October 2008

My Worm Inns Are Here!

The Worm Inn

As I mentioned in my last Worm Inn update post, I ordered a bunch of Inns to sell up here in Canada. I am happy to report that they have arrived!

My beautiful camo ‘tester’ (the one Robyn included for free) was nestled in on top of the rest – just begging to be taken out and put into action. I haven’t yet set it up, but I thought I would take some pictures for fun anyway.

The Worm Inn

I immediately tested out the front pocket to see how well it would work as a fishing rod holder and was quite pleased with the result!

All joking aside, my first impressions of the Worm Inn are very favourable indeed. It was larger than expected (and you may recall that I was already surprised how big it was when I saw Robyn’s photos with her friend standing next to it), and it looks like it was put together very well – definitely looks like something high quality you would buy from a store, not something homemade.

I can’t wait to really put it to the test – looks like I could even get away with putting several pounds of worms in it. Not sure I’ll go that crazy, but you can be sure that at least 1 lb of worms will be going in!

Anyway – I will definitely keep everyone posted!

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Vermicomposting Trays

Worm Tub

Ok – time to get back into the topic of vermicomposting…

As promised, I’m going to tell you about a new type of worm system I’ve been testing out over the last few months. They are certainly nothing revolutionary, and plenty of other people use similar containers, but I thought it would make for a good topic of discussion nevertheless.

I came across these tubs while checking out the plastic bin section at the local hardware store back in the spring. Like an serious vermicomposter, I am always on the lookout for potential new worm bins. Having recently started up my own vermicomposting business, I was especially eager to find something more useful than Rubbermaid tubs. I wanted something that would fit nicely on a shelf, wouldn’t be impossible to move when full, yet would still be able to hold multiple pounds of worms at once.

These tubs seemed to fit the bill. They are approximately 28″x19″x6″ and seem to be made of PVC plastic. As you can see, they offer an outstanding surface-area-to-depth (or -volume) ratio. This is really important, especially when you want to keep a lot of worms in a relatively small space, and have an interest in harvesting castings as well.

So far I’ve been blown away with how well these tubs work. The combination of high worm densities with ample air flow results in very fast vermicompost production, and much easier worm harvesting. Gone are the days of mucking around (literally) with unfinished compost months after a bin was set up, trying to get it separated from the worms.

Don’t get me wrong – those enclosed tubs definitely work well in certain applications. I see them as ideal worm breeding/nursery bins. When it comes down to it, a Rubbermaid bin is actually closer to a worms ideal environment than a tray – unfortunately that doesn’t correspond to the ideal situation for a worm farmer!

If you start the worms in bins, then move them (and the unfinished compost) to these trays once they are larger I think you will end up with the perfect combo system. I’ve actually been keeping some aged manure (cleaned of larger worms a while ago) in a plastic garbage bin (which does NOT have a good surface-area-to-depth ratio). What’s amazing is that the material is now LOADED with worms – clearly the conditions in there are good for worm development. These cans are also great because they take up a lot less space than a Rubbermaid tub with a similar volume.

I am planning to start up a series of these cans with material that’s had most of the worms removed (but is loaded with cocoons) and see how many worms I can produce. Once the worms are larger I will once again remove them (moving them to the tray systems) and repeat.

Should be interesting!

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Vermiman’s DIY BSFL BIN

DIY Black Soldier Fly Larvae Harvesting Bin

One of our regular readers, “Vermiman”, wanted to share his DIY bin for harvesting black soldier fly larvae.
Here is his description:

The pvc pipes are angled at about 35 degrees to allow the mature larvae to leave the culture. At the end of the pipes there are elbows angled down into a collection bucket. There are holes in one side which allow the pipes to exit the bin. There are eighth inch holes near the top of the long sides that allow hanging of cardboard pieces where the BSF should lay her eggs in the little holes. On the other narrow side I made a square hole that allows the females in to lay her eggs.

DIY Black Soldier Fly Larvae Harvesting Bin

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Tiny White Things in Worm Bin

Here is a question from Lynette re: the critters she has been finding in her worm bin:

I’d love to see photos of pests so I know what I have and if
they are a problem. I had 1/4-1/2″ segmented critters in there during
the summer and now I have a bunch of tiny white things busily going
all over. I tried to pick the first ones up (there would be chunks of
them happily eating on something). These white things are newer and
there are now fewer of those larger wormy bugs and a definite
reduction in worms. We had a hot summer in Texas and these have been
shaded on the patio, not too dry, I’m sure. What has happened?

Hi Lynette,
It is very common to encounter other creatures, aside from worms, in your worm bin. For the most part, they will be at worst an annoyance – i.e. there aren’t too many that will actually directly harm your worms.

When new critters appear in great abundance it is usually just an indication that favorable conditions (for them) have developed and/or there is plenty of food available. The shift in conditions can sometimes have a negative impact on the worms, causing them to die off or leave (if possible) – making it look as though the new critter is directly responsible for the disappearance of the worms.

Your wormy, segmented organisms sound like soldier fly larvae to me. They tend to be very common when bins sit outside in warmer regions.

