In my last update I mentioned my plans to get “creative” with my choice of Worm Inn “food” materials since my own supply of food scraps just hasn’t been enough for all my various systems.
Given the time of year – and specifically the fact that I have heaps of green “wastes” in the form of pulled weeds, grass clippings etc – I thought it might be fun to test out some materials I wouldn’t normally recommend for a typical worm bin.
With that being said, I should quickly offer a warning so everyone doesn’t run off and start tossing grass clippings into their enclosed plastic vermicomposting systems!
An email from Roberta:
I have had my worm factory for nine months, and I have taken out
castings with very few worms successfully from the bottom shelf twice
this spring. Now, I have castings and way too many worms in the bottom
shelf. If I stop putting food in the top shelf, and wait until all the
food is eaten, and put on another shelf, I still have too many worms,
who just go down to the bottom and wait for I don’t know what. There
are mites. I am ready to take them all outside.
I have put new shelves on the top and followed all the directions, but
perhaps, there are too many worms trying to get there, and they get
tired of waiting their turn, so they just camp out in the the lowest
shelf or thevery bottom and wait to die or go into my garden and get
out of their jail…
For starters, you might want to have a look at the post I wrote about harvesting vermicompost from my WF-360 system:
Worm Factory 360 | 3-02-12. I used an approach suggested by Kate from Nature’s Footprint (the Worm Factory folks), and it worked great!
Rather than waiting for the worms to move up on their own, you can simply force them down into one of your working trays by putting the vermicompost-filled tray on top of one of your other trays (containing bedding/food), then shining a bright light over top and gradually scraping off the compost. I was able to harvest the bottom tray very quickly this way, and was amazed to see how well the worms cooperated. Other than cocoons, and perhaps the odd small worm, the harvested material was essentially worm-free.
You MAY also want to thin out your herd a bit if it seems like there are “too many”. Perhaps a friend or family member might be interested in starting vermicomposting, or you have a backyard bin you could add them to? (just a couple of possibilities)
Hope this helps!
I must say that I’m becoming more and more impressed with this bagged sheep manure compost. Although there aren’t many worms in the material I added to outdoor beds (likely because it has dried out quite a bit), the stuff I added to the indoor Euro bin has been a BIG hit! When I checked on the bin one day after adding the material there were already quite a few worms in it. By the time I checked on things yesterday, it looked as though they had converted a lot of it into beautiful worm castings! I also found some cocoons in the material, so I figure that’s a good sign as well.
I finally got around to harvesting material from my Worm Inn earlier this week. Even more important than wanting to see what sort of vermicompost/castings I’d be left with, I’ve been really eager to make more room in the system so I can get a bit more serious about my feeding schedule (it was completely full after my last feeding).
As such, I was a lot more aggressive with my “harvesting” than I normally would be. I got in there with a hand rake and really worked my way around the walls, loosening up as much material as I could. Initially there didn’t seem to be too many worms (unlike the last time I attempted a harvest), but not too surprisingly I did end up getting into some zones with quite a few worms as I continued to gouge away.
Once I started seeing unprocessed food waste materials coming out (along with even more worms) I knew it was time to put an end my harvesting rampage and tie up the bottom once again! lol
I was really pleased with how far down the level of material in the bag dropped – almost half the volume was once again available (the image below is definitely misleading).
Most people looking at the stuff that I harvested from the Inn wouldn’t be very impressed given the amount of unprocessed bedding etc – not exactly what you would call “black gold”. But I knew better than to judge it based on appearance alone.
The important thing to keep in mind about the Worm Inn is that it forms a shell of dry vermicompost and bedding all around the inner walls, with an inner core (what Jerry refers to as the “sweet spot”) that contains some of the nicest vermicompost you’ll ever see!
Due to the quantity of worms that ended up in the material I harvested from the Inn, I ended up doing a quick “turbo light harvest” before screening it. All the bulky stuff provided me with a nice batch of “living material” to put back in the system, and as you can see below, I was left with some really top notch vermicompost (likely some of the nicest stuff I’ve ever seen from a small home system in fact).
As for adding more food…
Strangely, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ve found myself in the position of not having enough food waste. I normally have a surplus in my freezer, but I guess all my various bins and experiments are taking a toll on my supply!
Have no fear though – apart from producing more (we tend to product a lot of fruit/veggie scraps), I have some other (potentially “hair-brained”) ideas rattling around in the ol’ noggin! I may get a little “creative” on the feeding front. Should be fun. lol
Will definitely provide another update next week.