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Getting Started

The purpose of this page is provide you with an overview of worm composting. Be assured that I will also be providing many other articles and blog posts that explore the various aspects of vermicomposting in much greater detail.

UPDATE: Here is a video I made not too long ago that discusses what I feel are the “fundamentals” of worm composting. If you are looking for a quick and dirty overview of this topic you may want to check it out:

Below is a more detailed description of some of the more important components you’ll likely want to consider before starting up your first vermicomposting system (keep in mind that this section was actually written LONG before I made the fundamentals video).

When it comes to starting up your vermicomposting system there are four main components to consider: 1) Container (worm bin), 2) Bedding, 3) Waste material, and of course 4) Composting worms.

Once you have read through those sections you should be well on your way towards being able to set up your own worm composting system. I have also included a section on building & setting up a worm bin, where I’ve included some YouTube videos I made.


Container

Rubbermaid Roughneck

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing the type of worm bin you want to set up. If you are the handy type you may want to build your own creation, OR if you don’t mind spending the money perhaps you will opt for purchasing a complete worm bin system (which may come with bin, bedding and worms).

For anyone interested in simply trying out vermicomposting (or if you want to save some money), I would recommend heading to your local hardware store and grabbing yourself a standard Rubbermaid tub (with lid) or something similar.

Some things to keep in mind when you choose your vessel – 1) Light penetration, 2) Surface area vs depth. An ideal bin will be opaque (ie not allowing in light) and will be relatively shallow.

Red worms (and earth worms in general) are very sensitive to direct light – it can lead to considerable stress and even death if they unable to escape from it.

As far as depth goes, you don’t need to worry too much about exact dimensions but you definitely do want to put more emphasis on the surface area – this allows for greater oxygenation of the bin and also allows the worms to spread out more.
In other words, a Rubbermaid tub will be much better than a bucket.

Something I would recommend is either setting up multiple small bins OR one decent sized bin. The larger the system the more buffering capacity it will have. For example, I have a very large outdoor bin (5X3X3 feet). All worm composting experience aside, the sheer size of this system makes it very worry free. Even if there are unfavorable conditions in one section of the bin, the worms can easily move into many other favorable zones.
Similarly, I tend to keep 2 or 3 small indoor bins at one time, plus an “overflow” bucket (for excess food waste), thus making it much easier to ensure that balanced conditions prevail.

All that being said, there is nothing wrong with a single worm bin in the size range of a typical ‘blue box’ recycling container. This size of bin should be large enough to provide both buffering capacity and waste-processing potential for a typical household (especially if you use an overflow bucket and/or an outdoor composting heap as well).

Another important thing to mention is aeration. If you are using a typical Rubbermaid type of bin its not a bad idea to drill some holes in the lid and along the sides prior to adding your bedding/worms etc. This allows for more air flow in and out of the bin. If you have your bin sitting on some sort of tray you may even desire to drill a few holes in the bottom of the bin – a great way to ensure bin contents don’t get too waterlogged.


Bedding

Cardboard & Paper Bedding Options

Composting worms not only need food, but also some sort of habitat to live in – bedding materials provide both. Ideal worm living conditions can be created initially by adding lots of bedding material with a decent amount of waste material (and likely some water to ensure adequate moisture conditions).

People often refer to the ideal composting moisture content as being similar to that of a wrung-out sponge. Higher moisture levels do tend to work better for worm composting, but this is definitely a good guideline to start with (especially when using a water-tight bin).

Some great materials for bedding include shredded cardboard (my favorite), shredded newspaper, aged straw, coconut coir, fall leaves and peat moss (although I prefer not to use this material since it is not harvested in a sustainable or environmentally-friendly manner). Worms seem to absolutely love rotting leaves, so definitely don’t be so quick to kick those bags to the curb in the fall. The downside of using leaves (aside from seasonality) is the fact that they don’t really absorb much water – this is why my ideal bedding will consist of a mix of leaves and brown cardboard (another material worms seem to have a real affinity for).

Bedding materials will typically need to be moistened before worms are added. In fact, a practice I highly recommend when starting a new bin is mixing bedding with a decent amount of moist food waste, then simply letting the mixture sit in a closed bin for a week or so before adding worms. This way you are creating a very friendly environment for your worms to live in. Aside from activating the important microbial community, this also allows for moisture to makes its way throughout the bin materials.


Waste Materials (ie Worm Food)

Ideal Worm Bin Fodder

Usually people set up their own worm bin at home so they can compost their food scraps and leftovers. Unfortunately not all waste materials are created equal from a worm’s standpoint (or a human health standpoint for that matter), so we should talk a little about what should and should not be added to an indoor worm bin.

YES

NO

These are fairly basic guidelines and of course there are exceptions under certain circumstances. I will definitely be going into much more detail in later articles.

Something I alluded to in the previous section was the fact that letting your waste material sit for a period of time is better than adding it right away. Often people assume that the worms feed directly on the waste materials themselves. In a sense they do, but more specifically they are slurping up the microbial soup that forms on rotting materials. If you throw in a bunch of fresh carrot peelings the worms won’t be able to start processing the material until sufficient microbial colonization has occured.

As I mentioned above, a fantastic way to ensure that your new bin takes off successfully is to mix a decent quantity of waste material in with your fresh bedding, then simply letting the bin sit for a week or so before adding the worms. I know this can be a challenge for those people anxious to get started, but it will go a long way in terms of ensuring your success.

Should you choose not to wait (obviously if you get your worms at the same time you get your bin it doesn’t make sense to wait) I would highly recommend that you at least try to add some partially rotting materials so that the worms have something to feed on.

I like to keep food waste in an old milk carton that sits under my sink. Aside from the convenience of not needing to take it down to the basement (where my indoor bins are located) or outside (to my outdoor bin) multiple times per day, this also allows time for microbial colonization of the materials – and don’t worry, you won’t have a stinky mess in your container if you do it properly (I’ll definitely write more about that in another article).


Composting Worms

Red Worms | Eisenia fetida

One of the common misconceptions amongst vermicomposting beginners is that any earthworm can be used for worm composting, or kept in an indoor bin in general.

I can still remember the disappointment of discovering (during my teenage years) that I could not keep a population of soil dwelling worms in a bucket. Before becoming interested in worm composting I was an avid aquarium hobbyist, always looking for ways to raise live food for my fish. Having heard that people were able to keep thriving “worm bins” in their house I naturally assumed they were raising the same kind I found in my garden.

Eventually I learned that most of my yard worms were of the “anecic” type – that is to say they were soil dwelling worms that create burrows and tend to lead a somewhat solitary existence (they need their space). The worms ideally suited for composting on the other hand are referred to as “epigeic”. This group tends to live in rich organic material (not soil), and are adapted to crowding and warmer temperatures. So its not difficult to see why epigeic worms would do much better in an indoor composting bin than their soil dwelling cousins.

By far, the most common variety of composting worm is Eisenia fetida – also known as the red worm or red wiggler (see the “Quick Facts” section for other names). If you are looking to start up your own worm composting bin this is definitely the worm for you. There are other species of composting worm, but we can deal with them in future articles.

So where does on get ahold of some of these worms??

Well there are various options. The easiest (but most expensive) is to simply buy them. There are a wide variety of online merchants who will sell them to you, OR you may be able to track down a local supplier (I will be eventually setting up a comprehensive supplier directory to help people find merchants in their area). If you need some recommendations simply drop me an email.

In general worms are pretty expensive (typically running somewhere between $25 and $40/lb USD, although decent discounts tend to be given on larger orders), but it’s amazing how fast you can build a large thriving population starting with only a pound of worms.

Another option is to track down someone else with a worm bin in your area and ask them to share. Over the years I’ve been given worms on multiple occasions and now happily ‘pay it forward’ on occasion myself. Getting in touch with your local gardening clubs or municiple waste management division should prove helpful.

Composting worms (E. fetida) don’t typically occur in “nature”, but there IS a decent chance of finding some on a local farm if they keep aged manure piles. I can still remember the very first time I saw a population of red wiggler worms. I was working at a horse farm and happened to dig into a pile of manure sitting behind the barn. It was absolutely LOADED with red worms! I had never seen so many worms in one place ever (nor have I since then). If I had been into worm composting at the time this would have been like hitting the jackpot.

When it comes to adding worms to a new system, I like to err on the side of caution. I prefer to build my population up to the ideal level, rather than using standard guidelines. A widely accepted recommendation is to add 1lb of worms for each sq ft of bin surface area you have. So if your bin is 1.5 X 2 ft (width x length) it should be able to handle 3 lbs of worms. I would personally rather add 1lb of worms to a bin this size and let the population reach an population equilibrium on it’s own. Red worms reproduce very rapidly under favorable conditions so it shouldn’t take too long.


Building & Setting up a Worm Composting Bin

Here are three Youtube videos I made, demonstrating how to build and set up several types of worm composting bins (the third video only shows the building process, but you can certainly apply the same methods shown in the first two videos).

Setting up a Basic Worm Composting Bin

This is a basic as it comes – the simple Rubbermaid tub worm bin. For anyone just getting started, and looking for a very easy-to-build and inexpensive worm composting system, this is a great option. Just remember – you should always use a tub that is opaque, especially if you are going to keep the bin in a brightly lit location! Light can stress out or even harm the worms.

Setting up a “Deluxe” Worm Bin

This is a slightly more advanced system than the “basic” shown above. One of the limitations of enclosed plastic bins is that they can become “swampy” over time due to water accumulation in the bottom. By creating a system with a drainage reservoir you can help to eliminate this issue, and create some better quality worm compost in the process. I don’t actually use this type of system myself anymore, simply due to the fact that I used mostly open systems (which takes care of the excess moisture concern) and I just generally like to keep things as simple as possible. But don’t let that stop you from using this type of bin (lots of people seem happy with this approach!

The “Mini” Vented Worm Bin

This was originally a system I created to sell as part of a worm bin kit for those who didn’t feel like making their own bin. I later decided to stop offering the systems (didn’t really enjoy mass producing them), and instead have put more focus on providing DIY guidance.


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293 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ronald thomson
#1. June 8th, 2007, at 1:10 PM.

Thanks for this article.
Most articles from pre-2006 state that the worms eat the organic rubbish – the latest scientific reports state that the worms actually eat the microorganisms doing the decomposing – as you do.
I have neem unable to find out exactly when the shift in eating habits happened or what authority changed it. Any ideas??

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. June 11th, 2007, at 4:07 PM.

Hi again Ronald,
Until fairly recently I have not seen all that much mentioned about the microbial diet of worms. Many vermicomposting resources simply imply that the worms are eating the waste, end of story.

While I can’t say with any certainty what might have brought about the more-widespread discussion of this finding as of late, it is important to mention that some researchers have been suggesting this for years.

I first heard about it from Dr. Clive Edwards, world-renowned worm researcher and vermicomposting expert – i can’t recall exactly which publications he mentions this in, but I do know he has help this view since the 80′s if not earlier.

These early findings suggested that it was in fact primarily prozoans that worms fed on, although this may have changed as well.

Anyway – interesting topic for sure!

Thanks again for stopping by!

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Will
#3. August 31st, 2007, at 4:37 PM.

So if in fact the worms are feeding off the microbes that help break the waste down, do worms accelerate or retard this break down?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#4. August 31st, 2007, at 5:30 PM.

Excellent question, Will!
Worms do in fact help accelerate the process (a great deal in fact). Those microbes that cause ‘rot’ can breed very quickly so the worms aren’t completely erradicating them by any means. As this microbial soup passes through the worms’ digestive tract there is a whole other incredible community of microbes acting on the material, resulting in the humified, microbially-rich “castings” that come out the other end.

The physical action (feeding/moving) of the worms also helps speed up the process. Increased surface area means increased opportunity for breakdown. Think of a rotten apple – there is only so much surface area available for attack by microbes. Once that apple is broken apart and spread around it’s going to decompose so much more quickly (also helps oxygenate the process which is very important).
I’ve seen a pretty big difference between backyard composters with and without worms. (of course there are other important creatures too, like sow bugs etc)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com alan kasman
#5. September 14th, 2007, at 12:57 AM.

hi, your article had more info in it then i have seen in a while! i have been trying to get started with setting up a worm farm business to sell castings retail and wholesale. i am having a problem comming up with the most effective way to go. build bins myself or buy them. at this time of the year since winter is comming i am concerned about heat. your article has given me some good info. how do i find past articles and also is there a way to be on the email list? thanks for the info and await more………alan kasman

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#6. September 17th, 2007, at 11:11 PM.

Hey Alan,
Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind comments. I’ll definitely be adding a lot more to the site in coming months. This article is really only a brief introduction to worm composting, but I’m glad you found it helpful!
I’m going to send you an email to see if I can help you a little more with your other questions!

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com dave west
#7. September 24th, 2007, at 4:52 PM.

GOOD info, i would like to try red worm composting, i look forward to any info. I have read this article and learned a lot.
Thank You,
Dave

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tim
#8. September 27th, 2007, at 12:13 AM.

I read that earthworms had a gizzard and required soil to help them digest. Why don’t you have soil in your bedding material? Is this a difference between epigeic and anecic? Do our little red friends not need to fill their gizzard with little stones?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#9. September 27th, 2007, at 2:37 AM.

Dave, I’m really glad to hear you are interested in giving worm composting a try. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email if you have any questions along the way!

Tim – you make a great point. Composting worms DO in fact have a gizzard so a little grit can definitely help. Even just a small handful of soil should do the trick. I’ve also read that crushed eggshells can help.

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Moeen Emrany
#10. November 18th, 2007, at 12:49 PM.

Hi
My name is Moeen Emrany and I study Environmental Design in Tehran University, Iran.
It has been a year or so that I have started to study about vermicomposting and how to use worms for making the powerful fertilizer.
I have read alot on the internet, but I don’t know if they apply to all the varieties of worms around the world or not.
I searched alot and figured that some companies do this, but as my hometown is Kerman, in the southeast of Iran, nobody there has set up a vermicomposting facility yet.
So this can be a very good oppurtunity for me to start this job and make my future, …
BUT !!!
The companies here do not even sell worms to anybody. You may have guessed why! There would be more hands in the job and competitioners come along…
So I couldn’t even get 1lb of worms although I searched for it all summer.
I talked to a couple of my friends about it and one of them whose hometown is in north of Iran where the climate is VERY humid and the soil is fertile, told me that these worms are there in the ground!
So when he went there, he brought me a fistful of red earthworms, and I am taking care of them in a bucket in my room in the dormitory.You know the point is that they are not very similar to the worms I have seen in the big factories in other cities…
Can you help me with this?
The worms I have are red, but some of them have yellowish on their ends or heads.
The worms I have seen in other places were all red.
Are the worms you use enhanced genetically, or somthing like that?
Or, is it possible to take the worms from the ground and use them to make vermicompost?
And 1 more thing.
Can you give me an almost exact peroid of time inwhich a pile of worms become double?
I mean how fast does the worms reproduce?
I ask this because I have read different things about this.
I hope you answer me in my email.
In the Love of God
Moeen

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#11. November 18th, 2007, at 5:58 PM.

Hi Moeen,
Wow – you sure seem eager to learn about worm composting (always nice to see).
The mostly widely used species of worm, and the most versatile (able to do well in the widest range of conditions) is likely the red worm (Eisenia fetida). I know it is used in much of the world, but I don’t know if it has made its way to Iran yet (not sure if it would occur there naturally).
It is great that you want to get people interested in vermicomposting in your country. It is a fantastic way to turn animal manures (and other wastes) into a very rich compost.

As for the worms given to you by your friends, believe it or not those actually DO sound like E. fetida. Aside from being reddish in colour, one of the distinct features of the worm is the yellow tip of the tail. This probably just hasn’t been visible in my photos. I can assure you there are no “genetically enhanced” worms, although some people might like to have you believe this (especially if they are trying to sell them to you!).

Whatever type of red worms you have, the way to determine if they will work for worm composting is to keep them in a container (as described above) and see if they consume the waste and increase in numbers)

In worm composting there is no such thing as an “exact” value for anything. Every system is different and there are SO many variables involved that it is impossible to come up with precise values. In a VERY well managed system (temperature, moisture content, feeding rate etc) these worms will reproduce very quickly. Many say that a worm population will double every 90 days. This is ok as a guideline, but the only real way to find out is to test it for yourself.

Anyway, best of luck! Feel free to send me an email if you have any other questions.

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mrs. R. Johnson
#12. December 9th, 2007, at 2:49 AM.

Dear Sir or Madame,
I have been eager to start red worm composting, but have been hesitant because I am not sure if I have enough kitchen scraps to keep the colony going. I regularly have eggs shells, fruit peels, vegetable peels, and coffee grinds, but not a lot every day. Some days I don’t cook all that much.
Can grass clippings also be used? I don’t fertalize, so there are no harsh chemicals in my lawn clippings. It is St. Augustine grass and I get a good trashbag full of it each week. If I start with a pound of worms, how much and how often would they need to be fed? Can I supplement with the grass clippings?
Sincerely, Mrs. Rebecca Behar-Johnson

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#13. December 10th, 2007, at 7:12 PM.

Hi Rebecca,
Your worms really don’t need all that much to eat. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it is much easier to kill your worms via over-feeding than it is via under-feeding.
I would simply try it out with the amount of scraps you have and see how it pans out. If it looks like the scraps are disappearing faster than you can replace them then perhaps you’ll need to supplement.

Grass clippings can be used as worm food but you definitely need to be cautious. You should not add too much of this material at once – it can turn into a nasty mess and give off a lot of ammonia gas (bad for the worms). I would recommend moistening and mixing with shredded cardboard or leaves (brown fall leaves that is) and letting the miture sit in a separate container for a few days. After it ages a bit try feeding some of the mixture to your worms – just put a small amount in the bin and see if the worms start consuming it.

This fall I ran my mulching lawn mower over fall leaves while I cut the grass – the result was a fine chopped mixture of grass clipping and leaves. I am currently using the mixture as a winter worm feed and my worms seem to enjoy it.

Hope this helps

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Seo
#14. December 27th, 2007, at 2:23 PM.

I’d like to start vermicomposting at home, but am quite intimidated even though I was reading a lot of useful informaiton from your site (including the great video). I don’t cook much to produce enough food scraps, don’t garden (I plan to start container gardening next spring)…so I’d like to start vermicomposting in a very small scale to see if I can succeed. What is the smallest size you can start the vermicomposting? Can I start with, say, a shoebox sized bin with about 10-20 worms only? Or does it have to be large enough to be successful?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#15. December 27th, 2007, at 5:45 PM.

Hi Seo,
You can start vermicomposting on any scale. You could literally start a small worm bin in an old margarine container if you wanted. Obviously, smaller containers house fewer worms and thus process less waste.
I personally recommend the smallest Rubbermaid ‘Roughneck’ tubs – these are the ones I’m currently using inside the house. They are very compact (I think they have a 3 gallon capacity) and won’t get in the way.
You mentioned not cooking much. Do you eat any raw fruits/vegetables? Brew coffee or tea? These are all good waste materials for a worm bin (better if aged first in a separate container).

You can certainly get started with 10-20 worms (you obviously couldn’t order this number of worms – so you’d need to know someone with a worm bin who is willing to give you some), but you will really need to be careful with the amount of wastes you add. I actually just started an experiment with only 4 worms to start. I’ve only added very small quantities of waste and will be leaving it to sit for some time before adding any more.

It’s up to you to decide what a “successful” worm bin is. If you just want to play with a worm bin to see if you like it, and don’t care about quickly producing worm castings (compost), then starting with a tiny system is probably a good approach.

Good luck!

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Seo
#16. December 27th, 2007, at 6:45 PM.

Thanks Bentley. If I use 3 gallon Rubbermaid tubs, and can have about 1-2 lbs of food scraps per week, how many worms will be good to start with such a space and amount of food? I read that one pound of worms eat 0.5 lbs a day…so do I start around quarter a pound? Half a pound? How many worms are actually in one pound? My worst fear is bringing in lots of worms and I end up killing them all for whatever mistake I make in the beginning. I’d like to start small so I can minimize casualties until I figure it out…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#17. December 27th, 2007, at 7:36 PM.

Hi again Seo,
If you are producing 1-2 pounds of food waste per week you will definitely want to start with more than 10-20 worms (unless you have a large separate system to store your rotting food waste before adding it to your worm bin). You might want to start two small Rubbermaid tubs and put half a pound of worms in each (make sure to get the bins ready before adding the worms, as shown in the videos).
In all honesty I try not to recommend exact formulas for feeding worms since every system is different and there is always a period of adjustment before your worms will start processing wastes efficiently.

The best way to avoid killing worms is to do everything in moderation and build your system up gradually, although that being said – if you add 1/2 pound of worms to a well prepared (and aged) small tub it should start working well quite quickly. Once you see that much of the wastes you mixed in with the bedding have disappeared, you can then start adding small amounts of new (aged) wastes. You should get a feel for things fairly quickly and become more confident in your abilities. It is amazing how easy vermicomposting becomes once you master a few simple principles.

As for numbers/pound, it is widely thought that a pound of worms contains approx. 1000 worms. In all honesty, any time I start a new mini tub I doubt I ever add as much as 1/2 pound, but thats not to say bad things will happen if you do! Just so you know, I recently started up a couple of European Nightcrawler (bigger composting worms) bins and added at least 1/2 pound of adults to one of the bins (which was actually one of the bins prepared in my videos) and they seem to be doing very well.

Anyway Seo, not sure if I’m really helping here! :-)

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steve
#18. January 11th, 2008, at 11:10 PM.

What is happening when the worms are crawling out of the bin? It does not seem to be too wet.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#19. January 12th, 2008, at 1:48 PM.

Hi Steve,
If the worms are trying to crawl out of the bin it means conditions are not to their liking. Almost always, this has something to do with overfeeding (or at least too much of a certain type of waste material).

What is your bedding material made of, and what have you been feeding your worms? (and how often?)

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steve
#20. January 12th, 2008, at 3:43 PM.

Thanks Bentley for getting back to me so fast.

I have cardboard on the bottom, a layer of finished compost and then some shredded paper on top. I have feed them coffee grounds, apple cores, apple peels, tea bags, banana peels and some cucumber peels. I also put in some crushed egg shells. My worm population is low for a 3 ft X 1 ft rubbermaid bin. I added about 50 worms from my outside compost in November and about 50 more from a manure pile this last week. I did find a worm capsule yesterday. I have added small amounts of food about once a week. The banana peels and coffee grounds seem to be disappearing.

Steve

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#21. January 14th, 2008, at 2:35 PM.

Ok – thanks for the additional info, Steve!
Everything sounds good to me – nothing jumping out at me as an obvious reason for your worms wanting to leave, other than the small population perhaps. With so few worms you definitely need to be careful with the amount of food added, but it sounds as though you have indeed been doing so.

One thing just came to mind – you said you transfered some worms from a manure pile. That likely explains it. Worms raised on manure as a food source tend to require an adjustment period in a food-scrap worm bin. Rest assured, the next generation will be well adapted to the new environment (there are actually scientific studies that have shown that worms born in a certain type of waste material are able to adapt FAR more easily tha their parents (assuming the parents came from a different environment).

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Michelle
#22. January 16th, 2008, at 4:13 PM.

