May 2010

Making Paper Seedling Pots

The only thing that really relates to vermicomposting in this video is the vermicompost/coir mix I am using to fill the pots! Nevertheless, I figured I would post it here in case readers found the info useful.
The overall theme is actually rather appropriate since I’ve been VERY focused on getting my various gardening projects up and running as of late (hence my lack of posts here). Hoping to get most of it wrapped-up this week so I can get back to writing more (including writing about my various gardening projects – haha)!

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Sun Chips Bag-05-21-10

Sun Chip Bag Vermicomposting

As you might guess, I had intended to get this update posted on Friday, when I had a look at the Sun Chips bag in my big backyard worm bin. It had been 15 days since the bag was added to that system (see “Sun Chip Bag Vermicomposting” for my first installment), so I thought it might be interesting to see if anything had happened yet.

It took me quite some time to even locate the bag – I was starting to wonder if the worms were a lot more effective than I’d given them credit for! Well, I guess you could still say the worms in this bin are being “effective”, since they had effectively lowered the level of material (including the bag) a fair bit since I put it in there. After some digging I did finally manage to locate it, and couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of disappointment to see the bright vibrant colors still essentially unchanged, and hear that the bag was still ridiculously loud when handled.

Upon closer inspection I did however notice that something seems to have started colonizing the surface of the bag. I suspect it is some sort of fungi, but it is hard to say for sure.

Sun Chips Bag Decay

I think I will let the bag sit undisturbed for a month or so before checking on it again since it looks like we are in for a pretty lengthy experiment!

Will be interested to find out if others have been checking on their bags, and if so, what (if any) changes have been observed thus far!

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The 1000 Facebook Fan Fest!

Red Worm Composting Facebook Fan Page

In the last newsletter I hooted and hollered about the growing number of Facebook fans RWC’s page has amassed in a relatively short period of time (611 at the time of that writing). I also mentioned the possibility of making a fun contest out of predicting when we will reach the 1000 fan mark.

Seeing a couple of fan predictions being made on the Facebook page itself reminded me that I should put something together before we get to close too our milestone!

Nothing too fancy here, but the person who guesses the right date (or closest) get’s a free pound of Red Worms shipped to them. Unfortunately, this can only be awarded to U.S. participants – international fans are still welcome to play too though, since the prestige of winning such an event is surely reward enough! Haha – ok, I’m kidding! I’ll see if I can think up some other possible rewards for those who can’t have worms shipped to them.

The one thing that came to mind right away was the question of how to deal with multiple people wanting a given date – WELL, to make things super simple, and to reward those who are super keeners, I’ve decided to count comments on this blog post as the only “official entries” for the contest. Once someone declares a particular date it is theirs – no one else can register for that date. SO, make sure you read through the comments before leaving your guess!

Let’s recap…

1) The contest involves guessing the date you think the RWC Facebook Fan page will hit 1000 fans (you can see the current number simply by looking at the banner in the sidebar – 686 as I type this post). If you guess the right date (and you live in the continental U.S.) you will receive a pound of Red Worms (shipped to you).

2) Only one person per date (and one date per person – haha) – first come first serve.

3) To register your date, leave it as a comment on this blog post (not on the Facebook fan page) – make sure you have read all the others posted before you to see if anyone has already taken your desired date.

NOTE: From time to time my site will hold comments for moderation (if it’s your first comment ever etc etc), so don’t sweat it if you don’t see it appear instantly. I will approve them as fast as I can, and will ensure that any duplicate dates posted as a result are corrected (with the first person being credited with registering the date)

That’s it!

Should be fun!

P.S. Make sure you “Like” this post via the little thumbs-up button at the bottom as well!

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Worm Cocoon Hatching-05-21-10

Red Worm Cocoons

Well, it’s been three days since I started my first “worm cocoon hatching experiment” so today was the day for removing the two bins from the refrigerator (according to my schedule for this particular trial). Of course, it only made sense that it would also be a good day for checking on the hatching status of the cocoons in all the systems.

I thought perhaps that we might see some hatching in the room temperature system containing cantaloupe, but as far as I can tell there has not been hatching in any of the four bins yet.

