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Worm Bin Journal

Welcome to the ‘Worm Bin Journal’ – where I share my thoughts re: the set up and maintenance of a small home worm bin. This resource was set up specifically for those people on my email list and cannot be accessed from anywhere else on the site.

The project got started back on March 26, 2008, and will continue as long as this particular bin is kept active. I basically want to take everyone along, step by step, as I maintain this particular worm bin. I’m hopeful that by forcing myself to document everything I am doing, I will provide more insights re: how to keep a healthy worm bin. I often do most of this stuff without thinking about it these days, so there may be subtle details missing from my other instructions. I also intended to include audio commentary with each journal entry but unfortunately just haven’t had the time. I definitely will do so at some point, and will let everyone know when I do.

If you have any questions or comments along the way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

DAY 0 | DAY 5 | DAY 7 | DAY 12 | DAY 21 | DAY 27 | DAY 36 | DAY 48 | DAY 113



DAY 0 – March 26, 2008



The bin I am using is a small Rubbermaid tub, approx. 14″ long x 10″ wide x 7″ deep.
The set up of this bin was essentially the same as that shown in my ‘basic worm bin’ video (which you can find at the bottom of my video page), as is the type of bin used.

My bedding is entirely made up of shredded corrugated cardboard, and I simply added alternating layers of cardboard and food scraps. I added 4 layers of cardboard and 3 layers of food scraps (approximately 1 litre per layer). Just for fun I decided to push my luck a little bit by leaving wastes only partially cut up, and by adding half of a large onion.

I started with a ‘false bottom’ of cardboard – this helps to absorb excess moisture


Next I added my first layer of food scraps


Another layer of cardboard


I then sprayed down this layer with water


Then another layer of food


Another layer of cardboard


Sprayed again


The final layer of food (note the big chunk of onion)


One last layer of cardboard


And a final (thorough) spray down


The bin was then closed up for the aging period



DAY 5 – March 31, 2008


Moisture seemed to be well distributed in the bin, although there were some dry areas still so I decided to spray the upper layers of the bin thoroughly again.


So far so good!


No pooling in the bottom of the bin, but moisture nicely distributed


Food scraps rotting nicely, but creating a stink – I decided to mix everything up.



DAY 7 – April 2, 2008



Everything looking very good – nice and moist and food scraps well-decomposed. Level of material in the bin quite a bit lower than when we started, so I…


Added some more shredded cardboard and sprayed with water



DAY 12 – April 7, 2008


Finally, the day everyone has been waiting for! I decided it was definitely time to move some worms over from another system. Below is a (very poor quality) video showing how I accomplished this.




DAY 21 – April 16, 2008


I FINALLY removed the garbage bag harvester from the bin! Not too surprisingly, I wasn’t able to find any worms left in the vermicompost up above. Everything looking great – the bin seems to be coming along very nicely! I’m still going to hold off from adding food though (plenty of rotten food waste still available in bin)


Materials somewhat compressed due to weigh of vermicompost on top of harvester (removed prior to taking this picture), but worms seem quite content down below.


Lots of vermicompost amongst the cardboard, indicating active feeding



DAY 27 – April 22, 2008


Just another check to see how the bin is doing. Everything is looking great. I’m sure I could easily get away with adding some more food waste at this point, but will hold for now (since still some recognizable remnants of food waste added when bin was set up).


Still no pooling of water down at bottom (a good sign). Worms seem to be well-distributed throughout bin



DAY 36 – May 1, 2008


Ok, enough is enough – time to start adding some more food scraps. As mentioned in my last entry, I could have easily gotten away with adding some earlier (i.e. don’t assume you have to wait this long before adding your food scraps).


Level of material in bin has clearly dropped


Worms have been busy converting bedding and scraps into worm castings


The big chunk of onion seems to be rotting quite nicely – lots of worms in the immediate vicinity and the mites certainly seem to like it too!


I added some napa cabbage, one full coffee filter and part of a banana peel.


