Setting up a wormery 3 – Design flaws

This is one of a series of posts about setting up a wormery.  You might like to read these as well:

Setting up a wormery

Setting up a wormery 2 – Moisture

I’m no expert, being on only the second wormery of my gardening career, but I do know one thing.  The contents of a wormery is not the kind of thing you want spilling all over your garden, let alone your shoes, trousers etc… so it is rather crucial that the legs stay on the thing at all costs.  What you don’t want to be doing is lifting a tray up to see how the little loves are getting on, only to find that not only have you lifted the entire thing off the ground, but the legs have also fallen off it.  Or more likely, one of the legs has fallen off it, meaning that you can’t even put the trays down and sort it all out, because three of the legs are still holding grimly on for dear life, and so the whole thing is just massively unstable.  And extremely heavy.

This is precisely what happened to my Worm Factory the other day.  The legs are really rather pathetically attached with a few little plastic clips, and once they have a few thousand worms and several kilos of soil to bear, they are utterly useless.  They fall off at regular intervals, and it is extremely difficult to put them all back, without one of the others falling off, and by then all the neighbours are looking out of the window at you, and wondering whether it’s time to call the men in white coats in.  Again.

Consequently, the entire thing is now up on bricks, and this is extremely satisfactory because you know where you are with a brick.  It’s not feeble mindedly going to make a bid for freedom just when you least expect it, it will stay put; and along with its colleagues, provide a trustworthy platform for all your worming antics.

I haven’t tried the Worm Factory’s successor, the Can O’ Worms but I wonder whether this is one of the design flaws they fixed.  I’d be interested to know if anyone has one.

The other design flaw I should mention is the one that caused the downfall of my ‘Original Wormery’.  This was essentially a large gray bucket with a tap at the bottom.  I made the first mistake, which was leaving the tap closed for most of the time, which resulted in a very upsetting drowning incident, in which I lost my whole… colony?…pack?…tribe?  Well anyway, the poor things all perished and I don’t want to think about it any further.

Then the additional flaw with the ‘bucket’ design is that you can’t separate compost from waste in a dignified fashion, without getting up to your shoulders in the stuff.  And really and truly, the tray system is the way forward on this one.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences, what other design flaws are there, and is there a wormery which has solved them all?

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, full time Mum, based in London, UK

17 thoughts on “Setting up a wormery 3 – Design flaws”

  1. I keep thinking I must get a wormery but then…..I read things like your unfortunate drowning incident and am put off.

    What do you do with it winter? Do you put it in a shed? And why did you buy the factory instead of the can?

    As you can see you’re an Expert compared to me, a Complete Novice in Wormeries (and most other things too).

    PS Sorry for all the questions.

  2. Well so long as you don’t leave the tap at the bottom closed all the time, and remember to drain off the liquid ‘worm tea’ whether you need it for your plants or not, you won’t have a drowning incident!

    Also the tray system designs separate the liquid from the rest of the wormery, which reduces the likelihood of having a drowning disaster.

    In the winter it will stay out in the garden, and I will cross all my fingers and toes and hope they don’t freeze, unfortunately I don’t have room in the shed, and it’s not coming in the house! Although some people do have them inside, there’s a bizarre picture in ‘Worms Eat My Garbage’ (which is a good book on the subject) of an amazing coffee table / wormery, which is just bizarre.

    I bought the factory instead of the can because the wonderful Wiggly Wigglers were selling slight seconds of the Worm Factory, and this was the cheapest tray system on offer by a long way. It’s not perfect (as you can see from the brick related rant above) but now that I’ve sorted out the legs problem it is behaving very well.

    They can be rather stressful items, but because you can put all your kitchen waste in them (especially if you bokashi the waste first) it means the kitchen bin fills up more slowly, and smells less than if you chuck everything in there! Plus you get the fantastic compost and nutritious plant food from it of course.

    Phew! I hope that helps Mrs Be!

  3. I’ve found the Can O’ Worms good – no legs falling off it, in any case (although see my comment on your earlier post about the problem with the tap – glad I’m not the only worm-drowner in the world (well, not exactly glad, but I know how you feel…)). It was better when I put a layer of old carpet below the worms, then they didn’t fall through into the lower cavity so much. They survived the winter outside fine in England, but I’m just about to start up the wormery here in Canada for the first time and will have to keep it indoors in the winter, as red wigglers won’t survive the low temperatures here!

