How does worm farming compare to other types of composting, (that is, if you can call a worm farm a composting system). Why would you use this method over creating a compost heap?

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another group that you might find interesting

There are 2 sites that I use for vermicomposting.

red Worm Composting



Here are some quick facts i borrowed from Red Worm Composting:

  • Worm composting (also known as vermicomposting) involves the breakdown of organic wastes via the joint action of worms and microorganisms (although there are often other critters that lend a hand)
  • Composting worms are specialized surface dwellers (not burrowers), typically living in very rich organic matter such as manure, compost heaps or leaf litter
  • It is widely believed that a composting worm can process the equivalent of it’s own weight in waste each day. Under highly optimum conditions (not likely to be attained with a small home system) red worms have been found to process multiple times their own weight! This is very much dependent on the foodstock and how well managed the system is.
  • A reasonable guideline to follow is 1/4-1/2 total worm weight in waste per day. So if you have a pound of worms, they should be able to process roughly 1/4-1/2 lb of food waste per day. Keep in mind however that you may need to feed them less during the first couple months since they usually require a period of acclimation when added to a new system.
  • Red worms technically graze on the microbial community that colonizes waste materials – not really the waste itself (although they certainly ingest some of the rotting waste in the process). Some research has indicated that protozoans are the primary food source, while there is also evidence that fungi and other microbes are consumed as well.
  • There have been a number of research studies indicating that vermicomposting can significantly reduce levels of pathogens in waste materials, such as biosolids.

Thanks for that Craig, interesting stuff. I've two more questions that I wonder if anyone can help me with? Can you tell me why I might want to use a worm farm over some other composting method?

What can it offer that a conventional heap cannot? And how does it compare to a Bokashi Bucket?

Megan, I've just joined the vermiculture group, thanks for the tip -I think this group for discussion about pros/cons/comparing composting methods still has a place as a separate group though. Cheers F


I haven't experimented with a Bokashi Bucket, so I'm not familiar with it. I persomally use both traditional composting and vermicomposting.  Hot composting will heat/kill pathogens that worms can't.  Worm vermicast seems to be higher in microbial activity and nutrients.

here are some different sources I found on the differences.

Pros and cons by Bentley the "Compost Guy"

Hot Composting

1) Enables processing of larger quantities of materials in a smaller area
2) Can proceed relatively quickly under ideal conditions
3) Can kill weed seeds and pathogens
4) On a large scale can proceed easily in cold weather

1) Can be labor-intensive (piling wastes, turning pile etc) and require more attention
2) Heat can kill off many beneficial microbes
3) May require some stock-piling until sufficient materials available for ‘batch’
4) Heating can lead to considerable nitrogen loss



1) Tends to be somewhat less labor-intensive – no turning/aerating necessary (worm activity helps to mix, fragment and aerate materials)
2) Cooler temperatures help to conserve nitrogen
3) Higher moisture contents not an issue (and actually preferred)
4) Materials can be constantly added (no need to stock pile in preparation for next ‘batch’)
5) Size of system unimportant – ideally suited for both indoors and outdoors
6) Considerable academic evidence to indicate that vermicomposts have beneficial properties not found in hot composts
7) Under ideal conditions, wastes can be processed very quickly

1) Won’t kill seeds (and although there is a fair amount of evidence to indicate pathogen destruction, more research is required)
2) More space required to process similar amounts as hot composting – need to be careful with amount added (since excess heat will kill worms)
3) Outdoor systems much more limited by cold weather
4) Worms need to be separated from compost
5) Worms (although quite resilient) do require some attention and proper care.


Diff between compost and vermicompst  from Dr. Ingham

In a typical compost pile, heat is extremely important as A FIRST STEP in killing pathogens, root-feeding nematodes, and weed seeds. But then competition, inhibition and predation take over as control mechanisms. Compost builds such a wonderfully complex set of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and beneficial nematodes that the bad guys lose. They die, or are eaten.

In vermicompost, heating is minimal, and it better not get to 145 to 150 F for any length of time, or the worms will head elsewhere. It is the others mechanisms that control the bad guys in vermicompost, and it is the worms themselves that do much of this work. They ingest the root-feeding nematodes, the pathogenic bacteria and fungi, and the small size weed seeds. What they don't consume gets released from their bodies as fecal material but in that material, pathogens, root-feeding nematodes and weed seed have a very difficult time surviving the burst of growth of other organisms. Conditions are not right for the bad guys, and they die, or can barely survive at best.

Thus, a different mechanism in vermicompost than compost, but same basic result. Another point most folks don't realize is that no compost (vermi- or otherwise),and no soil is completely pathogen-free. You really don't want it to be completely pathogen free, because you always want the defense mechanism, the biocontrol agent, to have something to practice on. So, a small number of disease-causing organisms is desirable. Emphasize small number though.


Flo, traditional composting, worm farms and bokashi bins are complementary systems to dispose of your kitchen waste. Bokashi bins can be used in offices, restaurants and in apartments. If you don't have a garden, the bokashi waste can be put in the bottom of a planter box/pot and topped up with potting soil and planted into. The FAQ page on the Bokashi nz website has lots of useful information and you'll find a comparison of traditional vs bokashi composting here

Worms can be fussy and don't like anything too spicy and/or acidic so I end up dividing my kitchen waste between the worm farm and the bokashi bin.

Hi Craig, in your notes which are great, you mentioned

     "they should be able to process roughly 1/4-1/2 lb of food waste per day."


Do you feed worms food waste such as peelings etc from kitchen or other green matter from the garden? Or do worms prefer already or at least partially broken down matter?


Caveat:  In an established worm habitat, they should be able to eat up to half their weight each day. So a pound of worms should be able to eat a half-pound of material.  A newly created worm habitat will take much longer to build up to that quantity.

The worms do not actually eat the green waste.  They eat the byproducts of the decomposition of the materials (bacteria, mold, etc). So there are several ways to feed them. Some folks use kitchen and garden waste as it is and let it break down in the bin.  Others will pre-compost their waste, then add it to the bin.  Some will freeze or microwave their green waste (which helps break the cell walls for faster decomposition) before adding it to the bin.  Still others will throw their scraps in a blender for fastest decomposition and feeding.  Freezing also allows you to store excess waste for later use.

The type of feeding you do depends on your bin, how fast you want results and the amount of effort you want to put in.  The greater the exposed area (ie. blended vs peelings), the faster the waste decomposes and the faster the worms consume it. 

It is an individualized choice similar to composting.  Some folks use tumbling composters for faster results while others will fill a bin and let it sit till the following year.

I have a Worm Factory (WF) 5 tray bin and a homemade 32 gallon flow-through (FT) from a trash can.  Depending on my whim, I have utilized the different methods.  In my FT I usually just throw the scraps in, add my bedding material, shredded cardboard, and let nature take it's course.  I tend to play around more with the WF.  Since I have just moved from a rental to a house, I am in the process of building an in-ground worm bed.

I suggest you look at the websites linked above for articles and discussions regarding worm care and feeding.  There is a wealth of knowledge available at these sites. 

Redworm Composting

Many thanks for this - it is very useful indeed.

I've had a 'can of worms' for a couple of years now. I feed them, put some water in sometimes and a little lime occasionally but it has really failed to thrive. I have two layers on but still haven't quite been able to need the third layer.

Can anyone give me some tips on what I cant do to help them along.

I would recommend horse poo. Our worms multiply rapidly when we feed it to them. If you were in Christchurch I would happily supply some to you.



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