July 2012

Vermicompost Comparison-07-30-12

I decided to move the plants from my “soil + vermicompost” experiment to larger pots this morning. Unfortunately, I was limited both in terms of pot selection and vermicompost supply so I had to make do with what I had. I ended up using four plastic buckets with holes drilled in the bottom (previously used for a tomato-growth experiment), and I added two cucumber plants to each one once they were set up with my treatment soil mixes.

Speaking of which – since I didn’t have enough WF-360 or Worm Inn vermicompost to create a 2:1 (soil:vermicompost) blend – at least not if I was to have any hope of filling the buckets – I settled on a 3:1 mix for all vermicompost treatments. As it turns out, even this didn’t leave me with enough soil mix to fill the buckets completely, so I ended up topping them all up with more black earth once the plants had been transferred. I’m not overly concerned with this change since it was consistent across all treatments, and we’re still left with a mix containing at least 20% vermicompost. This is also not even taking into consideration the fact that the plants were started in a 33% vermicompost mix.
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Vermicompost Comparison-07-26-12

I figured it was about time I posted an update on my cucumber-growing (with vermicompost) experiment. If you happened to miss the first installment, here is the link: “A Tale of Three Vermicomposts“. I’m actually quite surprised I still have any of my plants left, to be totally honest. Apart from dealing with seedling-munching chipmunk early on (I kid you not), I’ve also been battling with very hot, dry weather (by our standards, anyway). Speaking of which, I actually did end up giving up on the small passion-flower seed growing experiment since it was just too difficult to keep the three small pots moist.

The results of the other two experiments have been quite interesting so far. I am definitely seeing some strong evidence to indicate that not all vermicomposts are created equal! Before I elaborate, let me quickly point out that the following results should IN NO WAY serve as a reflection of the quality of the vermicomposting system these vermicomposts were created in. There are MANY different factors that can play a role in helping to create a top notch vermicompost, such as the type of feedstock, frequency of feeding, quantity of worms present in the system etc. Obviously the type of bin/bed used will still be an important factor – I just don’t want people assuming these types of systems are no good for producing decent vermicompost simply based on my results. I’ll definitely discuss this a bit more once I’ve shared the results.
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Manure in a Home Worm Bin

I received this msg from Melissa

I am wondering if it would be a good thing to add manure to my indoor
vermicomposter, in addition to the normal fruit and vegetable waste I
add?

I appreciate your expert opinion!

Hi Melissa,
Great question – something I’m sure a lot of others have wondered about as well. I know I talk a lot about the value of “aged manure” here on the blog – but I probably don’t spend enough time on the “DOs” and “DON’Ts” of manure use.

Generally, my blanket recommendation for those who are new to vermicomposting is to steer clear of any type of manure when using a typical plastic, enclosed worm bin (whether located indoors or outdoors). While there are certainly types of manure that CAN be used in these systems, it’s probably not worth the risk since even relatively small concentrations of ammonia and various salts can harm or kill your worms.
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Plastic Worm Bin-07-23-12

I had hoped to get a “plastic bin follow-along” update posted last week, but alas it just didn’t happen. The good news is that I DID manage to check up on things (and take pics), and I even added my Red Worms on Thursday. As far as the bin being “ready” for the worms, everything looked and smelled great. The bedding was thoroughly (and evenly) moistened – yet there was no pooling on the bottom of the bin, and everything smelled fairly earthy (i.e. no foul, anaerobic smells) when I dug around.
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Worm Bin Recovery

A very relevant email from Tiffany:

I have a closed rubbermaid tub with a bunch of holes and a second tub
as water collector system. I collect my veggie and fruit waste in an
airtight closed tub. A few weeks ago, I forgot to feed the worms what
was collecting for a few days and it decomposed to watery, really
putrid smelling waste. I figured it was ok anyway and put it in.

Long story short, I had to stop feeding, mix in dry bedding and leave
the bin open on and off for the next couple of weeks. I thought the
smell finally dissipated and the moisture went down and left it alone
covered for a few days to find TONS of white fuzzy mold that I ended
up mixing in with more dry bedding. The worms seem ok. And I do have a
white mite population that seems under control.

How should I be collecting/saving/feeding the food wastes? And if the
wastes are really disgustingly decomposed and watery, should I still
feed it to the worms next time?

Finally, any advice on how to get my bin back in order?

Thank you so much for your time and your great website!

Hi Tiffany,
You’ve brought up some really important topics here – so thanks for writing in!

Firstly, let’s talk about keeping waste materials…
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Growing Worms vs Breeding Worms vs Waste Processing

Some interesting questions from Chad:

Hi Bentley,

I was inspired by your blog to start vermicomposting and have been
doing it for over a year, ever since I DIYed my own flow-through
system.

I have two questions:
How can I create optimal conditions for different situations:

1. Vermiculture, or optimizing worm (re)production.
2. Vermicomposting, or optimizing vermicompost/casting output.
3. Biomass, or optimizing to inrease worm size.

My second question:
my output looks much like traditional compost, kind of a “rich
mixture” of material, but how do I get pure castings? Feed it through
the system again?

Thanks for all your help, and kep up the good work.

Hi Chad,
While there is certainly some overlap, you are correct to assume that there are specific strategies best suited to each of these. Unfortunately, this is one of those topics that could literally be turned into a book, but let me see if I can at least provide you with some guidelines here.
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Citrus Vermicomposting Update

I’m sure some people must be wondering how my citrus vermicomposting experiment is coming along. Well…the “bad news” is that my outdoor beds didn’t prove to be the ideal testing grounds for this sort of thing, so I ended up letting the whole thing fall by the wayside…until recently, that is. I should quickly mention, though, that the citrus waste materials DID seem to break down quite quickly in the outdoor beds – almost “too quickly” – but this actually served as a reminder of the fact that it’s really only the smaller indoor systems where citrus wastes are going to have the potential to cause issues.

In light of this, I’ve decided to do some testing in some of my indoor systems instead. Apart from being more relevant for the average vermicomposter, it will also be a lot easier to see what’s happening (my indoor bins don’t get disturbed nearly as much as my outdoor beds). It is ALSO a good way for me to get things going again with yet another project that kinda fell by the wayside – my springtail experiment!
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