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How to get the optimum mix of waste and what to do with it!

The great British scientist Charles Darwin of ‘theory of evolution’ and ‘natural selection’ fame spent 3 full years on his famous and revolutionary book ‘The Origin of the Species’. However and less well known, before this seminal work, he spent 10 years full-time studying and researching the activity of worms, invertebrates and micro organisms in what he called ‘the fermentation of vegetable matter’ – or as we call it, composting.

Composting is quite simply nature’s way of recycling dead organic matter.


  • Has understandably been described as black gold.
  • It returns nutrients, vitality and structure to the soil.
  • It is a valuable resource for garden crops & flowers.
  • It’s entirely natural and produces a valuable product
  • It’s good for our environment – landfill; collection; transport etc
  • (and we are running out of space)
  • It can reduce your Council Tax! (well, reduce the rate of increase) – collecting, transporting and disposing of household and garden waste is very expensive.
  • It’s free and saves you buying someone else’s waste – neatly pre-bagged but expensive.
  • It helps break up clay soils.
  • It improves water retention (less evaporation).
  • It improves drainage.
  • It increases worm activity (which is good for every part of the garden except, perhaps, the lawn!)

Composting is easy – and easy to get wrong!

All you need is a little knowledge and the right ingredients. We all have our own ideas of how to compost, some are successful and others are not. If you are happy with your method, then do not change. However, there are some BASIC PRINCIPLES which can help ensure success.

It’s all about the right ingredients!


  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Weeds
  • Dead Plants
  • Food scraps (vegetable and fruit)
  • Straw/hay
  • Tea/coffee grounds
  • Twigs/chopped wood
  • Herbivorous pet waste – the small furies – guinea pigs, rabbits etc
  • Cardboard
  • Hair, dust waste, newspaper.


  • Weeds gone to seed – they may germinate.
  • Meat
  • Grease
  • Bones
  • Dairy products
  • Dog/cat waste – unpleasant / risk of toxicara virus
  • Thick branches
  • Diseased material
  • Pernicious weeds – bindweed/cooch or twitch grass/ground elder
    Now we know what can easily be composted what do we do?

The materials we can compost can be split into two lists:


  • Food scraps
  • Grass clippings ‘sappy’/’green’ waste
  • Rotted manure
  • Weeds


Woody twigs
Wood chips
Straw ‘dryer’/’brown’ waste

To get trouble-free compost it is best to have about
2 parts nitrogen
1 part carbon
They COMPLEMENT each other. Carbon traps the air (physically not chemically).

How to compost

Many gardens in summer have 99% grass clippings (i.e. Nitrogen)

What can be done?
Newspapers/cardboard scrunched up.

Twigs/woody stuff
Keep adding kitchen waste

ADDITIVES - Are they necessary?

This is a common question and there are several reputable products. A compost activator is simply a rich source of nitrogen. Don’t bother if you have a good mixture of waste. A good heap will build up micro-organisms quickly on its own – this can be helped by mixing the heap.

The cheapest and most highly effective natural additive is, believe it or not, human urine. That said how you get it into the compost bin is up to you!

So, now we’ve got the ingredients, what do we do!

There are two main ways to make compost at home

The easy method (the lazy way – my way!)

  • Add as you go
  • Maintain 2 parts sappy/nitrogen
  • 1 part woody/carbon
  • Keep adding until the bin is full and well settled. Finished compost is at the bottom. Better still have 2 or more compost bins. When you start composting it’s amazing how much you can actually compost. I have a small garden but run 7 composters and a Wormery.

The quicker method

  • Build up pile of material all at once (same Carbon / Nitrogen mix)
  • Fill the bin all at once
  • After 1 week, turn pile
  • After 1 more week, turn pile again
  • Cover pile with black polyethylene or 2 and composter then start again
  • Compost will be ready in 3-4 months.
Why use a composter?

Because it’s quick, simple and tidy (nature works to its own timescale)

There are 4 key stages of composting: –

  • 55F to 70F bacteria called psychrophiles (sack-ro-files)
  • 70F to 90F mesophiles come in to do the REAL work, They eat everything in sight. They can increase the temperature to 100F then die out.
  • 90F upwards thermophiles do the really hot work. They last 3-5 days – the heap gets very hot! Too hot to handle! This helps to kill any weeds and seeds etc…

This will pump more air (oxygen) into it and gives a better mix.
When it cools down, there is still much improvement to go.

  • Worms, woodlice and other invertebrates move in (the worms can eat their own weight each day). All these beneficial creatures help to break the compost down to finish the job.