I also added some shredded ‘egg carton cardboard’ (was actually a shredded drink holder, but it’s the same stuff)



DAY 48 – May 13, 2008


I’m definitely overdue for a worm bin update (as per usual). I checked out the bin today and it seems as though the worms have made some progress on the waste materials I added on May 1. One thing that’s really important to mention is the fact that I am doing nothing to help speed up the process – if I had shredded the cabbage a lot more and cooked it, there likely wouldn’t even be any recognizable traces of it. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to be VERY laid back (aka “lazy” – haha) when it comes to my worm bins. I have quite a few on the go, so I can easily spread my kitchen waste among all the different systems, and never worry about overfeeding. If you are wanting to get your bin working more quickly, again I would recommend dicing things up as much as possible (I don’t recommend making a paste however – this will go anaerobic very easily) and cooking any raw scraps.


Some progress has been made with the wastes added May 1. There seems to be a fair number of mites in the bin – nothing to worry about though.


Worms have converted a considerable amount of cardboard into worm castings. Lots of cocoons in the bin now – I’ve added crude arrows to show where they are in this image



DAY 113 – July 17, 2008


To say that I am overdue for an update would be the understatement of the year! I’m sure most have you have either forgotten about or given up on the “Worm Bin Journal”. I’m really sorry I didn’t share more updates – I guess in a sense, this was a pretty clear demonstration of the way I often treat worm bins. This should actually be an important lesson for all of you newcomers reading this. The moral of the story? Try as you might – it is VERY hard to starve a population of Red Worms, assuming you provide them with a decent amount of food and bedding before neglecting them.


Last image taken of the worm bin. Time to release the worms into my vermicomposting trench – *UPDATE* – not actually last image. I decided to show the worms being released (below)

I wasn’t TOO surprised to see that the worms have converted almost all the material in the bin into fibrous worm castings. You might assume that the worms themselves would be tiny and unhealthy – in fact, they are fat and juicy and seem to be very vigorous. The bin has lots of cocoons and tiny worms, and I suspect that the worm population has actually grown a fair bit.

Despite the apparent success of the bin, I still feel badly that I didn’t provide a better demonstration of an active worm bin. I’m afraid my new worm business has been taking up a lot of my time!

Anyway, I’ve decided to release the worms into one of my big ‘vermicomposting trenches’ out in the yard, where they will be extremely well fed and their composting contribution greatly appreciated!


Worms from WBJ bin released into one of my vermicomposting trench systems


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32 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#1. May 13th, 2008, at 10:04 PM.

Thanks for showing this information. It is very helpful even though I am not vermicomposting with food scraps. We use rabbit waste for our bins. Right now I only have two bins and am trying to increase my worm numbers so I will be using food waste in the future. One thing I have noticed about using rabbit waste is that I don’t have to worry about cutting anything up or about waiting 7 days to get a new bin started. Just add a little cardboard, wet it, add the worms and let them work.

Thanks again and I would love to hear from others using rabbit waste exclusively in their composters.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Patricia
#2. May 14th, 2008, at 1:32 AM.

Kevin, I would love to try our rabbit waste exclusively but wasn’t sure about the urine. I do understand that rabbits poo and pee in different places so it shouldn’t matter. Do you have your worms right under neath your rabbits or separate? I hate to admit this but here goes: I realized today that the cardboard and paper is actually WORM FOOD!!! Couldn’t figure out why it was so important to use. We don’t have enough food scraps to sustain worms because I don’t cook so we are using only manure in our enclosures. Really need to learn more about manure and how to use it effectlively. TIA Patricia

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#3. May 14th, 2008, at 3:38 AM.

Actually I don’t have my worms under the rabbits. I have bins and I shovel the manure into the bins. I was told that the urine will deter the worms and make them want to leave. I am not to sure about that because every time in the past I have moved my rabbits around there is tons of worms in the manure / urine mixture under the cages. It was only a couple of months ago I started composting the manure so I used to clean it out and throw it away. Now we just rake it into a pile and shovel it into our bins.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#4. May 14th, 2008, at 4:20 AM.