  4. I’ve also found the Can O’ Worms good (no leg problems) but almost all of my first knot of worms seem to have perished in a late blizzard on my balcony (I think it might have been wind as well as cold which did for them). They were fine outside until then though, so I’m intending to make a bubble wrap overcoat to give them a bit of extra protection this winter.

  5. I have 2 wormeries
    a can of worms and an original wormery from original organics

    the can of worms is ok, but very small for a family of 4 it just cant keep up.
    however when all the trays are full it becomes very unstable on its legs, they have buckled under the weight before, and ive lost the lot !!

    also because all the ventilalation holes in the lid it is very soggy inside, also the worms are always drowning in the sump.

    However the original wormery is worse than useless, its a large converted dustbin, that has 2 small ventilation holes – which is nowhere near enough, the weight of food inside ends up sqeezing out all the air, and becoming anerobic and smelly. its really hard to manage and empty.

    so between the 2 the canoworms is far better, but very very pricy, and still has massive drawbacks in the design.

    there must be a better wormery about !!

  6. Hi Sidney,

    I think perhaps what the manufacturers don’t tell you is, that you can’t just tap off the moisture when you need some for your plants, you have to keep any design properly drained. So in actual fact what I do now is keep the tap open all the time. This means I lose the majority of the liquid, but it’s preferable to drowning the poor blighters!

    Thanks for giving me your experiences of the Can O’ Worms, it sounds similar to the Worm Factory. Perhaps you also have to regulate how heavy they get as well.

    These worms are high maintenance!

  7. I have read this post with interest, as I have a wormcity executive wormery which was bought for me as a bithday present.

    I used to have a junior original organics wormery which was too small so I wanted to upgrade (now the kiddies use it).

    so far I havnt had any real problems.
    The wormery doesn’t have legs, and the instructions actually state that a house brick should be used to 1) hold the wormery off the ground, and 2) put 1 in the sump, as a ladder for the worms to climb into if they fall into the sump, which i thought was a great idea.

    I have 3 composting trays and because they are large but shallow give a large composting area, and it keeps up with our food waste.

    Ive never had a problem with flies (had a few slugs !) and so far after 6 months and have just harvested my 2nd tray.

    i havnt had much liquid but i have used lots of cardboard.

    design faults … the lid can be tricky initially but really easy when you get the knack, and the trays are heavy when full but apart from that its really easy to use and maintain

    i hope that helps someone too many people give up wormcomposting as it becomes a chore but it should be easy to do with very little effort

    louise x

  8. Three great posts.

    A primary school, next door to me, is disposing of its wormery so I said: “yes please I’ll have it.” So tomorrow or the next day I’ll be the proud owner of a wormery.

    Of course I’m going to have to find a supply of the little creatures to start me off, but my local sports shop should see me ok here, failing that there is always the internet.

    As a by the way when you have a build up of worms in your wormery can you hive off four or five hundred and put them to work in your soil and/or ordionary garden compost.

    I’ll be reporting on my success or otherwise on my own vegetarian website.


  9. Kevin
    I installed a wormery at my daughter’s school. It’s great fun for the kids. Congrats with your inheritance. I have worms – For sale – if you are only looking for creatures.

    Red Wrigglers do not feed on soil, will have to keep the garden compost area moist. They do no feed deep, approx 20cm, so I do not think the garden compost is the right place for them.


  10. im really up for buying a wormery but im scared to do something wrong, can i feed them left overs like chips, potatoes, meat, baked beans etc, i will obviously feed them fruit and veg waste. i just want to do it all right to look after them properly. please could u let me know what i cant feed them so i know beforehand. thank you

    A. Lock

  11. I want to build my own womery rather than buy, what do I need and can I also dig up some worms from any ground and put them into the womery I want to build?

    1. Hi Arthur,

      There’s a basic guide to building your own wormery here:

      You can’t just dig worms up and use them from your garden I’m afraid because the worms which live in gardens aren’t composting worms. They won’t survive well in a worm bin, and won’t process the volume of matter that you need them to to ensure an efficient wormery. The best kind of composting worms to get are often called ‘red’, ‘tiger’ or ‘dendra’ worms, you can get them from here:

      They will survive very well in a composter and can reproduce in restricted conditions such as those you find in a wormery.

      Good luck!

      Rach x

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