November 2011

Worm Factory 360 | 11-10-11

Just a quick update for all those of you following my Worm Factory 360 series. As you may recall, I got the system up and running last week, and have been taking a pretty laid back approach with it. I didn’t add a huge amount of “food” (primarily just some semi-rotten pumpkin) – nor did I start with a huge quantity of worms. Since getting things rolling, I have not added any more food and – apart from a little digging around – have left the bin essentially undisturbed.

The other day when I opened up the bin I noticed some fluffy white fungal growth up on top. I was actually quite excited, and ran to grab the camera, since I knew it would provide me with the opportunity to touch on a very common concern with new vermicomposters. These sorts of growth are VERY common early on – especially if you do an “aging” period prior to adding the worms.

For the most part – assuming the growths are not accompanied by a foul stench (likely indicating you’ve added WAY too much food) – this is nothing to worry about. Really just a matter of one particular organism taking advantage of available resources! Once the worm population becomes established, these sorts of growths tend to be kept in check without any further help from us (if not, again this can indicate that you are adding too much food at once, or at least food that is not well-prepared for the worms).

When these growths do pop up, all you do is take your trusty garden hand fork (one of these actually comes with the WF-360 bin) and mix everything up a bit. This breaks up the fungal mycelium (what you see) and helps to avoid more growth and potential spore production (best to avoid this).

So far I have been quite impressed with this bin. Everything smells good (earthy) and looks good down below (active worms, wastes being consumed etc). The worms even seem to be getting bigger! I’ve sprayed the contents 2 or 3 times since last week – it hasn’t been drying out by any means, but I can tell that it will easily handle more moisture (some moisture down in reservoir, but no pooling). I haven’t yet found any organisms down in the reservoir either, so I think the newsprint false bottom is still holding out ok!

Oh – just remembered one other important thing. I decided to add the contents of one of my small nematode farms to this bin in an effort to (hopefully) keep the flying pest populations in check. While I’ve seen the odd fruit fly coming up when I open the lid, so far there really doesn’t seem to be any sort of remotely-serious infestation (quite surprising, given how careless I was with the pumpkin waste before adding it). Hard to say for sure if the nematodes are helping, but regardless, it’s nice to not have clouds of fruit flies flying up into my face when I open the bin!

Anyway – that’s all for now. I’ll be sure to post another update in a week or two.

**IMPORTANT REMINDER** – If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to get registered for this month’s WF-360 draw that’s going to take place on November 15th. Just fill out the short survey on the RWC contest page (on Nature’s Footprint website) and you are good to go! Here is the link:

Previous Worm Factory 360 Posts

Worm Factory 360 – My New Toy
Worm Factory 360 Set-Up
Worm Factory 360 – Important Follow-Up

** It's a Great Time to Get Serious About Worm Composting - Save $30 on the CG "Ultimate" Package - Click >>Here<< to Learn More. **
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Winter Vermicomposting 2011

Well, it’s getting on towards THAT time of year again, so I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I’m going to do about keeping an active outdoor vermicomposting system. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ll be continuing to pick-up coffee grounds (from a local coffee shop), I might be content to focus solely on my indoor systems – but alas, those grounds WILL need a home!

We haven’t received any snow yet, and temperatures have actually remained fairly mild (time of year considered) so the trick will be to get things rolling without overheating the bed and/or using up more resources than necessary. As I’ve discovered, this can be easier said than done! I recently selected the stretch of windrow I wanted to convert into my winter bed (a different location from the last couple of years, just to keep things interesting) and added some aged manure + some leftover tomatoes and squash etc from this year’s crop. I then covered it with a thick layer of straw.

This morning I decided to take some temperature readings and – as you can see (below) – there are definitely some zones a bit warmer than I’d like them to be.

The weather is expected to turn a lot colder over the next few days though, so I’m hopeful that will help to cool things off and slow things down a bit in the bed. Once the weather gets even more wintry I’ll start thinking about adding more “food” materials, more straw, and of course – my trusty tarp!

I have a feeling the steady supply of coffee grounds is going to make a BIG difference this year. In my experience this is an excellent material for stimulating microbial heating. The key will be to avoid having it get “too hot”, though, since it dries out and becomes a lot less “worm friendly”.

Anyway – should be fun! As always, I will keep everyone posted!

P.S. If you are new to all this winter vermicomposting stuff, you may want to check out the “Winter Worm Composting” section on the HOT TOPICS page, where you will find quite a few links to previous blog posts relating to this topic.

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Worm Inn Christmas Discount

As I announced via the newsletter earlier in the week, I am offering a $10 discount on Worm Inn purchases between now and Christmas (December 25, 2011). On the checkout page simply use the coupon code “CHRISTMAS11” (no quotes) and hit “apply” – you should see the $10 taken off of the total price.