Moving forward, it will probably be a good idea for me to check on all the systems daily so that we don’t miss too much (would obviously defeat the purpose if I waited a week or two, only to find that most of the cocoons have hatched out in all the systems! haha).

Anyway – that’s pretty much it for this update. I will write another post once there is actually something to report on!
Stay tuned!

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Stinky Kitchen Scraps

Here is a question from Charity:

I’m starting a worm compost bin. I haven’t even added the
worms yet, and my fiance is already complaining that compost smells
and he doesn’t want me to do this. I’ve read about your kitchen scraps
and wondered if you had a way to keep them from smelling up the house
before you add them to the bin. Can I refrigerate them and then let
them sit out for a day or two before I put them in the bin with the
worms? Right now I just have the bedding and food scraps I already
collected sitting in the bin outside and they don’t smell, but he
isn’t convinced that this is a good idea. I’m trying to recycle and
teach our 3 kids to be environmentally responsible, I just don’t want
him to be mad about it.

Hi Charity,
Great question! I can assure you that you are NOT alone in terms of having a less-than-enthusiastic spouse. My wife has certainly be very supportive (especially considering the entirely new levels of “crazy” I’ve managed to take my worm composting efforts to), but we’ve still had some run-ins over the years. Invariably, it has something to do with fruit flies (and or gnats) or stinky food scrap storage. haha

There are a number of possible solutions. For starters, if you do plan to let scraps sit at room temperature, it is really important to make sure they get mixed with some “bedding” as well. I tend to laugh at these kitchen scrap holders with the fancy carbon filters etc. The way I see it – if people simply stored their scraps properly, there is a good chance they wouldn’t need filters at all (and who wants to empty a nasty bucket of slimy wastes anwway?). That being said – perhaps in your case, if you combined one of these fancy holders with my bedding recommendations you could demonstrate to your husband that he really has nothing to worry about.

Likely the most important place to put your bedding is at the bottom of the container. This “false bottom” helps to encourage air flow down at the bottom, and it soaks up excess moisture – plus it makes it nice and easy to dump everything out.

I’m not saying that regular (room temperature) storage is always going to be the perfect solution (even when done as described) – some food materials just tend to break down more quickly and/or stink more than others.
One example seems to be members of the broccoli family (cabbage, broccoli, kale etc) – once these materials start to go, no amount of bedding is going to prevent your nose from detecting it (well ok – if you absolutely buried them in peat moss it probably would do the trick – haha). I’ve cut numerous aging sessions short for exactly this reason.

Freezing is an excellent option, and it serves the double benefit of helping to start the structural breakdown of the waste materials, thus making them more microbe-friendly. If you happen to have a big freezer with lots of space, it can also be a good way to stockpile excess wastes (no use overfeeding your bin, or tossing them in the regular garbage!). Perhaps the wastes could then be thawed outside in some sort of scrap holder.
What I’ve been doing as of late is creating giant scrap holders in plastic garbage cans outside – once I have enough ‘stuff’ in there (bedding + food waste) I make a batch of “Homemade Manure“). These bins can definitely get a bit gamey during warm weather though, so you might not want to try this if your husband spends a fair amount of time outside.

The fridge is an decent option – but in my mind it would only really work if you had a second fridge. I don’t think having heaps of “garbage” in their face every time the fridge is opened will help on the spousal unrest front! I get enough heat just from leaving regular produce in the fridge for too long – I can only imagine what my wife would say if she actually saw bags of rotting food waste in there! (I currently have little tubs with worm cocoons in them – but I won’t tell if you don’t! lol).

Bottom-line, Charity – if your fiance is open-minded enough to at least allow you a trial period to demonstrate that it’s not as bad as he thinks, you should be able to win him over. This is especially true if you manage to get some worm compost produced and can show him the benefits of adding it to the garden etc.

One other quick thought – this may not apply to your particular situation, but in some cases the simplest solution can be to start up a “regular” backyard composter with composting worms. Most significant others will be able to wrap their minds around the idea of using one of these systems (“garbage, worms and critters should stay outside where they belong” according to many) – and once they see what a system like this can do, perhaps they will be more open to the idea of having a smaller indoor bin as well.

Anyway – I hope this helps some!
Good luck!