Hello!
I am planning on starting up a couple of experimental worm bins in my home as an investment of my volunteer place of work. We’re thinking of trying out two different kinds of worm types (red wigglers and night crawlers) in two separate possibly rubbermaid bins (which we have yet to buy) in my basement. If all goes well we are going to try and get vermicomposting started on a larger scale in our small town community and get restaurants to give us their compost materials. We’ve got a community garden and will hopefully be using all the finished compost for it and other growing initiatives around town. Vermicomposting sounds like the perfect idea for us because it’s hard to compost around here because there are all sorts of wild critters that can get into it. I think we had a wooden compost construction in our yard once but it got knocked over by a bear.. so indoor composting is the way to go. Also our town is very big on fishing and holds a large ice-fishing derby every year. I’ve read that night crawlers are excellent bait worms so we may even be able to sell some to local fishermen if we ever get an abundance.

So, I was just wanting to know if we bought a pound of each type of worm would that be too many for a basic worm tub? My house has 9 people in it (it’s a house for the Katimavik youth volunteers program) and so I’m sure we will have enough food scraps..

We’re located in Wawa, Ontario, Canada. I tried to find on your site where you are in case you were closer and could help with recommendations of worm suppliers, but I couldn’t find anything. I’m very eager to start this up as soon as possible and get some new wormy friends as housemates!

I guess I don’t have all that many questions, I just wanted to hear your take on my situation, and tell you how commendable your dedication to worms and composting is! I greatly appreciate all the great information on your site, thanks. :)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#23. January 16th, 2008, at 7:17 PM.

Hi Michelle,
I’m going to respond in the form of a blog post (will send you an email as well).
Thanks for stopping by!

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steve
#24. January 18th, 2008, at 9:57 PM.

In comment # 15 you mentioned that “You could literally start a small worm bin in an old margarine container if you wanted.” Since I am starting out with less than 100 worms I thought I would try small containers as well as two regular bins.

I have created two bins with a 2L ice cream containers. I have started with the types of bedding you recommend. I am thinking (hoping) that a few worms in a confined space should produce worm cocoons faster.

My two sons now have their own worm bins.

Steve

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#25. January 20th, 2008, at 5:22 AM.

Hey Steve,
Are you saying you have split 100 worms between two ice cream containers? One additional thing I should mention (don’t tink it was mentioned above) is that these sorts of translucent containers (ie those that let light in) should be keep in a dark location since worms don’t like light.

To help stimulate reproduction you might want to add some cardboard – I’ve found that various cardboard/paper products can help to stimulate reproduction. My personal favourite is the material used to make (cardboard) egg cartons.

B.

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#26. January 21st, 2008, at 3:23 AM.

Actually I have between 100 and 150 worms total. I started in November with one Rubbermaid tote measuring 15″ X 21″. I started a second bin with a tote of the same size. I found some red worms at various locations due our recent warm spell.

So…my initial numbers are low…and I will likely not find any more outside until spring.

Each of the 2L ice cream containers has about 8 or 10 worms. For bedding I have used cardboard, a couple of leaves from outside, shredded paper and a tiny bit of finished compost. These bins are in a dark location.

Steve

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#27. January 21st, 2008, at 3:56 AM.

Sounds great, Steve – 8-10 worms per container definitely sounds better than 50!

I’ll be interested to hear how your little bins do.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Steve
#28. February 10th, 2008, at 1:13 AM.

Bentley,

An update on my 2L ice cream container worm bins. I checked this afternoon and I counted 8 worm cocoons in the first one and one cocoon in the second bin that was started later.

Steve

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#29. February 11th, 2008, at 4:21 PM.

That’s fantastic, Steve!
Thanks for keeping us in the loop!

B

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#30. February 11th, 2008, at 4:25 PM.

Bentley,

Hi, I’m back! So FINALLY, I am almost ready for my first worm bin. We moved into our first new house that has enough room to keep an indoor worm bin. I want to list what I have so far, and get your input to correct things if I need to…

I have:
(1) 10 gallon Rubbermaid Tub all drilled as shown on Video.
(2) Bedding – cardboard, clear newsprint used in packing/moving, all shredded and ready to go. Should I add some leaves too?
(3) Pitiful bucket of food waste I am still trying to collect – I so far have about 6 egg shells, half cup worth of cabbage, and that’s it…I don’t cook much to produce more food waste. Today at work (since I don’t drink coffee) I dug out trash in the kitchen for some coffee grounds…people thought I was crazy! So now I have 1 cup of coffee ground.

Is that enough food waste to start the bin – to let it sit for a week? I could probably come up with more food waste during the week to add, BEFORE I order the worms. I found a website that sells 500 worms, and I am going to split with another friend, which will get us started with 250 worms (if they all survive the shipping)…

Oh, and adding the garden soil to the bin. I don’t have a garden to get soil from…do I just dig up some dirt from the backyard? I have a bag of potting mix (but since it has fertilizer, not ok to use, right?). My next door neighbor has a pile of sand she is using for construction – can I use sand instead?

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#31. February 11th, 2008, at 4:50 PM.

Hi again SEO – thanks for the update!
It sounds like you are ready for some serious worm composting action.
You MAY be a little low on food for starting your bin (based on the amount you mentioned). I LOVE the bit about going through the trash to find more wastes! You know you are a true worm fanatic WHEN…
:lol:

The next time you are at the store it might not be a bad idea to check out the price of carrots. Here they are ridiculously cheap. While I haven’t needed to actually purchase any specifically for my worms (we eat a lot of fruits/veggies and drink coffee), I likely would if I was ever low. Its amazing how much material you can get just by grating a few carrots (they are very resistant to break down so I suggest you shred them and maybe even cook them). All all those beta carotenes will give your worms a nice shiny coat!
:lol:

Good call regarding the potting soil (funny, someone JUST asked me about the same thing). As for needing “garden” soil, all I meant was dirt from outside – could be from anywhere, not just the garden. Sand is probably a wee bit too coarse in my humble opinion, but it’s worth a shot.

B

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#32. February 11th, 2008, at 5:23 PM.

Thanks, Bentley! The idea of BUYING food for the worms seems to defeat the purpose of the composting… So I am going to stick it out and try to accummulate more food waste – will eat some pears and bananas! Is Tofu compostable? How about Boca burgers and veggie “sasuage” crumbles? They all all soy based, so essentially they are veggies, right?

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#33. February 11th, 2008, at 5:43 PM.

Haha – I can see how that might sound odd (buying food). I guess I’ve come to think of my worms as pets by now.
:lol:

Anyway, sounds like you have the right attitude! Eat better yourself and the worms will end up eating better.
8)

Anything veggie-based will compost – just be careful with large quantities of dense and/or starchy materials – they can go anaerobic and ferment!

B

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#34. March 7th, 2008, at 11:22 PM.

Hi Bentley, just wanted to give you the updates that I got my wigglers and they have been doing well in my bin for a week now. They immediately went under the bedding, and when I lift some to look under, they seem pretty active and no escapees outside the bin, so they seem okay at least for now. I immediately got fruit flies and really not happy about them – I put lots of bedding on top of food, but I think the fruit flies came with the original bedding the worms got shipped in. Now they totally multiplied! I am going to have to read up on your past blogs on dealing with them – but do share any more advices!

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#35. March 16th, 2008, at 1:08 PM.

Hi Seo!
Sorry for the delay getting back to you (have been away from the site for awhile). Fruit flies just seem to be one of those things that EVERY worm composter has to deal with – in my experience it is very difficult to avoid them altogether. I’ve had numerous bad infestations over the years. If you make a few traps and suck up adults with a vacuum cleaner you should help to bring about a population crash.

To make traps simply add some red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is great too), wine, or beer along with a drop of dish soap (reduces surface tension causing flies to sink) to a few small cups. Cover with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in it with a fork.

Not very fancy, but I’ve actually found these home made traps to work better than ones I’ve purchased.
8)

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cindy Maddox
#36. April 7th, 2008, at 2:59 PM.

I want to set up a worm bed and have found this site which is most helpful but I can not find and I have been keeping my eye out for a container like ya’ll have mention but I have had no luck. I did fine a container at Walmart that looks and works like a drawer it is 20″ long X 16″ wide and the depth is only 5″ is this too shallow? It is plastic and if you buy more then one they can be stack which is why I like them.

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#37. April 8th, 2008, at 1:52 AM.

Hi Cindy,
If this container you are describing is clear I wouldn’t recommend using it. Worms are quite sensitive to light.
I’m amazed that you can’t find a Rubbermaid Roughneck at Walmart – wow!
When it comes down to it, any opaque plastic storage tub with a lid should be fine. A depth of 5″ IS a little shallow and might not provide the worms with enough safe habitat in case they are not happy with some food that has been added or conditions that have developed in certain parts of the bin.
I think I’d need to see a picture of the bin you mentioned to get a better idea.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cindy Maddox
#38. April 8th, 2008, at 2:59 AM.

Hi Bentley,
Yes you would think Walmart would have what you need. They get on these kicks and right now every container I saw was clear and real big. I understand about light getting in the box I have I spray it black just the outside so no light would get in. I thought the depth might not be enough. I am only going to start out with a small batch of wormys around 300 to 500. Here is some pictures I took of the container.

http://bellsouthpwp.net/m/a/maddoxfour/Worm-Container.jpg

http://bellsouthpwp.net/m/a/maddoxfour/Compost-container1.jpg

http://bellsouthpwp.net/m/a/maddoxfour/Compost1.jpg

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#39. April 8th, 2008, at 3:15 AM.

Wow Cindy – you certainly seem to be off to a good start! Everything looks great, and you seem to know what you are doing.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cindy Maddox
#40. April 8th, 2008, at 3:24 AM.

Well do you think this container will work? Or should I just try to find something else? I really don’t know what I am doing all the things I learned so far are from your site and my 11 year old who is wanting to save the world a little at a time as she says.. SO thanks for getting me going.

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#41. April 8th, 2008, at 11:47 AM.

Hi Cindy,
I definitely recommend giving it a shot. You are starting with a relatively small quantity of worms (good idea), so you should be fine. The material you have in the bin looks good (based on the pictures). You may want to get a few of these bins eventually to accomodate your worm population as it grows.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Suzy
#42. April 14th, 2008, at 4:19 AM.

Hi Bently! I have enjoyed exploring your web site. I am considering starting a worm bin at home and at my son’s preschool. I am afraid of failure in front of a bunch of kids though! It sounds as though a good plan would be for the kids to save their raw produce scraps from lunch all week and then dump it in before the weekend. When I have saved scraps at home (too lazy to run out to the compost pile every day) the produce got moldy. Is that a problem?

Thanks for all your info!
Suzy

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#43. April 14th, 2008, at 12:47 PM.

Hi Suzy,
You’ve got the right idea! I would suggest shredding some corrugated cardboard (or egg carton cardboard – even better if you have it), putting a thick layer of it in the bottom of a bucket, then adding your scraps there (along with a little more cardboard each time you add scraps). This whole mix can then be used to start up a new worm bin (along with some additional shredded cardboard). The advantage of this approach is the cardboard soaks up excess moisture and helps to aerate the wastes so less chance of having a stinky mess on your hands (literally – haha).

To ensure success with the kids I would recommend sticking with the best food materials – i.e. avoid stuff like bread, onions, oily foods, and of course meats and dairy. Fruit and vegetable scraps are the best. It is often the starchy materials (like bread) that can attract the most mold growth as well. Speaking of which, a little fungal growth or your scraps is fine – after all, we are trying to develop the microbial community for the worms to feed on – but excess amounts make the materials no fun to work with, and of course there can be potential health issues if it’s out of control. Mixing and covering scraps with shredded cardboard (or another bedding material) will definitely help – there will still certainly be fungal growth, but it will be more contained and spread out.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Aundrea
#44. April 14th, 2008, at 6:23 PM.

Hi Bently,
thank you for all the great info. do the bins need to be made of plastic? I would like to use what I already have around the house. I have 3ft round cement cylinder. If I put wood on the bottom, would the worms stay in? Aundrea

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#45. April 15th, 2008, at 3:03 PM.

Hi Aundrea,
Using containers you already have is a great idea – you definitely do not need to use a plastic bin!
The worms will stay in any container so long as you give them a reason to do so. As always, I’d recommend setting up the bin a good week or two before adding the worms so they arrive to find lots of food and moist conditions.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tom
#46. May 4th, 2008, at 2:10 AM.

Hi Bentley,
I live on a small orchard in Eastern Wa state. I have an extremely large (by comparison) amount of apple and pear ‘waste’ which I would like to try to process over the year – think in the hundred ton range for a year. Can you give me any idea about the capacity of your larger beds (I think you mentioned a 5X3x3 foot bed)? Also are you aware of problems with too much apple and pear waste? Materials I should use to ‘dilute’ the fruit waste?

Thanks,
Tom

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#47. May 4th, 2008, at 7:14 PM.

Hi Tom,
Thanks for stopping by.
That sounds like a LOT of waste – certainly way way more than my outdoor bed could process in a year (hard to guess what the actual capacity of it is).
Apple and pear waste would be great worm food, but large quantities of it would likely be pretty acidic and very wet. You would likely very need to mix with something absorbent like shredded cardboard and likely also some lime (CaCO3) as well (to help balance pH).

You might want to test it out on a small scale and see how it works for you then expand from there. I’d certainly be interested in hearing how you make out!
8)

B

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#48. May 14th, 2008, at 10:08 PM.

Bentley…I need help. My worm bin must not be right. It’s been two months, and I should be having a lot more worms than what I have now. Nowdays whenever I dig through the bin, I can only find a few visible worms. The foods are getting processed (I add about a pound of food every 2 weeks) – the bin doesn’t smell bad and I am getting more of the earthy compost stuff, but I just don’t seem to see worms count increasing. I probably started with about 200 worms, and whenever I look in, now I’m lucky if I find about 6-7 worms! Granted they hide quickly from my inquiring hand into the compost pile but shouldn’t I be seeing lots of worms on top of one another in the bottom or where the food is? Is it possible I killed the most worms and the foods being processed currently are done by those handful of worms I am seeing? How could it be?

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#49. May 15th, 2008, at 3:04 AM.

Hi Seo,
In all honesty I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You started with a fairly small number of worms and it has only been 2 months, so I’d guess (based on all the other details you provided) that everything is fine.
While it’s certainly possible that you have killed some of your worms. I find it hard to believe that a tiny handful would be able to process a pound of worms every couple weeks (but I guess it depends on how many we are talking about).

If you are really worried, you might think about dumping the contents of the bin out onto a tarp or garbage bag then simply going through the material to see how many worms there are. You may be surprised!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Patricia
#50. May 18th, 2008, at 6:55 AM.

Hi Bentley, was wondering if wood shavings are of any use? They come from my ducklings and chicks that have to be cleaned out alot. I also use them in my veal pens and hen house. Seems like such a waste to throw them away. They seem to hold moisture well and I could probably use them in place of cardboard? The answer is probably yes and i just overlooked the obvious. TIA Patricia

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#51. May 20th, 2008, at 12:27 AM.

Hi Patricia,
Wood shavings (and any woody materials) are very resistant to breakdown, so I’m not sure I would say they are a good replacement for cardboard – BUT you are definitely on the right track by not throwing it away (you are right – that would definitely be a waste). If you mixed it with some manure and left it to rot for awhile I bet it would be fantastic.

B

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#52. May 20th, 2008, at 7:04 AM.

Bentley, great idea for the shavings. Thanks. After I mix them with the manure I assume I would hot compost it for a bit with a tarp cover? Do they also need to be turned and/or watered periodically? Since we have 10 horses we have more than enough manure to try different things. This may also be a good pile to mix ALL my manures together (pig, goat, rabbit, cattle, chicken in moderation) and see what happens. I really have to figure out a better way to use all manures and products around our farm instead of paying 175 USD a month to have it hauled away. That is killing my budget!! TIA Patricia

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#53. May 20th, 2008, at 12:08 PM.

Wow – now I’m definitely jealous, Patricia! It sounds like you have a LOT of great worm food.
Hot composting is definitely a good option, but as you realize yourself it does generally require more management (turning etc). If you can bulk up your manure enough with straw etc you can compost it passively, especially if you create some sort of raised bed that allows air to flow underneath the pile as well.
Check out this video for some ideas:
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=uHm4zpyI4hg
(it’s a little long, but I think you might find it interesting)

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tammy
#54. May 29th, 2008, at 3:35 AM.

Is there such a thing as too many worms in an indoor bin? I have a small-sized bin (1 ft. x 1 ft. by 2 ft.) and the worms have multiplied like crazy. Are they unhappy if they’re too crowded in there?

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#55. May 30th, 2008, at 3:13 PM.

Hi Tammy,
Worms will only continue reproducing if conditions are favourable. Once the ‘carrying capacity’ has been reached for that container (and given amount of food provided), the number of worms in the bin should stabilize. In other words, don’t worry all that much about too many worms.

That being said, if your desire is to continue expanding your population, then I would highly recommend starting one or even two new systems – this way the worms in each of these bins will have a lot more room and food at their disposal and it will lead to lots and lots of breeding as a result.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lauren
#56. June 4th, 2008, at 5:33 PM.

I want to start my worm sanctuary and have been saving up food scraps for a few weeks so Im almost good to go. I just wondered how many worms you would start out with per bin (probably going to go buy a rubber maid type thing – the half height ones that are about 3ft by 2ft by 1ft high). Also a food question, can you feed them dog hair or use it as bedding? I just shaved my dogs and have tons of dog hair and nothing to do with it!
Also, if you do elevate the bin and put it in a collector tray type thing, is the liquid that drains out going to be like plant fertilizer?
oh, sorry, another question, I live in Mississippi where summer temperatures regularly exceed 100F (we already have in excess of 90F), would it be ok to keep my new pals in the garage or do they need to be in the house in the ac?
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris A.
#57. June 8th, 2008, at 1:56 AM.

I’m wondering if the material that accumulates in my shredder (from bank statements, mailings, etc. – all just office paper) would make good bedding material in place of shredded newspaper, cardboard, etc that you recommend. I just stumbled upon the practice of vermiculture today, and I’m very intrigued by the idea. Your blog is of great help and interest to me. My interest was sparked by the purchase of Terracycle Tomato Plant Food containing liquified worm poop. I’ve fed all 11 of of my young container-grown tomato plants with the product weekly for 2 weeks now, and they are very robust and darker green in color. Your blog does not explain how to harvest the compost. How do I obtain a liquefied product similar to the Terracycle product to use directly on my container-cultivated tomatoes as I go through the short growing season here in Minnesota? How should I harvest and save the compost material that accumulates through our long frozen winter if I start this project indoors now? Is odor very discernible? I’m considering buying one of the stacking bin type of arrangements that are marketed specifically for vermiculture on a small scale such as the Worm Chalet or the Expandable Worm Tower hoping for greater ease and convenience of use (even if at greater cost). Is it worth it?
Thank you so much

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Terry
#58. June 14th, 2008, at 9:50 AM.

About a month ago I recenty started a Worm Factory bin with 1 pound of red wigglers. I keep it indoors and have good resuts so far. I added the second bin to the top a few days ago. The second bin sits on top of the contents of the first bin. I was wondering if the weight of the top bin will bother the worms that are stil working in the first bin? The worms are migrating between the two bins and I have found some juvenies that I think must have been born in these bins.
Another question, after reading about mites, where do they come from? Are they in the dirt outside? I was looking for some leaves on my compost pile outside, and saw earthworms in it. I didn’t want to mix this stuff in with my redworms because there might be alot of unknowns.
I was happy to find this website, I think that taking care of the worms that take care of the earth has to be good karma. It is nice that they don’t hurt anything living, and help clear away the rotting stuff.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lauren
#59. June 16th, 2008, at 1:27 PM.

Hey
I watched the video on getting started. I have been collecting food waste for about a month and its all rotted and gross, with little bugs all over it. Is it ok to use this food? or should I start again with the cardboard and layering etc that you do in your video? Can I layer these old scraps with the card board?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Terry
#60. June 18th, 2008, at 5:07 AM.

Lauren, If you put those bugs into your composting bin with your redworms, you will probably continue to have those other bugs in there. Some might not be harmful but some may be harmful.
Terry

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#61. June 19th, 2008, at 7:56 PM.

Wow – looks like I’ve missed a LOT of comments! Sorry guys!

Lauren – The number of worms you start with is up to you. I often like my worms to grow into a system, but I’ve also added high densities to a bin and have been impressed with the processing power of a lot of worms. Generally, I would recommend the second option only for those with vermicomposting experience, since you definitely need to know how to set up and manage a system well. I think 1/2 – 1 lb is a good starting place for most beginners. Just make sure you monitor how quickly the worms are consuming the wastes, and adjust your feeding accordingly.

Dog hair can certainly be used in a worm bin – it will act as a slow-release nitrogen source. I’d be careful with the amount added though – it should only be a supplemental bedding in my opinion since large quantities may cause the bin to heat up at some point, or create nasty conditions due to excess nitrogen (ammonia gas production being an example).

Worm bin leachate isn’t the same thing as worm tea, but if you dilute it and/or aerate it well (using an aquarium air pump and tubing) it should be ok.

If your garage is regularly getting up over 100 degrees I would definitely keep the worms elsewhere – this is just too hot for them in my opinion.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#62. June 19th, 2008, at 8:09 PM.

Hi Chris,
Let’s see if I can tackle all those questions of yours.
:-)

Shredded paper can work well, although I generally prefer not to use it as a primary bedding. The bleach used to make it white can potentially irritate the worms. It also gets matted together, thus impeding air flow. Maybe try mixing it with shredded cardboard.

I have a video that shows how I separate worms from vermicompost (when using a regular plastic tub worm bin, that is). It’s not a great video, but should at least provide you with some idea of how this is achieved.
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-composting/simple-vermicompost-harvesting-method/

compost harvested during the winter can be used to feed indoor plants, or simply allowed to dry out somewhat and stored in any container that allows air in (should NOT be air tight). It may lose a little of its potency, but should still be great by the time spring arrives. If you harvest in the fall, you may actually not even need to harvest the bin again until the spring anyway – all depends on how the bin is managed.

Good quality vermicompost should not smell bad – it should have a nice earthy odour. If it smells bad it has likely gone anaerobic and should simply be allowed to dry out somewhat.

Stackable worm bins are a great way to separate worms from castings, without any major effort on your part. They DO cost a lot of money however, and it’s up to you to decide if it is worth it. Given the fact that you are really keen to produce vermicompost and worm tea, investing in one of these might not be a bad idea. I have a wooden stacking system along with all my various other bins, but I haven’t really put it to the test yet.

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#63. June 19th, 2008, at 8:15 PM.

Terry,
I don’t think the weight of the trays will be a major issue. Worms are pretty tough and I’m sure they will move upwards once conditions become unfavourable.

Mites likely come with the worms (specifically the bedding they are shipped in) in most cases, but certainly can be added via various outdoor materials (leaves, soil etc) you put in the bin. It is very tough to avoid them altogether, but if you want to do the best you can I’d definitely stay away from anything coming from outside.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#64. June 19th, 2008, at 8:20 PM.

Lauren (again – hehe),
The little critters are likely mites. I never recommend that people totally give up and start over, but that is of course up to you. Without the worms in the system, these other creatures can take advantage of all the food present. Once the worms are added you may see a decline in their numbers (the mites that is). A worm bin is a full ecosystem – many organisms working together in harmony. Only when the system is out of balance will any particular group of organisms take over and get out of control.

