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Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Mister Green, Apr 20, 2009.
I just got a worm composting system. Anybody else have some experience with this?
I used one for a year or two before we moved into a house. It worked well, but can only take a limited amount of food scraps. If you have a lot of veggie/fruit scraps, you might need more than 1 bin to accommodate it all. If I had limited space I would worm compost again.
I've had a worm bin on and off for a few years but I must admit I'm not very skilled at keeping the little wigglers alive and happy.
This year's bin is humming along, and I hope it survives through next winter. The worms' job is to reproduce and fatten up so the chickens have some nice protein treats once the snow comes. The "tea" is nice for houseplants, too.
If you keep them in the garage during winter, in the bin, you can add a layer of straw inside. Mix it with scraps and slowly feed. It retains some heat and moisture. In spring you have tons of the little ones that grow.
I do mine in a bin with no bottom and just keep layering the food scraps with straw leaves and wood shavings. I also have a loose lid so rain does not upset it. The bin is a barrel size and takes up to 4 years to fill. I assume the worms come from the soil. There are millions of them. Small thin reddish ones. I keep the barrel in a cool sheltered place. Given that we don't get cold here this may not work for every one. I originaly started this method to compost dog droppings. Worked so well i started a kitchen scrap one as well.
Acoma or Liz,
Any ideas on how I can keep the worms outside over the winter? Right now they are inside and the bin is always in the way.
I was thinking of digging a big hole (3' x 3' maybe) lining it on four sides with a 12" layer of straw, then a liner of burlap or something, then a "cocoon" of bedding, food and worms. Make some kind of insulated "lid" so I can get worms now and then for the chickies.
Our weather bottoms out at minus 25 celsius but is more typically 5 or 10 below in the coldest months. We always have one or two warm spells (plus 5 to plus 10) for several days, which weirds out the trees. We do not have reliable snow cover, and the weather has been strange in recent years, with massive snow and rain storms at odd times of year. So the wormies would definitely not survive without insulation or supplemental heat.
On a side note, I tried straw in their current bin, but there were too many air spaces and the bin got too dry-- they're on a wire mesh floor, which drains the leachate and keeps things on the dry side. Now their bedding is hardwood "mash"-- wood pellets (intended for a corn/biomass stove) that have been watered and fluffed into something like wet sawdust, but lighter. The worms seem to be doing well in it.
If you do the hole with insulated straw on edges, below and throughout, having the middle mixed with food for winter your good. They will eat very slowly. Spring through summer is totally different. The warmth dictating their activity. My guess is that you are growing dirt worms, not kitchen scrap worms that feed on only the food to break it down. If it is outside worms, this method you mention will give huge volumes, just keep adding scraps to the bedding, carbon and nitrogen. If you do the kitchen type worms you will end up with kitchen scrap worms working the food, and the earth worms working the bottom area. Win/ win for breaking down up top and below. Just keep them from freezing.
I am not sure I can help with the cold given that I am freezing today at about 9C :)
The hole idea sounds good to me. If it were mine I would be lining it with a deep load of wood shavings rather than straw. Reason my animals seem to like sitting on the shaving bedding as opposed to straw because it is warmer. I would bury the whole unit except for the opening and make sure it is protected from rain so the contents don't get soggy.
Liz, we're talking worms though. The straw breaks down (carbon), stays moist and warm, with scraps for the worms. I would say 25% dirt, 50% straw, 25% scraps. GB, you did not answer the question about what types of worms, both or one type?
Thanks for the advice, both of you. It never occurred to me that I could have both kinds of worms in an outdoor pile. I have the "red wiggler" type (scrap-eating) but I guess the "regular" dirt worms will find their way in, if conditions are good. So I won't exclude them with burlap. That will preclude my ever bringing them inside again since, from what I've read, you can't mix the two species in an indoor bin.
Liz: I just started using wood shavings instead of straw for the chickens, so there's always some on hand now. Nine above! That's beach weather around here!
