Tara Rae Kent – Worm Composting Demystified

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Great Big Ideas & Takeaways:

Ever thought about starting our own worm farm? Wanna divert your kitchen waste stream into rich, black fertilizer? Red Worm Magic will give you the knowledge and know-how to start your own worm farm with as little as $10 and 10 minutes of your time. Learn all about worm biology, vermicomposting, building a worm farm, and compost tea.

  • Why you don’t want to use night crawlers
  • The best worm species for your bins
  • Comparisons of different worm bin models on the market
  • How to make your own worm bin
  • The ideal living conditions for worms
  • How to make compost tea
  • How to make black gold out of kitchen scraps
  • How to start a worm bin in 10 minutes with $10


About The Speaker:

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Tara Rae currently garden-farms on the front range of Colorado. Her love for worms began in 2003 when she started her first worm bin and began studying Permaculture. She has received numerous Permaculture Design Certificates including a Permaculture Teachers Certificate and has accumulated eight different types of vermicomposting systems. Tara Rae works as an Ecologist and teaches on many topics including composting, vermicomposting, chickens, and permaculture design.


QUESTION: What did you learn from or like about this presentation?


  1. jaye

    Great presentation– as much emphasis on building your own system and getting worms locally as there was on where to buy-buy-buy everything.

    I have a Can-of-Worms set-up, but when I put the worms in, along with the bedding and some food, the majority of them escaped and I came home to little dried-up worms all over my kitchen floor. Any suggestions?

    1. tararae

      could be inundation. if worms are too saturated, they cannot breathe thru skin and climb out. I have CanoWorms, too, but have not had that issue.

    2. Brigitte

      Have moist but no soaked livong environs and try to drill smaller holes so the can’t escape.All the best, the trial and error is worth it.

  2. Marjory Wildcraft

    Oh Jaye, I’ve done that too! They say you need to go through a few batches while you are learning. I found they mostly leave becuasee it is too hot, too dry, too wet, or they are hungry…

    Did you ad a bit of soil for them when you put in the bedding and food?

    I’ll also see if I can get Tara Tae here live to answer!

    1. jaye

      I don’t remember putting soil in with the bedding and the food. It’s been a couple of years since I tried this and was too discouraged to try again. Someone suggested that maybe my little wriggly worms weren’t actually Red Wrigglers. How can you tell if they are or aren’t?

      After this presentation, I am inspired to try again! (I’ll get the worms from a different source.)

  3. Wanda Carlton

    been looking forward to learning this πŸ™‚

  4. Nance Shaw

    I’v had the worms a year. They are still alive. I can’t seem to separate them from the compost. And I don’t know what to DO with the compost when I do get it separated. Do I just use it like dirt? Or mushroom compost? Can I top dress with it or only plant in it?

    1. tararae

      add another rubbermaid on top to see if worms will migrate up and the lower layer will finish, making harvesting easier.

      Uses – yes, topdress indoor and outdoor plants, make compost tea. Use like compost, dont plant anything in 100% compost, roots will become waterlogged and die.

    2. tararae

      add another rubbermaid on top to see if worms will migrate up and the lower layer will finish, making harvesting easier.

      Uses – yes, topdress indoor and outdoor plants, make compost tea. Use like compost, dont plant anything in 100% compost, roots will become waterlogged and die.

    3. Brigitte

      All of the above… Worm castings are awesome. You can add a cupful to a hucket and add water, use it for watering. Currently as I am transplanting grown seedlings from trays into soil I dig deeper, take a hand trowel or 2 i nto holeput back in ground soil, then put in bagged sos/ and native surrounding mixed around the veggie plant. Water in well, so far it is great and haven’t lost a one and I think roots seek out all the great food down there.For potted veg, tomatoes etc I give them a bit when it looks like they need a p ick me up.

  5. James

    Awesome presentation. I have a question about the use of newspaper. Newspaper contains chemicals and of course inks. I am trying to keep an organic garden system. So my question is this, can something else be used instead of newspaper?