With all this going on, the heap needs a little protection – a Compost Bin.
Key features to look for:-

1) Size – The bigger the better – but it’s better to fill a small bin than to only half fill a larger one.

2) Colour – Dark is the best to absorb & retain heat.

3) Shape – Conical = good drainage and good air circulation

4) Solid – no air holes – weather. Aeration is critical but comes from having the correct mixture of compostable waste – the Carbon & Nitrogen mix. External vents in a compost bin serve only to aerate the outer layer of waste and in so doing cool and slow down the whole process. So although they may superficially sound like a good idea – so don’t be fooled by marketing gimmicks.

5) Doors – Not necessary, not better, not easier to use, but popular – personal preference.


Don’t expect your compost to look exactly like the compost you can buy unless you are prepared to take the final step.

You are producing a truly excellent soil conditioner rich in nutrients to use as a top dressing, mulch or dig into your garden.

If you want it to look just like what you can buy from the Garden Centre – simply dry it out and run it through a garden sieve of griddle – on the other hand why bother – unless your planning to sell it at the local car boot sale!

What is a Wormery?

A Wormery is a very simple but highly effective (and environmentally friendly) method of turning dead organic matter (such as cooked and uncooked food and kitchen waste) into a superbly high quality worm cast compost (Vermicompost) and a nutritious liquid feed (leachate), which you can use in your garden and around your home.

Worm compost, like that produced by our Wormeries, is often referred to by the experts as ‘black gold’ as it really is the best and most nutrient rich you can get. A Wormery is an expertly acclaimed method of obtaining this ‘black gold’ worm compost as well as reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill at the same time!

What are the different types of Wormery available and which is better?

There are two main types of Wormery available and choosing between them is not much more than personal preference. All of our Wormeries work well from a technical perspective. They all do the same job and do it very well, but you may find one is more suitable for your needs than the other.

The two types we offer are our Classic range of “all-in-one wormeries” (The Original, Junior & The Midi Wormery) and “the multi-tray system” (The Tiger Wormery).

The Original Wormery is the first ever commercially available domestic Wormery and has remained our best seller for a very long time (although it has gone through considerable development, improvement and refinement over the years). With its “all-in-one” design, the waste and liquid is all self-contained inside the bin, with an internal drainage platform separating the solids from the liquid and allowing you to catch and tap-off the leachate liquid feed.

It works well because the worms are ‘surface-feeders’. That means that even as the top section of the bin (where the solids are) fills, the worms tend to remain close to the surface – turning the waste into compost which they leave lower down. That means that emptying it is relatively straightforward when full. You simply trowel off the top few inches and put this to the side. Empty the worm compost out from underneath. Then pop the top few inches which you have put to the side back in the bin at the bottom.

Our “multi-tray system” removes this element of initial separation by using multiple trays to house the compost and waste. Each tray has a perforated base which allows the worms to move freely between them. You start off feeding your food waste into the bottom tray and as each tray fills, the worms move to the waste in the next tray upwards, leaving behind compost as they work their way up through the trays. So, by the time the worms have moved up to the top tray, the bottom tray should be ready to harvest and can simply be removed and emptied (before being placed back on top). It’s a bit like a game of ‘hands on top’!

So, you can see that each Wormery works in exactly the same way, but the method of harvesting the compost is different. Whichever Wormery you think will be easier for you to use is the one to go for and if you’re still not sure then you might be reassured by the fact The Original Wormery has been our bestseller for nearly 20 years!

How much of my food waste will my Wormery cope with?

It varies by the size and capacity of the Wormery, but all of ours are designed to take the majority of the average daily waste produced by its user. The Junior Wormery, for example, is designed for single person use and it will cope with the average food output of a single person. The Original Wormery or The Tiger Wormery are both designed for family usage of, say, 4 people.

Why should I buy my Wormery from Original Organics?

We invented the first commercially available Wormery 20 years ago and we even devised (and trade-marked) the very word ‘Wormery’ as it relates to composting. With this pedigree we proudly continue to offer simply the best range of great value, but high-quality Wormeries on the market today.

Our products have received independent acclaim over the last 20 years and we hold thick files of unsolicited customer testimonials which we are very flattered to receive and our customer service team are very highly experienced in resolving any issues or answering any questions you might have before or after you buy from us.

Apart from being the inventors, and thus to some extent the experts, and apart from offering an unrivalled range of Wormeries, we also offer the best value in the country and, remember we supply Tiger Worms!

What are the main benefits of a Wormery?