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#65. July 8th, 2008, at 2:17 AM.

Composting: Week 1 Update: If you have been keeping up with our composting project, you may remember that L and I thought we …

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark M
#66. July 11th, 2008, at 6:44 PM.

Bentley –
I’m very interested in starting up a worm composting system (outdoor) at my north Idaho (hot summers and cold winters) home. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on the subject (your website is great!), but still have some questions. 1) I’d like to build stacking bins out of wood for ease of harvesting castings. Can you give me an idea of a design? Also, if this bin is insulated properly, will my worms survive temps as low as 0 degrees F and as high as 100 degrees F? I’m prepared to supply whatever insulation is necessary. 2) I’ve heard that pet wastes (dog and cat) can be added to worm bins as long as the castings aren’t used for fertilizing plants that may be used for human consumption and as long as non-clay based cat litters are used. Please advise on this. Thanks.

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#67. July 13th, 2008, at 4:10 AM.

Hi Kurt,
I’ll be honest – I am NOT a design guy at all. I do have a large outdoor worm bin that I insulate for winter vermicomposting. You can learn all about my efforts here:
http://www.compostguy.com/winter-composting/

A temp range between 0 and 100 F sounds quite extreme, but I’m sure you could do it.

I’m going to be writing more about pet waste vermicomposting again very soon. Stay tuned.
:-)

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris A.
#68. July 18th, 2008, at 3:10 AM.

I am wondering whether I can use “compost starter” sparingly on the kitchen scraps I am saving to feed a worm bin to jump-start the decomposition process with a microbial mix. I’m stockpiling food scraps to slowly feed to a brand new worm factory containing my first pound of red wigglers I received last week. I don’t want to overfeed, but I want the food to be started down the aerobic decomposition pathway prior to adding to the bin. Can I sprinkle a small amount of organic compost starter mix into the food receptacle while it awaits addition to the worms? Might it hurt the worms? It contains a bacterial and fungal mixture.
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com hc
#69. July 20th, 2008, at 1:52 AM.

I had a friend give me 5 pounds of redworms and would like to know if a 27 quart is too small to put them in ? I am new to this and would like to see if they will be happy in the 27 qT CONTAINER. I placed them in there and feed them some water melon and cucumbers the entire cuc was gone in no time at all …

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#70. July 20th, 2008, at 3:03 AM.

Chris – I’ve always been a little skeptical of compost starters – after all, simply adding a handful of finished compost or even good quality soil will inoculate a compost heap with all the necessary microbes. That being said, if you do happen to have some, adding a bit to your scrap mix might not be a bad idea at all. Building the microbial community is definitely your goal, and this stuff should help.

I doubt it would cause any harm, unless it happens to contain fertilizer salts or something like that (not likely if it is an ‘organic’ product). Maybe add only a tiny amount the first time you use it to see if there is any adverse reaction – if not, you can increase the amount the next time (although you likely won’t need much to kickstart the microbial community).

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#71. July 20th, 2008, at 3:10 AM.

HC – 27 quarts is a pretty small volume for keeping 5 lbs of worms happy long-term, especially if it is an enclosed bin or bucket. I have open tubs that hold 41 liters and I keep 5 lbs of worms in each, but they are quite shallow with a lot of surface area and no lid. Generally it is recommended that you add 1 lb per square ft of surface area – but if you know what you are doing (ie you are an experienced vermicomposter), you may be able to keep worms at densities even higher than this.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Debbie
#72. July 28th, 2008, at 12:35 PM.

Hi, Bentley-
I’m loving this site- getting a lot of great information. I first found this site while searching for compost bins (the ones with handles to mix the compost – I’ve been composting my kitchen scraps for awhile now just by having a pile outside I throw my scraps onto) I found these bins to be very expensive, so I’ve been trying to find a way to make something my self when I discovered vermicomposting – I love the idea. I have 2 school-age kids and got to thinking that this would be a great science project for them – something they can use when science fair time comes around – maybe experimenting with feeding worms only certain types of food and testing the soil to see how it differs… lots of possibilities.
Anyway, I’ve started my collection of mixed waste and bedding. I’ll be ordering 500 worms. My only concern is having too much waste. (I’ve read about how over-feeding can be a problem) How much waste and bedding should I have prepared for my 500 worms?
Thanks, Debbie

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#73. July 29th, 2008, at 3:32 AM.

Hi Debbie,
Glad you found the site! :-)

When it comes to preparing the bin ahead of time, there really is no such thing as ‘too much’ of anything (unlike when you start actually feeding the worms) – well, ok…assuming you add everything in a reasonable ratio (somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1 – bedding:food). All I’m saying is that you could set up a 100 gallon worm bed, yet only add 3 worms and there is a decent chance they would be fine. The only issue becomes WHEN to feed them next. In my exaggerated example, they could probably just be left to sit for 6 months or more without the need to feed them anything else.

Your 500 worms (perhaps ~1/2 lb or so) would do just fine in some sort of small to medium sized Rubbermaid (or similar) tub – perhaps in the 5-10 gallon volume range (I’d opt for something closer to 5 personally). Simply mix up some bedding and food waste in the ratio range mentioned above, filling the bin most of the way – then let it sit for a few days (or more if you can). Make sure to monitor moisture and overall conditions inside – mix materials occasionally before worms arrive. Once in the system let the worms chill out for at least a few days, then start adding small amounts of waste. Let them basically tell you how much to feed them. If the wastes are disappearing quickly continue adding more.

Anyway – hope this helps, Debbie!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Debbie
#74. July 29th, 2008, at 4:12 PM.

Bentley-
Thanks for getting back to me so soon. You’ve answered my questions perfectly. I just ordered my worms this morning and I feel very confident that I am doing things right to be prepared for when they arrive.
I’m also saving my dryer lint – I think I’ve heard that worms like this – am I right?
Thanks again,
Debbie

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#75. July 29th, 2008, at 5:39 PM.

No problem, Debbie
Dryer lint can be a decent long-term food source. It does generally take awhile to break down, but it also helps to add some structure for the worms. Not sure I’d use it if bounce sheets are being used – may end up with substances that can irritate the worms (not sure about that though – just a possibility).

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nickey Evans
#76. July 30th, 2008, at 9:12 PM.

Bentley,
I just started a new worm bin around 3 weeks ago. Every thing looks to be doing fine. (Thanks to all I’ve learned on your site..) I have noticed that the worms crawl all around the sides of the bin. Is that something I should be worried about?
You have a great site by the way…..

Nickey

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Diana
#77. August 2nd, 2008, at 10:55 PM.

I am just starting out with Canadian Crawlers and maybe hope to have a few extra for fishing once in a while. I purchased a rough neck Rubbermaid container, placed shredded, cardboard, egg cartons and the worm bedding in the contaner and wet it down some till it was like a sponge but not really soaking wet. I have my crawlers, I purchased already. I purchased 2 cartons of twenty-four crawlers and am leaving them in the fridge for a few days, till the bedding is fed. I am saving all my coffee grounds and fruit peelings to place in the bedding. Do you put the food wastes on top, or mix it with the bedding?. The container is dark blue, with a lid. I just found your site and am really learning a lot about worms. I will be keeping it in my coldest room with ice packs on top during the hot days. The winter is cold here in Northwest Ohio, during the winter and my spare bedroom stays cool all winter long, but doesn’t freeze. I keep all my canned foods in there that I can during the seasonal rush. How deep should the bedding be? All the way to the top or just up the side? If I am only placing 48 crawlers in the container to breed, do I need more bedding? Thanks for your help. Diana

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#78. August 4th, 2008, at 12:34 PM.

Hi Diana,
It sounds as though you are well on your way to creating a great worm bin – only problem is that Canadian Nightcrawlers (Dew Worms) are not ideal candidates to live in such a habitat. They are soil dwellers and need lots of space. While you could likely keep them alive for awhile, your chances of producing a healthy, thriving population are very slim.

I would suggest that you purchase some European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) instead – these are a large species of composting worm that can be kept in a worm bin and don’t require cooler temps.

Hope this helps – and sorry if I’ve burst your bubble. It is great to see your enthusiasm!
:-(

P.S. Filling your bin 3/4 full with bedding/food is a good start – this level will continue to go down and you can always top up with more bedding over time.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Diana
#79. August 4th, 2008, at 5:29 PM.

Thanks Bently. I appreciate your help. I will instead order the compost worms and leave the crawlers out. Maybe by the time I get the worms, my compost bin will be more than ready.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Gabriel
#80. August 15th, 2008, at 8:54 AM.

Hi!
I am interested by composting worms, but I am not know who can send worms in Romania! Know you everybody surce what send this worms in Romania please???
Thanks!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Debbie
#81. August 17th, 2008, at 2:57 PM.

Bentley-
Are peanut shells something I can put into my bin?
Thanks, Deb
P.S. – My worms are doing great. I have them outside. My ‘bin’ is actually a rolled up picket fence (about 3 feet high, with space between pickets). When rolled up, it holds everything in well, and because of the space between pickets, there’s a good amount of air flow. I live in New England (Rhode Island) and I would really like to be able to keep them outside all year, so I’m finding your recent posts about temperature on your blog very interesting and useful. (I’m thinking about making some kind of ‘trench’ for the winter.
Thanks again, Deb

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#82. August 20th, 2008, at 3:07 AM.

Gabriel – I think I’m going to write a post about worm suppliers in other countries – hopefully we’ll hear back from some people that can help you out.

Debbie – peanut shells would probably be a great addition to a worm bin since they would help to increase air flow. I suspect that they would take awhile to break down though – so you would likely need to screen them out if you were planning to sell the castings.

I’m sure you would be able to keep Red Worms alive during the winter in your region – Rhode Island is definitely in a warmer zone than up here in Ontario. To make sure you are safe, it’s always a good idea to dig a pit beneath your composter – down in this zone materials are not likely to freeze solid even if it’s that cold on the soil surface. A trench should work well for you as well if you have a decent amount of straw or fall leaves to use for insulation.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Diana
#83. August 21st, 2008, at 10:31 PM.

Hi again Bently, I just recieved my compost red wigglers. It seemed like there was a thousand worms in the bunch,Ha! I have them in the bin, most of them seem to have worked their way down. Now, how often do I feed them. I am using the rubbermaid 18 gal. tub. It gets rather warm in there so I added some ice, a couple of foam cups, on the top of dampened news paper. They seem to be eating the rich foods I have composted in that tub and the moldy smell is down sufficiently. I think, I remember you saying to feed them once a month, unless the food on top, is gone. Then add more. I hope, I am right. They seem to be happy where they are. They are not trying to get out. Thanks for your help.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com vermiman
#84. August 24th, 2008, at 3:11 AM.

Diana,

When adding ice to your bin, be sure you don’t get the bedding too wet.

My worms have been outside under a shade tree all summer so far. We have sometimes seen 100 F. Worm beds can maintain a cooler temperature than that of the outside. If your bedding is getting rather warm, you may have some material going through a heating stage.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#85. August 27th, 2008, at 2:29 PM.

Hi Diane,
Not sure about the ‘once a month’ feeding suggestion, but feeding based on the rate that it is disappearing is always a good way to go. You don’t need to wait until everything is completely gone, but if you notice things are starting to pile up a bit, give the worms some time to process what’s there without addition materials added.

I would not recommend adding ice unless you have LOTS of drainage. You definitely don’t want water pooling in the bottom.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Diana
#86. August 28th, 2008, at 6:11 AM.

Thanks again! My bedding seems to be going down, a bit. Could be settling or being eaten. Not sure, but I haven’t let the water enter the bedding, any more, just placing the ice in a container and sitting it on top of dampened news paper. Since you said they don’t really need the ice, I will forgo that, from now on. I have them in the livingroom, in a corner and the air conditioner has been on for a few days, now, It has been, somewhat, hot here, the last couple of days. The bedding, don’t seem overly moist and I am adding some organic bedding, tomorrow, to refill the bin, again. It is called Magic Worm Bedding. it comes in a box that looks like dirt. It should be ok. I am only adding the one 3 lb. box to the bin, at this time. Some of the worms want to come up to the top of the bin, I have to hurd them back down, but none has escaped, yet. I am hoping, the newly added bedding will help. The banana peel is gone, after three days. I have another one ready. Can I use peelings from Concord grapes or are they too acidic? I am going to can some grape jelly tomorrow. After the peelings have been squeezed, as far as, I can get them, I will add the pulp to the bin. Maybe, a little at a time, if I have to. Let me know, ok?. Thanks for being there. The worms still look healthy and they are getting bigger, already.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#87. August 29th, 2008, at 1:46 PM.

Hi Diana,
I suspect that magic worm bedding is mostly (if not entirely) just peat moss, which certainly work just fine in a worm bin. Grape skins may take a bit of time to break down but they should be fine, assuming you aren’t adding multiple pounds of them at once. The pulp should be good as well – again, moderation is the key. Not sure what quantity you are talking about, but you may be able to add all of it.
Don’t feel that you need to only add one thing at a time and wait until that one this is 100% gone – you will be fine if you do this (since the worms can feed on the bedding as well), but you can definitely get away with have a few food pockets on the go at once.

Hope this helps

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lorraine Janeway
#88. September 12th, 2008, at 10:19 PM.

This was very helpful. Thanks for the clear information. I live in Portland, OR, and would love a local supplier if you know anyone!

I did have a question about corn husks…I would guess they’re fine to put in, but do they take forever to break down?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#89. September 15th, 2008, at 1:56 PM.

Hi Lorraine,
I take it you won’t be needing a local supplier anymore? ;-)

Corn husks work well in a worm bin – they do take some time to break down but can help to add some structure (for aeration and habitat). Corn cobs take a LONG time to break down, but the worms seem to enjoy making them into homes.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com DeDe
#90. September 22nd, 2008, at 9:19 PM.

Hi Lorraine,

I live in Portland, too, and am just getting starting on my vermicompost adventure. :-)

I’ve found very few retail suppliers of anything related to red worms, but have discovered several people who have been secretly nurturing their own little wiggling colonies. I found the Oregon Extension Service to be the most helpful. Feel free to drop me a note on my blog if you want to compare notes. :-)

Good Luck!

DeDe

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com TED
#91. September 28th, 2008, at 1:27 AM.

I NEED SOME HELP, I WILL DO THIS IN TWO POSTS

I HAVE A THREE LEVEL WORM BIN MADE OUT OF THREE SHOE BOX SIZE PLASTIC BINS

I HAVE THE BOTTOM BIN SET UP TO COLLECT DRIP THRU LIQUID FROM THE ABOVE BINS

ALL THE BINS HAVE ADEQUATE AIR FLOW, ETC…
MY MAIN CONCERN IS THAT I AM MESSING UP THE BEDDING THING

I AM CONFUSED AND PROBABLY IGNORANT ON WHAT TO DO
THIS IS WHAT I HAVE DONE SO FAR
I TOOK A LAYER OF SHREDDED NEWSPAPER ABOUT 1 IN DEEP PLACED IT IN THE BIN AND SLIGHTLY SPRAYED IT DOWN WITH WATER TO MOISTEN BUT NOT SOAK IT……MORE

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com TED
#92. September 28th, 2008, at 1:31 AM.

I THEN PUT ABOPUT 2-3 INCHES OF MOIST, NOT WET TOP SOIL ON TOP OF THE NEWSPAPER…I THEN PLACED IN 1 CORNER OF THE BIN SOME COFFEE GROUNDS, LETTUICE, AND CUT UP COFFEE FILTERS FOR FOOD.

AFTER READING A LOT HERE i AM GETTING THE IMPRESSION i SHOULD HAVE MIXED ALL OF THIS STUFF UP AND JUST HAD A COMBINED MIXTURE….WOULD THAT BE CORRECT

ALSO IF THAT IS HOW IT IS TO BE DONE HOW WOULD I THEN ADD ADDITIONAL FOOD?

I ALSO READ SOMEPLACE THE WORMS NEEDED A BIT OF SAND FOR GRIT..I HAVE NOT YET DONE THAT…SHOULD i?

HELP PLEASE

TED

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#93. September 29th, 2008, at 5:11 AM.

Hey Ted,
You definitely don’t need so much soil – only a small handful at most. These are not soil worms, so they would much rather have a rich matrix of organic materials. The little bit of soil would provide grit, so don’t worry about adding sand etc.

Additional food gets added once the worms are nicely settled in to the bin and have greatly reduced the food materials you’ve already added. Let their feeding habits be your guide – if the food is not disappearing, simply wait longer between feedings. If it is being consumed readily, simply add more.

Hope this helps

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com talia
#94. September 30th, 2008, at 12:02 AM.

Hi I cant wait to get started, I think I will start to shred some cardboard this evening, anyway I did have one question, is it ok to leave my bin outside all winter, I live in Washington so we dont have harsh winters, but just want to make sure my guys stay alive.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#95. September 30th, 2008, at 3:34 AM.

Hi Talia,
A regular plastic worm bin doesn’t offer much protection from the cold. If it dips below the freezing mark at all during your winter months you may want to try using some sort of insulated system.
I’ll be writing a lot more about this myself as the cold weather develops here (Ontario, Canada).

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Pam
#96. October 9th, 2008, at 6:55 PM.

My garden club make worm composting bins last night. The director purchased the red worms from the bait store near a lake by our home. My questions is this. Are these the right kind of worms to use.
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karen
#97. October 11th, 2008, at 5:02 PM.

Quick question(s). . .
I had an avacado ruin :-( Given the high fat content, is it okay to put it my worm bin?

My worm bin is a newly established 10 gal storage container. I drilled small holes in the bottom and sides. Right now it has some veg scraps and approx 15-20 worms in it from the bait dept at Walmart (frog food i managed to keep alive) I’m waiting for my 1/2 pound of worms to arrive.

If the avacado is ok, i assume i would wait until the bin was better established, ie, if it happens in the future. Also, do i need to sand the rough ‘points’ off the inside of the bin where the drill bit went in? Last question, i was diiging for said worm food and checking out the scraps anad their were maggots. is this a problem?

Thanks for such an informative site – wish i had found it 2 days earlier . . .

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karen
#98. October 11th, 2008, at 5:02 PM.

Quick question(s). . .
I had an avacado ruin :-( Given the high fat content, is it okay to put it my worm bin?

My worm bin is a newly established 10 gal storage container. I drilled small holes in the bottom and sides. Right now it has some veg scraps and approx 15-20 worms in it from the bait dept at Walmart (frog food i managed to keep alive) I’m waiting for my 1/2 pound of worms to arrive.

If the avacado is ok, i assume i would wait until the bin was better established, ie, if it happens in the future. Also, do i need to sand the rough ‘points’ off the inside of the bin where the drill bit went in? Last question, i was diiging for said frog food and checking out the scraps anad there were maggots. is this a problem?

Thanks for such an informative site – wish i had found it 2 days earlier . . .

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Constance
#99. October 15th, 2008, at 12:56 PM.

Hi Bently,
I love your website!!! I think I may have a question that hasn’t been asked yet — what do you do when your number of worms outgrow your containers? I really have space (and kitchen scraps) for only one good sized one. I live in a fairly rural area so I’m not sure how many I could give away — of course, I’m probably being cocky thinking about having too many worms before I’ve even started but …. oh well ;)
Thanks much, Constance

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rod Johansen
#100. October 16th, 2008, at 4:37 PM.

We just finished our first worm bin and have it up and running, it is 3 ft by 6 ft and we have about 9 lbs of Euro’s living in it. Although we live in cold country, Washington State, we came up with a way to heat it. We were shooting for a temperature of 78 ddegrees F but it has settled in at 84 degrees F. Is this to warm? The worms seem happy but we want to be sure. We plan on making more of these beds after this one is perfected.
Thanks Rod

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lisa
#101. December 10th, 2008, at 4:30 AM.

How long does it take for healthy red worms to reproduce?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott vanraalte
#102. December 10th, 2008, at 11:42 PM.

reading thru this is fascinating…. recently bought 1 # of the E.F. (red worms)….. started in a 18 gallon sterite…. heavy peat/paper mixture for bedding…. I also drink a fair amount of coffee… have since heard that maybe they won’t eat the peat?…. also ,if they do….. how do you tell readily if the peat and or coffee grounds are consumed?
findings…

1) they eat the pulp but not the skins on granny smith apples, at least not in a months time…
2) coffee filters are slow to non exhistant in consumption rates…
3) egg shells apparently not crushed up enough, there are still quite a few in the container apparently intact….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#103. December 11th, 2008, at 3:37 AM.

Interesting findings, Scott – thanks for sharing.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#104. December 11th, 2008, at 3:54 AM.

Sorry, Lisa – almost missed you there.
Coming up with a reliable and consistent figure for composting worm reproduction rates is like trying to find the Holy Grail unfortunately. A common rate that gets tossed around a fair bit is “doubling every 90 days”. If you are looking for some expert opinions, check out some of the numbers (from academic research) I included in this post:
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-questions/starting-a-worm-farming-business/
The problem is that there are so many variables that can influence reproductive rate in worms, thus it’s really challenging to make any generalizations.

Anyway , Lisa – hope this response is more helpful than frustrating!
:lol:

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Irma
#105. December 19th, 2008, at 4:22 AM.

No question, just wanted to say that it is remarkable that you are still answering questions on a post that is 18 months old. What a kind person you must be!

I found your site through another worm enthusiast’s blog, and I am very excited to try this method myself. I asked my husband for an indoor worm farm for Christmas, he has been very supportive of my garden over the last six years, but when I asked for worms? “You can’t REALLY think I would buy you WORMS to keep in our HOUSE, do you?”

Sigh, I’ll keep working on him, lol!

Thanks from New Brunswick,
Irma

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#106. January 6th, 2009, at 2:57 AM.

Strange – I thought I replied to you, Irma.
Thanks for the kind words. The page, while similar in appearance to a blog post, is actually my main help page for newcomers. That being said, I am indeed still more than happy to respond to comments on any blog posts – even the really old ones. I think it really helps add to the value of them since people can read all the way down if they like, picking up lots of interesting vermi-conversations along the way!
:-)

Don’t give up on your husband – hopefully you can wear him down over time. hehe

Regards,

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brian
#107. January 9th, 2009, at 5:47 PM.

Hi Bentley,

Would you be able to write a bit on the precomposting you do (i.e. the milk carton under the sink)? I have limited space, alot of potential worm food, and a wife with a tremendous sense of smell so I want to do it right. Thanks again for sharing all your knowledge and practice!

Brian

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#108. January 11th, 2009, at 8:24 AM.

Hi Brian,
While it is no longer a “milk carton under the sink” (now an official food scrap holder), I do still collect materials before using them. I don’t have much in the way of odor issues and I am super lazy with it – generally just throw things in. To do it really well, it helps if you add shredded cardboard (or newspaper) along with the food. This absorbs excess moisture, and allows more air to get in – both important for odor reduction.

Hope this helps!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com zol
#109. January 22nd, 2009, at 5:53 AM.

hello there,sory i quite new in this line of work,im from malaysia,i also practicing red worm composting,i find it quite different from your style,maybe because of the climate but im not really sure.but i like ur style better,it is much more simple,n can be done even in your own apartment,

i want to know more about this,here in malaysia if a person is practising redworm composting,they often use sawdust that are put in a water for several days to remove the chemical from the sawdust itself,n then they will use it as a medium for which the worm will be living in,as food,here we often use goat poops,which will take from goat farm and dried it out in the sun for several days to remove the smell,n then we put it into the water to make it moist n put together with the worms

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#110. January 23rd, 2009, at 3:14 PM.