Hey Kevin,
I’m jealous – I have heard that Rabbit poop is the ultimate no-hassle worm food. I would love to try it out myself.

Patricia, you too have an excellent food source. Farm animal manure is fantastic for worms. I’d recommend mixing up with lots of cardboard and adding a little to the top of your worm system. See how the worms respond and take it from there.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sara
#5. May 14th, 2008, at 5:05 AM.

Thanks for doing this! IT is so informative and helpful!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com DeAna
#6. May 14th, 2008, at 7:07 PM.

B-
Are those specks on the sides of the bin (in the first photo on day 48) mites or maggots? If so, do you ever rinse them off or do anything to discourage them? I have to admit, when I open one of my bins and see maggots, it creeps me out.

Also, a while ago you got the wooden stacking bins. How is that system working out for you?
DeAna

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#7. May 14th, 2008, at 7:29 PM.

Glad to hear that it is helpful, Sara!
:-)

DeAna – those are mites, and they are definitely a lot less creepy than maggots (which I’ve never seen in a worm bin, by the way – well not housefly maggots anyway!). Another common white speck in worm bins is the springtail. I have loads of them in my outdoor bins.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#8. May 15th, 2008, at 2:57 AM.

Hi again, DeAna – I realized after writing my reply that I forgot about your stacking bin question.

The system is working fine for me but because it is being used for my ‘four worm experiment”, I have not seen it come close to its full potential yet (not enough worms). I’m actually going to wrap up the experiment fairly soon and will then convert it into a real worm bin, and put it to the test!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com CHAD
#9. May 23rd, 2008, at 7:16 PM.

Great site.

Bentley do you chop everything up manually? What do you do with the coffee filters?

Do you guys age the rabbit manure at all??

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#10. May 23rd, 2008, at 7:32 PM.

Thanks Chad!
Yeah (unfortunately) I still chop manually. I am however looking for a good way to automate the shredding of cardboard etc, since this can take a LONG time.

Coffee filters I simply put in ‘as-is’ and the worms seem to be able to break them down just fine.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com CHAD
#11. May 27th, 2008, at 1:53 PM.

Hey Bentley,

Have you heard of the site worm farming secrets? Would it be worth joining?

Chad

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#12. May 27th, 2008, at 2:08 PM.

Hi Chad,
I certainly have! The owner of it hired me to write the weekly newsletter (basically just lengthy responses to people’s questions) and the manual. I have been meaning to write a post and/or page about it on the site for awhile now – thanks for the reminder!
A number of people have assumed that I own WFS or am a partner in it, so I’ve wanted to clarify my role there.

Anyway – thanks for the nudge, Chad – I think today is the day I should finally write something about it (I will offer my thoughts re: the value of signing up as well).

Thanks

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com CHAD
#13. May 27th, 2008, at 3:04 PM.

I thought I saw your name on it. I signed up for the news letter. How often do those go out?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#14. May 27th, 2008, at 3:30 PM.

Hi Chad,
The newsletters are supposed to go out once per week, but Duncan (the owner) is a super-busy guy so he skips weeks here and there. I suspect there will be one sent out this week (he has my responses) – likely today or tomorrow.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lisa K
#15. June 12th, 2008, at 4:22 PM.

Thanks for the pictures and video. I have been using the worm factory for about a year. It has been slow going since I had the bin on my deck and it was too cold. I now have the bin inside. I tend to overfeed the guys and know I need to practice benign neglect or start another bin since I have become a bit obsessed. I would love to be able to use the worms for all my kitchen waste. I have never had as many worms as you show in your beds and I am a bit jealous!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Marilyn Megibow
#16. June 19th, 2008, at 8:09 PM.