A Wormery will divert your cooked and uncooked food waste, along with things like shredded newspaper, cardboard tubes, tea bags, egg cartons etc… Etc… away from landfill.

Not only that, a Wormery is also giving you something useful back. The highest quality compost you can get and a liquid feed which you can use to feed indoor / outdoor plants.

Where is the best place to keep my Wormery?

The best place to keep your Wormery is anywhere with a relatively stable temperature that is out of direct sunlight and preferably frost free. Most people keep their Wormery in their garage or next to the back door. A shed is also a popular location for a Wormery – you can also keep it indoors if you feel confident enough – and have space under a worktop or similar.

What is the best temperature for the Wormery to operate at?

Worms operate year round, but they work best within the temperature range we humans tend to feel comfortable in.

What foodstuffs should I avoid putting into the Wormery?

Whilst worms will eat fish, we generally advise against it as it can get smelly quickly – where a Wormery is usually not smelly at all. Small quantities of cooked meat however are fine.

Try to avoid using acidic foods in quantity as the worms find acidic conditions uncomfortable. We do, however, provide all our Wormeries with an ‘anti-acid’ lime mix which helps.

Other than that, pretty much all of your cooked and uncooked food waste can be added straight into a Wormery, although cutting up thick fibrous waste such as broccoli and cauliflower stalks can be helpful.

What is the anti-acid lime mix and what does it do?

Essentially it is a gentle form of calcium which reduces the acidity. Most food waste is mildly acidic and worms thrive best at a broadly neutral pH (7). A small handful sprinkled over the surface every 4 to 5 weeks will keep the conditions sweet. Crushed up eggshells (which are essentially calcium oxide) have the same effect.

What type of worm is best in my Wormery?

There are 28 species of earthworm native to the UK and of these 3 are particularly suitable for composting. We strongly believe that Eisenia Fetida (or the Tiger Worm) is the best at the job. Essentially it survives in a wider variety of conditions and has a better appetite so deals with more food waste.

Other suppliers of worm bins use Dendrobaena, which is more widely available (and significantly cheaper) they are widely used by anglers as bait.

Can I put worms from the compost bin into my Wormery?

If they are the small red wriggly worms rather than the mineral soil dwelling earthworm (lob worm = lumbricus terrestris) the simple answer is yes. That said there should be no need to as we provide plenty to start with and they breed well in a Wormery.

How long do the worms live?

Tiger Worms typically live for between 6 months up to 2 years.

If I cut a worm in half, do two worms really survive?

No! This is a myth. It is possible one half of the worm may survive (but not definite), but you definitely won’t end up with two worms.

Will I need to keep buying more worms for my Wormery?

No. The great thing about worms is that they breed rapidly. In a Wormery operating as it should be the worms will renew themselves so you shouldn’t need to reintroduce new worms. However should you have a disaster and need more worms we can of course supply them at a very reasonable cost.

Will I end up with too many worms in my Wormery?

Nope. Worms are ‘clever’ with their breeding in that they will never overpopulate. They regulate their reproduction based on their environmental conditions, the space they have available and the food supply. Pity mankind hasn’t learnt this trick yet!

Will the worms escape?

It depends on the type of Wormery you have. From a home-made or poorly made Wormery escapees are likely. Our Original Wormery has been designed to keep worms in as it is a fully sealed unit, but it is possible you might have some ‘escapees’ if you opt for The Tiger Wormery in the early days.

As the worms settle, they explore. This is perfectly normal. Losing a few worms is nothing to be particularly worried about, however, as there are plenty enough supplied to continue breeding.

Once the Wormery has been established and the worms have settled it provides them with their ideal environment and conditions. The worms are in an excellent and near ideal environment inside the dark, cool, Wormery so won’t want to get away even if they could.

What are the most common issues people might have with a Wormery?

The most likely reasons for the failure of a Wormery are the following :-

1) Overfeeding in the early stages :-
The worms need a little while to settle in and the food waste you add needs to partly decompose naturally before the worms are able to eat it. The first few weeks are the slowest and you should generally only feed a couple of handfuls a week when you first set it up. Once the worms are established and the food is in the correct state for the worms, you can increase the throughput.

2) Conditions get too wet
If the Wormery gets very soggy and wet, then this can cause problems for the worms. You might find they try to get away from the food waste. It is an easy problem to solve, however. If the waste is looking wet (not moist – moist is good!) then simply shred up some extra newspaper or cardboard and mix this thoroughly into the Wormery right down to the base plate or bottom of the tray. This will soak up the excess moisture, help aerate the compost, and return the Wormery to the normal operation.