Hi Zol,
There are lots of different ways to compost with worms. The methods outlined above are basically ideal for the average urban home owner. Your methods also sound good since aged manure is an excellent worm food. I would personally prefer to use shredded cardboard rather than sawdust however, since it is much more absorbent and will break down much more quickly.

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Walter Jones
#111. January 24th, 2009, at 1:50 PM.

Hell-o! I am setting up a worm station or two, per your outstanding suggestions here, on my shaded deck – which is approx 30 miles north of the upper Texas gulf coast. There are 2 questions still remaining: The dark plastic bins will be in a shaded location, not in direct sun. Even in shade, the area is subject to daytime temps of 85-90 for many months. Will such conditions hamper my attempts at worming? And, if my little worm farm gets up and going… what to do with the excess population? I don’t intend to go commercial and the number of friends or neighbors who’ve expressed any interest in taking the (i hope) numerous worm babies is currently zero. I hate to just toss them!

Your article and replies here are very informative!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Denise
#112. January 27th, 2009, at 5:02 PM.

Hi–I’m thrilled to have found this site. I got my composter (one of those add the try types made from recycled plastic) and a pound of worms earlier this month. I put the bedding together as per the instructions and have added food. However, now where but here have I seen that I should not add too much grain products at a time so plopped an handful of leftover cooked barley into a corner. They have eaten much of it and it’s gone moldy. Should I remove it or leave it? They do seem to be eating on it some but much prefer the veg peelings and such that have been placed in another corner. They did devour rather quickly the first pile of veg peelings. I’m a nervous wreck over my new charges and would love to make them happy and healthy for many reasons but I’m looking forward to their compost for additions to my garden this spring and summer. Thanks again for the site. I’m so happy to have found it.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jason
#113. January 31st, 2009, at 7:08 AM.

Hey there Bentley,
I have one worm bin going, seems to be doing ok, and I am thinking of starting up a second. At my office i have a whole wastebasket filled with paper towels of the very rough, natural fiber, brown variety. I think this stuff would make great bedding, and i am hesitant to just ship it off to the landfill. It is only used to dry my hands after washing, thought i might have at one point in time wiped the mirror down with windex or something of that nature. Would this harm the worms? I know in large quantities it would obviously be bad, but would one or two paper towels with dry windex make the whole batch of material unusable? If it is I have no problem throwing it away, but I figured that if I could use it, I would.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Gary
#114. February 5th, 2009, at 7:35 PM.

I’m totally new at even the idea of vermicomposting. It sounds like a great thing. I garden and compost, but have a hard time finding enough material to compost. But I believe I have enough materials to keep a whole bunch of worms happy.

I have a question about food. Can the worms be fed such things as cotton seed meal, chicken feeds, etc. Thanks for the info. I’m so glad to find your web site. Thanks,

Gary

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dallas
#115. February 6th, 2009, at 3:02 AM.

I too want to start an outside worm bin and like the flow through style of bins. My plans are to construct a bin 1foot by 1 foot by 3 feet. I will insulate it with 2 inches of styrofoam inside and R-19 insulation inclosed the same as insulation in a house.
Because I have never composted with worms, I was looking for a ballpark guess of how long it might take to reach the top of a bin with these dimensions?
I’m looking for casting more than increased numbers of worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cindy Hunt
#116. February 6th, 2009, at 3:50 AM.

How do they keep in the winter. I live in MN it gets down to -30 many times during the winter. I do not have a basement.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#117. February 6th, 2009, at 5:54 PM.

Gary – I suspect that both cotton seed meal and chicken feeds would work as worm foods. I would start with a small amount (make sure it’s nice and moist – probably best to layer it on top as well) to see how the worms respond. It may take a few days for them to start feeding on it so don’t be discouraged if it’s not gone quickly.

Dallas – Your system sounds good, but I’m not sure it is big enough to generate the required heat. This depends of course on your location. If you name is any indication (haha) you will likely be fine. How quickly a system like this will fill depends on a wide variety of factors – cool temperatures will definitely slow down the process a LOT. With moderate to warm temperatures and a decent starting population of worms, I suspect you would reach the top within a few months.

Cindy – Red Worms are very tolerant of cold, but this is not to say that they will be efficient at low temps. As far as survival goes, I’ve literally found them encased in frozen compost! If you want them to process your wastes quickly you will likely want to keep them at temperatures above 65 F or so.
In your case, you would definitely need something similar to my big outdoor winter worm bed. It’s has the volume necessary to generate warmth (even in very cold weather) and the insulation to keep that warmth in. Straw bales seem to work well for walls, and manure and straw are helpful for food/insulation.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Casey
#118. February 8th, 2009, at 11:19 PM.

HI, this is a great resource and I’m so exciting about setting up my worm bin. Would you recommend buying red worms online? If so, could you give me some advice on where to buy? If I buy locally, where can I go to find something like this?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#119. February 9th, 2009, at 5:49 PM.

Hi Casey – I sent you an email, but I should respond here as well for the benefit of others. Let me start by admitting I am a wee bit biased – hehe. We sell worms, and have had a lot of really positive feedback, SO I certainly see the value (and convenience) of ordering online. Shipping generally takes 2-3 days, so the worms are still in excellent shape.

If you want to buy locally, I would recommend getting in touch with your local gardening club, or agriculture extension office (if either of these exist). You might also simply try a Google search for “Red Worms, YOUR CITY/REGION” – where you substitute your own city or region to see if there are any worm businesses in your area.

Hope this helps

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John Q
#120. February 12th, 2009, at 6:12 AM.

I am very impressed with this thread and would like to thank You for still running it after all this time. I have learned more here then in two weeks of searching.
I have not yet started a bin, but am very close to it. Especially after finding your site, and I would like to ask how worms feel about salt? I am afraid the salt content of my waste may be too high?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com carrie
#121. February 12th, 2009, at 10:36 PM.

hey,
i need to ask a few questions about this article please contact asap thi is impotant because i am doing a project when was this published?who published it?what was the date when this was published?whats the author name first name and last name and middle initial?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#122. February 13th, 2009, at 1:37 AM.

My name is Bentley SM Christie (the site is RedWormComposting.com)
The article was published January 27, 2007 (Oh how time flies! haha)
I published it.
:-)

If you need any more info, just email me using the form on the contact page.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Socrates
#123. February 18th, 2009, at 6:01 PM.

I’ve found all the information very useful and interesting. I’m in New England, I decided to put a composting bin together for all the families living in our big old house (3 families). I bought a large plastic composter bin (about 3′x3′ at the base and about 4′ tall), it has good aeration, it is black but in a shaded spot. I put a pound or two of red worms in there with a few buckets of shredded paper after I had about 20 lbs of vegetable matter in it that had aged for about 2 months. I put in our fall leaves and grass clippings and vegetable scraps, the occasional paper towel, I generally cut my materials up pretty small, but the neighbors generally throw things in whole.

This winter was pretty cold up this way, I’m not sure there was enough material in the bins decomposing to keep it warm enough to stop from it from freezing.

So here are my questions for anyone who cares to throw in their two cents:

1.) Come spring, I will probably need to add new worms, does it make more sense to switch to a hot composting system for this quantity of material or keep adding worms and restart the colony. For Massachusetts what is the best time to add worms, March ? April ? How many pounds is reasonable for a bin this size ?

2.) We add maybe 5 to 10 lbs a week to the bin collectively, I avoid too much citrus or onion, nothing that is chemically treated, I generally don’t add eggs shells or coffee grounds, but I suppose I could. Aside from turning the pile with a pitch fork occasionally, what general rules can I use to facilitate our composting process for our group: smaller pieces, more shredded paper or paper towels to control moisture, do I need to water, do I need a more diverse mix of materials or are there certain materials that can accelerate the process overall?

3.) On the weekends I generally go to a local food bank to sort and distribute produce for struggling families in Boston, we usually end up with 20 or so pounds of rotten vegetables that no one can use. I if start adding that much additional material every week or two will I overload my system, even with the 9 sq ft surface area ? I hate to throw all that food into the garbage, it costs the sponsoring church money to dispose of it and it does nobody any good. Is there anything I can do to help the system cope with the new amount of materials ?

Thanks much

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com lisa
#124. February 22nd, 2009, at 5:56 AM.

Hello all,
My son did a science fair project on red worm composting. He earned a 3rd place. Thanks for all the information. He plans to use the expanding worm population for a fishing trip planned for the spring. We will continue to compost kitchen waste. It has been fun . Lisa

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#125. February 23rd, 2009, at 11:29 PM.

I am anticipating billions of worms,(funny…. don’t know what the heck I’d do with that many, but……..)
My primary reason for starting the worm bin was the compost for a garden, yet as an experiment I only started with 1# ,(I didn’t take the time to count them ;) ,but my question is about… what is the best you can do to help their natural rate of increase? keeping in mind only scrap foods and a normal peat/cardboard mix being used…. 3 months running …. family of 4…. I’ve read that a temporarily-slightly dry bin along with a few layers of damp burlap can help? is this correct?
I don’t use the lid, or any cover for that matter, slightly burrying all scraps, however some have stated they cover the surface with dark plastic…. does this hinder the oxygen content in the bin?
also,is it possible to use too many coffee grounds ?…. even if its used as bedding? not just food? the small shop I work in goes thru at least a 3# can a day of coffee….. (theoretically thats 6# of worms?) I dream of the day when I can collect this and dispose of it on a regular basis along with or household scraps. thanks again in advance ,Its kinda neat to read all these questions/answers posted.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#126. February 24th, 2009, at 1:47 PM.

Man oh man – this thread of comments just keeps piling up – eh? It’s like a little discussion forum attached to a single article. hehe

John Q – inorganic salts are very harmful to composting worms. A salt content of 0.5% or higher (according to researchers) is not a good thing. Worms breathe through their skin and are highly sensitive to a wide range of chemicals.

Socrates
1) You will likely be surprised to find a new colony of worms in your system this spring. Obviously this depends on how cold it got, but I’ve had worms/cocoons easily survive in an unprotected backyard composter during one of our winters (which get pretty darn cold)

2) With worms in the system, turning really isn’t necessary, but you do need to make sure the contents of the bin stay moist – shouldn’t be a problem given the amount of waste you are adding. Freezing/chopping/blending etc wastes can definitely help to accelerated process.

3) Absolutely DO NOT throw that waste in the garbage – that would be a…well, WASTE! haha – seriously – there are plenty of options. Even digging a hole in the ground and burying it is a much better option (obviously tough in the winter though). I’d suggest letting the excess (what doesn’t end up in your composter) pile up until spring – you can then make a new system, bury it etc etc.

Lisa – That’s great. Congrats!

Scott – I talked in this comment post about how to speed up the process – increasing surface area and breaking down structural defenses (ie plant cell walls etc) is the key – this allows microbes to colonize much more quickly, thus accelerating the decomposition process.
Not sure what you mean re: the wet burlap etc. Like yourself I don’t use lids anymore – I find this accelerates the process and prevents build up of water (due to better air flow). A layer of plastic over top would be fine as long as it is loose (allowing oxygen).

As for coffee grounds – it likely IS possible to use too many. Like any waste you can certainly add too much at once, causing symptoms of overfeeding. The type of grounds can also make a difference – I find that the really dark, finely ground stuff isn’t appreciated nearly as much as the course-textured brownish grounds. If I were going to dispose of multiple pounds of coffee grounds per day I would definitely want to use some sort of outdoor system where you can get away with a lot more (but DO be aware of the potential for overheating).

Hope this helps!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Farah
#127. February 25th, 2009, at 4:22 PM.

Hi,

I work in a pig farm here south of Manila and few years ago i have encountered vermicomposting as used for plants. I was wondering if you have any suggestion(s) regarding using primarily pig manure for the worms?

Thanks.

Farah

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sue Lessard
#128. February 27th, 2009, at 3:27 PM.

I am new to this. I have a compost pile, outside. Can I just add worms to it? Or, do I have to build a worm farm? I live in Maine where it gets pretty cold but what I read tells me Red Wrigglers can live in these temperatures. Thank you for any advice!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#129. February 28th, 2009, at 7:08 PM.

Farah – Pig manure is an excellent vermicomposting feed material, but not if used fresh (lots of ammonia and salts). You should mix it with a lot of straw (or other bedding) and let it age/compost for a couple of weeks (potentially longer) before adding worms.

Sue – You certainly can composting worms to a regular pile, provided it has good moisture and food. If it just contains a bunch of general yard waste (weeds, grass, branches etc) it won’t likely be an ideal habitat for the worms. I’d add lots of shredded cardboard, fall leaves (best if partially decomposed already), straw etc – these will definitely help. If you are adding your food waste to the pile already, that will definitely help.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com gabriel
#130. March 1st, 2009, at 2:28 PM.

My understanding from this article is that worm composting is done to raise worms. I still need to see were the composting part is.
I need the humus and the compost for my garden.
How I’ll do that? Just empty the worm bucket in the soil?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#131. March 3rd, 2009, at 5:51 PM.

Hi Gabriel,
Actually – as the name of the site (hopefully) implies, setting up a small home worm bin is usually for the purpose of composting food scraps, rather than raising worms. That being said, it is still very important for people to take into consideration the needs of the worms – since their health and well being is directly correlated to the overall success of the system.

I’ll admit, there certainly is some gray area between vermicomposting and vermiculture (growing worms) – since they can often be basically the same thing. One important distinction can be the TYPE of ‘food’ being given to the worms. When someone is focused more on raising big, healthy worms, they may opt to actually buy specific products to feed to their worms. Those people more interested in composting their wastes, on the other hand, will almost always simply add their food scraps etc and not worry too much about growing the best worms (as long as they continue to produce nice compost and get rid of all their food waste)

The bi-product of vermiculture will of course be essentially the same thing – vermicompost. In fact, it can often be even BETTER material than that produced by worms simply feeding on miscellaneous food waste (because the original material is more nutritious).

Separating worms from the compost can be accomplished using a rotary screen harvester of some sort, or by employing one of the various low-tech methods – such as ‘light separation’, the ‘onion bag method’, or my ‘garbage bag method’.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tom
#132. March 7th, 2009, at 7:12 AM.

Can I add onions? If so, what are the effects in larger quantities? Same question for chili and hot peppers. We’re in Texas.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com patricia
#133. March 8th, 2009, at 10:50 PM.

Love your site…and answers! I am interested in using worms to reduce home garbage in honduras (warm and wet). I will also have farm animals which will devour food leftovers, so I would rather give the worms the stuff no one else will eat.

You’ve mentioned cardboard– does it matter if it is wax coated?
Can you be more specific on the degradable plastic in your photo of frozen stuff (eventually almost everything will degrade….)?
I understand the salts issue; what ph level is ideal: neutral, acidic, basic?
Can I ever use some of the bleached paper as bedding, etc?
Originally I was hoping to get rid of used toilet paper (which you cant flush there) via the worms, but I noticed human waste in your list of nonos–what if I dont use the worm castings as plant food, is it still too full of salts( I could have a seperate bin for that)?

I am going to try to live “off the grid”, independently and would rather not burn my garbage. I wont be near any kind of garbage service or many utilities and would rather not add to the piles of garbage many other honduranians have around their houses. I also hope to share information about passive composting and using it in gardening, with my neighbors; maybe some will appreciate this better way of living. I should have a ton of rotting vegetation and fruit /vegie scraps since its a year round growing season there and I plan on growing/producing a majority of my own food as well as any travelers lodging with me.

I am interested in any thoughts you may have on the worms, etc. Your tip for fruit fly traps will be invaluable, I’m sure!!!
Thanks,
Patricia

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com patricia
#134. March 8th, 2009, at 10:55 PM.

One more question, if I may– what about using leaves containing tannins, strong resins,and or natural insecticides (oaks, eucalyptus, etc)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#135. March 9th, 2009, at 1:07 PM.

Tom – large quantities of onions and chili/hot peppers would generally not be good worm food, but it all depends on how they are handled I guess. If you heaped them up and composted them (without worms) outside for a few weeks they might be ok. All of these materials contain oils that could really irritate, or even kill the worms. If you have a giant worm bed and you can just heap these materials off to one side and leave them, over time they would likely become more worm friendly, and until then the worms could avoid them.
I definitely wouldn’t add a lot of them to a smaller enclosed, plastic bin.

By the way, well-cooked onions aren’t too bad at all – they will have lost much of their potency. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the peppers.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#136. March 9th, 2009, at 1:16 PM.

Patricia – Wax-coated cardboard will likely take a LONG time to breakdown, or will at least leave you with a lot of wax residue in your worm bed.
The ideal pH for composting worms is probably somewhat acidic – these are the conditions they are used to living in. There certainly won’t be anything wrong with a neutral or even slightly alkaline pH either – they have a wide range of tolerance.
Using SOME white paper products really isn’t a big deal in my mind. I’m just not big on recommending them as the sole bedding material.
If using human wastes, make sure to avoid urine, and do keep it in a completely different system. Worms have been used very successfully in composting toilets, so you should have good luck with that approach – the best bet is to get a thriving system (i.e. safe habitat) set up ahead of time before starting to add the toilet paper etc.

Good question about the leaves – I would definitely recommend avoiding the use of any leaves with strong oils in them – or at least make sure to compost those leaves on their own before adding them to your vermicomposting system.

Hope this helps

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#137. March 11th, 2009, at 9:55 PM.

Hi, Bentley. Do you have any experience with a vertical tray system? I bought a 5-Tray Gusanito Worm Bin Farm. It comes with a couple pieces of landscape fabric, one for just under the roof and the other goes in between the bottom worm tray and the liquid collection tray.

Unfortunately, this design still allows many worms every day to drop out of the bottom tray onto the fabric. It doesn’t stay taut so it sags down into the liquid collection tray and the poor little guys are stuck there. I figured the reason they tell you not to just line the bottom worm tray with the fabric is that the worms will eat through it? I don’t know.

I placed sheets of #7 and #10 plastic canvas mesh under the bedding of the bottom tray, but 1 or 2 worms still get through or around it every day. What do you think about lining the bottom worm tray with tulle (nylon mesh)? I was thinking about bringing it over the sides and securing it around the outside edge of the tray with a bungee cord.

Thank you so much… Melissa

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris A.
#138. March 11th, 2009, at 11:15 PM.

Hey Melissa,

I’ve had 2 Gusanito Worm Farms since July, 2008. I keep landscape fabric under the bottom trays (mine didn’t come with it) and just let the worms fall through the trays and onto it. They all seem to survive and thrive. When it comes time to harvest the bottom trays of their compost, I just scoop them all up along with the worm castings, etc, that have also fallen through the trays. They apparently have enough to eat, don’t drown, and always seem quite healthy and content. I then separate the worms from the castings of the bottom worm trays along with the numerous stray worms who have fallen onto the sagging landscape fabric and its vermicompost and return them all to the worm factories into the upper newly-recharged trays to begin the cycle all over again. I can harvest one tray from each factory every 1 to 2 weeks.

It works great – don’t worry. I don’t have a great deal of liquid that collects. I never add water to the system, (other than the pre-moistened shredded cardboard) and I always keep the spigots open to allow air flow. They seem to be very well balanced systems.

Chris A.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris A.
#139. March 11th, 2009, at 11:35 PM.

P.S. Melissa -

Because my Worm Factories didn’t come with landscape fabric, I cut my own several inches larger than the footprint of the trays. I don’t know how large your landscape fabric is, but mine forms a kind of tarpaulin onto which the worms and castings can fall. It suspends them a little bit above the lowest point of the collection trays.

Anyway, they do just fine – they almost seem to like it there. They can crawl away from the drenched muck, but hey – no problem!

Chris A.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#140. March 13th, 2009, at 4:52 PM.

Hi Melissa,
It looks as though Chris has done an excellent job of responding to your query already (thanks Chris) – good thing, since I’m not a stacking system expert by any means. I have a single stacking bin and it’s made of wood not plastic. One of these days I should really order myself a plastic stacking system so I can at least test one out.
What I’ve found with the wooden system is that it dried out far too easily and just ended up being annoying to use. Despite the fact that I’m such a passionate vermicomposter, I am still pretty lazy and ‘hands off’ when it comes down to it – so I prefer using ‘set it and forget it’ types of systems.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#141. March 13th, 2009, at 6:54 PM.

Thank you, Chris. Wow… you can harvest a tray every 1-2 weeks? Your worms must have a worm or something. ;) Anyway, I actually wound up placing an empty tray on the bottom level and covered that with the fabric, so it stays real taut right underneath the working tray. No more worms falling out.

The worm bin manufacturers should make a top for the Liquid Collection Tray. It could be like a regular tray, but with a tight mesh that baby worms can’t get through, and formed so that a working tray would fit into it with no gap. I think that would solve the problem and eliminate the need for a worm-catching hammock in the LCT.

Bentley, you are just a worm guru. I’m subscribed to your blog and really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge, both past and as you learn new techniques.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris A.
#142. March 14th, 2009, at 5:01 PM.

Melissa -

Yes, I have 2 worm farms, one with 4 trays, and one with 5 trays, so each tray takes at least 4 weeks to make it from the top down to the bottom, and most take longer than that.

I shred cardboard in a heavy-duty Office-Max shredder(I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t give out), so the bedding is nice and uniform, and I puree all of the food scraps in an old Cuisinart food processor. The top tray always has just moistened bedding. The next 2 trays down have pureed food mixed with the bedding. The bottom 1 or 2 trays are well processed vermicompost finishing up. Tons of worms inhabit every level of the farm.

When it’s time to harvest the compost, I remove the roof, add food to the top tray, and then move the full bottom tray up to the top position so the worms in it can start traveling down (away from the light) and into the tray beneath. I also scoop the muck (which is very well processed compost) and worms from the landscape fabric that have fallen through the bottom-most tray. This I place into an empty kitty-litter pan to separate the worms and compost using the mound and light method.

In the meantime, many of the worms from the top tray have migrated to the next tray down, but I help the process by gently stirring up the compost periodically, thus exposing the remaining worms to the light so they will dive through the tray bottom. I then remove compost from the top tray a few handfuls at a time, placing it into the kitty-litter pan.

Next I put new moistened bedding material into the now empty top tray and replace the roof – some worms like to hang out there. I tried landscape fabric on the top tray under the roof, but I decided it was unnecessary and reduced air flow. (By the way, the worms aren’t interested in eating the fabric.)

The whole procedure takes me about an hour or two to clear the tray of compost and separate the worms from it.

I then sift through the compost in the kitty-litter pan, rescuing stray worms and viable cocoons to return to the worm farm. The pan of finished compost is then left to partially dry out over the next several days. I stir it at least once daily, and I always find a few brand-new tiny redworm hatchlings that I move into the worm farm.

Chris A.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dallas
#143. March 15th, 2009, at 4:05 AM.

