to the top “Feeding” tray.
The second tray is our composting waste from August. The material is already breaking down but still recognizable. The worms were very active in this layer. The third tray is our composting waste from July. The material was mostly broken down with recognizable pieces. I gave them both a quick stir and moved on.
Ok so now we get to the really exciting part. The 4th tray is from June and the 5th tray started May, both are more than ready for harvesting, yay! The June tray was crumbly and dark and only a few unfinished clumps that were no longer recognizable. There are fewer worms than I saw in the trays above. The compost in this tray is finer than any bagged compost I’ve ever purchased. You can sift unfinished clumps out and return them to the top feeding tray if you like. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
On the surface of the bottom tray you can easily see skinny Red Wigglers making their escape to migrate upwards. These are the young worms that hatched from cocoons left behind before their parents moved up. Worm castings are toxic to worms and so as they convert the lower food into castings they move higher up in the bin searching for more food. This makes it easier to separate the worms from the compost.
The May tray was noticeably darker and had a much finer texture than the tray from June. I stirred it around and around but found nothing that wasn’t finished composting. All the bedding, food and plant material has been turned into what looks like rich, black soil. This tray had food added to it daily for a month and then left alone with the worms to finish for just over 3 months.
This is the only fertilizer I have used on my houseplants, seedlings, transplants and gardens for a year now. I love having the perfect food, inoculation, tonic and cure for my plant babies on hand. I can just scoop out a little from the bottom tray as and when I need it. If you are harvesting a whole tray or two, you can store the finished worm compost in ventilated containers. I always use it all straight away. I’m planning on refreshing up the oodles of houseplants decorating the patio that I need to bring in for the winter so it’s an ideal time to harvest these lower 2 trays.
Slow Release: Mix 10% worm compost into potting soil, rake into the top inch of seed beds or add a scoop directly to each planting hole.
Feeding/Side Dressings: Sprinkle a teaspoon amount of worm compost onto the root zone and gentle scratch into surface of the soil around each plant.
Growth Boost and Tonic : Make compost tea to water houseplants during growth and to protect seedlings from damping off. Spray on leaves of sick or stressed plants for instant absorption.