May 2009

When Is Rotten Food TOO Rotten?

A good question from Rich:

I put scaps into 5 gallon bucket and when ready mix with
bedding. This could be a month or later. at what point are the scaps
too rotted and how can I tell. Thanks for such a great website. I love
composting wih worms.

That is a really intriguing question, Rich – and I’m pretty sure you are the first person to ask me!

Let me start by saying that I am the KING of leaving rotting scraps – and newly set up bins containing bedding and scraps – to sit before unleashing the worms on them! A prime example of this was when I set up the bins for my YouTube videos (featuring the ‘basic’ and ‘deluxe’ worm bins). I seem to recall leaving them for at least a month before adding any worms.
Did I happen to mention that I’m a chronic procrastinator?

All joking aside – here’s the deal…

Obviously, the longer you leave these materials, the less value they are going to offer the worms – same goes for something like manure sitting outside in a pile, since eventually it’s basically just going to be rich soil. Water-rich food wastes sitting in some sort of container with no drainage and no absorbent bedding materials to wick up excess moisture are going to get nasty pretty quickly, and if you left them indefinitely would likely just turn into a horrifying sludge. If you added worms to this (or added it to a worm bin) it wouldn’t be pretty.

I’m the type of person who would STILL be trying to figure out how to make the stuff into worm food though – I would mix it with a LOT of dry absorbent bedding and would then leave it to sit for a while longer before attempting to use it.

Generally speaking, waste materials that have been left to sit with adequate bedding (i.e. lots of aeration and moisture absorption) will decompose aerobically and will be fine to use for worms at any time. You’ll likely see a proliferation of various types of fungi (molds etc), and eventually there won’t be much in the way of actual food waste left. Nevertheless, if you moisten and mix up the remaining materials it can still be used as a good food source.

I actually have a bin that’s been sitting with bedding and food waste for several weeks now – I think I’ll make a video showing what it looks like, and how I get it back in good shape to receive worms (thanks for the inspiration Rich!).

Hope this helps!

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Red Worms By The Gob

[UPDATE: Unfortunately the video mentioned is no longer available]

Recently, when I was getting some different orders together for my local Canadian worm business (which by the way is completely separate from my U.S. worm business based here on the RWC site), I thought it might be fun to shoot a video showing what these various quantities looked like. Interestingly enough, the 1/4 lb amount was actually added to my lint worm bin, written about in my last pot.

Please keep in mind that I’m only trying to give you a rough idea of what these quantities look like (and the video is pretty low quality as well), since many people really have no clue. As I mention in the video, there are various factors that can contribute to the overall ‘look’ of your worm order. If they are larger worms obviously there won’t be nearly as many. If they’ve been shipped there is a decent chance they will have lost some water weight, and they might not be this vigorous etc etc etc.

Based on this, you should at least be able to tell if you are being ripped off. I can still vividly remember a time (during my early vermicomposting days) when I drove about an hour to go pick up “1 pound” of red worms from a supplier. The quantity I ended up with MIGHT have been as much as 1/4 lb, but I doubt it. I can’t say I was too surprised to discover, a number of years later, that the supplier was no longer in the worm business.

Anyway – hope you enjoy the video.

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Dryer Lint Worm Bin – Update

Dryer Lint Worm Bin

I just wanted to post a quick update re: my Dryer Lint Worm Bin. Early last week I finally added some worms to the system. Given the tiny size of the bin I decided to only add 1/4 lb of Red Worms (Eisenia fetida).

There was already some food waste (mixed in with the lint when set up) that was nicely decomposed for the worms, but I’ve also added some coffee grounds (from my coffee maker – not my big box of grounds outside).

Initially, the worms seemed a little restless – crawling up on the sides and underside of lid (very common) – but they certainly seem to have settled down nicely, and appear quite content down in the lint/waste mix. Digging around, I see that they are very responsive and energetic – so all looks good!

I’ll be really interested to see how this system matures over time. As mentioned, the bedding (lint) will very likely take a fair bit longer to decompose than shredded cardboard does, so I’ll be curious to find out what sort of vermicompost production we end up with.

I’ll likely provide another update in a few weeks.

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Worm Inn Pro

Worm Inn Pro

As many of you know by now, I am a big fan of Robyn Crispe’s ‘Worm Inn’ continuous flow vermicomposting system. It is very easy to use, and as I discovered recently, it produces beautiful vermicompost!

As much as I have loved my Inns, there was still one suggestion I had for Robyn in terms of potentially improving the design. Her screen over top, while very aesthetically pleasing, unfortunately doesn’t do much to prevent flying critters from getting in and out since it is attached via velcro patches in only four spots. I thought perhaps a zippered screen could work really nicely. Robyn agreed, and went to work immediately to see if she could make it happen.

I am happy to report that she was indeed successful (I should mention however, that adding a zipper like this is not nearly as easy as it might seem!), and now has a ‘Pro’ version of the Worm Inn available. It costs $10 more than the regular Worm Inn since there is extra work involved (along with the cost of the zipper), but in my mind the improvement in design is DEFINITELY worth the small additional expense. So for $75 USD you can get one of these delivered to any address in U.S.A.

I have not yet added them to the Worm Inn page – if you think you might be interested in buying one, please send me an email (with “Worm Inn” included in the subject header) and I’ll set up a special order page for you. [UPDATE: I no longer sell Worm Inns]

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