I haven’t started a worm bin yet but was wondering what others think about a mixture of well composted horse manure and old used coffee ground and of course kitchen scraps too.
I could use the manure and coffee grounds if I don’t have enough food scraps.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com maryam
#144. March 17th, 2009, at 8:09 PM.

hi,
i live in Dubai,uae and I have been trying for the past 3 or 4 days to buy a worm kit on line which is too far away for them to ship to me. so is there any one close by fromI could buy them and get them shipped to me. like the student from Iran Mr.Moeen Emrany.anyone else help!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mrelia
#145. March 25th, 2009, at 5:12 PM.

I was reluctant to purchase worms over the internet due to price and couldn’t located a willing donor. But, I finally found a cheap – and local – solution to my problem…the Pet Store! A number of pet stores (and I’ve since discovered some sporting goods stores/bait stands) sell red wrigglers for feeding fish/using as bait.
The per worm cost may be higher, about $5 at PetSmart for a little tub of 50 worms. But since I was starting a small bin, it wasn’t a problem and those little dudes multiply FAST!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#146. March 27th, 2009, at 3:14 PM.

Dallas – your mixture sounds good, but you will definitely need some carbon-rich (preferably absorbent) materials to provide balance. If the manure was really well aged, and your system was large, with plenty of aeration you would probably be ok though.

Maryam – I don’t personally know of anyone close to you. Sorry!
Good luck.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John Q
#147. March 27th, 2009, at 4:19 PM.

I love your site and finally have built my own little creation to try this thing you speak so well and knowingly about. I will be purchasing my worms through your site as soon as this storm passes us by and I can not wait to get started. I have been a long time researching and reading, but have found the most useful stuff right here.

I do still have a few questions though:

1. What about tobacco products; ie, those nasty cig butts which I hear last as long as styrofoam? Would this kill the worms much like it kills man? of course, I do not really see them with matches or anything…

2. Are bananas as well loved by worms as they are by my kids and I?

Thank you for all of the great information and the outstanding site you provide.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Scott
#148. March 29th, 2009, at 2:54 PM.

Seems like every time I read this discussion, I glean more insight into the whole worming process. I would like to post one comment / question though….

Are there any tricks to keeping a happy worm bin in your basement , and starting your garden veggies at the other end of the same basement, without encouraging the fungus nats/ fruit flies in their migrating process from unlighted area to the lighted area? Yellow sticky traps have been employed near the garden stuff, and at least one spider has decided to make its home nearby…. which is obviously helping. Any thoughts?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Margy
#149. March 30th, 2009, at 5:01 PM.

I have hAD AWORM BIN FOR ABOUT 8 MONTHS. MY WORMS ARE NOT GEETING FAT,I HAVE PLENTY AND THEY ARE PRODUCING JUST SO SKINNY

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#150. March 30th, 2009, at 6:54 PM.

Scott – that’s a tough one. Keeping your seedlings healthy and not worrying about it seems like the only option in my mind (aside from the usual ways to reduce/eliminate fungus gnats which are hit and miss anyway). There is evidence to suggest that vermicompost helps to protect plants against ‘damping off’ (disease commonly spread by gnat larvae) and even against insect pests – so perhaps if you use a little of your compost with the seedlings you will be ok.
:-)

Margy – Generally this means you are not providing enough highly-nutritious food. Worms can survive for a long time (perhaps indefinitely) on paper products, and even seem to reproduce like crazy, but their size decreases over time. Perhaps the types of foods you’ve been providing just aren’t offering the worms optimal nutrition. Moisture can be important as well – if you let the system dry out too much the worms will shrink as well.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carolyn
#151. March 31st, 2009, at 12:29 AM.

Does anyone have any experience with the new biodegradable packing peanuts made from cornstarch? I just received a small box (about 12x4x4) packed with them. During the winter I just burn them in the fire, but will add them to the compost instead if they are not too starchy. I always puree my food before I add it to the bed, so they will be blended in with the other stuff.

Also, how does one go about SHREDDING cardboard? I wet mine and am tearing it up but it will take forever to be considered shredded. I was thinking about putting it in the blender with a lot of water, but I don’t want to burn out my vitamix. Will it be okay to add pieces that are about 3″ square, or do they have to be smaller?

Great site – Thanks, Bentley!

CHRIS A – Thanks for the info on stacking trays. I have a Worm Chalet and had a lot of trouble with drowning worms before – I like the idea of worms migrating down instead of up, which is what the chalet people suggest. Also makes harvesting easier!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carolyn
#152. March 31st, 2009, at 9:13 PM.

Just a follow up – I tried a small batch of soaked cardboard with extra water in my VitaMix – It worked when I had it on the lowest possible speed. I did have to add quite a bit of water, which then is easily strained or could be used to wet bedding. I think it would be okay to add soaked cardboard when I puree the vegetable scraps. The key is having enough water.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#153. April 1st, 2009, at 3:59 AM.

Hello fellow worm lovers -
While trying to avoid gushing, I must say this is a beautiful website. I am thrilled to find this level of dedication.
I have -all my life – rescued worms. And spiders. I am one that has never understood (yet silently endured) the squeamishness some experience with worms ( and the viciousness towards spiders). I have always seen the rainbows in their flesh and thought they were utterly precious and magical. I was blessed with nature loving parents that fostered this. I remember my father telling me one time to close my eyes and open my hands… in which he placed a baby garter snake, and I’ll remember the empathy I felt for it’s fear and the awe of it’s beauty.. all my life.
As I’ve grown into this adult that would rather garden than nearly anything else..I’ve continued this affection for worms, hating (and avoiding) the feeling of masacrreeing worms by merely using a shovel. Something I do less and less as I’ve read over and over that soil structure and biosphere suffer from too much tillage. Suits me – and the worms, I’m sure.
I’ve composted as long as I can remember. I love it, revel in the process, breathe deeply, feel a sense of accomplishment (and redemption) endure the family jokes, and even embrace my nick-name of “Compost Queen”. Indeed.
What is the first thing I thought when I realized the far-reaching effects of the economy crashing ? Yup – chickens. isn’t that absurd ? Followed closely by how to feed them on the cheap-cheep. Worms. So now I’ve gone from rescuing them from puddles to … yeah- well , I’ll still rescue them from puddles.
I’m starting a country store and plan on selling fishing worms as well. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that when the economy sucks, when unemployment is high.. people go fishing. I’m starting with Reds and am leery of these Euros and their impact in the environment. I’m in W. Montana and wonder if it’s a mute issue since we don’t have hard-wood forests. But I don’t want to participate in something problematic.
I got a Gusanito 5 tray in the mail today, but it’s damaged and I’m going to exchange it for eve more worms. I have been so on the fence about how to house my worms. Part of me wants a house friendly, even kitchen friendly set-up that uses minimal floor space. Part of me is certain these expensive plastic sytems are gimmickry and ( after your encouragement) I’m redoubling my determination to do this on the cheap without gadgetry.
Thank you so Very much for your efforts and dedication to the lowly worm. I have gleaned so very much here and hope to share as my experience grows.
I am so determined to incorporate this in my life and honestly wonder why it’s taken me so long to get here.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#154. April 3rd, 2009, at 2:59 AM.

Question – I have a friend who makes futons and she’s been throwing away a fair amount of cotton batting scrap. Most of it is not organic and she said it will have a certain amount of arsenic from pesticide residue and that it’s also treated with boric acid.
I’m going to start a new compost pile with this cotton, grass clippings, Llama manure here soon to eventually become Worm Lasagne. Do you think pre-composting it will prevent any risk to the worms, and would the arsenic and b.acid break down ? I read somewhere about cotton gin fluff or some such name being a good bin ingredient.
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Marlene Affeld
#155. April 4th, 2009, at 2:24 PM.

Thanks for all the great information. I used to raise worms for several years, then gave them away when I moved. I am now ready to start a new worm box and so all the advice is timely. On thing I learned in my experience, do not use the comics or sections of newspaper with colored ink – some of the ink is toxic to worms. Wishing you the best.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Eduardo Lopez
#156. April 10th, 2009, at 5:34 AM.

Hello dear Bentley, first of all,thankyou so very much for sharing your knowledge with us. I am in Mexico in a state with a very stable moist ,warm weather ,I own a small property where i have the intention of start a worm farm in order to produce worm hummus, so i like to ask you if you think this could be done in a biger scale and if you believe that it can be done to become in a profitable business. I ask this because down here there are many new regulations and rules regarding agriculture,this is that all the chemical fertilazers are almost forbiden, therefore goverment is demanding the use of organic compost to improve the land and of course the produce of it, there are all ready some farms but they look to be very small or produce the hummus to be used at their own places,any way Iam preparing the beds and the supliers of the organic waste to start with this proyect soon, I will apprecciate your coments BEST REGARDS

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#157. April 10th, 2009, at 3:37 PM.

just a thought… I was wondering how many worms I had, was a little disappointed in the occasional viewing trips I took thru the bin… but then I tried cantelope for the first time, large pcs not even chopped. within a couple of days i went digging and there were hundreds at each chunk of rine. You could say I am reinspired at what I thought was a very slow start….

as far as the person shredding the corougated? cardboard by hand though (carolyn) …. I tried the shredder we have… a TDE … a cheap version, ripped it into strips that would fit 8″ or so ….run it thru… the feed motor slowed down… didn’t jam though,, and made 1/4 inch strips just as pretty as could be…. my kids were estatic too, they used to be the ones who ripped it up into little 3 inch pcs…..

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carolyn
#158. April 11th, 2009, at 1:45 AM.

Thanks, Scott,
I have been researching shredders – Tried to find the TDE but as far as I can tell they have been discontinued. BUT I happened to see one by Fellowes today while I was in Costco – $99 and a few minutes later, viola! Perfect worm bedding of corrugated cardboard, easily done once I tore the cardboard into manageable strips about 6″ wide. The fine print on the directions does say not intended for cardboard, but I figure if it can shred a CD or DVD, cardboard must not be too much!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#159. April 11th, 2009, at 3:26 PM.

… one more note on the shredder, if you turn the cardboard when you feed it you will notice that the texture is different…. cutting it length wise it tends to resemble a straw…. if you rotate it either way left or right 90 degrees you get a 1/4″ strip with a million holes down the side of it…. this second one really tends to open up the bedding to aeration better which I think works fairly well….It also seems to increase the speed at which the bedding breaks down.
The long straw look seems to stay more wet, even clumping a little?…. maybe there’s a experiment here? Maybe it’s already been tested and someones going to jump in here and divulge their findings?
I read somewhere that this corrougated? card board may increase production rates…. I tend to lean that way also…… maybe its the squeasing thru the narrow openings in the course of their daily duties and travels… causing the eggs to get deposited in the spaces, kept moist and thereby increasing production rates? ( wow! thats a long sentence!) Do I sence a debate arising here? and have I mentioned this is a cool stopping off point when surfing? thanks bently.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cynthia
#160. April 15th, 2009, at 12:57 PM.

I have mold growing in my worm bed. Is that suppose to happen?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robyn
#161. April 19th, 2009, at 12:36 AM.

I want to make a food scrape bin using a rubbermaid tote, but does it need to be kept inside? If kept outside, will it be affected by weather extremes, like cold weather in the winter?
Thanks for your help!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#162. April 28th, 2009, at 4:47 PM.

Wow – not even sure how I`m going to respond to all these comments (sorry for the delays everyone), but let`s see what I can do here.

CAROLYN – I don`t have any experience with biodegradable packing peanuts. I would imagine they`d be similar to bioplastic in general, so they likely take some time to decompose (at mesophilic temps anyway).

Shredded cardboard is definitely a pain – I prefer using egg carton / drink tray cardboard which is much easier to rip up, but corrugated cardboard I still do by hand!
———————————————

JANINE – thanks for sharing your story, and your thoughts about all this stuff in general. I think vermicomposting (among other related things) is a great thing to get into so you can take more control over where your food comes from (grow it yourself!!) etc, and definitely fits in nicely with other self-sufficiency strategies that are so valuable during these challenging economic times! I love hearing about people starting their own green businesses during these times as well.

Anyway…as for the cotton batting, I think you plan is right on target! I`d love to hear how it pans out for you. As for the arsenic, I guess it all depends on how much we are talking about. Somehow I doubt it will be a major concern, especially with the pre-composting. Compost is basically humus, which is amazing for immobilizing nasty molecules like this, thus helping to prevent them from ending up in our food etc.
I don`t think boric acid is a major issue either since it will likely breakdown relatively quickly.

I`m no environmental chemist or anything, but these are just my hunches on the matter.
———————————————————————————

EDUARDO – If you are passionate about vermicomposting and are willing to work hard, I would say go for it. I don`t know what the demand for worms/castings etc would be in Mexico, but in the US and Canada there is definitely a growing awareness and demand for earth-friendly products and strategies.
———————————————————————————-

Scott – Cardboard (and paper products in general) can definitely boost worm reproduction rates. I have no idea why, but I`ve tested this in a scientific manner (while in university) and have read that others have found the same thing.
———————————————————————————–

CYNTHIA – I generally recommend feeding in `pockets`. This should help to reduce the amount of obvious mold growth, and can also reduce the chance of fruit fly invasion. You might want to mix up your bedding a bit and potentially add another thick layer of new bedding at the top of the bin.
————————————————————————————

ROBYN – A worm bin doesn`t need to be kept inside, BUT you have to be really careful with a plastic bin type of system outside. If left in the sun it can overheat very quickly, and during cold months it won`t offer any protection for the worms. Keeping bins outside in the shade during warmer months should be just fine though.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carolyn
#163. April 29th, 2009, at 3:53 AM.

The cardboard is still shredding beautifully in my Fellowes shredder – I almost look forward to it and shred up a box every week when I add a week’s worth of scraps (blended in the vitamix to a nice slop). I sometimes worry that there is too much citrus peel, as we eat a lot of oranges and use lemons almost daily, but so far the worms seem okay.
The packing peanuts are made of cornstarch – they are edible, (if you’re into cornstarch) and dissolve almost instantly in water. Because of the warning about not using too much starch I have been burning them in my fireplace, but will try a few next month.
My worms seem very happy in their new home – They have already migrated up one level of the chalet and the third is ready to go when they are!
Thanks to all for the great info, especially to you, Bentley. I really enjoy getting the postings

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#164. April 30th, 2009, at 11:56 PM.

Hello Bentley ‘n fellow enthusiasts – I’ve started a large bin outside in the shade of the carport a few weeks ago. I found a bare bones crate about 5′x5′, so I lined it with overlapping layers of cardboard and then filled it with layers of material from a new compost pile that I had added the cotton batting to, old leaves, shredded brown paper and a few boxes of produce trimmings from the grocery store that I chopped in the box with a shovel. The cotton seems to hold the moisture after watering more so than other things it seems and I have yet to see any worms near it. I added the entire contents of my first mature 10 gallon bin that was full of worms and had SO many vermipods in it, I find myself wondering how does one glean the castings without losing all those potential worms ? Do you pull the adults and then leave the pods to again mature, and once they have all hatched ,then it’s time to safely collect castings ? At what age do babies potentially start to produce pods ? I’m starting to sense a rhythm.
These sure are funny little worms, quite different from earthworms, and I’m just so pleased that they are apparently thriving. I agree that hand torn egg cartons are a huge success and I often find many adults hanging out together in the pieces, like little love nests…
Happy fertile Spring everyone !

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lynae
#165. May 15th, 2009, at 10:10 AM.

Hi Bentley! I really appreciate all the knowledge and information you’ve provided on this site. It’s the best one I’ve found on vermicomposting!

Right now I’m just in research mode for starting a worm bin. I live on the third story of my building, and although we have a citywide composting service that picks up our food waste, me and my roommates are busy folks and tend to let the food scraps get really nasty before we take them downstairs. We’d really like to keep our foodscraps out of the garbage, so composting within the apartment would be ideal. Also, I really like worms!

I live in an apartment with two other adults, and we’re very short on space. We have a small but regular supply of fruit & veggie leftovers, coffee grounds, and corn husks (mmm tamales). About how large a container & about how many worms do you think I would need, if I were putting all our allowable food scraps in the bin? (I understand that overfeeding is a big concern.)

My fiance is also still pretty concerned that the bin might smell or get bugs. Are both of these (relatively) easily avoidable? I read something elsewhere that said that fruit flies aren’t a problem if you don’t give the worms too many orange peels. Is that true?

Thanks so much for your time!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mandy and cera
#166. May 17th, 2009, at 6:02 PM.

wow this stuff is totally fabulous it really helped us in our research you guys rock this is so fascinating:)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mandy and cera
#167. May 17th, 2009, at 6:06 PM.

oh my gosh you guys are awesome thx so much for all the help you have provided for our project our large amounts of trash as decreased majorly and i am so greatful to you guys

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Katie
#168. May 19th, 2009, at 3:35 AM.

Hi & thanks for all the info–I am just getting started with the rubbermade bins and this is a very basic question–the bottom bin collects water? And hoe do I harvest the compost? Thanks so much!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com chris vanderwood
#169. May 23rd, 2009, at 5:43 AM.

Is it ok to purchase worms that have been refrigerated.

Most of the fishntackle places have already done so.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#170. May 23rd, 2009, at 9:57 PM.

I am surprised to see such a wealth of information on one site. Thank you. I wish to say I am in the process of starting my farm….My creatures are on their way to their new home as we speak. I ordered 10,000 red wigglers and have my bins all set up outside ready. I am hoping I learn enough to keep my guys happy. I want to try to build my farm to the point of over 1 Million worms and start working with the local community for composting on a commercial level at our dump. I am still researching this as the time and money, space and worms dont seem to be an issue. The waste feed is easy to get around here from stores and friends and businesses. I do have trouble finding any real sources for selling the castings and tea. I see most sell as small single set ups and nothing larger with mainly websites. Would you have any input on where I may look to find people seeking the supply of castings and tea to make this an all around business venture as well as good for the community???? Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#171. May 25th, 2009, at 6:08 AM.

OK,
Sorry for taking so much of the monopolizing of the thread but I am curious.
I have my 10,000 worms arriving and seeing how fast they are…especially busier than rabbits from what I have read everywhere. Now I am curious on cultivating as many vermipods as possible to start more bins and the best way to do so. I realize most here are doing for composting as I am planning but I am aiming at a larger scale. In fact I wish to make a community capable farm out of these critters where I can seek the composting contract for our area and aim for larger cities as well and do full time. I am tired of the medical field and see this as an interesting hobby/business venture.

I wish to see if you know of best way to cultivate the cocoons/vermipods out of the soil for incubation and best chances of success for growth of the numbers in shorter time frames. I also wish to find out if you know of a biodegradeable style paper similar to the tea bags or the coffee filters where I would leave steeping as a cup of tea for making it while still not being chunky and avoiding having to filter for putting into a sprayer for this is a pain. Chunks block the spray bottles and this is if I am even doing it right. I am going to go to another State in a week and see a full operation been in business 11yrs but they only sell worms and raise them. They do nothing with the castings but let sit there and have built up piles of it during the time of business on their 10 acre farm. My fiance and myself are looking at a property where we will build our log home on the mountain with 20 acres clear land never been farmed in last 10+ yrs. We are planning to build 2 greenhouses on it and 2 barns for worms and start a organic farm (well ok just strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) and some small bunches for personal usage of other veggies. We would like to use the poop as the fertilizer for the strawberries for people to pick their own. The fruits and veggies (not that I have grown) but have tasted which are organic are different as I CAN TASTE THEM….not to make light of this but I have no smelling sense and cannot taste most foods and if looks ok I eat it unless someone tells me it is bad from smell since my taste buds are almost not existent either. This is why we tried the poop we got from a guy we know and made some tea for our lawn, plants. We aim for the greenhouses to be filled with flowers grown in the castings but one thing from a not so educated organic person….are flowers classified different when in the poop and not the regular top soil since no chemicals too????

I could write a book here as I have sooooo many questions for you Bentley since I live in USA but was born and raised in Drayton/Guelph area LOL

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#172. May 26th, 2009, at 5:50 AM.

am I talking to myself at yet another dead forum??????

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#173. May 26th, 2009, at 2:42 PM.

This is Not a dead forum. I would imagine Bentley has an active life and in this hemisphere it’s also Spring so I guess we’re not all pasted to our computers ?
Worms ARE busy, but it’s not quite instant gratification. I started up a large bin using a wood crate which I lined with overlapping layers of card-board 8 weeks ago. I layered all the ingredients and dumped a mature 10 gallon bin in the middle and now I notice the level is dropping and everywhere I turn the material I find happy healthy worms and the whole thing is speckled with their little golden pods. So jump in Mike, look around as you’re driving in town and see what materials present themselves.
If you dig around this site you will find plenty of info to start with confidence.
Good luck – It sounds like you are building a good life.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#174. May 26th, 2009, at 3:28 PM.

Thanks Janine – I appreciate you jumping in like that.

MIKE – this is not actually a ‘forum’. It is simply a blog/website which I have allowed readers to make comments on (many website owners turn off comments after a period of time, but I decided it would make things more interesting to keep them open). You’d be shocked if you knew how much time is required to keep up with comments and emails from this site – I have not been able to do so for months. I have a hierarchy of importance, starting with customer emails, then regular emails, then site comments. And of course there is adding new content to the site that needs to fit in there somewhere as well.

Janine is right – with spring in full swing, things are very busy on the worm front. Add to that the fact that I watch my toddler daughter 3 days a week, and you have a pretty full schedule. I don’t tell you all this for sympathy – simply so you know why I can’t be as responsive as I’d like to be. Believe it or not I AM still hoping to catch up with everything eventually. I get a lot of enjoyment out of interacting with people on the site.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#175. May 26th, 2009, at 11:40 PM.

Well Thank you I am glad I am not alone here….yes worms are busy…and been busy myself so yes i know the hectic life…building a worm farm…have my other business…school full time and work…..and started a non profit organization for homeless people and a food bank so yes in this part of the USA it is hectic too!! LOL

I wonder if you could possibly address some of the questions i had about the harvesting of the pods….I am not into instant gratification BUT want to harvest for best results of population increase over the next 2 years. I am not going to sell worms for 2 years just build my colony. This is why I need to know the best way to harvest the pods and incubate at best results from someone of experience. I worth Bentley an email with more information and kept it short :o)

By answering what hemisphere…I live in Nashville TN…but born and raised in Guelph Ontario Canada!!!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#176. May 27th, 2009, at 11:04 AM.

Can worms eat goat manure????

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#177. May 27th, 2009, at 2:11 PM.

I don’t think there is a way to top the efficiency of an already miraculous process.
My guess is you are really looking at the scale to which you want to grow the endeavor. I too got so enthusiastic I felt nearly obsessed and it was nice to find a place – here- where I could share and read, as my family and friends really don’t quite get it. There is more info here than anywhere else I’ve found.
In one of my online quests I found a large scale operation that used concrete trenches which makes sense. A system where the worms progress into the new material and the old stays behind as a nursery for the vermipods which hatch and follow along, eventually leaving behind the castings.
I think that there is a rhythm to their cycle and I’m having a ball learning the steps. I just love the marvelous worm.
As to manures – I’m no expert but some run quite a bit hotter than others so start at a corner of the bin and always give them the choice to get away from it. The larger the bin the less likely the addition will cause problems. Composting it for some time first would be an even safer option. I’m presently wondering how well they can handle chicken coop cleanup, but have started yet another compost pile to help it mellow first, and I am hoping to start yet another big bin here in a few weeks. With 100 chickens the pile is growing fast.
My biggest problem is coming up with enough organic material to go larger.
I’m leery of grass clippings because most people drench their lawns in nasty chemicals. I have found they absolutely adore moss and after they eat up all the root material the green part of the moss seems to be a preferred place to leave their pods. I’ve used moss on the surface to help retain moisture and keep out light. Hope this helps.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#178. May 27th, 2009, at 3:42 PM.

