Healthy compost smells like soil. If your compost is smelly, that’s a sign that it needs more air. Aerate your compost by regularly turning your pile.

Not overloading the system with too much food at once can also create healthier compost conditions. When you add food scraps, always bury the food by pulling aside some of the bedding, dumping the waste, and then cover it up with the bedding again. Bury successive loads in different locations in the bin.

Worm poop (aka worm castings) makes soil nutrients and beneficial microbes much more readily available to plants than regular compost. It’s the best compost in the world.

Avid gardeners may find themselves vermicomposting everything (including leaves in the fall) because of the wonderful worm castings that can be harvested.

Your worm bin is definitely a potential food source for animals like squirrels and, yes, even bears, if left outdoors. You’ll have to judge for yourself the level of bear activity where you live. If bears aren’t regular inhabitants of your neighborhood, you may be able to do worm composting outside undisturbed year-round in more temperate climates. If the floor of their habitat is just the ground, they can burrow down when their environment gets too hot, cold, or dry. However, if bears are common where you live, keep your worms in a bin and bring it indoors in late summer and fall when bears are loading up on calories for hibernation. This also protects the worms from extreme cold winter temperature.

Squirrels are usually deterred by a well-fitting lid. Raccoons may be the most difficult to deter because they are so dexterous and persistent. If you see tooth marks on your bin or other evidence of a raccoon visit, bring your bin inside for a few weeks.

A small population of fruit flies during spring and summer months is probably inevitable, so the best way to minimize this issue is to keep your bin outside.

If you want to keep it indoors, choose a place where you can tolerate a few flies. You can keep their population in check by avoiding overfeeding the worms, which limits the amount of rotting material available for the flies to lay their eggs on. Fruit flies also prefer a slightly acidic environment, so if you have more flies than you can tolerate, cut back on the amount of citrus, coffee grounds, and other acidic foods in your bin. Or, build your own fruit fly trap.

Spring is a good time to harvest worm castings, but if you have a smaller worm bin, harvest as needed if your bin is getting too full. First, spread a fresh layer of kitchen scraps across the surface and moisten to attract all your worms to the top. Give the worms several days to move up into the fresh food. Then, gently remove the top several inches containing the worms and undigested food. You can place this top layer off to one side on a tarp, out of the sun, until you get down to uniform, completely digested, finished castings. Then dig out the finished castings and gently put the worm/undigested food layer back in the bin. Worm castings are richer than standard compost so you only need a fraction of the amount, but otherwise use the castings as you would standard compost.