    1. tararae

      yes, most paper contains some sort of chemicals. B&W newspaper usually has the least heavy metals and dioxins. You could you brown craft paper, paper bags from grocers but I like to use a waste stream and newspapers are free. never use colored newspaper though!

  6. shirley brooke


  7. Cymbre Kooker

    Nance Shaw: Morag Gamble’s son came up with a neat way to separate worms from the castings with low effort. It doesn’t separate 100% of the worms from the castings, but it’s oh-so-easy, and if you’re putting the castings into your garden, you’re adding a few worms to your garden with the castings, so it’s a win-win! Check out her youtube video explaining the process here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU9ezKWec0M

  8. Oldman47

    I noticed that you talked about using dechlorinated water for your vermicompost. Is there a reason that you do it just by letting the water sit for a while instead of using a dechlorintor like you might use for aquarium fish keeping?

    1. tararae


      well, a bit a laziness, and avoidance of electricity.
      You can defin use an aqu pump which I do utilize when brewing tea for 24 hr.

      tap water in the sun will chlorinate in few hours without agitation.

  9. Kelly

    Great! Will you make your power point available? Or at least a resources sheet. I couldn’t click on the links to open them.

  10. Kathy Thomsen

    Can I use my outdoor raised bed as a worm farm, just letting the castings enrich the soil, never intending to harvest? I would continue to add food scraps so they didn’t migrate away…

    1. tararae


      Yes, I think that’s a great idea. In-situ farms are the lazy way to go, no harvest with all the fertility!

  11. Pauly

    Just finished watching. Excellent Presentation Tara πŸ™‚

    I always enjoy seeing others share how fun, easy, and natural it is for worms to turn material back into something extremely useful rather than ending up in the landfill.

    Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  12. Tara

    Very helpful ~ thank you!

  13. Janet

    What exactly are worm ‘castings’ ?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi Janet, ‘castings’ are a nice sounding anme for worm poop.

      1. Bountiful

        Funny incident in another tropical country near the equator! After each of the many rains we’d see all this black goop popping up from the ground! Even out of their version of ‘asphalt’! I asked my friend who lived there what it was and she said the native told her it was worm Poop! and we all cringed! Then later after talking to my other friend I realized it was WORM CASTINGS!!! Then i was brave enough to pick up the dried poop and throw them on some plants! But talk about fertile soil! amazing! My first experience seeing/touching worm castings.

        Hey one of the people living there subscribed to one of your first summits and it actually led her to this beautiful place! She’s the one who informed me of this! I was already familiar with you and watched some of your things…

    2. Brigitte

      it is the “casting off” from worms existance after eating, worm poop – broken down food processed. Lol

  14. Karen

    Thanks for all the great information. My worm bin tends to get too wet so I know I need to add more shredded newspaper & egg cartons.

  15. Liz

    What is compost tea and what is its purpose?

    1. tararae

      compost tea is immunity juice for your plants – a foliage spray, natural insecticide, and nutrient soil drench.

    2. Brigitte

      A cup of broken down compost mixed with coouple gallons of water.
      Compost: food and greenery trimming and browns: leaves etc. some water , as needed _ which is Decomposed over time. Purpose: to give soil additive, growing medium that has rich nutrients, minerals etc to in turn nourish you plants and you when you eat them.

  16. Deb Casey

    I loved the presentation. One question….what do you do when you go on vacation and are not there to feed the worms? Can you feed them extra before you leave for let’s say…two weeks, or ?

    1. Tarare

      I work out of town/state frequently so I feed my farms about once a month (farms in the basement) or 1x week (worms farms in kitchen). they can even be neglected for months and be fine, you will see reduced reproduction though.

      1. Deb Casey

        Thank you Tara Rae πŸ™‚

  17. Carol

    Thanks for this presentation – and all the other too! I”m learning a lot! I have the Worm Factory 360 and at first my worms seems to be doing well – many were climbing into the next higher tray – but then few of them were coming up and most were still in the bottom tray – not huddled up like I was told they’d do if they were cold – and eventually they all died. I read all the material, watched the video, tested the temperature, fed them 50-50 scraps – but obviously I still did something wrong – any ideas what I did? I’m ready to try again.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi Carol,
      Gosh, from your description, I can’t figure out what went wrong. Was it a temperature thing maybe?