Thank you Janine.

now yes I am trying to grow the operation faster. I have been reading on harvesters and then seeing these as a basic manual drying machine and having the screen small enough for the pods and casting to fall through is what i read so far. The difference is a set of sizing on the screen and basically seeing they vary and wondered if the tumbling around would harm my guys. The cost of most harvesters are around 3200.00 for the commercial size where you can even go to make your own for less than 20.00 with another rubber maid tub.
This is IF you harvest the whole tub/barrel each sorting. Now this would require doing every barrel once a week when rolling. As each pair worms doing the pods every 7-10 days makes the tub constant needing care for removal to pods for retrieving the absolute most knowing you’ll never get them all. I am thinking there must be a better method for harvesting or setting up so that pods can be harvested better like a tray method but using tubs. Basically, I am trying to solve a concern that I see in 3 months my worms (assuming they stay happy) will double each quarter. Now using the math or this as I am a geek….If you start with 5000 in a bin and they produce 2500 pods in one week you need to pull and if you leave then they will regulate how many more get produced next cycle/ week since they make new eggs each week. Now cultivating the pods I could put in an incubated new bin where they hatch and even at 2 per pod using easy math here would make 5000 more worms in one week cycle cutting my time frame down from 8-12 weeks to 2-3 once they start hatching be every week. I dont want to cultivate EVERY one but if I got half I figured I would be able to reach the 1-2Million worms in less than 1 year. This is why I need experience coming into play on tried and best suited ways for harvesting the pods.

I dont know about the goat manure as I have looked at MANY sites but they dont mention goats.

As for chicken manure…

I would suggest since stating you have room for 100 chickens you could find a 55 gallon drum or such for rain collection. Then throw in saw dust to soak for a bit to soften to a chunky stew and throw on the manure with it softened but drained so not drenched. This would give it not saturated but soft enough for them to eat. I would guess that the mix could go over the manure and then your worms would eat as an outdoor bed but not killed due to being too acidic from the ammonia. I would be scared to try it till done a lot of research and ask some who do it since I also seen that some systems are out there doing it but they are treating in a line set up as one of a sifter for hog manure in NC. I did read the aged manure from chickens is fine but had to watch the heat as well.

I have been staying up every night for hours on end here trying to figure this all out where I can learn as much as I can. One of the concerns I am finding is the amount of worms to reproduce is relatively straight forward with some tricks from experience BUT what about the castings. I have yet to come across a place to market the operations of the larger scales where you produce too much for personal and too much for just web sales and local area. Is there a market out there where the buyers and sellers negotiate out contractual deals of suppliers of castings to other companies? How do you find them? I have yet to see a set price for castings as seems like no established market is made and the prices vary so widely it is hard to set guidelines on what the going rate of the casting are worth. If any help there would be appreciated.

Thanks for reading my book as took me 2 hours to write it between interruptions so hope the train of thought was not lost or too far off the mark.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#179. May 27th, 2009, at 9:14 PM.

Thanks Janine….My other post was long…it took me 2 hours between interruptions of life around here but guess was either too long or timed out.

Yes I am trying to expand my venture to a commercial size and expedite the harvesting of the cocoons to the fullest extent rather than waiting 3 months for a double in size and fully utilize the worms reproduction to growth potential they have. I read if cultivated all pods and incubated and had 2 from every pod you could have over 5Million worms in one year….thats amazing…I only want 1 million or so in 2 years.Enough for 2 greenhouses in 2 yrs.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#180. May 28th, 2009, at 1:31 PM.

Hi Mike – luckily your monster comment simply needed approval. I have released it from ‘pending’ status.

I am glad to hear that you are taking your time, Mike – in my opinion that is the best way to go. This is the approach I myself have taken and it’s made it a lot more fun. Still LOTS of work involved, but when you are passionate about it, that doesn’t matter at all.

If you want to get a concentrated batch of cocoons you might try building a simple wooden frame harvester with 1/8″ screening on it (thanks to Mark G. – who regularly posts comments on the site – for this idea).

Goat manure should work great as worm food – I am just about to start testing it out myself since I just found a source.

Gotta run unfortunately – hope this helps a little

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#181. May 28th, 2009, at 7:57 PM.

well….I did it…
I found a source to take all the casting I can produce from what they said. They wanted to know if I could supply them with 200 metric tonnes. Way more than I could or even asking the friends in the business I have talked to in my area but still looks promising for the small amounts I will have my guys producing.

I am trying to find someone to build a website now for helping me place pictures up and have some info I gather from other sites and research, and experiences. I have found a source for 55 gallon drums now so in the next week or so I am going to go get 5 or 6 and 2 for rain and 4 cut in half and set on offsetting ramps where the drainage system will drip the teas to the five gallon buckets. This was from a concept I was shown from people in Alabama who been in business for 11yrs and walking us through the set up since they see us as funny. They are an older couple a 55yr old guy (disabled) and his wife a 69 yr old and they make almost equal to our salaries with the sale of the worms and not anything with the compost and castings. The best part is they feed their worms……get this…..pancake mix!!! They add other stuff too but main source is pancake batter and water it down to spray it over top of the cardboard and the worms go into a frenzy!!!

Thanks for your reply Bentley!
I sent you an email before and hope you could reply when you get a chance. I have family in the Guelph Area interested in knowing more of this site and will be joining soon. :o) You do a great job of helping others learn here!! Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Peggy Sue
#182. May 31st, 2009, at 3:39 AM.

You often mention not using dairy products, which is understandable, but what about yogurt with all the live bacteria cultures in it? It seems that would be a beneficial thing for a bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#183. May 31st, 2009, at 4:00 AM.

I would think the key to using yogurt would be MODERATION….it could be used and keep in one part of your bin so the worms can avoid it if they desire not to be there.
blend it with any fruit or peelings I think it would blend in fine.

Let me know how it works out but sure would like to know if Bentley thinks differently on this question too.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#184. June 3rd, 2009, at 7:22 AM.

what is the status on the dryer lint for adding to a bin???? no updates yet and was curious. Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#185. June 3rd, 2009, at 2:03 PM.

Dryer lint is probably mostly organic, I don’t imagine synthetics give up much lint.
So mostly cotton and some hair/fur. A lot of fur in my case. I have been using
cotton batting from my friends’ futon biz. I think it will eventually stop resisting
the process, but at this point I’m thinking why bother ? Especially if you are trying for the fast track ? It will be something you have to sort out and keep re-introducing to new bins .
As for the yogurt – it’s long been my understanding that the rule of thumb
Is Plant material, not animal. You risk nasty bacteria. I’ve composted for years
(without these worms) and I used to be fairly casual about adding the stuff out of the sink drain and leftovers, but I found it really drew dogs and other varmints to my pile and seemed to be nasty sometimes. Now it’s problem free
and I don’t mind having my hands in it or my nose near it. It’s well worth the extra care in my opinion.
I just read somewhere – a gardening magazine , I believe, that it’s possible to compost dog poop ! But before you run off to add it to your bin… you dig a separate hole in the ground and add some ( a bunch ?!?) of this compost accelerator you can get. And still they recommended using the compost for landscaping and non-edibles. Extra caution for nubes who may not recognize finished compost and the squeamish… but if it’s done right ?
I’m hot on it as it was the last reason for not giving up my garbage service.
I’ll post as I get further along with this one…

Hey Bentley – Question. Are the Euros invasive ? I’m in Montana, but it seems
I read that there are places that have had problems with them eating up the duff in forests impacting the ability for seedlings to germinate ? It’s been the last holdout I’ve had for starting them.
Thanks for putting this site together, funny all the ways people can make the world a better place.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#186. June 4th, 2009, at 4:25 PM.

MIKE – your wish is my command (haha) – just added a dryer lint update
———
JANINE – there seems to be a fair bit of fuss re: Euros and Red Worms destroying northern forests. This seems like a stretch to me, but I really don’t know enough about the situation to provide an in-depth response. When I first heard about it, it was Canadian Nightcrawlers that people were worried about – this made sense since they are soil worms and can consume leaf littler quite rapidly.

I wouldn’t expect Reds and Euros to pose a major threat since leaf litter certainly isn’t the N-rich environment they typically do well in (eg manure pile).

Anyway, I definitely need to read up on the issue, since it seems to come up a LOT.
:-)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#187. June 5th, 2009, at 8:17 PM.

wow…someone who actually listens to me…..

NOTE TO SELF: Get Bentley to talk to my girlfriend and see if he can influence her to do the same :o)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#188. June 5th, 2009, at 11:41 PM.

Sorry to have played “help me – help me”, I was digging around this really rather large and fertile website you’ve put together and found your article about the invasiveness with the Euros right after I asked…
I’ve decided I’ll do a contained system if I start them.
Thanks !

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Elizabeth
#189. June 7th, 2009, at 3:48 AM.

i was glad to see the comment above about moss. thank you! on web site pallensmith.com i came across a moss recipe. simply put use one part moss, three parts beer, and one part granular sugar. use a blender and puree. pour mixture over stones, bare soil, or containers. it will only grow if all conditions are right for the moss to grow. moist acidic soil, shady areas. i was going to use this on rocks around a small pond in a shady area. have a nice day!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#190. June 8th, 2009, at 1:08 AM.

Uh-oh….

Problem here…

I have my bins with fruit flies which I buried the feed more into the bedding but the bins are starting to seem to get stinky before all the food is gone. I am curious as some of the bins are good and some are bad with equal food and water. The trouble I am curious about is if I bury the compost and slow down on the feeding with the bins and wait for my guys to catch up eating will this have an effect on them? The smell is disappeared when I buried the rotting food and going to keep close eye on them. Wondering if the air flow being increased would help neutralize the air and make the worms more comfortable with fresh air more than now or will this speed the rotting???
I am finding we have too much food for our guys and get rotten before they get through it. We solved the problem temporary by burying the food in bedding and ordering more worms but we cant fix this issue the same by always ordering more LOL. What is it that we need to do to solve the issue?
I may just be panicky too as the worms seemed ALOT bigger then when we got them and very active…hard to hold as they wiggle alot when before seemed like rubber worms. This is the first week in their new homes too so could be jet lag….been charting and going to start soon experimenting with controlled environments and food settings to find best results for us.

We are truly Hooked..(no pun intended) we love these little guys and I check them everyday and almost like adopted them to the family :o)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#191. June 11th, 2009, at 7:24 AM.

Got it fixed…..Very healthy worms now….just had to slow down on feeding and let them catch up….there was a mutiny in the bins and they were on a low cardboard diet…..Thank heavens for Slim Slow and the revolt against jenny craig when I announced the diet weigh in would be held and ben and jerrys and the biggest loser would go to Bubba bait and tackle spa for a week

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Elizabeth
#192. June 12th, 2009, at 12:06 PM.

cardboard and paper can be blended in a dry blender, in small amounts.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Eric Dubovik
#193. June 13th, 2009, at 5:48 AM.

How do you get the compost you want to use out of the bin?

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#194. June 15th, 2009, at 12:17 AM.

How long will it take to see the tea when watering your worms? I see a colored water coming through but I am pretty certain it would not be that of the tea but rather the run though of the peat moss bedding. When would you expect to see a difference and how will you know when it is more tea rather than that of the run through? Is there a major color difference as mine is almost Black. I am using on my garden anyways but was hoping to know when I shall see a difference if at all.

Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dan
#195. June 24th, 2009, at 3:42 PM.

G’Day Bentley,
I have a couple of questions that you may have already answered…I havent read all the above comments….first question is when you add more food as a result of the initial set up is broken down, do you need to add more bedding as well? Secondly can you moisten the bedding with compost tea to accelerate the decomposition of the material in the bin? I make my compost tea with worm castings…..hence the need for a worm bin…mollassus and kelp fertilizer. Will this be harmful or benifitial to my worm bin?

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#196. June 25th, 2009, at 7:27 AM.

G’Day again Bentley,
Ok just a couple more questions….are your worms…which I have just ordered….raised on horse manure as well as food scraps? Horse manure is readily available to me in my community and I was wondering if I could add some to my start up bin to help the transition from your farm to mine. Your turbo light video shows a bin with horse manure…which is why I’m asking…or do you only use manure as food?Also do you need to do anything to the manure before adding it to the bin…ie..letting it partly decompose….drying it…..that sort of thing

Cheers

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#197. June 25th, 2009, at 2:27 PM.

DAN – some good questions there. It is important to periodically add more bedding along with the food when working with a food waste + bedding type of system (other types of materials can basically provide the habitat + food all in one so it’s not necessary in those cases – eg bedded animal manure). If you don’t, moisture will continue to build up, pH will likely keep dropping and C:N ratio will drop – eventually the bin will be inhospitable.
If you are using an enclosed bin you really shouldn’t need to add moisture at all, but if we are talking about an open system, I’d personally recommend using water rather than compost tea. While the tea certainly won’t be acutely toxic or anything it will have a higher concentration of worm wastes in it and by adding it you may also cause the C:N of the system to decline. Also, things like kelp may add inorganic salts to the liquid, which can irritate or harm the worms.

As I’ve tried to make clear as much as possible (in the light-harvesting video and blog post, and on the site in general) – the worms I play with in my videos are not the worms that people in the U.S. receive. I am located in Canada and do have my own small worm business, but ALL my US orders are drop-shipped by a very largescale worm farming operation in the US. I’m not 100% sure what their exact food blend is (likely guarded information), BUT I would be surprised in some sort of livestock manure wasn’t at least part of it – so, your worms should adapt well to a bed containing horse manure, assuming the material has been aged outside for a short period of time.

Hope this helps!
:-)

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#198. June 25th, 2009, at 2:34 PM.

ERIC – for suggestions on how to harvest vermicompost, be sure to check out the Harvesting section on the ‘Hot Topics’ page. With a typical Rubbermaid bin system, David’s tub harvesting method is a great choice.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#199. June 25th, 2009, at 2:38 PM.

MIKE – There is a difference between leachate (the stuff that drains out from a worm bin) and compost tea. The latter is made using high quality, stabilized castings and is a superior product, especially if you are planning to sell it. Water run through a worm bin can pick up all sorts of unstable, and potentially nasty compounds being produced during the decomposition process. If leachate is diluted and used on your plants it can be beneficial – don’t get me wrong. But if you are hoping to produce some really nice ‘castings tea’ – focus first on producing some top notch castings.
Just my 2 cents
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com SoapBoxTech
#200. June 30th, 2009, at 8:34 PM.

Very inspiring and informational indeed, Bentley. You have created a forum whether you intended to or not, I think!

Just started a small rubbermaid bin setup but I am very tempted to try to set up something much larger scale on my parents’ farm. We have a monstrous pile of cow manure mixed with straw to process (I bet this pile would make many visitors to this site a bit envious, lol) and this all has me thinking about a manure removal/composting company.

Thanks again.

Mike, I also wanted to mention…you sound like me with your grand plans!

Janine, your passion is touching. I hope you don’t feel too guilty in seeing your chickens gobble up your worms. My mother is growing a flock of laying hens which are going to feast on many of the worms I am growing. As chicks they have already had a healthy feast off of a breeding bed of normal earthworms I found beneath the soil in the chicken coop.

Peace to all.

Jerry

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#201. July 2nd, 2009, at 4:08 AM.

Mmm – I like being described as passionate.

Mmm – I like being described as passionate. Just surprised it was noticed.
As this wouldn’t be the sort of subject many would ascribe “passion” to. Worms
seem to be the ultimate metaphor for the cycle of life and death – being in balance. But then how could it not ?
Our medical system, I guess – preserving life at all costs ?
Jerry – I must say, I envy a family farm. I have no family, alone as an orphan. Grand aspirations but not much help on hand. I have been like a dog on a bone thinking up ways to collaborate with other people to make my dreams come true. A created family is what I need. One collected by similar interests, eh ?
Dreaming on,
Janine

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#202. July 4th, 2009, at 7:23 AM.

Janine,

I seem to relate to how you think, although I came from a family of five. Even with the squabbles I admit that it is very nice to know there is always someone there. However, I too am eager to work with more people than just family. Family farming really isn’t sustainable unless kids are kept to 1 or 2, since its that old “limits of constant growth” thing. Created family is an excellent way of describing what is necessary, I think.

Good to meet you and interestingly, I am straight north of you in Alberta.

Peace.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#203. July 5th, 2009, at 8:17 AM.

Jerry,

I am have been experimenting with different techniques now for the last month keeping a close eye on all my worms. I ordered 10,000 worms and split into 4 bins. I feed each bin a different mix to some degree to see which is best. I am finding the cardboard and shredded paper is good mix BUT if you have rotten fruit around add that too. This even out does the goat manure for active worms and how much and fast they are eating.

I am now working on trying to test the leachtate on my garden as I have been adding this daily to my garden since I planted them 5 weeks ago. I have already been harvesting cucumbers and zucchini and have a tonne of tomatoes but not ripe yet. To say the least it is FAR out doing the ones without the leachtate. You shall see soon as I am putting up a website very shortly with pictures.

I have not harvested yet and do not plan on doing so anytime soon. I am building my worms and when it looks like time to harvest I will just be placing in a bigger wooden bin and also the half 55 gallon drums.
I am hoping to try to mix the worms in it and grow from there and have the bedding they have now just in the new bin.

Now Bentley,

I am curious if you keep a rain bin outside and have the shredded cardboard and paper mixed with the ground coffee in it then pour in the Leachtate and have this soak should it increase the bacteria count for a good feed????

Also, Is there a way to increase the N count and what is ideal count on the organic fertilizers when measuring on the castings?? I am trying to figure out how to test and which is best to have the good numbers for a GREAT fertilizer not just an average fertilizer. Been seeing a wide range of answers from 1-1-1 to 20-20-20 and even a .2-.2-.2 being ok??? I dont want to be in the decimals LOL as I am looking at putting this to large scale when I have this down pat and more reliable of sustaining the same numbers

Thanks
Mike

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#204. July 5th, 2009, at 8:30 AM.

no worries Bentley…LOL

My site will not be as informative nor will it be anything fancy as I am a poor dirt (castings) farmer….:o)

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#205. July 5th, 2009, at 2:21 PM.

Bentley,

When you do the trenches or outside worm ranches, how do you harvest any of the castings? I would assume the Leachtate would be enough with small amounts of the castings being plenty for the soil. The extra castings from such a huge area is a lot of castings to fill in and well alot of castings that could be spread around for a bigger garden…LOL

you fanatic you

Good stuff glad you got hooked into the gardening so well again as now i have a walking dictionary available to me. Thanks again if I have not said it enough to you for having this area to type and ask from not only you but others as I for one appreciate this help and know it takes your time away from your love…your family. That iswayyy cool!!! God Blessed you well.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#206. July 6th, 2009, at 2:39 AM.

Hey Mike,
Your idea re: mixing up the cardboard, coffee grounds etc and using it as food is good. Corrugated cardboard would likely work best, and it will be important to make sure the mix stays nice and moist. You’ll likely produce a nice diverse microbial community, not just bacteria.

I personally don’t think of vermicompost/castings as “fertilizer” (despite the fact that I refer to my trenches as “all natural fertilizer factories” – haha) – this is not to say that they don’t have value as such, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at some of the N:P:K numbers. If you ARE looking for the most bang for your buck, I’ve read that manures are the best starting material – specifically pig manure solids (according to Dr. Clive Edwards).

My trenches are set up specifically so I DON’T have to harvest castings – they are ‘in situ’ composting systems and the plants basically withdraw nutrients as they need them. They provide all the fertilizer I need, that’s for sure. I am using bedded livestock manure and some food scraps.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#207. August 11th, 2009, at 6:44 PM.

well been a while but have a question for you…

what is the reason of the growth of the meal worms in my bins??? I am seeing an alarming increase in them and actually multiplying faster than red worms especially when the cantaloupe and melons go into the mix. I do not want to eliminate the melons and such since it would mess up my mixture and carbon to nitrogen ration to have such a high rate of cardboard and paper and would take time to actually recalculate and since the worms like the melons so much it is hard to throw it away. Do you have any ideas how to get rid of meal worms??? Or if they are harmful to the red worms and are they useful at all in the bins since the information out there on meal worms is so limited I am having hard time here to fix this even after harvesting the little guys moved in again!!! ARGH Please help me with knowing if this is harmful and hindering my process and progress. Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#208. August 12th, 2009, at 2:27 PM.

Hi Mike – I definitely find it very surprising that you would be seeing meal worms in your bins. Are you sure they are not soldier fly larvae (which can be very common in worm composting systems in areas where these flies live)? Any chance you could send in some pics?
Meal worm beetles tend to prefer a drier environment for laying their eggs (eg stored grains) than would be provided by a worm bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#209. August 12th, 2009, at 2:42 PM.

That’s what I have is the dang soldier fly larvae. There are more of them than worms these days. I know some people actually raise those things to do the same job as our worms do, but I don’t like them!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#210. August 12th, 2009, at 4:27 PM.

I had a brief cycle of small black flies that has since disappeared in my big outdoor bin. I’m actually amazed ( knock wood) that there haven’t been more pesky bugs cohabiting with the worms.
I had a bucket of fir needles soaking for “a while” and found this rather large population of bizarre tailed worms living in it. Everyone I told about it, thought I should kill them, in a variety of mean and nasty ways, but my conscience would never live with that. So I jumped online and after much much looking I found that they are called rat-tailed worms and they turn into a beneficial fly that looks like a bee, but I never could find a proper name. The tail is actually a retractable breathing tube, and upon close inspection you could see the beginning of eyes and they really became rather endearing and I was so glad I didn’t get all fearful and repulsed like everyone else seemed to. The story ends sadly however as something must have changed in the bucket and they suddenly died off. I have a big garden and beneficial bugs are always welcome. I have a wonderful population of garden spiders.
All the benefits of organic gardening.
I’m about to harvest the castings from the big bin and will be starting a raspberry patch with it. Such a rewarding process. I have been selling a few here and there, but mostly I’ve been giving some to friends. It’s funny how hard it seems to be for people to understand that these are different from the common worms people find in the garden dirt.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cera
#211. August 12th, 2009, at 8:24 PM.

oh my god you guys have no idea how much this info has blessed me you guys are amazing i will pray for you

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mike
#212. August 12th, 2009, at 11:10 PM.

after searching I think that is more than likely what they are is the larvae….I dont know for sure but the birds here sure do love them and with the birds I get an amazing amount of nice pictures in the woods and nestings.

The worms do not seem to be bothered by them whatever they are as I checked again today and they are all one happy family mounting up on the canteloupe pieces and melons like this was the last supper and for some it was :o)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#213. August 13th, 2009, at 1:20 AM.

Cera,
You’ve got me all curious, did you have an epiphany or are you merely deeply relieved to find yourself in the company of fellow fans of the creeping crawling weird and wonderful ? Tell us, if you can.
Janine

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#214. August 13th, 2009, at 1:40 AM.