3) Conditions get too acidic
This can be a problem if you add a large amount of acidic food waste such as citrus peel and / or conditions get waterlogged. Pot worms (enchytraeids) are tiny thread like worms that resemble a piece of white sewing thread a few millimetres long. They occur quite naturally and are harmless – in fact they do the same job as the Tiger worms. However they thrive at a lower, more acidic pH than is ideal for the tiger worms. The proliferation of these pot worms is a sign of acidity – so if this occurs add a handful of the lime mix.

What about flies?

Flies should find it rather difficult to get into your Wormery, however Wormeries can sometimes provide a good breeding environment for them if they are inadvertently introduced with some waste.

If you do end up having a problem with flies you can use an organic flyspray to kill their lifecycle. Instructions on how to deal with this are provided in the instruction booklet.

Do the Wormeries come with instructions?

All of our Wormeries are provided with very comprehensive, easy to follow, instructions which contain hints and tips on successfully operating your Wormery.

What if it all goes wrong?

If the instructions are followed, this is unlikely. But if you do feel your Wormery is not working properly – don’t panic! We are only at the end of a freephone telephone call and it would be our pleasure (and determination) to troubleshoot, advise and to help make the Wormery a success for you.

How long will it be before I get some worm compost?

A handful of waste takes just a few weeks to compost. However you need to build up a good amount of compost to make harvesting it easy and worthwhile. Typically it takes around a year to fill the Wormery with compost (with The Tiger Wormery you obviously harvest each tray more frequently). This is because the majority of food waste is liquid content which is released from the food and comes out the tap as the liquid feed.

How long does it take for the liquid feed to start coming through?

This is typically within around 10 – 12 weeks. Though it could be quicker, or longer, depending on the amount and type of food you’re putting in and the time of year (or rather prevailing weather and temperature). Once the liquid starts to come through you generally tap it off every 3-4 weeks.

Do I need to dilute the liquid feed?

Yes, the feed should be diluted with 10 parts water prior to being used.

What can I use the liquid feed on?

The liquid feed is multi-purpose and can be used on indoor / outdoor plants, flowerbeds, vegetable patches or on your lawn.

Do Wormeries smell?

A Wormery is almost an odourless process because the food is consumed by the worms rather than left to decompose. Therefore any strong odour is eliminated by the worms before it has a chance to occur. If you stick your head inside a Wormery – you may notice a ‘composty’ sweet smell or even an earthy chrysanthemum or tomato plant smell.

What happens if I go away on holiday?

No problem at all. A well established Wormery should be fine left for around a month. Simply add some food waste before you go and leave the tap open with a container underneath (just to stop the build up of liquid feed) and enjoy your holiday! The worms will look after themselves.

Can I put compostable nappies into my Wormery?

This is a common question after compostable nappies have received increasing press over the last few years. Technically, the worms can indeed turn nappies into compost, but the problem comes with size and quantity. If you were to compost all your nappies, the Wormery would very quickly become full and the worms would unfortunately not be able to cope. One or more of our excellent Garden Composters might be better for this job.

Can Wormeries compost pet poo?

The simple answer is yes – but be careful. Waste and bedding from most herbivores e.g. rabbits, hamsters, gerbils etc. is fine.

However we do not advise adding waste from meat eaters such as cats and dogs which is more unpleasant and carries a risk of the toxocara virus. We offer a purpose-made “Pet Poo Convertor” Wormery which is designed to deal with that sort of waste.

Which is the correct spelling? Wormeries or Wormerys?

The correct plural of the word Wormery is Wormeries, though some people do use the term Wormerys.

Can I build my own Wormery?

If this is what you wish to do, we wish you good luck! Designing a Wormery is notoriously difficult to ‘get-right’ and we’ve unfortunately seen lots of examples of poorly made Wormeries going wrong and ending up as a big mess.

It is unfortunate but we are increasingly seeing ‘experts’ advising people on how to build Wormeries at home but putting no thought into drainage / airflow / etc… Because they want to jump on the ‘go green’ bandwagon.

If you wish to give it a go, we do supply a DIY Wormery kit which will provide you with the worms, bedding and anti-acid lime mix you need.

Is it best to mix and ‘turn’ wormeries like you do with compost heaps?

This is not necessary or a routine operation as it is for a garden composter. However you do need to dig into it occasionally to check all is well. Also if it gets very wet and waterlogged you will need to thoroughly mix in dry cardboard and shredded newspaper.

Where can I get the best and the best value Wormeries from?

Right here of course! From the Wormery inventors and experts – Original Organics Ltd.