For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bentley (“Compost Guy”) Christie and I’ve been a crazed worm composting fanatic (or “vermiholic” if you prefer) for more than 15 yrs now. I started this website back in 2007 with the simple intention of sharing my passion with the world. So far so good! Things have certainly progressed since the early days, though, and the website has provided me with an amazing opportunity to get to know a LOT of other “worm heads” from across North America and around the world!
This is an interesting question:
I have prepared my first worm bins in anticipation of receiving my first ever order of worms later this week. I am also now on the lookout for any and all items the worms might like. One item I haven’t found mentioned on your site: household amounts of pencil shavings?
Thank you for your excellent website.
Generally speaking, woody materials are not the best food/bedding for worm bins since they can take quite some time to fully break down (but they can simply be screened and added to new systems as a “living material” over and over again). That being said, shavings like that are certainly better than chunks of wood or even wood chips.
Although we still use the term “lead”, the actual metal lead probably hasn’t been used to write for hundreds of years (but I’m not a writing historian so don’t quote me on that! lol). The graphite that IS used is totally harmless (and whadya know – it’s a carbon source too!). I would imagine that the core of coloring pencils would be equally benign.
RWC Reader Tara H. recently wrote in to let me know about a cool article (on the “Rodale’s Organic Life” website) that included the video above. It features time lapse photographs (every 10 minutes!!) of an experimental vermicomposting system over the course of 20 days! Really cool.
Be sure to check out the original article for an interview with the people who created the video:
Good question from Kristi:
My worm red wiggler compost is very wet and brown not black like I see on
videos. I feed mainly greens along with paper egg shells and coffee. Am I
doing something wrong? I’m composting indoors in Worm Factory 360.
Many a new vermicomposter has wondered the exact same thing – believe you me!
The long and the short of it is that it comes down to the oxygenation/moisture balance in the system. The challenge with plastic bins – even stacking flow-through bins like the WF-360 – is that they are incredibly effective at keeping in moisture and reducing air flow. In some cases this can be very helpful – especially if you happen to be a neglectful worm steward (like me most of the time – lol) – but if you are a fairly active vermicomposter it can result in a less effective vermicomposting process.
It is important to remember that vermicomposting involves the aerobic breakdown/stabilization of wastes. Excellent air flow not only speeds up the process, but it helps to (more…)
Question from John:
I bought reds years ago and they are still doing well. Planning on buying more worms. I have a huge amount of old pig manure 20 x 40 x 2 septic tank. (old pig farm) and thinking about introducing night crawlers to the batch. This is a long term retirement crop. LOL .
When it comes time to sell these worms years from now is it going to be a pain to seperate reds from night crawlers. Should I just stay with the Reds?
Your “huge amount of old pig manure” sounds great! BUT make sure you put it through some form of “pre-composting” stage before feeding it to the worms. It is typically a liquid or slurry (seems to be the case for you, given your mention of a septic tank) so it will first need to be mixed with a dry, absorbent, carbon-rich bedding type of material, and then allowed to compost (or at least age) for a while.
There shouldn’t be a (more…)
As the title implies, I recently received an email from Jay W, wondering about the use of worms in a “Back to Eden” garden (I’m sure many readers will be familiar with the concept – but I have linked to the movie just in case). Jay’s email is too long to include here, but here is a blurb:
Can I put the worms in my chips and mulch it is 10 inches deep. 150 x 60 ft excluding orchard. I thought the worms would help composting my mulch and chips. With all the mulch and chips do I need to continue to feed them I have lots of Q’s.
This is a really interesting idea – and I’ll say right off the bat that there is some potential for making this work. But it’s important to note that you would definitely be developing more of a hybrid approach than actually adhering to the guidelines for the original method.
The challenge here is that wood chips have a very high C/N ratio and they were very resistant to breakdown. Even when they are rotting, they are NOT what you’d call an “ideal” food for composting worms. As I discussed in my last blog post, the best foods for these worms will be those that: A) are water-rich, B) support a robust community of microbes, and C) break down fairly readily (actually related to the “robust community of microbes” since this is why microbes are so easily able to colonize ).
If the wood chips were mixed with (more…)
Really great questions from Sherman:
Hi, I read that red wigglers consume microorganisms rather than food waste so how does having more worms consume food wastes faster?
What types of kitchen food waste’s good for supporting the microbial population?
Thanks for writing in – this is a really interesting topic for discussion for a number of reasons.
OK – let’s start with microbes as worm food…
Yes, it has been shown that worms derive much of their nutrition from microorganisms that have colonized decomposing organic matter. I think part of the problem here is that these worm composting facts – in this case legitimately based on actual scientific research – can be viewed in too-rigid a manner. i.e. Worms eat microbes, that’s all they eat, and THAT’S THAT!!
While I would absolutely agree they likely get most of their nutrition from all those microbes – the fact is, they are definitely (more…)
Interesting question from Robin:
How do you know the difference between the worm castings and the bedding. It all looks dark brown to me. Please help!
In a typical home system receiving lots of paper-waste bedding (eg shredded newsprint or cardboard) and regular feedings of kitchen scraps, it should be relatively easy to distinguish between bedding and castings. The latter will tend to be a lot darker – more like “soil”, while everything else should stand out as obviously unprocessed.
Where it gets tricky is when you are using smaller-particle bedding materials that (more…)
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