Oh and I Could happily use some extra prayer.. I could use a miracle even, as I’ve lost both my child support ( she just turned 18 !) and my rental income this month. It’s quite a mystery as to how I’m going to make my mortgage now.
Just me an’ few million other folks… pray for all of us.
Janine

I think I figured out why I had the die off with those larvae in the bucket. They thrive in very stagnant water and I had just added some fresh water with the hose because of evaporation, but I didn’t add it all that gently partly to stir it up and see how many were in there and partly out of thoughtlessness.. I’m guessing it activated things , kind of like when you stir the compost pile ( but not the one with worms in it :) maybe the temperature changed or something had a flush of growth or something like that.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Patrick
#215. August 16th, 2009, at 3:50 PM.

Bentley,

IMHO you have one of the best all-around vermi sites I’ve come across. I’m still very new at this and your site has provided me with many pointers over the past few months.

I have two 40some gallon outdoor totes. One with a couple pound of Euros and the other with a couple pound of red worms. I would say one of the most important lessons I have learned so far is the need to prep the containers and let them cook for a few weeks before introducing a worm population. On that note – I’m using some compost to innoculate some bins for microbial growth. The compost I’m using comes from a static pile so it is by no means ‘finished’ compost. Besides giving the microbial growth a boost will that type of compost also act as a food source for the worms?

The second lesson learned is the need for weep holes at the bottom of the containers (I just don’t have the feel yet for the right moisture content for bedding). I’m pretty confident my euro container is too damp towards the bottom and has resulted in too many anaerobic pockets – it smells a little twangy at times. To rectify this I intend to get another bin of similar size, install some weep holes at the bottom and then transfer the Euros, lock, stock and barrel, into the new container. Will breaking the mass of bedding up while transferring it into the new container aerate it enough?

Muchas gracias

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#216. August 17th, 2009, at 12:37 AM.

Hi Patrick,
I saw your post and thought I’d comment and maybe help. I think your biggest problem is the 40 gallon containers. I’ve used the 10 gallon bins with good success, as they have relatively great surface area in relation to the depth of the container, which really helps aerate. They also are much more manageable weight wise. The drain holes are important,( check out Bentleys’ directions for making a bin here on the site) for moisture management as nothing can pool in the bottom, but the side holes are important for drawing air. You want to occasionally ( about every two weeks is what I do) give them a good shower to flush some the wastes they make out of the castings and save that “tea” for the garden.
When you move the contents of the sourish bin you could take turns layering the old bin material with new carbon rich material like leaf mulch or squeezed out damp brown paper to get more air in there and help balance the PH.
I have a big outdoor bin that was a shipping crate and is no more than a basic frame work which I lined with about five layers of overlapping cardboard. It has been a very happy bin – it measures 5′ square and is about 2′ deep. I use a big piece of cardboard to cover it, and have it under a carport so it never gets any sun on it. I think the bigger bins are a lot more stable and have so many different “microclimates” that the worms always have a place to escape to if there are some hot spots. I’ve been using the smaller bins too, but more to finish off the castings because of all the vermipods which I can’t help but want to save.
Good Luck !

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#217. August 18th, 2009, at 12:17 AM.

Thanks for the info Janine. I can’t say I’d ever thought about the worm bath but it makes good sense. I don’t know that I’m ready to catch any tea yet but it’d be draining onto an old compost pile so I’m sure it’ll all be good.

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#218. August 19th, 2009, at 2:09 AM.

Hi Patrick – thanks for the kind words. It looks like Janine has provided you with a great response already so I’ll just add a couple of thoughts. Letting the compost materials cook for a period of time is definitely important when you are starting the system as a ”batch” (all at once) composter with those sorts of volumes. Overheating (and other associated issues) will definitely give you serious trouble otherwise.
As for the microbes – those are actually the MAIN food source (well ok, the worms likely ingest a soupy slurry containing microbes plus some of the actual food material itself). Partially completed compost is often an excellent material to feed to worms since it is loaded with microbes.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bernadette
#219. August 25th, 2009, at 4:30 AM.

I seem to have a lack of mosture problem. It is because I do not let me food rot frist and just add it daily. I only have a small continer and so I do not want to over water. How do I know that there is too much water or to little?
Please send email because I do not know if I can find this sight again.
Thanks,
Bernadette

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ashley
#220. August 28th, 2009, at 1:56 PM.

how would you come to buy any of these red worms? my senoir high class is going to start red worm composting lab and we need to know where to buy them if you guys could give me info that would be great thank you

bye!
Ashley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#221. August 28th, 2009, at 2:12 PM.

Hi Ashley,
I just saw your letter post so here’s my thoughts… I know Bentley here sells them, if you look up above you’ll see the option to click on, but I think finding the shortest shipping trip to your location is worth considering. I googled and
found my closest source on the west coast.
Good luck !

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jonathan
#222. September 21st, 2009, at 9:33 AM.

Hi Bentley

Great site, one of a kind!! Thank you.

My question is why do worms die if you overfeed them?

Regards
Jonathan

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#223. September 25th, 2009, at 1:34 PM.

JONATHAN – In a nutshell, when you add too much food at once nasty conditions can develop. When you have a bunch of wet, rotting material concentrated in one area it is inevitably going to go at least partially anaerobic, which can lead to production of all sorts of potentially harmful compounds (alcohols etc). Also, if the c:n ratio drops too low you can end up with ammonia production, which is also very harmful for the worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#224. September 28th, 2009, at 7:15 PM.

Hi,

I got a bin all ready and put scraps there. I am novice on vermicomposting. I am expecting to receive 2 lbs worms tomorrow. I read that a half pound for each a pound worms per day so this means I have to calculate for 7 days for two pounds worms, I put 7 lbs of food in the bin each week? Is that overfeeding?

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#225. September 29th, 2009, at 7:07 PM.

Hi James,
As anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on this site can tell you, I HATE calculations and rules when it comes to vermicomposting!
:lol:

If I wanted to start up a bin for two pounds of worms I would mix lots of food waste with cardboard (somewhat more cardboard by volume) and fill the system to the top (it will settle – and when it does, just add bedding). This system would then be left to sit for a week or so (exact number of days is not critical, although I would recommend that it be 5 or more). Once the worms are added I then recommend simply observing them for a few days – see how they respond to the system and the food materials already in there. Let them be your guide – when it looks like they are making headway with the food, add some more.

1/2 lb of food for 1 lb of worms per day probably isn’t a bad estimate, but there are SO MANY different variables to consider that it’s almost pointless to rely on these guidelines at all. If you look at 7 lb of whole carrots per week, vs 7 pounds of blended watermelon – you are suddenly comparing ‘apples and oranges’!
:lol:

Definitely not trying to reprimand or poke fun at you here James, but as you can probably tell, this is a particular topic that kinda gets me going!

Anyway – hope this helps some.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#226. September 29th, 2009, at 8:21 PM.

Bentley you do make me laugh. I was wondering how you were going to answer this question. I think it’s a common concern for beginners as they aren’t sure of what they are looking for and want concrete parameters. The variables are just too overwhelming, but I have come across a compost calculator which I have yet to really attempt, flying by the seat of my pants being the preferred method. But as I grow this business I imagine it could be very helpful.
I recently set up a big bin and layered all the aged ingredients with bedding and worm rich castings and if I hadn’t hovered and fussed, would have absolutely baked the dear wormies. I think the main culprit was the comfrey clippings and not then waiting 5-7 days after assembly to add the worms. I managed to rescue most of them but felt like a mass murderer all the same.
Live and learn.
I haven’t spaced the corn… just harvested this years crop and have an astonishing array of colored kernals. I’ll be sending out seeds here in the next few weeks as I’m so busy with harvesting, preserving and preparing for garlic planting, that I haven’t managed to get to it quite yet.
Enjoying and appreciating your recent writing – as always.
Best regards,
Janine

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#227. September 29th, 2009, at 8:24 PM.

http://www.milkwood.net/content/view/47/30/

This is the compost calculator link I forgot to attach.

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#228. September 30th, 2009, at 7:30 PM.

Hi Again. Sorry about calculations, it is hard to set the standard without calculations if you are a scientist like myself. I work as a biological technician, focusing on natural resources for the federal govt.

See this webpage: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/compost.html

As you see there is almost no information on vermicomposting other than set up a bin. Also it mentioned wrong kind of worms for composting. I emailed the context person about this and explained the difference of earthworms and asked if we can expand that section. She replied that she will accept any input from me. I do not know much about vermicomposting, just basics like this posting. They are planning to update that soon (probably months later).

Ok, here is my question, I saw a picture on this posting about bedding, I noticed that the newspaper shredding contains blue ink. I read many articles about newspaper bedding on internet. They said only black/white newspaper, no color because black ink is made from soy beans, color is made from toxic chemicals. How do you decide if this is ok, that is not ok (Sorry, rules here :lol:) I am not talking about glossy finish papers. I am talking about newspapers, all of newspapers from four different companies are printing color now and I have trouble finding black/white newspapers, probably 10 percent of my newspapers that are suitable for worms, the rest goes to recycling bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#229. October 2nd, 2009, at 4:34 PM.

Hi James (sorry for the delay),
Trust me – I feel your pain! I come from a strong scientific background myself, and am a huge fan of the real science that has been conducted in this field. I didn’t mean to imply that it was totally impossible to be exact about this stuff – I’m thinking more from the perspective of the ‘average Joe (Joanne)’ vermicomposter here.
Anyway – thanks for telling be a little more about where you are coming from here – it is nice to hear that you are trying to improve upon the information provided on that site. There are enough misunderstandings about vermicomposting as it is, so it certainly doesn’t help when government websites are posting faulty/incomplete info about it!

Good question about the ink – this is an area that STILL have yet to get any good answers about. I too have heard that there can be nasty stuff in the color inks – although it was more in reference to the glossy color stuff I think. I tend to be a bit more mellow about flat colors like that blue ink, but I definitely do recommend black and white over the colors for sure (probably need to update this page to mention that if I don’t currently have it there – in my latest blog post about bedding I did point out that the blue ink isn’t as trustworthy as b&w).
To be totally honest, I hardly ever even use newsprint myself – I prefer corrugated cardboard, egg carton carboard, and brown paper (if I can get it). Straw, fall leaves, aged manure, and coco coir are other great options (although the first two should be mixed with something more absorbent).

Anyway – thanks for the questions, and for keeping at me with this. Despite my ‘mellow’ nature when it comes to vermicomposting, I don’t want to give people the impression that you can just be lazy and not worry about anything. There are still SOME ‘rules’ that should be kept in mind!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mikeschieck
#230. October 3rd, 2009, at 6:01 AM.

Well I am back :o)

I hardly ever use any newsprint. I use the cardboard more than any newsprint and keep it moistened with rain water and coffee grounds…Thats enough browns in the mix to help offset the greens for my mixing. I try to not get too anal retentive about the calculations since the end product will be reflective of what you do and the playing with the feeds and the temps pH and mixture of bedding temperatures…this is plenty of a challenge to find the perfect mix anyways. The difference is only a different final product of the NPK ratings and these tend to vary for flowers and vegetables anyways from master gardener to gardener. Thats my take on it anyways.

I also thought I would like to see if anyone is using a digital NPK reader and if so costs and best available units for the money. I am using the strips and the simple rapitests but these are like old glucose readers for color matching and not definitive enough for me when I like to vary the situations per bin.

My worms have tripled in 4 months so now from 10,000 I have 50,000+.
The troubles I had were very easily fixed after coming here and for that I thank you. I went to my first trade show with my castings and got my first bulk order of 200 pounds from the garden center here for their garden club in the store. Way cool.

Thanks and soon will be announcing my website launch as it will be complete with the non profit status filed and ready. It launches Monday. Thanks again and shall be back as the wealth of info is priceless here.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mikeschieck
#231. October 4th, 2009, at 2:00 AM.

Well after thinking about this and when I would get a chance to get back on here I had laugh………….

“my worms TRIPLED from 10,000 to 50,000 in 4 months”

and you all wonder why I dont use a calculator???

with math like this who needs any stinkin calculator LOL

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#232. October 7th, 2009, at 9:13 PM.

I’m thinking of using old bath tubs for bins, I can get them at our recycled building center for 5- 10 bucks for the scratched undesirables they want out of their way. I know it sounds ugly as hell but I have my worms in an out of the way – and out of sight – spot in the yard. Do you think with all that surface area and a drain hole I would place down hill that I would have to do any drill holes in the sides ? Have you seen anyone use these ? I’ve been having a hard time finding crates that are the right size.
Curious what your thoughts may be. Thanks Bentley !

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mikeschieck
#233. October 8th, 2009, at 7:33 PM.

can my addy be put up so others can give me some feedback???

farmingwithworms.net

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janine
#234. October 9th, 2009, at 8:08 PM.

Hi – so I couldn’t wait with a bunch of homeless worms and I did get a tub and ended up drilling holes in the sides without too much trouble. The bottom was too thick to drill though, so the drain will have to do and has me wondering at setting up a system to actually catch the tea in future set ups, but not this time. Between garlic planting and apple harvest I can’t find the time to even think about it. I know you are busy too but wondered if you or anyone reading has any knowledge of using mash from brewing beer. We have several small breweries in our town and I just heard they are “desperate” for some way to move it. hmmm. I believe I’ll get my hands on some and see how it goes. I know leftover cereal goes over well in the bins since the mash is basically barley. I’ll post my findings. This could possibly help me – and others, go larger scale. Free food !
Oh – and congratulations on your new website Mike. I hope your aspirations all come true- and much more ! I thought perhaps you were merely a retired investment broker…worm farming Would be a great cover. hopefully your GF is going to handle the books ? haha. Best of luck.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#235. October 16th, 2009, at 5:20 PM.

Hi All,

Seems to me that my bin design is not working for me. The worms escaping via drainage holes. When those worms escaping, they die 90 percent of times in another bin. I was following Oregon State Extension design plan (now I couldn’t find it on internet, it is there somewhere) and the plan says about 50 drainage holes (I think I have more than 50) so the air can come in at the bottom and leave via the lid but I see worms kept escaping down the drainage holes. The plan is three bins: one for catching tea, two for composting. I have two bins right now, the third is for fresh start, attracting worms upward into a new bin when you put it on top of the second bin.

I figured that I lost 150 out of 2,000 worms within 2 weeks, they all didn’t drown, just dying with white mites all over. Few seems drown in the tea, they could escape but they didn’t. I checked inside the bin, worms seems happy, mingling with kitchen scraps, a lot of them. I do not know what the problem is. Too many drainage holes and those worms don’t have brains? I have a second bin that I haven’t drill yet.

I see several insects (white mite, fruit flies) but I never saw this one before… it looks like black narrow rices that walk on the surface of the bin. What’s that?

Are there some tools that can help me to measure the moisture inside the bin and test pH levels?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#236. October 17th, 2009, at 1:47 AM.

I went to Home Depot and got me fiberglass screen. I took all of stuff out of bin, I notice that the bottom environment looks very healthy, well balance moisture so I realize that the top part is a bit too dry. I put the screen on the bottom and put the stuff back in. I saw two baby worms, really tiny… I added more cardboard and spray it wet. No liquid in the catch bin, saved three worms and lost four worms. About the black rice bugs that walk… it doesn’t have wings. No idea what it is. If no one knows, I will try to take a photo and blow it up for ya :lol:

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#237. October 19th, 2009, at 5:08 PM.

Sorry folks – been neglecting this thread! Haven’t had much time for blog comments as of late.
(feel free to email me directly if you ever have a pressing question – it can still take some time to respond, but I definitely place a higher priority on email responses).

JANINE – I’ve often suggested old bathtubs as a cool worm bed, but have never tried one myself. As for brewery waste, I recently wrote a post about that:
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-questions/worm-composting-and-brewery-waste/
Please let me know how you make out with it though – I’ve had limited success myself, but it is supposed to be great stuff.

—————-

JAMES – In all honesty, despite the stacked bin video I made (and its bizarre resultant popularity in YouTube, at least by vermicomposting standards) I am NOT a big fan of these types of bins. I found it way too annoying to rescue worms that had gone down, and it was just generally an annoying mess. I prefer to keep things simple, and all of my indoor systems (apart from my Worm Inn Pro) do not have drainage of any sort.

As for moisture content, I’m sure you could use one of those simple soil moisture meters – I don’t bother with anything like that (including pH testing) myself. Since I don’t have drainage my basic rule is ‘if water is pooling in the bottom there is too much’.

Your black creature may be a Rove Beetle – these can be quite common in worm composting systems, and are typically elongated and black. Does the tail region bend upwards at all?
Please do send me a photo.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mikeschieck
#238. October 19th, 2009, at 6:41 PM.

I have to agree….I do not like the staking systems other than a tiny one home made for under the sink I use. It is only 6 inches and I only put pods in it to start them out and have handy.

The stacking systems I have seen and tried seem messy to say it politely IF YOU are anything like me and want to keep every worm and every pod possible. These still require the sorting and even though it is a migrating system there is plenty of food that can feed the little guys for a week easy with the little stuff they leave behind. Thus contaminating your castings to not clean and having to be sifted later anyways. The other problem I have with them is the cost. These are not cheap and can have better results with homemade systems or plain old bathtubs or bins :o) I presently work with rubbermaid bins for mine and some wood structure ones from a tractor supply company just throwing them away. I am now working with the local college where I go to school that has now opened a environmental science department and they are building flow through systems. I get to have some of these IF I stay on board to help them set up and work out the details on the disposal of their castings. I was elected onto their board for the environmental sector but I am still learning myself.

I would suggest if you want to go with a stacking system than have the bottom trays able to be removed and replaced with another so the one removed can sit 5 weeks so you can harvest the worms that will hatch from it and remove them once you start seeing them appear so they dont reproduce in there. This will increase your worm population and remove the waste left in there from the worms going up in the bin for more favorable food. An example would be….IF you had worms in the bottom one and they were eating browns such as paper and then you add canteloupe to the top for migrating and encouraging them to the melons and such…they will go there for the melon BUT leave the paper behind to some degree. This is contamination I speak of to be sorted and screened later

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Joel
#239. November 7th, 2009, at 9:16 PM.

Why NOT dog poop?
Seems like a perfect waste to break down further–
does it need to age?
or be diluted?

What is your experience?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#240. November 9th, 2009, at 3:56 PM.

JOEL – Dog (and people) poop can certainly be composted with worms, but I would highly recommend doing so in a completely separate system dedicated to the task. Not only are they not all that much fun to work with, but they can also potentially contain harmful pathogens, so no point taking any chances. I currently vermicompost my cat litter (it is COMPOSTABLE cat litter – definitely don’t try this with the clay stuff), but I do it in one particular system and the end material gets used on non-food-crop beds.

Generally, it will help if these n-rich waste materials are mixed with something absorbent and c-rich then allowed to sit for a period of time. What’s funny is that in the case of my cat litter composting, I didn’t even add composting worms since I wanted to let the system age for awhile. As it turns out, they found the system on their own and a population of worms developed in the material.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#241. November 9th, 2009, at 4:46 PM.

I start to dislike the stacking system I am using because I notice that my catching bin is the favorite place for flies to multiply and hang around. I do not see them inside the composting bin. I suspect flies are using the holes on the side and bottom to enter and exit. I am going to change the bin so it will be only holes on sides. Gnat flies are not attract to the vineager as much as fruit flies. I have no problem with fruit flies because they are easy to manage but not gnat flies. They are attracted to the light, I have them on windows, patio doors and ceiling lights. I did a bit research how to manage gnat flies, they attract to the yellow surface. I recalled that my dad made scrap woods painted with yellow with the poles nailed in and posted it around the plants outside. He applied vaseline on it. It caught thousands of gnat flies. He scrapped it off and put on fresh vaseline on it. I am thinking about that but my problem is that my bin is in the staircase, it is dark. Can flies see the yellow in dark? Maybe I need to look around and see if I can find yellow objects I already have and apply vaseline to it, place them in kitchen or some rooms to catch those flies. Any advice how to manage gnat flies?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#242. November 9th, 2009, at 4:50 PM.

http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/gedc0435-1/next?context=user

Want to share my pics on my bin…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#243. November 9th, 2009, at 4:51 PM.

Want to share pics on my bin

http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/gedc0435-1/next?context=user

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Christian
#244. November 12th, 2009, at 8:50 AM.

Hi Bentley,

I’m just floored by the amount of generous information you’ve been providing on this thread alone over the last two years. You’re a real champion for the cause and a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge for the community.

I attended a vermicomposting workshop through the city of Vancouver (http://www.cityfarmer.org) two weekends ago where we set up our own bins to take home and received information on how to maintain a healthy colony. At $25 (the remaining costs are subsidized by the city), it is a true bargain for anyone in the area and I really recommend the experience. My worm bin is sitting under a table in my apartment kitchen area and everything seems to be moving along smoothly.

I was wondering about something that was mentioned at the workstop. Our facilitator mentioned that instead of feeding the worms daily (or whenever we produce food waste) we should sequester our scraps and let them accumulate for close to a week before adding them to the bin. She explained that the worms were quite private creatures and didn’t like to be disturbed more often than necessary. Being eager, I fed the worms two days after setting up the bin, and added more food two or three days after that. I’ve scaled back a little bit lately because I don’t want to overfeed them, but I’m more concerned with disturbing them too often even when I’m not adding very much food. Have you known any colonies to have trouble coping with regular (or frequent) human disturbance? I’d like for my worms to just be happy.

Thanks for everything!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#245. November 12th, 2009, at 3:07 PM.

CHRISTIAN – I appreciate the kind words. I am just doing what I love to do, and it’s really cool that I’m able to help people with their vermicomposting efforts in the process! Definitely some bigger plans in the works as well, so stay tuned!
8)

Stockpiling waste materials for a little bit before feeding is an excellent suggestion, although I do it for reasons other than not wanting to disturb the worms. Fresh waste materials are not all that helpful as a ‘worm food’ since they haven’t been broken down at all by microbes. If you let the materials sit in a scrap holder for a number of days it can help get the microbial community established. The worms actually derive much of their nutrition from the microbes themselves, so they will tend to dive in a lot more quickly once materials are starting to rot. This is not to say that I ALWAYS do this – I very often add fresh materials, especially to larger outdoor systems, but the materials are often ground up (such as pulp from our juicer) or have been frozen then thawed first – both of these help the microbes to become established much more quickly. One other thing to mention – if you want to provide more of a ‘long-term’ food value – adding bulky fresh materials can be a good approach.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Grant
#246. November 25th, 2009, at 10:26 PM.

Hey Bentley,
Im 14 and a gardener. I want to start a bin, but don’t want to pay for the worms,and there is no one around here with a bin how should i obtain some? Do you sell any at a cheaper price?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#247. November 27th, 2009, at 7:16 PM.

Hi Grant,
I think it’s great that you are getting started so young!
I have been vermicomposting for several years and would love to help you get started.
If you give me your address I’ll mail you some worms.
A pleasure to share with you!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Diana Young
#248. November 29th, 2009, at 9:44 PM.

I live in the Maritime Northwest of the U.S. What is the ideal temperature for redworms? If I have an outside bin, would freezing temps kill off my worms?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#249. November 30th, 2009, at 6:49 PM.

