April 2008

Worm Composting Business Directory

**ATTENTION ALL VERMICOMPOSTING BUSINESS OWNERS**

I decided to put together a resource that will (hopefully) help people find vermicomposting-related businesses in their region – or at least provide them with more options. One of the questions I get ALL the time is “where should I buy my worms?”. Clearly, there needs to be thriving worm business directory put together, and what better place to have it than here at Red Worm Composting.
(Ok, so I’m a little biased – haha!)

Obviously the directory is extremely new and there isn’t even a single business in there yet (as I write this) – which is why this post is directed more towards worm business owners than those looking for worms/supplies. The listings will be based on geographic location, but at the moment I have VERY general category listings (eg ‘Asia’). I will definitely be adding many more subcategories as I start to get a feel for the countries and regions that are represented.

I have put together a directory Help Page in an effort to try and answer the major questions I think will come up (be sure to get in touch if there are any other burning questions on your mind).

Just so you know, this is a directory for businesses that sell any/all of the following: 1) Worms (earthworms that is – if you are a bait farmer and do not raise any sort of earthworm, please do not submit a listing), 2) Worm Castings, 3) Worm Tea, 4) Vermicomposting Systems and Supplies, or 5) Worm composting information products (books, videos etc).
I want to try to keep this as narrowly focused as possible so as to provide the most benefit to those those who are passionate about vermicomposting and are looking for worms/supplies etc. I will be manually reviewing every single link, and reserve the right to reject those I don’t feel relate to the overall theme.

Believe it or not, you don’t even need a website to submit your business! In fact, I really want to try and find as many non-web worm businesses as I can, since many of these could be located in our region without us even realizing it.

I will almost certainly be putting together a more general composting/gardening directory before too long, so please do not submit any educational/hobby worm composting sites to this directory. Again, my aim is to keep it as focused as possible.

Ok, I think that’s all for now. Here is the link: Worm Composting Business Directory

[tags]worm suppliers, worm farmers, worm business, vermicomposting business, worm bins, worm compost, vermicompost, worm castings, worm tea[/tags]

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Simple Vermicompost Harvesting Method

This weekend I decided to fire up the ol’ digital camera to create a video about separating worms from vermicompost. It is quite possibly the worst piece of cinematography in the history of mankind, but hopefully the commentary at least proves semi-interesting.

It certainly didn’t help that the camera battery died on me before I was even finished!
😆

Those of you who are on my email list will know that I am in the process of putting together a worm bin journal, which basically involves me starting a new worm bin and documenting everything along the way. As I’ve said multiple times before, when it comes to working with worm bins these days I just kinda do it without thinking about it. Obviously, some of those subtle details that I’m not paying attention to could be important tidbits of info for someone just starting out. I am hopeful that by forcing myself to document the process I will be able to add a little more depth to my instructions for setting up a worm bin. I also wanted to provide more info re: the maintenance of a worm bin. In my worm bin set-up videos, while I think I do provide some good info for getting started, I kinda leave everyone hanging a little when it comes to actually taking care of the bin I helped them set up!

Anyway, the video above shows how I am transferring worms from an older system into the new system (which has been aging for a little over a week). A lot of people seem to wonder about separating worms from compost, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone while I was at it. I’ve written about my garbage bag separation method before (see ‘Setting Up a New Worm Bin‘), but I figured an actual demonstration – as poor quality as it is – would prove more beneficial!

One thing to keep in mind – the material I am separating the worms from in the video is not really good quality vermicompost. I noticed quite a bit of undigested materials and it just didn’t have the rich, dark appearance of good worm castings (vermicompost should be as close to pure worm castings as possible). If I dug it into the garden I’m sure it would be a great slow release fertilizer, but I don’t think I’ll be using it for potted plants any time soon. I actually tried using a similar material last summer during my ‘Terracycle Challenge’ and it performed very poorly. I just want to point that out so that people don’t assume that’s what high quality vermicompost looks like!
😆

By the way, the ‘worm bin journal’ I mentioned above is a special project for all those who are on my email list, so if you think that might be helpful (or are just curious to see how quickly I’ll kill my worms – haha) then feel free to sign up. I am still in documentation stage, but I’m hoping to start sharing my ‘journal’ with members fairly soon.

[tags]worm castings, vermicompost, worm bin, worm bins, worm composter, worm composting, vermicomposting, red worms, red wigglers, compost[/tags]

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Nightcrawlers Ruining Northern Forests?