GB, the point of having the two with your idea is that the wigglers love to live within the dirt and further provide castings and nutrient value there inside the soil. The worms that feed on scraps don't care for that area, and therefore live towards the upper area where you would have the straw and scraps.....they may mix, but they prefer their zones....
Are you speaking about earthworms for the other ones? The long soft grey ones with the saddle. If so i have never seen them in or near the bin. That may be because of our on going dry and they have gone down deep into the soil. The bin only has the red short thin very wippy ones like you find in manure piles.
"Liz: I just started using wood shavings instead of straw for the chickens, so there's always some on hand now. "
Bev I get scads of free shavings and all my birds and animals use it for bedding. I have the most wonderful pile of geese doo and shavings. I find bedding stays a lot cleaner with shavings than straw.
I have mentioned ths before. Because I can't bury my larger animals in this case up to 4 goats a couple of sheep and two livestock guardian dogs I use a huge pile of wood shavings in a safe place in the paddock. Cover the whole thing with wire netting pinned down and wait for 6 months then gather the bones for the grave yard tree. Each animal has it's own tree along the boundary. This method works here because of the weather. I discovered this by accident when my first elderly goat died at the bottom of the paddock and I could not get her home. So instead we took 4 huge bags down to her. Mahogoney has been the best variety it did not even have a wiff of what was going on. Mostly I get hardwood (eucalypt) but had almost a years worth of American Walnut. I must have put thousands of dollars worth of wood waste on my property in the last 12 years.
Thanks everyone for the great input!
I'm on week two of my worm composting project. I added the second meal of fruit/veggie trimmings today. The first meal I added during initial setup last week is still there. And I don't see as many worms today as there were when I started. I used a bedding of partly decomposed damp leaves. Does anyone know if this may be a problem with anaerobic bacteria coming from the leaves? I hope I didn't kill my red wigglers!
Guess I kinda hijacked this thread. Sorry.
With my repeat failures at worm bin composting I'm not the best one to give advice. Just to let you know that my friend who has a worm compost / worm "farm" business-- she uses chopped oak leaves. But she shreds them first.
Don't use leaves, use straw. The leaves just mush up and don't create a warm layer. The straw stays damp but will allow a better flow with food breakdown too. Just keep the area moist, not soggy, not dry. Well, some broken up leaves are ok.
I think a mix of layers works better re moisture level including shredded newspaper or at least cardboard. modern newspapers with colour might not be ok. Query would not just all oak leaves be to acid??? are they mixed with other stuff.
re: oak leaves. My friend is in the city and straw is difficult to obtain. She started her business using what was free and plentiful in her neighbourhood-- oak leaves. It's been a few years since I've spoken with her about the technical part of her business, so she might have changed her system now.
In the past my bins have used shredded newsprint for bedding, which worked okay. This year I've given the bin a screen bottom, a big improvement. I started out using straw but I didn't like it. Too many air spaces, and the worms all congregated at the bottom where it was the most moist and "dense". It probably would have been different if I'd chopped the straw first but, hey, the worms are supposed to be working for me, not the other way around...
The oak leaves are not a problem as long as it is not the majority. We are not creating compost for garden plants right? We are attempting to get a "worm composting system". To get a huge volume of worms from the bin method you reference will take lots of feeding and about a year to two years. They multiple quickly, but based on size will take some time. Keep feeding them kitchen scraps and straw, paper, leaves mixed.
What would be really cool would be to have a strong meshed screen for the bottom with a tube coming out of the ground at an angle, then a valve at the end. With time you will have tons of worm tea. Up to you.
Are rhubarb leaves poisonous to worms?
No. Use proportionately with the other substances. Worms prefer the nitrogen kitchen scraps that breakdown, allowing them to eat. The carbon, leaves, take much longer to breakdown, therefore taking much longer to get them digested.
just to share my experience: my worm bedding consist of 60% cow dung , 30 % banana leaf and 10% jack fruit skin.
worm appear very healthy, hardening & heavy. the vermicompost produced when turn into liquid fertilizer by brewing method - can produce flow bud after three days application. best for dragon fruits, guava (self tested)