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Subpod Composting System Review

Subpod has taken the international composting market by storm over the last few years. Their simple worm composting system is easy to install, fast-acting, and beautifully well-designed, but is it worth the money?

We’ll have a look at this simple composting system, with our experience of vermiculture in mind, to share the highs and lows of effortless worm composting at home, with Subpod’s latest range of multi-sized, multi-use in-ground worm compost bins.

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What is a Subpod?

Subpod Compost Bin

Source: Subpod

A Subpod might sound fancy, but it is, essentially, a very well-built box with lots of holes in it. It sounds simple because it kind of is. But, the structural integrity and ease of installation make it so much more attractive than trying to install your own DIY worm composting bin.

Plus, it is made from durable and long-life plastics that break single-use stereotypes and put materials to good use. That simple design is intended for a simple outcome: a low-maintenance wormery that does not require constant management.

If you’ve ever tried worm farming, you’ll know that it does actually need quite a bit of maintenance. Mostly in how often you add to it, and where and when to place bedding.

While bedding is still important to Subpod wormeries, you can make mistakes, and still get good compost.

Subpod’s Brand

Subpod is an Australian-born brand, but they now manufacture in China, which keeps their infrastructure and manufacturing as low-carbon as possible.

The brand was built on a simple idea, shared by a group of like-minded people who just wanted to reduce food waste in their community. Today, Subpod is sold across the world and is one of the biggest composting brands out there.

How does the Subpod work?

Subpods work slightly differently from traditional worm farms. Because the entire unit is buried underground, with just the lid and a few inches above ground level, the entire thing is a self-contained unit.

This means that it is insulated and maintains a regular temperature throughout the year, producing effective compost even in the depths of winter. It is a big claim, but we have seen it in action and it really works.

That temperature regulation also means that your worms are never at risk of overheating, or freezing, so it's easier to maintain a population of healthy worms for longer.

The only obvious downside of this system is that it does not produce worm tea, because that just drains away into the ground.

Subpod Compost Bins and Worm Farms Review

A Subpod in-ground

Source: Subpod

The Subpod is like a cheat sheet for composting. None of the learned wisdom from decades of gardening aligns with what it does, and it’s kind of frustrating because of it.

But it works, and it works well. The compost produced by Subpod’s underground system is outstanding. It’s packed with worm castings, but loamier than typical worm compost.

That means it's ideal for potting up as well as sowing seeds. 

Because there is no need to turn your compost, it’s low effort too, and layering is generally fairly straightforward, as long as you stick to the general rules of worm compost:

  • Layer 1: Bedding (hay, straw, torn-up paper or cardboard)
  • Layer 2: Kitchen waste (Vegetables, peelings, rotted fruit)
  • Layer 3: Garden Waste (mix fresh and dried grass or fallen leaves)

Repeat that as needed, and if you stray a little it won’t really matter. 

Subpod’s downsides:

Because the Subpod is based on worm composting, it is more prescriptive than traditional composting and requires slightly more planning.

Obviously, for some gardeners (including myself at times) that is a big drawback of the Subpod.The other downside is that it is missing one vital attraction of worm compost systems. 

Without worm tea, you are getting great compost, but the rapid action part of worm composting is the liquid fertilizer that drips from the base of towers and makes an excellent feed for fruit, veg and even houseplants.

Ways to Adapt Your Subpod

Subpod isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. Far from it. If you’re interested in getting started with this system, there are options to suit everyone (including a dog poop composter that works a treat).

The basic Subpod, without any adaptations, comes in two sizes, with a large box to suit a large family, or a more active gardener, and a small box for smaller families or anyone with limited space.

Below, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the key products on Subpod’s site and explain what makes each one unique.

Subpod Grow Bed Bundle

Subpod’s Grow Bed Bundle works with a simple frame that can sit on any surface, offering the building blocks for a basic raised bed. 

The frame is about 1ft wider than the Subpod unit, so you can place the Subpod within the raised bed. That way, the worms are actively feeding your plants while they’re growing, and your compost is easier to access too.