IMPORTANT: If you are interested in ordering multiple Worm Inns, unfortunately you will need to do each one as a separate transaction in order to receive the discount for to EACH unit (it only takes off $10 TOTAL, regardless of how many you are ordering at once). If you are ordering more than a couple of them – i.e. if it’s going to be a hassle to do multiple orders – just drop me an email and I will give you a personal discount code that takes off the appropriate total amount.

1) All Worm Inns come with the special corner pieces (and zip ties) that can be used to create the PVC stand.

2) Worm Inns ordered from Red Worm Composting can only be shipped to addresses in the United States

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Worm Inn Journal-11-04-11

This seems to be “worm bin set-up week” here at Red Worm Composting! Yesterday I set up my Worm Factory 360 system. Today I finished off the set-up of the WF-360 (see “Worm Factory 360 – Important Follow-Up“) and then, later in the day, set up my Worm Inn!

Since my cat chewed off my drawstrings at the bottom the last time I had the Worm Inn set-up, this time around I am simply using a thick elastic band to keep the opening constricted. Should work just fine!

My first step in the set-up process (as always with a Worm Inn) was to create a “false bottom” of shredded cardboard. This provides a dry, absorbent area at the bottom that serves to catch excess moisture dripping down, and also provides a buffer zone between the composting mass and the bottom drainage hole.

Next I added in a bunch more shredded cardboard to serve as bedding in the worm zone, before…

…adding quite a bit of food waste. Unlike the Worm Factory 360 this is a single compartment flow-through system, so you can start off with more material. The aeration is also very good so I’m not too concerned. As you can see, I didn’t really do all that much in the way of chopping/shredding etc. This bag of waste has been sitting around for quite some time so I didn’t really want to get goo and rot all over my hands (haha) – plus I’m just generally taking a laid back approach since I’m not starting with a huge quantity of worms.

I then added some of my trusty rock dust and mixed everything up while spraying it down thoroughly with my spray bottle.

I used the same worm stocking approach as with the Worm Factory 360 – I basically just added worm-rich material from another system. I mixed this in with the rest of the composting zone materials then thoroughly watered everything (used my entire spray bottle).

Lastly, I topped everything off with a fairly thick layer of shredded newsprint (first layer was actually moistened – but rest of it was left dry). This will hopefully help to keep in some of the moisture.

That’s basically it. As is the case with the WF-360 system, now I’ll simply let everything sit and mellow out for awhile (at least a week). Will keep everyone posted!

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Worm Factory 360 – Important Follow-Up

Worm Factory 360

Hi Everyone – I wanted to add a quick follow-up to yesterday’s Worm Factory post (see “Worm Factory 360 Set-Up“). There were some important things I forgot to mention.

Some of you may have wondered about the coir and pumice that comes with the Worm Factory 360 start-up kit. While I had always intended not to use them right off the bat – I DID at least want to make mention of them. These are an important part of the set-up process when you follow the directions outlined in the manual.

Speaking of the manual – I also wanted to make mention of the fact that – while I myself am not a manual-sorta-guy (nearly 12 years of vermicomposting makes me a bit more set in my ways – haha) – I AM very impressed with the quality of information contained in this booklet! If you are new to vermicomposting I highly recommend you follow the directions outlined. Unlike some other instructions I’ve seen for setting up a new system, these ones seem to cover a lot of the areas I myself feel are important: 1) proper food prep, 2) lots of bedding, 3) “living materials” etc. There is also a fair amount of good maintenance/troubleshooting info and general vermicomposting info.

Anyway, in light of the fact that I was planning to write this follow-up, I decided to go ahead and put some of the coir and pumice to good use today (rather than waiting for a little while). I know I came across the information on what exactly the pumice is for – pretty sure it is a bulking agent and odor absorbing material – but I just can’t track it down now.

I must say I was REALLY impressed with the coir brick. I dropped it in some water and was astounded to see a big fluffy mass of coir springing forth right before my eyes! I’m definitely used to waiting for awhile for a brick to expand (likely part of the reason I didn’t want to bother with it when first setting up). Pretty cool!

I also wanted to mention that I added some more food waste. There was a semi-rotten hunk of cauliflower lurking in the bottom of one of my crisper drawers (lol) so I nabbed it and chopped it up into small pieces. This reminds me – yesterday someone expressed surprise regarding the size of the pumpkin chunks I was adding to the bin. What I failed to mention was that – aside from these pieces being quite soft – when I mixed them with the bedding materials they broke down a fair bit more. I do have some chunky stuff still – but certainly not anything to worry about. Cutting up materials (and otherwise breaking them down) as much as possible before adding them IS a really great strategy though – so please keep that in mind.