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Worm Inn Summer Sale

Worm Inn Stand

Those of you who receive the email newsletter will likely be aware of the fact that I’ve started a Worm Inn promotion this week (week of May 17, 2010). I know it’s not really “summer” yet, but it is definitely starting to feel like it in my neck of the woods these days, and who knows – perhaps I will let this sale run for awhile if people seem interested.

Since I began selling Worm Inns, I’ve really made an effort to draw attention to the fact that the Worm Inn does NOT come with a stand when you order it (I hate the thought of ending up with disappointed customers). I guess you could say this is one of the “limitations” of this system – but the fact is, the cost increase for including a full stand with the system just doesn’t make it a worthwhile thing to do – it makes a LOT more sense for the customer to simply make their own stand or buy a laundry hamper stand etc.

Well, I’m happy to report that NOW when you order a Worm Inn you will get a free kit to help you very easily build your own sturdy stand using PVC piping. The stand was the brainchild of current Worm Inn brand owner Jerry Gach, and is pictured above. The kit consists of the eight corner pieces (which are typically expensive and/or very hard to find) and 4 zip ties you’ll need to attach the Worm Inn. All you need to do then is buy three 10 foot pieces of 3/4″ PVC piping and cut them (or have them cut at the store) into four 36″ lengths and eight 18″ lengths. Stick everything together (you can use glue if you want, but according to Jerry it’s not really necessary), and away you go!

I am definitely going to be building one of these stands myself, and will likely be getting my Worm Inn up and running again a bit sooner than previously planned (in my last Worm Inn Journal entry I mentioned potentially waiting until fall). You know me and wanting to test stuff out for myself!

So, getting back to the ‘Summer Sale’ – basically, when you order a Worm Inn now (and until the end of the promotion) you will also receive the PVC stand kit free of charge (again – 8 corner pieces + 4 zip ties). Just so you know, Jerry charges $94-$101 (depending on your location) or so for a Worm Inn + kit on his own site. So you are looking at savings of close to $20 minimum.

All pricing (on the Worm Inn order page) includes shipping as always.

***Just so you know – if you are absolutely sure that you DON’T want to build a PVC stand (and thus don’t want the stand kit) simply drop me an email and let me know. I will create some special order pages for those going this route (pricing will be $10 off in this case). IMPORTANT – any emails you send about this sale should include “Worm Inn Sale” in the subject line.***

Here again is a link to the page where you can learn more about the Worm Inn and place an order if you chose to do so:
The Worm Inn – Continuous Flow Vermicomposting System

As always, if you have any questions/comments etc don’t hesitate to let me know via email, or by simply leaving a comment here!

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Worm Cocoon Hatching Experiment #1

Red Worm Cocoons

Today I spent some time collecting Red Worm cocoons (from some material I harvested from one of my outdoor beds) for my first worm cocoon hatching experiment. Last week I was wondering about the various factors that make cocoons hatch, and planned to start testing them out.

This first experiment is a bit of a combo deal. I want to see if cold temperatures can stimulate cocoon hatching, but I am also curious to see if the presence of some cantaloupe rinds will make a difference. Today I set up four small tubs filled with moistened egg carton cardboard. Each tub received 16 cocoons – two of them also received three small pieces of cantaloupe rind. Two of the tubs (one with cantaloupe, one without) went into the fridge, while the other two went into separate cupboards.

Worm Cocoon Hatching Experiment

The cocoons came from an aged horse manure bedding, so I rinsed them very well in tap water. If at all possible I don’t want there to be any chemical factors from the manure that might affect hatching rates. I will definitely test aged manure as a “food” in future hatching experiments, but for now I’d like to limit the affect it might have. I guess I shouldn’t worry about it too much though, since all the cocoons basically came from the exact same type of environment.

For this first experiment I think I’m going to limit the time in the fridge to 3 days since I first want to determine if short periods of cold can stimulate faster hatching. In future experiments I will vary the length of the “cold spell” to see if that has an impact as well.

As you can probably tell, there are LOADS of potential variables to play around with here, so I may end up conducting these experiments for quite some time! Hopefully we will see some interesting results, and learn a thing or two along the way!

Stay tuned!

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