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Overfed wormery, a sad tale. Do I need to start over?

Edmund Lea
4 years ago

I got my wormery back in September, along with about 150 worms. I followed the instructions as best I could and fed only minimally for the first couple of weeks, although my housemates didn't realise this was necessary at first and so were putting a lot of waste in until I stopped them.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have left it a lot longer before starting full feeds, but the instruction booklet that came with the wormery gave me the impression that I could start putting most of my vegetable waste in it after the first few weeks. When the worms started crawling up the sides I put cardboard in, which seemed to make them a bit happier, and as it got colder (I live in the UK) and composting seemed slow, I brought the wormery into the house to get them going again.

At this point I really should have left things, but instead I got overexcited and dumped a load of coffee grounds into the wormery from a local coffee shop, as I'd heard that they liked those. The grounds looked a bit dry and the worms were starting to cluster in the corners again, so I poured on some water to dampen them.

That was, in retrospect, another mistake. Yesterday I took a look at the wormery, and the worms were once again all trying to crawl up the sides and looking very unhappy/unhealthy. It also smelled BAD, a very stale odour I can only describle as halitosis-like. I cleared out the sump tray, which had got full of sludge which had blocked the tap, and mixed in some more cardboard and tried to get some air into the thing. I also fished out a few handfuls of the slimier waste towards the bottom of the tray, along with some carrots which had barely broken down at all and a whole tangerine I did not realise someone had put in there. I also put in a bit of lime, in an attempt to regulate things a bit.

I was hoping that the worms would look happier today, but while they would usually be there just beneath the surface after a little gentle poking with a plastic scoop, today there were few signs of life apart from one dead worm and one very pale and straggly looking one. The bad breath smell was still there.

I am trying to decide what to do. Should I just leave them for a few weeks? Or should I try to Do Something - and what can I do? Add more cardboard? Buy more worms and add them? Dump the whole thing and start from the beginning? I feel awful that I've not cared for these things as well as I ought, and I definitely won't be feeding them so heavily again until I'm satisfied that their numbers will sustain it.

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