I also decided to add some of the nice rock dust I received this past summer since it should help to stimulate some more microbial activity, add trace elements and provide the worms with some grit (for their gizzard – to aid digestion). In the WF-360 manual they mention “crushed egg shells and/or sand” – these (especially the egg shells) can be helpful as well. Also, please keep in mind that NONE of these amendments are vitally important for worm bin success – a simple food-waste-with-bedding system can do just fine as long as you follow the basic principles of effective vermicomposting.

Just so you know, I added about half of the coir and a small quantity of the pumice (likely pretty close to the 1 cup mentioned in the guide).

I then mixed everything in very well.

Before doing any of this, I had the chance to dig around in the bin a bit. I was happy to see that the worms were already munching on the pumpkin waste. I saw the odd fruit fly – will likely see a LOT more of them before too long (haha) – especially now, since the materials will probably warm up a bit.

One other quick thing to mention before I sign off here. I had wondered (in my first post) what the special aeration features were for the Worm Factory 360. Kate informed me that it’s primarily the way the lower tray sits on the base, and the way the lid sits on the upper tray. In both cases there ends up being an air space (I noticed this with the lid), so there is the potential for a nice flow of oxygen from the lower reaches up through the trays and out underneath the lid! The key of course is to make sure we don’t let materials in each tray get too wet and packed down! I’m sure we’ll talk more about this as I start to work my way upwards over time.

OK – that’s all for now. I’ll likely provide another update towards the end of next week!

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Worm Factory 360 Set-Up

I finally got my Worm Factory 360 set up this morning. Whoohoo!

The first thing I did was set up a super-thick newsprint floor, sprayed with water to make it more worm-friendly and to help it stick to the sides and bottom. My aim here is to avoid having worms roaming down into the reservoir right off the bat. As you can see I tried to create a sort of newsprint container by folding it up the sides.

Speaking of worms in the reservoir, I realized after putting up my last Worm Factory 360 post that I totally forgot to mention the “worm ladder” – shown below. It is a black plastic insert that fits down in the reservoir. The idea is that it provides the worms with a way to crawl back up into the first tray.

I had plenty of options as far as starter “food” goes, and settled on some pretty ripe pumpkin “guts” that had been sitting in a bowl ever since our family pumpkin carving event last Sunday. I think I may try to avoid doing that again (letting it sit) – lol – WOW! Pretty foul I tell ya! As you can see, it had a nice growth of mold as well.

Oh – did I mention that it was also crawling with fruit flies and fungus gnats? Yep – as per usual, I am trying to create some “commonly encountered problems” right out of the starting gates. I’m not overly concerned – partially because the cooler temps down in the basement seem to be limiting the growth of the fruit flies, and partially because I have my trusty parasitic nematodes to help me!

By the way – in my recent “Parasitic Nematode Update“, I mentioned that the fruit flies seemed to be hatching a fair bit more in the nematode infested system (aka my “nematode farm”) and the larvae seem to be crawling up the sides. Well, I looked in today and it’s absolutely LOADED with adults now and I can see some dead larvae on the sides – even thought I could see nematodes coming out of some of them. So, the good news is that the nematodes DO seem to be effective against fruit fly larvae – the bad news is that it will likely seem like your infestation is getting worse before you see any sort of population crash. Just something to keep in mind if you plan on using these nematodes agains fruit flies!

Ok – getting back to the set-up…

I mixed the pumpkin guts with the bag-o-shredded-paper/cardboard that came with the bin, spraying it with a bit more water as well. The result was something akin to my “homemade manure“. I then added the stuff to the first tray (sprayed some more as well).

I used my typical method for stocking worms – that is to say that I simply dug wormy material (what I might also refer to as “compost ecosystem”) from another bin and mixed it in to the food/bedding zone. The bin I took the wormy stuff from had received a fair quantity of coffee grounds (so some additional food value) and – LUCKY ME – just so happened to have a nice little population of fungus gnats as well! My nematodes are going to be working over-time!

The last thing I did before putting the lid on was add some additional shredded cardboard over top (oh – I should mention that I also added some of this material – and mixed it in – after the homemade manure was added).

That’s it, that’s all!

Now I will basically just let the system sit for the next week or so. I normally would do a set-up with food and bedding and actually let it sit before adding the worms but like I said, the pumpkin waste was already pretty ripe (pumpkin/squash family plants tend to break down quickly anyway – so great if you are in a hurry) – plus I was adding plenty of good habitat/food material along with the worms so it’s not like they’d be starving anyway.

I’ll be sure to post another update next week!

1) Almost forgot…in case you are not on the RWC newsletter list, or just happened to miss my last message – you can enter yourself a Worm Factory 360 prize draw if you visit our page on the Nature’s Footprint website and fill out the survey. Here’s the link:

2) Please also refer to this follow-up post: Worm Factory 360 – Important Follow-Up
(There were some important things I forgot to mention)

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