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Wormnwomn's BlogWormnwomn is all about organic - personally, for my family, and for the Earth.
More specifics on your worm bin
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 5:37 pm
A plastic tote is a good beginning bin and the way most first time wormers start. It's inexpensive and easy to set up and handle, and the size is adequate to handle one to two people's waste if the bin is managed properly. The food should be processed down to fairly small size. For the amount of food that the bin can handle a food processor is a good way to minimize the size of the food waste. The more surfaces the bacteria have to work on the faster the waste will compost. Little know fact: The bacteria in the bin material do more to compost the waste than the worms. The worms actually eat more of the bacteria. The worms, because they don't really have a mouth (with teeth) can't do anything with the waste until the bacteria have started breaking it down.
A plastic tote will hold moisture in better than wood. This is not a bad thing as the worms like the moisture. But you don't want too much moisture, the bin needs air as well. Ventilation holes are very important. Holes in the bottom of the bin will allow excess moisture to drain out of the bin. There should be at least 4 - 6 holes in the bottom of the bin. The holes should be covered with a screen of some sort to help hold the material in but let the moisture out. You also want to have holes near the bottom of the bin on all sides of the bin. In addition you should have some holes about 2/3rd's way up the side that will coincide with the surface of the bedding material and some holes in the lid of your bin.
A twelve gallon tote will require about 1/2 pound of worms to 1 lb of worms. If you have a friend who might be interested in worming with you a good idea would be for you each to set up a bin and split a pound of worms. That way you could each do your own thing and compare notes. No two worms bins are worked exactly alike and you can get a better idea of what works and what doesn't. (Just an idea.)
One of the prep things you want to do before you start your worm bin is to have a plan for your bedding material. You also want to have a plan for what you will add as carbon material. Every compost system needs to have the basic components of a compost system which is carbon, nitrogen, water and air. Your worm bin is no different. It's just that with the addition of all those worms, the composting action can take place at a much cooler temperature.
Therefore, when you initially set up your bin you will fill the container up about 2/3rds full with your bedding material, making sure it is thoroughly moistened. I use a well composted horse manure that has been allowed to sit for about 6 months. Some other bedding materials I have heard of being used are unfinished compost, leaf compost, shredded newspaper, coir, or peat moss. The least desirable in this list is the peat moss. It is not a renewable resource and has little or no nutritive value to the worms as much of it is sterile.
Once you have your initial bedding in place and watered down, you will want to let it sit for 24 hours before you add your worms to make sure it is not going to heat up. Once you add your worm you will wait a few days to see how they like their new home before you start adding waste. If your worms like their new home, they will start eating the bacteria breaking down the food waste and producing their castings (poop) which will be loaded with even more bacteria and your system will be off and running.
Another fact: Worm castings have more beneficial bacteria than either the food they are eating or what's even in the worms gut. The worm composting system is truly a miracle of mother nature and her way of replenishing the earth for more to grow.
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Let's get back to worm bins
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 4:11 am
There are many different containers you can use for worm bin composting. It is only limited really by your imagination. As long as the material is not toxic to the worms and provides adequate protection from the outside world - light, wind, rain, and temp. and supplies plenty of air yet keeps the bedding moist, your worms will be happy. I have heard of people using old hollowed out phonograph players, bathtubs, garbage cans, surrounding an area outside with bales of straw and covering the top to control the moisture and exposure to the sun. Your own situation will truly determine how and where you will worm compost.
However, if you have never tried worm bin composting before I recommend that you start small. Even if you have a family that can really produce the compostables, let your conventional compost pile take the extra and keep your first bin small. Get a feel for how the bin works, the time it takes, the smells and critters, and let it grow. It doesn't take long.
People have a tendency to go overboard with a lot of things that pertain to gardening. They plan this great big garden and then it all gets the better of them and it all becomes work instead of a pleasure.
One of the best bins to start with is just an inexpensive tote. The next size up would be okay too, especially if you really think you would like the worms and you are an organic gardener. It is a 1x2x3 Bin and is a perfect size for a family of 2-4. It's a little bit bigger and will require a bit more room, but will produce more product as well.
Food for thought.
Think about ways you can build healthy soil. Worms are nature's answer.
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How you harvest castings.
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:05 am
There are a number of different ways to harvest your bin once you are ready.