Dear Bentley: Haven’t written you all for awhile. My Sainless-steel Worm Bin has been working out very well. The least expensvie lighting in my place is over the stovetop; I put one of those curly florescent bulbs and I’m using your molasses (as in “slow as molasses”
AKA L-A-Z-Y) lol method of worm farming. All is happy. A couple of timesa I thought I killed off the herd, but they iggle away. Onece was too dry; once was too wet; once was too little food; once was too much food. I think you really have to go waaaay overboard for these mistakes to take hold. I feel like a Veteran Wormy at this stage. How
about bartering worms or black gold for a super-heavy-duty- paper shredder? Like for the office for security documents? I think even a lightweight paper shredder would supply the herd with plenty of crawl space, even if it were lightweight material. Every home, office, farm and factory across the contients should have a little Worm Hovel!!
The only down thingy I noticed was fruit fly specks in back of the farm–on the stove and over the wall. The NYC Dept.of Parks and Recreation booklet I uploaded to you about Worming included a Fruit-Fly Trap which I’m going to create and give you brief updates! I wonder if the fruit fly trapcan be coverted into a housefly trap? The FFT uses sweetened water as bait, which doesn’t stink but I don’t know what to use for the houseflies. Marilyn

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#17. June 19th, 2008, at 8:26 PM.

Hey Marilyn – good to hear from you!
Funny you should mention the shredder. I was just chatting with a farmer friend of mine and it sounds like he is going to try running a bunch of cardboard through a harvester machine of some sort – he says it should produce nice little cardboard chips. I’ll keep everyone posted.

As far as fruit fly traps go, I’ve had good success with cups of wine or cider vinegar covered with perforated ‘Saran Wrap’ (a fork does the trick). I don’t think these traps would be great for house flies – you’ll likely need something a little more stinky to attract them. A good ol’ fashioned fly swatter can work well too.
:lol:

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sandra
#18. June 24th, 2008, at 3:52 AM.

I am starting up a worm compost bin and have read, “Worms Eat my Garbage.” Very helpful. I have read many, many places that you can use shredded black and white ink newspaper for the bedding. However, I am having a hard time finding newspaper without colored ink. Do you think I can use newsprint, the kinds artists use for sketches? I want to buy a couple of newsprint tablets and shred them for my bin. Please let me know if you have heard anything about this.

Sandra

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dale
#19. July 23rd, 2008, at 2:37 PM.

Hi! I first want to say ~ you do a great job of teaching the process of worm composting. TY! I am new to vermicomposting so I appreciate this site a lot. I do have two questions though. First one is do you freeze your food scraps? For me, I have lbs of it on a weekly basis and this system doesnt take that much scraps. Which leads me to the 2nd question ~ if you dont freeze (I read this is the secret of fast breakdown) what do you do with the remainder of your food scraps? Do you have a regular composting bin? Thanks again! Looking forward to MORE!!!

Dale

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com L.Bo Marie
#20. November 12th, 2008, at 2:20 PM.

I’m a little slow in joining this discussion… back to the rabbit poo though!
I’ve got litter trays in with my buns, and use the pressed sawdust pellets (in ontario sold as “alpine cat”) the pressed sawdust breaks up when it gets wet, so I’m able to use a cat litter scoop to sift out most of the urine… but as I’m lazy- it’s generally stale enough that by the time it gets to the bin, if I haven’t gotten all the sawdust sperated from the poo- the worms don’t seem to mind at all!
I have one bin that I’m slowly switching to a diet of just poo… I started earlier- but the bunnies started to moult and I was getting a lot of fur in my compost!
I have this week off and I’m thinking maybe it’s time to do some harvesting.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#21. November 12th, 2008, at 2:49 PM.

Hi L. Bo,
Thanks for sharing that. I’ll have to keep my eye’s open for ‘Alpine Cat’. A friend of ours has horses and uses some type of expandable wood shavings for bedding. I think it’s quite inexpensive (given how much you get), so I may explore that route first. I don’t have rabbits, but as I’ve written recently, I’m going to be using compostable cat litter fairly soon. Any other (cheaper) options will be good to test out though (the compostable cat litter is quite expensive).