      But yes, do try again!

  18. Bountiful

    i saw a great idea that’s simliar to GARDEN TOWER but you can make it! i can send a photo to any interested. haven’t been able to get hubbie to make it! The stand is the hangup. Because it needs to be above the ground to get the worm tea.

    We have all the materials though!! using compost etc!! we saw these walking one day!! can people email me here?? cuz i cannot upload photos here?? can contact me maybe via my blog?

    Does it show up here?

    But you need burlap and metal fencing with enough open squares to allow plants to go thru like gardentower. then get a smaller food grade tubing (PVC i hear can be toxic?!!) where you will put your compost and worms just like garden tower!! This home was growing stawberries and flowers in them…

    i’m afraid to include any links in here or it may get banned….sorry

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi Bountiful, No the photo didn’t show for me. We don’t mind a link or two as long as it is appropriate for the conversation. Looks like yors would have been great to share.

  19. Steven

    CO2 is NOT a greenhouse gas. It is REQUIRED by our environment for plants to grow.

  20. Chris

    Nicely done Tara. Sure do appreciate your efforts. I had been hoping to put the bins under my rabbit hutches, but the temperatures in South Carolina don’t align with the needs of the worms. I guess I’ll have to put them in the kitchen. Can hardly wait to tell my wife THAT little gem! LOL

    1. Marjory Wildcraft

      Hi Chris,

      I can sympathize. My family hardly lets me in the house at al any more! Seems I have so many smelly or messy experiements.
      Now, I do agree you should not render lard in the house. Yikes!

  21. Steven

    You forgot the Continuous FLOW THROUGH systems.

    It is commonly stated that they eat half their weight every week.

    LOTS AND LOTS of people feed feces to their worms: rabbit, horse, cow are just a few. The only one I have heard to NOT put in is dog.

    Bury your food and you will eliminate fruit flies.

  22. M. E.

    Nicely presented. That’s one of the things that my husband has drawn a line on – No bees and no worms for me.
    Thanks to Marjory for these wonderful speakers coming on board and sharing with me!!

    1. Brigitte

      Very sad as both are sooo important.

  23. krishna

    Very great presentation Tara. Very nicely put and covered the topic in easy steps.

    Can you tell, what do you mean worm starter? You mean worms itself?

    1. Tararae

      yes, the worms itself (like a sourdough starter). buying a pound or grabbing a container from a local friend.

  24. Margaretta

    please answer Kathy Thomson’s question…can you just use the raised bed as the “farm”. Also in zone 11, very hot. If I use a sun shade cloth, say 60-70% block, will that keep bed cool enough?

    1. tararae

      yes, you can.

      I’ve tendered worm farms in Hawaii (might be zone 11-ish?). we used red wigglers for food waste composting and blue niles for chicken manure. both in the shade and worked well.

  25. Tomwinfl

    Thanks for the informative presentation. I was wondering what you think of flow through systems like the Worm Inn, and the homemade versions, either the fabric ones or the plastic or wood bins with the grid of pipes at the bottom? I didn’t see any mention of them in your summary of types of composters. Also, I’m in Florida, and I plan on setting up my bin outside under a pole barn type shelter. No direct sun except early in the morning, but I’m wondering if that will get too hot.

    1. tararae


      I cannot speak to this as I do not have direct experience with Worm Inn or similar homemade versions. I have watched videos and they appear to work.

      early morning sun is probably okay, afternoon, not so much.

  26. Dean

    trouble shooting question? I have some maggots living in the newspaper layers on top? they seem to like the micro climate inside the bin, when I pull back the paper layer to feed the worms I see the maggots in the papers or young flies on the inside of the bin! have not added anything except fruits, veg and coffee/tea grounds, egg shells and rock dust when I thought it was to acidic for the worms.

  27. tararae

    yikes, maggots are usually a sign of animal products, manure or otherwise.

    I would remove all of the top dressing of newspapers and replace with fresh.

    I only had a maggot problem once, horse manure got into an outdoor system. I just removed that area and it was fine.

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