First of all it depends on the size of your bin. My bins are 4'x 8'. In a bin this size I am able to split out one end and reserve it for finished material. I have the bin marked off in 6 parts. I pull all the "fresh" material off the top from part C - F. If your bin is working as it should be, then the majority of your worms are going to be up in this fresh material feeding. (There are things you can do to make sure most of the worms are in the top layers.) I have one end of the bin empty (A & B) so I have a place to put the finished material I will pull from the bottom of the bin. The top portion you pulled off to begin with then goes back in the bin and the space left from the finished bottom layer being removed leaves you room to start adding more fresh material on top. The finished material will rest in the end of the bin, get turned to help it start to dry out and whatever worms are still in it will continue to work the material until they decide to move back into the other end of the bin or die.
With a smaller bin I would have a second container for a holding bin. The process would still be the same. Take the fresh material off the top, move the finished material into the holding bin. Add the fresh material back into the composting bin. The finished material will need to be turned periodically to help it dry out. The worms left in the finished material will continue to work until they die.
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Conventional composting vs worm composting
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:00 pm
There is a difference between conventional composting and worm bin composting. Having worms in your compost bin does not classify your bin as a worm bin.
Your conventional compost bin is generally 3'x3'x3' or there abouts. It is located outside exposed to the ground with the sides generally slated to allow air circulation. You attempt to get your porportions mixed properly to get the contents to heat up to the 250 degree range which is to kill all your weed seeds and pathogens. The contents then cool and you turn your contents to get the outside inside and attempt to get the contents to heat up again. Of course there are other versions of composting which just let the contents sit and let mother nature take it's course.
With the bin exposed to the ground, whenever the environment is favorable for worms you will have worms. If and when the contents heat up too much for the worms they will vacate into the surrounding environment or just to the outer layers where it is cooler and when the pile cools they will move back in. However, this is not worm bin composting.
Worm bin composting is when you provide a confined space, (a rubber tote, wooden box, etc.) which you fill 2/3 full of a bedding material, (I use horse manure initially then layer on leaves, grass, shredded newspaper, etc), add moisture and worms and keep the environment from heating up and let the worms do the composting leaving behind their castings to be harvested with the completed compost. The result is a more beneficial finished product because the compost has not gone through the high heat killing everything, therefore the variety of beneficial bacteria is of a broader spectrum and there is more of it. This information is from an expert in the field. The key difference here is the high number of worms being kept in a controlled environment so you are harvesting a material that is highly concentrated with castings. (The material I harvest from my bins is 50% worm castings.)
Worms in any of your compost is a good thing, just not the same as worm bin composting.
Last edited: Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:02 pm
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More on where to put your worm bin.
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 3:37 pm
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you decide on a location for your worm bin. Many of them have to do with your personal situation. As far as the worms are concerned, as long as the environment stays within a temp range for the worms to stay active (they can handle cold better than heat - they will start to die if the temp hits 90) and the bedding stays moist and aerated, your worms will be okay. It's best to keep your bin in a protected spot out of the wind, direct sun, and where you can control the moisture going into the bin, for your worms will be happy.
The temp is probably the hardest thing to control because there is so much that can effect it. The ambient temp of the air outside is only on part of the equation. Remember, you are working with a compost system and compost systems create heat just by the very nature of the system. This aspect can be used during winter when the weather is cold but must be carefully watched during summer when the temp outside is already hot. For this reason, one of the things you want to make sure you have before you get started is either a compost thermometer, or in the very least a soil thermometer.
You also want to make sure you place your worm bin in an area where there is plenty of room around the bin for air flow and for you to be able to work the bin.
It also helps if you can be comfortable working in the space as well, especially when you get to the point where you need to work the bin.
If you are working a bin that will need to be physically moved to be worked, make sure the bin is small enough for you to move when it is loaded with material.
Send me your questions. I'll be back later with further information.
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Where to put your worm bin?
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:06 pm
Worms like it dark, moist (not wet), and warm (about like we like it). If you have a location that is indoors, this is ideal. You can protect your composting family from heat, cold, wind, rain, and all the other variable Mother Nature has to throw at it. Hot and dry will kill your worms faster than cold and wet, but the ideal is 72 degrees F and enough moisture to get a few drops out of the bedding when squeezed. Worms are top feeders so the goal is to keep the top of the bed moist without getting the bottom soupy. This is why your worm bin needs holes in the bottom and on the sides. When too much moisture goes in it needs to have somewhere to go...and air needs to get in.
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Welcome to the organics of Red Worms!
Category: Worm Bin Composting | Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 9:14 pm
Right now it is cold where I live and the gardening season is a couple of months away. But I worm farm all year long and look forward, through my catalogs, to when I can put seed to earth again, and be a part of what Mother Nature does just by being.
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