March 2010

Collembolacomposting – Update

Back at the end of January, I started up my “collembolacomposting” experiment – with the aim of determining whether or not springtails can do much in the way of “composting” on their own.

Judging by the ecosystem that seems to be dominating the habitat in the bin these days, I think “acarinacomposting” might have been somewhat more appropriate! The springtail population hasn’t even really taken off for some reason, yet there is an incredible population of mites.

Worm Bin Mites

Worm Composting Mites

In thinking about all of this some more, and witnessing how little in the way of processing seems to be occurring in the bin, I’ve concluded that, apart from the microbes, the worm DO indeed deserve the lion’s share of the glory when it comes to vermicomposting (somehow I doubt that will surprise too many people – haha). Just the physical activity and fragmentation of waste materials alone likely plays a very significant role in speeding up the composting process.

I think it’s only natural that the next step should be to set up a comparison experiment. Worms vs no worms, so we can see for sure just how much of a difference there is. This may help to demonstrate the value of adding composting worms to a “regular” backyard composter as well!

Anyway – I will let everyone know once I’ve set up the experiment!

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Red Worm Composting – Welcome!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bentley “Compost Guy” Christie and I’ve been a crazed worm composting fanatic for more than 20 yrs now. I started this website back in 2007 with the simple intention of sharing my passion with “the world”. So far so good! Things have certainly progressed since the early days, though, and the website has provided me with an amazing opportunity to get to know a LOT of other “worm heads” from across North America and around the world!


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VermiPonics System-03-10-10

I decided to record a video featuring my vermiponics system today. For those of you who have been following along from the beginning (when I first started writing about the topic of vermiponics, and the set up of this system), a lot of this won’t be new information. You may still find it interesting though since you will see the system up close and personal (not just via photos) and actually get to listen to my (awe-inspiring – HaHa) commentary as well.

I should mention that while my lettuce doesn’t look as good as it would in an outdoor system (or at least a system with better lighting), I can assure you that it doesn’t actually look as bad as it does in the video. As always, I am using my trusty point-and-shoot digital camera here, so the video quality isn’t exactly top notch. Those poor lettuce plants looked downright yellow, when in actuality they are a lot greener.

As you will see, I made an interesting discovery when I opened up the feeding tube and looked inside the burlap bag!

Previous Vermiponics Posts
Mini VermiPonics System
VermiPonics System – 02-09-10
VermiPonics System – 02-12-10
VermiPonics System-02-19-10
VermiPonics System-03-08-10

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Worm Inn Journal-03-09-10

If you are new to my Worm Inn Overfeeding Challenge, you may want to check out these posts before reading further (and watching the video):
Worm Inn Journal-02-21-10
Worm Inn Journal-02-23-10
Worm Inn Journal-02-25-10

I gave my Worm Inn a bit of a break over the last 12 days or so. I was pretty busy with other things and just wanted to let the system mellow out for a bit. I did add water fairly regularly, and just generally kept my eye on things to make sure everything went smoothly.

Worms (and other critters) have continued to perform incredibly well, and today I decided to start feeding the system somewhat more…uhhh…effectively.

Notice, I didn’t say I’d be feeding it less? As you’ll see, I actually added 19.65 lb of waste (the most I’ve added at once) today.
What I’ve decided to start doing however, is freezing (in my deep freezer) and/or chopping up the material really well before adding it, rather than simply dumping it in as-is. As I mention in the video, the material is quite similar to the stuff I’ve referred to as “homemade manure” since there is a lot of bedding material mixed in nicely with the pulverized food waste. I think the worms are going to LOVE it!

Now, I should mention that I will once again be leaving the system alone for the better part of two weeks, since I’ll be going on a trip at the end of the week. I’m not too worried about the worms starving while I’m gone though!

Anyway, I will certainly provide another update once I am back!
Stay tuned!

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Winter Worm Windrow–03-08-10

Lettuce for the Worms
Garbage can full of old lettuce – the worms should enjoy this!

On Friday, my worms got a nice treat in the form of 60-70 lb of old lettuce (just a guesstimate) that my dad picked up for me at the local food bank.

I haven’t been feeding these worms as often as I had hoped (a lot of my own food waste is being diverted into other systems, such as the Worm Inn), so I was quite pleased to receive an email from my contact at the food bank last week. They don’t end up with all that much in the way of perishable worm-friendly food materials, but I’ve been more than happy to take it off their hands whenever they do!

I was originally planning to chop the lettuce up quite a bit before adding it to the bed (to help speed up the decomposition process), but didn’t end up having enough time to do so. No biggie though – I’m sure it won’t take long for the material to produce a nice microbial buffet for the worms to munch on!

Adding the lettuce to the bed simply involved pulling away a bunch of straw/hay from the top, dumping it in, then covering it up.

Adding lettuce to winter worm bed

We’ve had many sunny (and rather mild) days as of late so I think my only concern at this point is that I might end up overheating the system. Unfortunately, my indoor temperature monitor doesn’t seem to be receiving accurate readings from the probe buried in the bed, so I will definitely need to do some manual readings this week (not a big deal, since I want to check on things anyway).

I’ll definitely keep everyone posted!

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VermiPonics System-03-08-10

Vermiponics System

I’m sure some of you must be wondering how my vermiponics system is coming along these days. I haven’t written an update since Feb 19. Well, after what seemed to be a very smooth start, things kinda went downhill rather quickly. The water in the reservoir became ‘muddy’ looking and started to really stink!

Stinky Waste Water
This is what the water was starting to look like prior to me making some changes to the system

It was pretty obvious that the biological oxygen demand (BOD) was far beyond what the trickling water (and air stone) could provide. The radishes started looking really sickly as well – almost certainly due to the fact that grow bed was receiving reservoir water in the zone where they were growing.

Rather than throw in the towel, or wait around to see if the plants would start filtering the water a bit better, I decided to change things up a bit. I removed the water tube altogether and cranked up the output (it is adjustable) of the pump, basically creating a aeration fountain right in the reservoir. I also did some partial water changes, and ended up raising the level of water in the reservoir so as to make contact with the bottom of the grow bed.

Things have certainly improved a great deal since then. The water no longer stinks, and it also just looks a lot cleaner in general. The radishes made a nice comeback, and the lettuce has continued to grow as well (although, as mentioned, I think it would help to have a more powerful lighting system), so they are probably doing a better job of cleansing the water. Apart from relying on the wicking of water up from the bottom, I have also been manually pouring reservoir water into the grow bed from time to time as well.

I’m not 100% sure how the worm population is doing, but it should be interesting to find out once I decide to dismantle the system.

I am definitely looking forward to trying this on a larger scale outside on my deck this year once the weather is warm enough!

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Harvesting Red Worms

Hi everybody!

I’ve been doing some research lately. In this video I test if I can harvest hatched worms out of the finished vermicompost. The second project is taking those babies and starting THREE new plastic bins. I want to start a 4th but, haven’t decided yet. I am running out of room and don’t want to overdo it too much. In two of the bins which are in the house, one has more greens than browns and the other has more browns than greens.

The one with more browns seems to stay moist longer. I have been also using a secret food amendment.

I’ll let you know about that later, I haven’t decided if I like it or not.

Send those comments or questions!


‘Mark from Kansas’ is an avid vermicomposter from…well…Kansas, and contributing author here at Red Worm Composting. When he is not tending to his OSCR worm bin, Mark also enjoys spending time with his wife Letty (who also doubles as his trusty vermicomposting assistant) and picking petunias (ok, Bentley just made that last bit up).

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