Rabbit fur should actually provide a nice long-term N source for your bin, so no worries about having it in your compost.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#22. November 12th, 2008, at 4:41 PM.

Bentley and L. Bo,

I am having such good results with my worm bins that I am just about ready to get a third one up and going. The first two are doing great but they can’t handle all the waste my growing rabbitry is producing. My cages just hang a couple of feet off the ground and all the waste goes onto the ground. There are plenty of worms that are volunteers under the cages but I like keeping the bins going because it is easier for me to collect the worm castings from the bins. My oldest daughter is planning on using the worm castings in a 4-H project at an upcoming rodeo. We will see how that goes.

The worms I have in my bins are the red wriggler composting worms. The worms that have voluntarily showed up under my rabbit cages are earthworms. Can I dig up a bunch of earthworms and start the third bin with those? What is the advantages / disadvantages of using earthworms over red worms?

Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#23. November 13th, 2008, at 2:03 AM.

Hi Kevin,
It definitely depends on the type of worm. If they a deep burrowers and just happen to be coming up to munch on the rabbit droppings, they won’t likely be happy in a bin. If they are used to living in a rich organic environment and live fairly close to the soil surface they should do ok. They definitely won’t breed as quickly (if at all) as the Red Worms.
I guess the advantage of using these worms is that they are free (although you could certainly take some Reds from your other bins).

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#24. November 13th, 2008, at 12:08 PM.

Thanks Bentley. I will just use some of the redworms from my other bins.

Kevin

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Howard Heidenstrom
#25. November 17th, 2008, at 2:04 PM.

Hi,
IM new at this so bare with me. Does anybody know if you can mix red worms with euro nightcrawlers and will they mate with each other? If so what kind of worm do you get?
Thanks
Howard

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robert
#26. November 18th, 2008, at 4:38 AM.

Thank you, for the tip on separating the worm compost using a garbage bag. It looks easier than taking out all the contents and separating it on a plastic sheet.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#27. November 18th, 2008, at 3:07 PM.

Howard – you can certainly mix the two and they will be totally fine. If you want to optimize your Euro production however (not to mention saving yourself the hassle of trying to separate later), you should keep them separate. I have a bin that contains both and they seem to be doing just fine. I’m going to remove the Euros before the bin gets over-run with Reds though. These worms cannot successfully reproduce since they are different species (although closely related).

Robert – it is definitely easier, especially when the material is wet (virtually impossible to work with when it comes to the light separation method).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robert
#28. November 18th, 2008, at 9:52 PM.

Bentley, I want to let you know I’m the person who emailed about the different worms in my compost pile in B.C. and submitted pictures to you.Maybe you can comment on what you observed to the others, for learning purposes? Thks Robert

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#29. November 19th, 2008, at 3:49 AM.

Hmmm…not really sure how to make a learning experience out of it, Robert – especially given the fact that I’m still not 100% sure what kind of worm you have.
:-)

For everyone’s benefit…

In a nutshell, Robert found large, vigorous worms in his outdoor compost heap – worms that looked quite similar to the Red Worms he keeps indoors (but are larger in size) . I suspect that they MAY be European Nightcrawlers based on the images he sent in, but am still not sure. I would need to see a really clear photo or an actual live worm to be able say with any confidence (or at least be able to rule out various possibilities).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Amir
#30. November 28th, 2008, at 4:39 PM.

Wonderful and very useful information. I use a lot of wasted coffee grounds, it also provides a good bedding.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ikan
#31. June 14th, 2009, at 4:40 AM.

Hi, good day!

In between day 0 and day 5, is it necessary to spray water again?

along the process to day 113 should we spray water?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Holly
#32. June 17th, 2009, at 7:37 PM.

Thanks for all the helpful information. I started my worm bin a few months ago and now my bins are covered with mites all over the sides. The bin that I originally started I have transferred almost all of the bigger worms out of and have kept it moist to see if anything else appears. Now along with mites, there are tiny tan wigglers about 1/4 inch long. What are these? New worms?

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