Your tiny, white critters are almost certainly either springtails (first image below – brown ‘bug’ in that picture is actually a mite) or mites (lower image is a close-up shot of a common type of worm bin mite).


Worm Bin Mite

Worm bins kept outside are far more likely to be invaded by a wide range of other creatures, since the system will be much closer to their habitat (ie they won’t have to get into your house first). Both springtails and mites (most of them anyway) are totally harmless to worms, but may compete with them for food. Again, I suspect that your reduction in worms has been brought about by a shift in the conditions inside the bin – perhaps the hot Texas summer is responsible. Hard to say for sure though (at least without being able to see the system myself, that is).

Hope this helps a little!

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Red Wigglers – The Cadillac of Worms

Red Wigglers - The Cadillac of Worms

Another busy week on the vermicomposting business front I’m afraid. I’m certainly not complaining, but I really miss being able to write on the blog more often.

Anyway, this isn’t much of a post about anything – just an excuse to get something up for all y’all. One of my customers this week asked me if I was familiar with the funny worm advertising that ran during Johnny Fever’s radio program on ‘WKRP in Cincinnati” (sit-com from early 80’s). The slogan for the company was apparently “Red Wigglers – the Cadillac of Worms”.

I used to watch that show, but the fact that I was a kid at the time and didn’t yet have an interest in Red Worms helps to explain why I don’t have any recollection of that line. Anytime I hear references to composting worms anywhere these days I certainly sit up and listen.

So IS the Red Wiggler really the ‘Cadillac of Worms’?

Well, I guess that up to you to decide. It certainly is an amazing little creature!

In case you are curious, the worm pictured above (out of focus as it is – grrrr) is one of the large Red Worms I found in an aged manure pile. This particular specimen is pretty well the same size as many of my European Nightcrawlers.

Oh, and believe it or not, you can actually get a T-Shirt with the above-mentioned slogan on it. Check them out here: http://www.zazzle.com/krw_red_wigglers_the_cadillac_of_worms_shirt-235494087101854505

Speaking of which – I am actually planning to put together a little online shop for worm t-shirts etc, hopefully in time for the holiday season (so you can surprised your friends a relatives with the ultimate gift – haha). So keep your eyes peeled!

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The Worm Inn – Coming Soon to RWC!

Worm Inn

Back at the beginning of August I wrote about Robyn Crispe’s vermi-creation, the ‘Worm Inn’ (see “The Worm Inn” and “Worm Inn Update” for more info). I promised to keep everyone in the loop about the ‘Inn’ as Robyn continued to develop her business, but alas, she just seems to work too quickly for this slow poke!

Since posting my last Worm Inn update, Robyn started by revamping her Worm Inn page on Etsy, and then proceeded to develop a full-fledged Worm Inn Website. Robyn and I have also been in discussion about the possibility of me selling Worm Inns here at Red Worm Composting. I figured what better way to start selling vermicomposting systems than with the creative and stylish designs Robyn has come up with?

I have also ordered some Inns to sell up here in the ‘Great White North’, and Robyn was even nice enough to toss in a complimentary system to test out myself. Being the wild n’ crazy guy that I am (snicker), I couldn’t resist going with the camo design! Yeah, that’s right – I talking ’bout that sweet looking badboy you see pictured up on the right there!

Silly outbursts aside, I’m really excited to have opportunity to test the Worm Inn out for myself – rest assured, I’ll be sharing all the details here on the blog. Robyn herself has been continuing to test out her own Worm Inn, and seems very pleased with the way it has performed for her thus far. Needless to say, it is a FAR cry from the moldy ‘Creepy Pants’ vermicomposter, that was Robyn’s original source of inspiration!

Anyway, that’s all for now – you can certainly expect to see more Worm Inn updates in the weeks and months ahead!

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Worm Bed Watermelons – Part Deux

Buttercup Squash

Or should I say “Part Duh!!”?

Back in July I was convinced that I had a bunch of watermelon plants popping up in one of my ‘garbage gardens‘. It made total sense to me at the time – after all, I knew I had added a considerable amount of watermelon waste to that bed.

During the weeks that followed I watched as the plant (I pulled up all but one) continued to grow and thrive. Before too long I noticed that one of the flowers was becoming a fruit. I’ve never grown watermelon before, so it was exciting to think that I might have my very own little watermelon patch by the time fall arrived – thanks to the assistance provided by my vermi-herd.

As the fruit developed I noticed that it didn’t really look like a typical watermelon. It had a very dark, rough-looking skin, and it was very round in shape. I just assumed it was exhibiting the traits of a young watermelon fruit…did I mention that I’ve never grown watermelon before?

Anyway, you obviously know where this is going…

Incredibly, it wasn’t until I finally decided to harvest my ‘watermelons’ that I clued in to the fact that something just wasn’t right. Once I had the picked fruit in my hands, I couldn’t help but notice that they bore an uncanny resemblance to an old ‘Buttercup Squash’ I had sitting on my deck – one of two we had purchased earlier in the summer.

Then it suddenly dawned on me…


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