Hi Grant,
Apologies for the delay responding here. I am really glad to see that Norah has responded already (thanks Norah!) in an attempt to help you out. Unfortunately, I’m not in a great position to help you myself since I don’t actually ship my own worms to U.S. customers (they are sent via drop shipping) – if you were in Canada it would be a lot easier to send you a smaller amount from my own ‘herd’
:-)
Anyway, hopefully you have been watching this comment thread, and you’ve been able to get connected with Norah!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#250. November 30th, 2009, at 6:52 PM.

Diana,
Red worms do fine basically from freezing mark up to 95 or 100 F or so (all depends on the system they are in). If your outdoor bin freezes solid they will likely be killed, although I have found Red Worms literally wiggling in semi frozen compost before. I would definitely recommend insulating your outdoor system – and ideally you should keep them in a much larger system during the winter. Check out my “winter worm composting” articles linked to on my “Hot Topics” page. I have written a lot about winter worm composting.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ally
#251. December 5th, 2009, at 12:55 AM.

My worms are trying to escape!!! I just placed them in their container a rubbermaid with holes inside of a rubbermaid without holes) a week ago exactly with some newspaper bedding, sweet potato shavings, leaves and soil from their original compost bin. Some of them are wriggling up to the top of the container! What can I do to make my worms happy???

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#252. December 9th, 2009, at 4:58 PM.

Ally,
Sounds like they have a problem!
My guess would be:

1. Not enough moisture/too wet – most likely not enough, should be damp like a wrung out sponge. You can use a spray bottle and spritz on top.

2. Temperature, too cold/too hot – do you have a thermometer and are you in a cold area, need to keep track in the wimter. I have a light bulb on in mine in the garage as it is below zero here at the moment.

3. Not enough food/ too much – try blending some food scraps, also are you feeding on top or burying it?

4. not enough ventilation/too much – make sure none of the holes are blocked.

You need a happy medium with everything
Hope this helps, ask if you have more questions.
Good luck!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#253. December 9th, 2009, at 5:01 PM.

Bentley,
Suggestion:
Can the posts be turned around so the most recent is at the top?!!
Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#254. December 11th, 2009, at 4:20 AM.

Norah – thanks very much for chiming in and helping out!

You have posed an interesting question! This comment thread IS getting pretty crazy, eh?

I’ve seen WordPress blogs (what this is) with comments listed in that manner so it must be possible – I’ll look into it.
Thanks for the suggestion

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tylah
#255. December 16th, 2009, at 11:19 AM.

hay bentely ,do u have to buy worms or can u get them 2 come 2 the worm farm?i seen a thing on better homes and gardens that said u could but i dont know how 2 do it now

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#256. December 16th, 2009, at 3:33 PM.

Hi Tyla,
It all depends on your location. In some cases there may happen to be some composting worms in the area (in which case you can certainly attract them to your own worm composting bed), but in other cases you will only attract soil worms. If people on my own block set up compost bins for example, I suspect that many of them would end up with a population of Red Worms due to the close proximity to my large outdoor population.

Try starting up a regular compost heap and see what happens. Even if there aren’t Red Worms in the area, perhaps you can find someone locally who would be willing to give you a little bit of material/worms from their own system (that’s all you need to get a population started).

Hope this helps!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com mikeschieck
#257. December 17th, 2009, at 5:25 AM.

Grant,

If you need some help getting started I would be willing to send you some worms and help you get started as well. I am more than happy to share what I do to keep my worms happy and growing and breeding. I have helped guys in PA so to help someone further is not an issue…Former PEI resident :o)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brian
#258. December 18th, 2009, at 1:46 AM.

This is great thanks! but I was wondering if the guidelines are the same for night crawlers, because I have decided recently to make a colony to sustain my herps (lizards, snakes and the such).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Andrea
#259. January 7th, 2010, at 4:43 AM.

Hi, I’m looking to start up a worm bin, and just wondering how long I can leave it without feeding the worms. Do they need a sitter if I go on holidays?
Thanks!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#260. January 8th, 2010, at 4:47 AM.

Haha – not unless you are going on holidays for many months, Andrea!
If you set up the bin with a decent amount of food and LOTS of bedding (shredded cardboard etc), they should be totally fine for a long time. It would take ages to actually starve them to death.
Careful about overfeeding though – I suspect more people kill their worms during holidays by feeding them too much before they leave, than by not feeding them at all!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com nancy
#261. January 11th, 2010, at 6:25 AM.

Hi there! i’m new to all of this, but i am ready to take it on! i purchased a ceramic small compost pot with a black carbon thing under the lid (for smell?) so i put some veggie cuttings. coffee & tea grounds and some shredded paper in there. Its all under my sink. I will let it sit for a week or so while i gather my rubber neck containers. My question in, while this is under my sink for a few weeks, will i develop mold and maggots or something? There are holes on the lid…so if i do somehow get maggot worms…i don’t want them crawling out! yipes! also, i won’t get any other “critters” in there will i? i have never seen any other critters under my sink, so i think i’m good. I haven’t heard any mention of molding/rotten/maggots developing in the compost bin. Does it happen?
thanks so much!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark from Kansas
#262. January 12th, 2010, at 8:24 PM.

Hi Nancy,
Hopefully it will mold! I put 10 pounds of “hairy” pumpkin in my big bin and it was gone in no time. The vermicompost bin is a small eco-system.
If my bin smells bad, that is a sign of something WRONG. Please refer to my OSCR posts if you would like, that is over 500 pounds of trash in my garage being processed by red worms in 12 weeks. My garage smells like the forest after it rains. There are other bugs in my bin and they are welcomed in moderation. If the bin is over run with bugs, that may be an indication of something wrong.
The bin in my garage is an evolution of a rubbermaid bin (or a cry for help due to job related stress. I am not sure) and not for the novice simply because of the $$$ involved. I do have a 25 gallon working bin in my house with no smell and it is covered with a piece of burlap.
Good Luck
Mark

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#263. January 19th, 2010, at 5:39 PM.

Hi Nancy – in order for maggots to be produced, you would need some sort of fly to be present in your house (since maggots are fly larvae), and these flies would need to be able to get into your holder. Outside in the summer, there is a FAR great chance of this happening – although even then, in my experience it is actually still pretty rare to end up with actual fly maggots (they tend to prefer pretty foul stuff).
I suppose you might end up with fruit flies if they had laid eggs in the peels of some fruit, and you put these in the holder – but again, this probably isn’t all that likely.

As for mold, it can certainly grow on food wastes that are simply sitting in a container like that. I wouldn’t worry TOO much about it though. I always include shredded cardboard in my holding containers (at the bottom, and sometimes mixed with the wastes as well) since this helps to soak up excess moisture, thus helping to prevent stinky conditions from developing. If you mix the materials around (with a garden hand fork etc) every so often you should help to limit mold development.

Hope this helps

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Pam
#264. January 22nd, 2010, at 3:18 AM.

Hi Bently, Thanks for allowing us to ask questions. I’m taking notes and will soon get my bin together. My question is if I start in the next few weeks and I get my bin going, what do I do with the castings until spring when I start my garden? Do we remove the worms and start a new bin and keep the castings in the original bins until we’re ready to use them? Or, as soon as castings are ready do I put in in my garden area now, during winter?

I’m in Georgia where it can get warm in March/April

Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#265. January 22nd, 2010, at 7:05 PM.

Hi Pam,
It doesn’t hurt to let the vermicompost age for a bit before using it, although I’m not sure I would just leave it in the bin (not sure how you were planning to get the worms out). Have you checked out “David’s Tub Harvesting Method” (see harvesting section on “Hot Topics” page)? If you did something similar to this, then let the material sit in an open tub (with you periodically mixing the material), you could probably then just let it sit in a closed tub (one that will still allow some air flow) until you want to use it. The key is to get it fairly dry (dry enough that it won’t add condensation on the underside of the lid) but not so dry as to kill off most of the life in it.
Hope this helps!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Pam
#266. January 24th, 2010, at 2:49 AM.

Thanks Bently,

Now that you mention it, I have no idea how I would get the worms out. Once the compost is ready what does happen to the worms? I thought I read somewhere that the worms should not go in the garden.

I apologize in advance if you’ve already answered this.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#267. January 26th, 2010, at 2:57 PM.

Hi Pam,
You are right – Red Worms shouldn’t be added straight into garden soil since that’s not a habitat they can thrive in. If you have worm beds of some sort associated with your gardens this shouldn’t be a problem though since the worms will very likely just migrate over to the beds. As long as there is a decent concentration of rich organic matter in the area they should stay put.
Generally, when the compost is ready it is time to start up a new worm bin where you can add the worms that get separated from the compost.

Hope this helps
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Olga
#268. January 28th, 2010, at 6:54 PM.

Hi Bentley,

I am very new to vermicomposting, just got my worms yesterday. THe day before I set up the bedding according to the direcions included with my worm bin. THat is, wet coir, shreded paper, dark garden soil. It also asked for some sand and/or egg shells. Since i didn’t have many eggshells, I went to the near by beach and got some sand there trying not to get any shells. after i mixed it in in the bedding ( about a cup of soil+sand together), i read in a “worm book” that beach sand is not a good idea as it might be to coarse and too salty…. That said, worms arrived and I dumped them in the bedding anyway. They look a lot thinner than I expected and now i really worry will they die from the sand? shouldI redo the bedding? These worms are really expensive and it would be sad to loose them. What would you do?
THank you so much for your comment.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tibor
#269. February 3rd, 2010, at 12:10 AM.

Hi,

about half a year ago I started my own vermicompost bin with Eisenia foetida. At that time I didn’t know anything about those small creatures, so I just reconstructed the first picture I found on the internet and created a temporary bin. Then I added some sliced potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and bananas. Ever since then the colony has grown by thousands of percents consuming several kilograms of food scraps/week.
What I didn’t do in the initial construction and what still isn’t present in the bin is bedding. The worm population seems to be thriving even without it. Have you ever tried the vermiculture without bedding? Is there a difference? I might be building a new large bin sometime soon, so any advice in this matter would be very much appreciated. Does a bedding help speed up the entire process by so much?

Off topic: This site is excellent, I’ve found here so many information already and there are few articles I still haven’t read. Amazing work!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lonna Gardiner
#270. February 7th, 2010, at 2:47 AM.

Hello everyone,

I recently started a fairly large outdoor bin. I’ve been using newspaper put through a paper shredder as bedding, and it’s working just fine. I also come about a large amount of brown corrugated cardboard on a regular basis that I’d like to use, but I don’t know how small it should be shredded because of its thickness. It’s too thick to put to my paper shredder. Should I cut it with scissors into 1/4″ or so long strips? Or can I just shred with my hands where the pieces would be a few inches square? What’s about the smallest and the largest you want your shredded cardboard to be?

Would appreciate any input anyone has to give on this subject. I’m sorry if this has been asked before, but I’ve read through most of this thread a few times and haven’t found an answer yet. I really, really don’t want to upset my well working system.

Thanks!
Lonna

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#271. February 9th, 2010, at 5:21 PM.

Olga – really sorry for the delay responding. I take it this sand was from an ocean beach (not a lake)? You may be ok with a cup of it. If the worms are looking rough, you may have other issues to worry about more serious than some sand in the system. Be sure not to add too much food initially and see if your worms start to perk up a bit
———————–
Tibor – some sort of bedding is VERY important, especially as the worm bin starts to mature. It helps to balance the C:N ratio, provides the worms with a more neutral habitat, helps to soak up excess moisture, and helps to increase air flow. I am amazed you have done as well as you have without ANY bedding being added!

Thanks for the kind words about the site – it is certainly a “labor of love”
:-)
————————
Lonna – don’t worry too much about making your shredded cardboard pieces a specific size – just ripping it up by hand is totally fine. All you are really trying to do is avoid having sheets of cardboard (these just get pushed together, decreasing air flow etc). Obviously, the smaller the pieces, the more surface area, the more readily colonized by microbes – but pieces that are a few inches across or even somewhat larger will be totally fine.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Olga
#272. February 11th, 2010, at 6:39 PM.

Bently, thank you for your response. My worms seem to be doing fine. I will not add any more sand, and yes, it is from an ocean beach.

Thank you for keeping this site and answering questions – what a great resourse for all us beginners!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jody Newell
#273. February 22nd, 2010, at 1:21 AM.

I am a bit confused about the over feeding part. We have a commercial compost bin, about 4 ‘ x 3′, it is about half full of kitchen scraps and leaves, it has been going for nearly a year so some of it is it various stages of decompostion. I was thinking of just putting some red worms in. Now I am worried that might not work because there would be too much food. It is outdoors obviously but stays moist and winters are very mild where we live.
Thanks for a very informative website, the best I have ran across in my research.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#274. February 23rd, 2010, at 3:14 PM.

Hi Jody – it sounds to me like you have the ‘ultimate’ system to add worms to. For starters, size of system is a very important consideration. BIG worm beds are able to provide a lot more buffer zone where the worms can hide-out should things get nasty with the food waste (unlike in a small plastic worm bin, for example). Not sure what sort of air flow you have in your system, but that is another major factor. I have a big outdoor wooden worm box. I can get away with adding a LOT of food waste to it because of 1) the size, and 2) the excellent air flow (there are spaces between the boards).
If you want to be absolutely safe, just stop adding new material to your system for a week or so before adding the worms!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jody Newell
#275. February 23rd, 2010, at 6:40 PM.

Hi Bentley,
Thanks much for the reply. I think the air flow system is good, it is called an Earth Machine and has 12 vents and a pull out tray at the bottom. We eat a lot of raw veggies so it gets lots of scraps, plus coffee grounds, tea bags and some paper towels and shredded paper. One of my worries is I turn it every few days with a pitch fork and then cover the top with leaves. With worms in there I don’t see how I could turn it without poking a worm. Is there an alternative way of turning short of sticking your arms in and turning by hand?

One of my thoughts is starting a second compost station without worms then occasionally moving some of the decomposed matter from it over to the existing compost station with worms. Right now the existing one 4′x3′ is about half full after a year which amazes me, it gets a lot of scraps but it just shrinks which I guess is what it is suppose to do ;-)

Thanks, jody

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#276. February 26th, 2010, at 3:03 PM.

Hi Jody,
I don’t really turn my vermicomposting systems, but I DO dig around a fair bit to see how things are doing. I highly recommend the use of a basic garden hand fork. Since it is more of a prying/pulling action than a jabbing, I think there is a lot less likelihood of accidentally harming any worms.

Just my 2 cents!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com fIDEL
#277. March 15th, 2010, at 3:29 AM.

I was going over your article but when I got to the part where you are describing a video but the sapce on the lower part did’nt have the supposed video. Can you tell me how I can access the said video.
Further, you have a very enlioghtening website. Wonderful and you’re doing a lot in greening Mother Earth. God Bless!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#278. March 15th, 2010, at 8:13 PM.

Hi fIDEL,
You may need to install flash on your computer, or enable video viewing in some other manner. The videos are definitely embedded on the page. Are you able to see videos on my “VIDEOS” page (see the upper navigation on the site)? On YouTube?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Philip
#279. March 16th, 2010, at 2:19 PM.

You might have mentioned it, but about a source for worms to get started. Can I just buy some different kinds of worms from the local bait store? Will they multiply over time given the proper conditions? Thanks much

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#280. March 21st, 2010, at 9:50 PM.

Hi Phillip – you will want to look for a supplier of composting worms (“Red Worms”, aka “Red Wigglers” are probably your best bet and the easiest to get a hold of). Some bait shops carry Red Wigglers (might be called “Trout Worms”), but they deal in pretty small quantities.
There are LOTS of suppliers who can ship you composting worms very easily (including my suppliers – nudge nudge, wink wink).
Composting species will reproduce very readily (unlike soil worms), assuming you provide them with decent living conditions. (not hard)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ingrid
#281. March 24th, 2010, at 5:20 AM.

About 7 yrs ago I bought a somewhat large plastic composting bin at Costco, it never produced much compost, very unsatisfactory.
For several months now I have added mainly food waste and discovered – to my delight – quite a few red worms and also sow bugs in the bin. Looks like I am now an
“accidental” worm composter.
Now my question, should I just continue in this big bin, or scoop out the worms and put them in a “proper” bin?
Also, the sow bugs seem to multiply at a rapid pace, probably much more so than the worms, is this o.k.?
Would appreciate any insights and suggestions, thank you.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tim
#282. March 26th, 2010, at 4:37 PM.

I think I understand what you’re saying about not using any-ole’ earthworm as a composting worm, but what about the other way around? Specifically, I want to add earthworms to my raised-bed garden. It measures 3′ wide x 30′ long x 2′ high. I’ve added good quality soil, manure, and compost to the raised bed, and want to continue to improve the soil quality. I live in the desert southwest, so soil quality is of utmost importance to improving my garden. I’d like to be able to throw some worms in the raised bed, continue to add more manure and food scraps and let them do their business. I’m assuming that because of the soil quality & moisture INSIDE the bed is better than the dry sand OUTSIDE the bed, that they’ll stay inside the bed to eat the most good stuff. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com JD
#283. March 27th, 2010, at 1:20 PM.

Bentley & Team,
First of all let me commend you for all the excellent information on this site. I’ve learned so much valuable information, and I would say, that what’s on this site rivals any book on the subject.
So I made a bin (two actually) using your design with the little vents, to prevent gnats, which I’ve had some issues with in the past. I couldn’t find those fancy little vents, but I found these pvc type plastic drains that seem to work great, are pretty cheap, and best of all they’re readily available at our Lowe’s and Home Depot.
My question relates to moisture. I’m guessing that with experience I’ll know how wet the bedding should be, but right now I’m pretty clueless. I’m using a coir based bedding and I wouldn’t have worried, but when I put in my new worms I had a lot of escape attempts, and since then (about 2 weeks) I still have an occasional unhappy customer trickling up the side of the bin. The worms in the bedding seem good, and I’ve even seen some eggs, but the moisture thing still worries me.

Thanks for everything!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com liz
#284. March 27th, 2010, at 6:49 PM.

Hey,
I was going to ask you, me and my husband are trying to start selling worms for our area and I was wondering how many lbs of worms would be good for a large bathtub. we bought 1000, and I know they reproduce, but I was just wondering if you have any suggestions.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lee In Iowa
#285. March 29th, 2010, at 12:02 PM.

Reading down through the comments, I have some ideas for various people:

1. Got a bin but it’s clear? Slap on a quick coat of paint or wrap the outside in an old sheet. (You’re going to want to have a light on nearby to encourage your little wormies to stay deep in the bin and not go exploring in your basement.)

2. Those pesky fruit flies and gnats–argh! My hardware store gives me old screening whenever I ask for it. It helps keep the little buggers in the bins, where when they die off….my worms can eat them! Also, put a dollop of vinegar down any nearby drains. Turns out that flying pesky critters that can’t get back to the compost bin are actually living in the fluid in the “trap” of the drain. So make it un-liveable.

3. For Seo, especially: You don’t have to produce all the organic waste yourself. Grocery stores have to throw away tons of veggies that aren’t quite perfect any more, so no one will buy them. I’ve never been told “no” when I’ve asked for some of the wasted fruits and vegetables. (Take a clean container or some very heavy trash bags.) My local coffee shop, Mars Cafe (a chain), has a policy of putting their coffee grounds and other compostables in a washtub near their front door (in smaller, more portable containers), for pickup by any composters in the neighborhood. See if your local coffee shop will do the same. (But be careful with those coffee grounds; they heat up a LOT in a bin, and it’s hard to tell when the worms have “finished” them. I just used some worm compost I thought was finished and it REAKED of spoiled coffee. Oh well.) Try those options. (I just shared some extra worms with my grocery-store veggie guy, who hates to see all the wasted veggies. He’s going to start worm composting them.)

Cheers!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lee In Iowa
#286. March 29th, 2010, at 12:04 PM.

One more thing: My worms weren’t reproducing that well until I added shredded cardboard. I don’t use the corrugated kind because of all the glues used in the making. (And Bentley says his worms hide in the channels, making it hard to find everybody when you want to do a “count” or a check of the bin.)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Corrine Lunt
#287. March 30th, 2010, at 6:30 PM.

Can I add worms to my composting bin? My compost (in progress) seems to be creating a lot of baby flies which, of course, means my house is inundated with flies. Will adding worms help with that problem? Actually, my very first job was managing a worm farm in our backyard in Chicago land (at the ripe old age of 8) and sold the reds to a local sport shop for bait. However, we certainly didn’t get $40/#. How can I find where to buy worms in Phoenix, AZ? Thanks for the help. Corrine

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lynnette
#288. April 2nd, 2010, at 7:56 AM.

I just started my worm farm. I thought I followed the directions to start. That was 2 weeks ago. Now every morning there are worms crawling out of the grid at the bottom or huddled into the corners. I added a second tray. They have not crawled up into it but are huddled in the corners of the first tray. I have also found five on the floor yesterday. Whenever I added my food, which has been several times, I mixed food together with damp cardboard and damp paper and also some peatmoss. I think I might have stressed the worms and they are trying to escape. How can I make them happy?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lynnette
#289. April 7th, 2010, at 10:55 PM.

Hey, I guess I scared you guys. No response. What I did was I started a new processing tray. Then I put the original processing tray on top to make it a feeding tray. I collected any worms who had migrated to the edges and put them on the dry paper which is now on the top of the new processing tray. Now a week later everything looks good. No worms are gathering or escaping. When I lift a try the contents seems to move showing that they are scattered throughout. Reading your blogs helped me to determine my solution. Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Margarita Browne
#290. April 12th, 2010, at 2:46 PM.

Hi, judging from your responses to others. You wouldn’t reccomend purchasing the worms and putting them in an already started compost tumbler.
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#291. April 12th, 2010, at 2:55 PM.

Hi Everyone,
As you can probably tell, I am having a really hard time keeping up with all the comments that are being added to the website. I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from leaving comments – but if you are in a rush to get a response you are definitely better off to send me an email directly (although there can certainly be delays there as well).
—————–
LYNNETTE – you definitely didn’t scare me off. I just haven’t had enough time to get to the comments as of late. Glad you were able to find a solution – and thanks for sharing that here!
—————–
MARGARITA – Compost tumblers are not ideal habitats for composting worms. If you kept it well-shaded, didn’t add too much material at once, and only turned it once in awhile, I’m sure it would be fine – but the way I see it, tumblers are much better suited as tools for pre-composting wates before feeding to worms in another system.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#292. April 12th, 2010, at 2:59 PM.

Corrine – not sure what sort of “composting bin” you might be referring to if it is inside. As long it isn’t one of the ones that heats up the material, and as long as it has good air flow, I’d say go for it. Worms can compete against these other critters, but they more than likely won’t help you get rid of the flies altogether. If they are fruit flies I would recommend cider vinegar traps and vacuuming up the adults on a daily basis (sounds funny, I know, but it does work quite well).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#293. April 13th, 2010, at 12:57 AM.

**IMPORTANT UPDATE** – I have decided to shut down comments on this particular page (and will likely do so on some of the other older pages as well) since it’s becoming more difficult to respond to all these various comments on the site, and I’d rather direct question-askers elsewhere.
One thing I really enjoy doing is responding to questions on the blog since this helps others, it helps add more content to the site, and it also puts the questions in a more prominent location – SO, please don’t hesitate to send me an email anytime! Of course, if you really don’t want me to respond to your question publicly (FYI, I only use first names, but can also just say “a reader”), simply let me know in your email and I’ll be sure to reply directly instead (and there are plenty of cases where I’ll do this anyway).

Thanks!

Bentley

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