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Winterizing the Worms
Category: Worms | Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:11 pm
In early October, one of the apartment maintenance crew told me that frost was predicted that week. It seemed awful early, but spurred me to act on my idea to keep the outdoor worm bins warm over winter.
I'd already split my original 14-gallon "worm Friendly Habitat" bin into two 10-gallon bins made from Rubbermaid totes, while harvesting my first layer of wormcastings. Each of the totes had about two pounds of worms at this point.
I have two big rectangular plastic tubs that I bought at Goodwill with dreams of giant worm bins. I'd used them in turning my first two batches of compost, and found that they each held the full contents of one of the 40-gallon trash cans. So I filled one of those with compostables, topped it with a layer of the older compost, and set the two small bins on top of it. It was just a tiny bit short for both of them to fit flat, but it was close enough that they were both stable.
I was hoping that the heat from the composting would keep the bins on top at a comfortable temperature. As it happened, the pile -- not being very deep -- warmed up only moderately, and cooled fast. I never turned it, because as soon as I lifted the bins, I found worms crawling all over the compost!
They have since spread all through the 40-gallon bin -- while an active population of worms remained in the smaller bins, too. The bedding in the bins, both small and large, felt chilly to my fingers, but the worms seemed happy campers.
Last week the forecasts really began threatening us with freezing nights, and I wanted to improve the insulation for the worms. I filled the second 40-gallon tub with compostables -- using leaves instead of paper -- then set one 10-gallon bin on each tub and piled leaves on top, tucked in on both sides.
I then draped a sheet over the top of the leaves.
I've also been trying to load up the little bins on food, to increase the heat. It's rather frustrating. It was so easy to accidentally touch off extra heat in the bins during the summer, and in the indoor bin at Real Change. In the outdoor bins this winter, though, even an inch thick layer of soybean meal doesn't get noticeably warm! All efforts added together, at least I can say that the inside of the bins no longer chills my fingers.
And worms have begun spreading into the second 40-gallon bin, also. :D
Last edited: Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:11 pm
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The NEW office worm bin
Category: Worms | Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2007 12:25 am
The level of wormcastings in the Real Change bin built up quite a bit, just since August. I've been trying to find a bin that would fit on top of it, as a "second story" of new food and bedding that the worms could migrate into. That has always sounded like the ideal way to harvest castings!
I didn't find one, though, so I finally decided on the second alternative: transferring the uneaten bedding and as many worms as I could easily find into a new bin.
My first bin was the 14-gallon "Worm Friendly Habitat," shown here.
That's slightly bigger than the previous Real Change bin, shown here back at home. (In back of it is the bin I am using to "process" the castings.)
I transferred all unchewed bedding and as many worms as I could readily pick out into the new bin, and topped off the bin with some coconut-coir bedding, new food, and new paper bedding.
I was left with over half a bin full of mostly-wormcastings. That's in three months! I was thrilled.
There are still worms and worm eggs in among the castings. (Worms are supposed to find their own castings slightly toxic, but so many of them don't seem to get the memo.) So at home I put the harvested castings in a bin with new food and bedding at one end. Over time, I am hoping that all the worms, including the ones that hatch out of the current eggs, will migrate into the fresher bedding. I'm keeping this bin inside for now, to help the eggs to hatch.
I started thie Real Change bin in August with two pounds of worms, a mixed group of redworms and European nightcrawlers ("giant redworms"). There were at least two pounds of worms in the bedding I transferred to the new bin. There looks to be as much as one pound of worms in the castings I took home.
The Big Green Bin new at Real Change has three groups of very tiny airholes, so it should be much harder for fruit-flies to get in. (I didn't have a problem with them in that bin over summer.) After harvesting that bin for the first time, I drilled some extra holes in the bottom, and along the bottom edge of the sides, because the only think I'd been troubled by in its operation was the drainage.
The previous Real Change bin had only one row of holes around the sides, at the bottom edge, and the holes in the lid. The air exchange was fine, but when I scooped it out, I found it was pretty mucky at the very bottom. And in the first few days in the new bin, a lot of liquid has been draining out the bottom. Liquid's been draining out of the "casting processing" bin at home, too, which also has lots of holes in the bottom.
No worms have crawled out the holes in the bottom of the bin at home. Some have crawled out at Real Change, but have stayed under the bin, not venturing any further. Only one drowned in the accumulated liquid; the rest nested in the paper towels I put under there. I keep transferring them back into the bin. I find less worms, and less liquid, under the bin each day.
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Update on the office worm bin
Category: Worms | Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:13 am
I did get the worm bin set up at Real Change before I got sick, and it has thrived.
It was dicey the first few days. Between the shaking-up of travel, the differences between office environment and outdoors, and a badly timed experiment trying to boost the microbe population with just a little Compost Activator, worms were escaping the first few nights. People who find a couple of dozen little dried-up worms all over the floor when they go to make morning coffee quickly grow cynical about the assurance, "You'll hardly know the worms are here."
After those first few days, however, the bin settled down. I've found that an indoors bin dries out quickly, and forget the mist-sprayer, I have to pour water on every few days to keep the environment spongy-moist. And it took awhile to get everyone to put all food under the newspaper, not on top. In October, we had a bloom of fruit flies, and last week a massive office cleanup was called. During the cleanup, I was told I'd probably have to take the worms home, too. But after the cleanup, the fruit flies vanished and the worms were still there.
I still have to stay on guard for fruit flies. I'm going to scout Goodwill for a little hand-vacuum, which I'm told works a treat to suck flies right out of a bin. As long as nothing flies out when the bin is opened, the worms can stay at Real Change.
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