I came across an interesting article this morning focused on the damage that Nightcrawlers (presumably ‘Canadian Nightcrawlers’ – Lumbricus terrestris) are causing in northern forests of Wisconsin. The worms are not native to the area but have been introduced by fishermen.
Here is a blurb:

While night crawlers are native throughout much of lower Canada, their distribution throughout the tier of America’s northwoods is limited. Where they have been introduced by anglers, they have consumed the unique layer of decaying vegetation that is essential to the northwoods forest’s ability to renew itself, replacing it with their castings. Worm castings are wonderful for your home garden or lawn but are not a good medium for the regeneration of the northwoods forest.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has produced map overlays showing areas experiencing degradation of the indigent forests, and they mirror areas where fishing pressure is concentrated. Vast areas of native forests are disappearing throughout the northwoods – and well-meaning anglers are responsible.

Full Article: Wisconsin cracking down on ‘infected bait’

Moral of the story? Don’t dump your bait! (whether worms, minnows or anything else)

[tags]nightcrawlers, night crawlers, dew worms, bait, bait worms, bait fishing, wisconsin, worm castings[/tags]

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Vermicomposting at the Olympics

I just caught a brief (but interesting) example of how vermicomposting is being used at the Olympics in Beijing this summer. They are using worms to process the manure from the horse facility.

Apparently the 224-stall Olympic horse facility is quite green in general, despite the fact that it is air conditioned.

To tie in with the green theme of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the stalls are constructed from engineered wood made of sustainable bamboo and the rubber flooring is made from recycled tyres. The air-conditioning and lighting systems use 30% less energy than conventional installations.

Mr Shea said all Olympic stable waste will be sent to a vermicomposting plant where millions of earthworms will transform the stable waste into environmentally friendly, organic fertiliser.

Full article: Sha Tin stables ready to greet Olympic horses

I love hearing about stuff like this!

[tags]beijing 2008, olympics, vermicomposting, worm composting, horses, stables, composting, compost, horse manure[/tags]

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How Many Worm Bins?

Here are some excellent questions from Suzanne:

Bentley,
I have been looking at the videos on Youtube and reading the online posts. Here are my next questions:
1) How many bins do you have going at any one time? I have three children at home and with my husband, we seem to produce about a gallon of vegetable waste per day. For this amount of food, how many bins should I have going? 2) How often can you add food to a bin? For instance, if you set the bin up like you suggest on the youtube video, let it ripen for a couple weeks, and then add the worms, do you leave that bin alone for three months. Under this scenario, I think that I could have bins stacked to the ceiling before too long. (My husband is concerned that our house will be crowded with worm bins.)

Hi Suzanne,
I am sure there are many other people wondering the same thing – thanks for writing in!
At the moment I have 3 small systems and 1 medium sized bin actively vermicomposting indoors. I also have another small bin that is ‘aging’ prior to adding worms. Outdoors I have a very large worm bin and a backyard composter that just happens to have a lot of red worms in it as well! These won’t likely be very active again until the weather warms up some more. I also have been experimenting with bokashi during the last couple of months, and have a couple of buckets ready to be emptied (I have already emptied some into one of my worm bins, as discussed in another post).

Is all this ‘normal’? Heck no! I’m the ‘Compost Guy’, and need to live up to my name.
😆

All joking aside, the number of bins I have on the go at any one time is more an indication of my passion for composting than a requirement for handling all my kitchen scraps and cardboard waste (although, we DO seem to produce a lot of worm food around here!).

Regarding your situation, I’ll be honest – it DOES sound as though you produce a considerable amount of food waste in your home. One gallon of food scraps (maybe 3-4 lbs of waste?) every day is a fair bit! I suspect that you would indeed need a couple of decent sized indoor bins in order to handle all of it without any backlog – and this is once they up and running at full capacity (something we’ll talk more about in a minute). You can help matters by cooking, cutting and aging the waste materials before adding them to your bins. It will also help if you keep your worm systems in an area of the house that is above 20 C (68 F), since warm temperatures can help to speed up the processing time of vermicomposting as well. Apparently, the ideal temp for most composting worms is somewhere in the vicinity of 25 C / 77 F, but don’t let that worry you – I have successful worm bins down in my cool basement where temperatures have been below 20 C all winter.

If you are keen to stick with vermicomposting as your sole means of handling your wastes (ie. you are not interested in backyard composting, bokashi etc) then you next need to decide exactly how much space you have for vermicomposting. You definitely won’t need bins stacked up to the ceiling, but if you are using the little Rubbermaid tubs I like to use, you may need to set up 4 or 5 of them. I wouldn’t even worry about making the type with the reservoir as I show in the video – just set up a bunch of basic bins. I love these tiny Rubbermaid bins because you can put them pretty much anywhere, and they are so small that you don’t really need to worry too much about aeration, drainage etc. Just drill some holes in the top and that should be fine.