I’m a huge fan of the Subpod Grow Bed Bundle, and if I was gardening in a small space, or in a rented property, it would 100% be the choice for me.

Subpod Modbed, Raised Bed Bundle

While the Subpod Grow Bed bundles offer an attractive option for larger Subpods, the Subpod Mini has an extra choice: raised bed gardening. 

The Modbed isn’t just raised, it’s at chest level, meaning anyone can garden regardless of mobility levels. And not just garden… compost too. 

The Modbed comes with some great optional extras too, including covers, nettling and even trellis.

How to Use a Subpod Compost Bin and Worm Farm

The whole ethos of Subpod is simplicity, and the installation process seems to match. Just dig a hole. Drop your Subpod in place, and away you go. 

Once your Subpod is in place, you can use it as a seat, and add compost by simply opening the lid and shaking your bucket out. If the contents of the Subpod look damp, use the aerator rod to work oxygen down to the base layer.

A woman using a subpod in-ground composting system

Source: Subpod

What to Add to Your Subpod

Subpods do require worms to get going. You can, theoretically, just add composting materials and wait, but by adding worms (red wigglers are advised) you can get a head start on the process, and make sure you’ve got some really hard-working worms at work from day one.

Note: The worms are not supplied with your Subpod, but you can order red wigglers on Amazon if you need them.

Once your worms are in, you’ll need to add bedding (this can be as simple as a layer of straw or shredded paper to give them an oxygenated base layer, and space to work down into).

After that, add a mix of kitchen waste and garden waste in layers, adding dried waste (cardboard, paper or dried leaves) every so often to provide new bedding layers. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Subpods

Can I compost with Subpod in winter?

You can compost with a Subpod in winter. It is perhaps the most exciting thing about them when you get into the details of it. Because they help to maintain a constant temperature by using the ground as insulation, composting is possible even if the surface temperature is below freezing.

Do you need to add worms to a Subpod?

You do not need to add worms to a Subpod for it to work, but it will rapidly accelerate the process of worm composting. Without adding worms, you will essentially just be using the Subpod as a standard compost bin for the first few months.

How do you harvest compost from a Subpod?

Smaller Subpods can be dug out entirely when they are full. Then just leave the contents on a tarp for five to ten minutes. The worms will go to the bottom of the pile to avoid drying out, and you can add them back into the Subpod.

How much food waste does a Subpod compost?

As a general guide, one Subpod, working efficiently, can cost up to 15kg of kitchen waste per week. No other worm farm of a similar size can achieve anywhere near that level of composting in that time scale.

How many Subpods for an average family?

An average family with 2.4 kids won’t need more than one Subpod classic to make use of their kitchen waste. A couple without kids could easily manage with a Subpod mini.

Are Subpods made from plastic?

Subpods are made from plastic, specifically Polypropylene. It is not renewable or biodegradable, but that’s because it is designed to last a lifetime in your garden. 

Check out our Sepura garbage disposal review to help you with your composting and waste management needs. 

Wrapping Up Our Subpod Review

Subpod is one of the few brands to really revolutionize composting. Not just in my lifetime, but ever. Gardeners just take composting for granted, assume that we do it as best we can, and that’s enough. But, Subpod holds a question mark over that, and assumes that there must be a better way.

While I don’t think they have all the answers, there’s definitely a good case for Subpod’s brand of worm farming as a more standard way of doing things.

About the Author Pat Moreno

Pat is our gardening tool expert here at Sumo Gardener. Working for many years as a private and commercial landscaper, Pat has used almost every type of gardening tool there is. Along with a vast knowledge for types of plants and putting together an amazing looking and maintainable garden, Pat developed a passion for gardening tools as he found that using the right tools vastly improved the ease and outcome of any landscaping job he undertook. When spending hours, days or years using a particular tool, you want to make sure you’ve got the best one for the job, and Pat is the right guy to guide us to the best gardening tools.

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