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 A Can-of-Worms Frequently Asked Questions.


What will the worms compost?
Almost anything which is organic and can be composted by worms, best results our obtained from soft organic waste such as left over vegetable scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings, tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds, vacuum dust and hair (including animal) shredded newspaper, egg box type cardboard (pre-soaked), newspaper, crushed egg shells and stale bread. The greater the variety of organic waste the better the resultant worm castings will be.                  


What should I not to feed them?
Worms cannot eat material such as glass metal or plastics. You should also avoid some organic material such as animal manure (the animal may have been 'wormed' and the residue can kill your worms) highly acidic fruit such as citrus fruits and onions should be avoided.  

How much waste will the system compost?
Worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day and can double their population every 60-90 days. If you start your Can-O-Worms with a kilo of mature worms they will consume up to 500g of food waste per day. After a few months you should have double your population and you can feed them more. As you become familiar with your system you will learn their rate of food consumption.

Will the System smell?
Bad smells arise when food is allowed to rot; worms work quickly enough to prevent this eating haft their body weight every day. Worms also eat the micro-organisms that cause decay, anaerobic bacteria. You can help by stirring in some lime mix as supplied, to aerate any uneaten food waste and regulate their feeding to allowing the worms to digest food before it rots. Your bin should have a pleasant earthy smell, like a fresh wet garden after rain.

Can I put worms from my garden into the System?
The many species of worms can be divided into two broad categories; Composters and Earth workers. The chances that your garden contains enough of the right type are very slim. You really do need the specialized composting worms supplied with the System.

Why does the System produce liquid?
Worms breathe through a layer of moisture on their skin and therefore the contents of the bin should be kept moist at all times. The collector tray is there to collect any excess liquid. As it passes through the bin this liquid becomes enriched with nutrients and therefore makes an excellent plant feed. Drain it off from time to time and diluted, can be used to feed your houseplants.

Does it matter where I keep my System?
It can be kept almost anywhere. Worms prefer a temperature of between 13C to 20C. They are best kept where the temperature doesn't vary too widely; a utility room, garage are suitable and they don't require light. They can also be kept outdoors so long as they are kept in a sheltered position.

What happens when I go on holiday?
You have a wonderful time! Your worms, given a good feed making sure the contents are suitably moist. Keep the System out of direct sunlight, put a tray underneath the open collector tray tap and enjoy your holiday.

Why is moisture necessary to maintain a Vermicomposting bin?              Worms breath through their skin, so they must be kept moist at all times. The moisture level should be regularly. Food waste is about 80% water, which is released as the worms break them down this will tend to stay in the bedding for a long time before eventually draining out. Any dry material such as newspaper or cardboard should be presoaked before being added. It is important to keep moist newspaper over the freshly added food to encourage the worms to move up to the surface to feed. You can pour a couple of liters of water over the top covering and scraps and then place an empty container under the open tap, this will flush the system, dampen the waste, and give a constant supply of liquid plant food. The sudden 'flood' will not harm the worms.

What will I need to replace in the future?
You may wish to replace the moisture mat from time to time, effective moisture mats can be produced from layers of damp newspaper cut to shape. A handful of the lime mix should be used every other week and worm treat to give your worms a good start.

Why should you add a couple of handfuls of sand or soil to your Vermicomposting bin? 
It helps in the worm's digestive process. When food reaches a worm's gizzard, fine gritty soil partials help to grind the food down.

Will the worms breed?
In a well maintained Systems they will happily breed. Worms can double in population every 2-3 months and after several years the can-o-worms unit should be home to 15,000 - 20,000 hard working worms.

Where can I obtain compost worms? How many will I require?
There are some retailers specializing in the sale of composting worms, links on the can-of-worms main page. We recommend the purchase of worms as a special package with the can-of-worms system, 1800 compost worms equivalent a kilo is a good start.

How can I help my worms to eat more?
There Worms will feed at a faster rate once they have adapted to any new food source. Worms will also eat more if food waste is cut into small pieces, mashed or processed. Controlling temperatures to around 24 degrees C should improve the overall performance of your system.

Can I release composting worms back into the garden?
Only if you have a thick surface layer of mulch in your garden. Compost worms require moist conditions all year round because they don't tunnel deep like the common earthworms,  to find moisture. If you cannot provide this environment in your garden, don't introduce compost worms into it.

The worms are staying in the lower trays and not moving up to the new waste I provide?
You may be adding new food too soon before the worms can eat the previous food, this will result in a lot of uneaten wastes being distributed throughout the system. The worms will be reluctant to move upwards while they can still access food in lower trays. Before adding a new top tray, stop feeding the worms for a week to ensure all the existing food in the lower trays has been consumed. The worms will then move up to eat from the surface as this is their natural behavior pattern.  You need to allow the lower trays to fully fill with worm castings to enable the worms to move up, if you donít the gap will prevent the worms from reaching the top trays.

When itís raining the worms like to gather in the lid?
You are observing the worms sensitivity to pressure changes in the weather. They will often go up into the lid even before it rains, this would naturally take them out of the soil and prevent drowning during flooding, not to worry they will return to their food.



The animal husbandry of cultivating worms to produce more worms.

The practice of feeding raw organic waste to worms and harvesting the worm castings as a nutrient-rich compost.    

How long can worms live?
They can live for 15 years or more.

Can I feed my worms garden waste?  
Not usually. The Can-O-Worms is designed to break down soft organic waste. Slower composting garden waste is best dealt with by conventional aerobic composting systems such as our Urbanwaste and Milko Bin.

Will my worms die?
Worms are living creatures and will die if their living conditions are unsuitable e.g. in a dry environment worms which absorb oxygen through a layer of moisture on their skin, cannot breath. However their eggs can survive harsh conditions for long periods of time.

How do get started ?
Their are useful quick start instructions provided with all new systems.        

What can go wrong?
Follow the instructions, which come with the System, you should not have problems. Sometime the contents can become a little too acidic but this can be remedied with the lime mix supplied with the System.  

Does being in the System harm the worm?
The System is designed to be the ideal environment for worms

Is the can-o-worms Safe and Hygienic?
Worm composting is a natural process and the resulting worm casts are a rich pleasant to soil like substance. However you should always wash your hands after working with the System.  

How much compost will I make?
The multiple level trays in the System hold 60 liters of compost, 20 liters in each of the three stages. Under normal circumstances, your first compost will be ready in 12 to 20 weeks.

Will I ever get too many worms?
No. A colony of worms regulates its numbers to suit the available resources.  

What happens in hot weather?
Very hot conditions can dry out the contents, which should be kept moist.  

How do I use the compost?
The compost is a pure organic fertilizer with a neutral pH level. It is a ideal mulch around the base of trees and shrubs and can be dug in to enrich soil, particularly for growing vegetables.  

What happens if the System freezes?
Worms can freeze solid but they should thaw out and carry on composting! They will not breed however. This should not happen if the system is kept in a suitable location or coved with some old thick blankets to keep the warmth in. Feed the worms a lot more food wastes which will create some warmth as the food decomposes.

Can the system over heat?
Worms can tolerate temperature up to 30 degrees C. If it gets much hotter for any prolonged period, make sure the Can-O-Worms system is kept in the shade. If need be take the lid off and hose down the whole unit, keeping the drainage tap open to prevent flooding.