The amount of time needed for a worm bin to reach its maximum processing capacity is affected by a wide range of factors – this is why I try to be as vague as possible (haha) when people ask. Yes, you will likely need to be patient for the first little while until your worms are fully settled in, but you certainly don’t need to wait 3 months until you can start adding scraps to the bin. I would give the worms maybe a week or so without additional food after adding them to an aged bin (assuming scraps were mixed in when the bin was set up). At this point I would start adding small amounts of food (a few things at a time) and then closely monitor how quickly the worms consume it. Again, it will really help if you have aged these scraps beforehand. I recommend keeping them in a small compost crock or pail under your sink (or wherever is convenient) – just make sure to add a thick layer of shredded cardboard/paper to the bottom before you put scraps in there – this will help to absorb excess moisture and keep the lower materials from going anaerobic.

I personally think the ideal solution for your situation (given your husband’s concerns etc) is a combo strategy of indoor and outdoor vermicomposting. A regular backyard composter or even a basic compost pile will work just fine, and will ensure that you don’t end up with too much extra waste on your hands! This way you can simply set up a medium sized bin inside and not have to worry about it. Who knows, maybe after a few months you and your family will be SO passionate about vermicomposting that you’ll want to set up new systems all over the house!
😉

Anyway, hope this helps!

Bentley

[tags]worm bin, worm bins, compost bins, composter, vermicomposting, worm composting, composting worms[/tags]

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Dog Boo in the Worm Bin?

Sorry folks – I just couldn’t help fielding this one on the blog! Aside from making me smile, it is actually an excellent question (thanks to Alberto for submitting it!).

Hello , I have four dogs and I’m starting with two worm
compostinting bins, one is going to be for food scrapes and the other
just for dog boo, I was reading that dog boo is very good and that if
you give the worms dog boo that’s all you should give them to eat and
notting else is that true, and is dog boo a good food to give the
worms and does it make a good compost and compost tea. Thank You

Hi Alberto!
I am glad to hear that you are setting up two different systems – one normal one, and one just for dog waste.
While I agree that this material is rich in nitrogen and thus has lots of composting potential, it is not something I would recommend adding to a normal compost/worm bin. Dog feces can contain human pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella etc, so you would need to be extra careful when working with a worm bin containing this material. I would actually suggest setting up a special (preferably outdoor) system for vermicomposting pet wastes – something well separated from your other compost bins. To be totally honest, I wouldn’t directly use the resulting compost, and also wouldn’t make compost tea out of it.

Believe it or not, I am actually very open-minded about the use of ALL types of manure (including our own), and feel that many of our modern methods for dealing with these materials are incredibly wasteful (rather ironic, don’t you think?). That being said, I still think it’s important to acknowledge any potential hazards (without getting overly paranoid) and choose your methods accordingly.

Creating a composting system for your pets would be quite easy. I’d simply dig a hole in the ground, add a nice thick layer of shredded cardboard (or some other carbon-rich material) then start adding the pet waste, making sure to also include some more shredded cardboard or paper each time the dog waste is added. I would likely place a regular plastic backyard composter (one of the solid black ones) over top to help protect the materials from excess precipitation and curious children. Dog feces is a very rich material and would almost certainly need to be aged (or precomposted) before the worms will want to feed on it. I would let the hole fill to the top, then let it age for a few more weeks before adding any worms. In the meantime you could start a second system so you have some place to add your dog waste. If you have a cover over top you will likely need to add some water as you go – but you’ll want to be quite careful with the amount. You want the contents of the ‘composter’ to be moist but not soaking wet. Speaking of which, it is also very important to locate your pet waste composter a good distance (perhaps 100 yards or more) from the nearest water body.

As I mentioned, I would not remove any of the finished compost and use it, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t strategically position the composter near some trees or shrubs (I wouldn’t recommend having it anywhere near your vegetable garden however) so they can benefit from all the nutrients. This way you are making good use of the compost (especially if they happen to be fruit/nut producing trees or shrubs) without having to move the material itself.

I’m actually planning to create a system like this for our cat waste this year. This is another material with a lot of potential as a nitrogen source, but also one that needs to be handled with caution (in fact it should not be handled AT ALL by pregnant women or young children, especially if the cats are allowed outdoors).

Hope this helps!

Bentley

[tags]pet waste, dog poo, cat poo, dog feces, cat feces, manure, composting, compost, health hazards, vermicomposting, worm composting, compost bin, composter[/tags]

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