February 2015

Vermicomposting Papaya

My dad recently brought over a ripe papaya for the kids (some grandparents bring toys and candy…my dad brings tropical fruit). Over the next few days, my daughter and I consumed (and enjoyed) most of it. But then it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve never done any papaya vermicomposting trials!

Being the trueworm-head” that I am, my priorities switched from enjoyable-nutrition to vermi-experimentation, and I ran off with the remains down to my “worm lab”.

As I’ve written previously, there’s been some talk about (more…)

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Worm Inn Journal – 2-23-15

It is crazy to think that it’s been almost 4 MONTHS since my last Worm Inn update! Surprisingly, this was not for lack of important happenings on the Worm Inn front – I guess my brain just hasn’t really been in “Worm Inn mode”.

At least not until now!

Here is a quick run down of what’s been (and what IS) happening:

1) Last fall I finally got around to building a wooden stand for one of my “Regular” Worm Inns, based on the Blake Ketchum’s great DIY Mega Stand. and started up the system you see pictured to the right.

2) In November I ended up taking down my Worm Inn Mega system to help free up some space in the basement. We were having some renovations done, and some of the work was down in the bathroom where it had been sitting.

3) I recently started putting together a comprehensive (more…)

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Short Notice Worm Bin Set-Up

Great question from Katie:

So my worms are coming TOMORROW and I have not set up my bin. It’s been a year since we have done this last and we were not given a heads up but I remember the bin needed set up like two weeks ago. What should I do?

Hi Katie,

The timing of your email is great, since I just published my “Living Materials” guide (which, as you’ll see in a minute, may help with your situation.

As you likely know, the key here will be to get the system set up, and as close to “optimized” as you possibly can…as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong, you CAN set up a worm bin the the very same day the worms arrive, do little in the way of optimization…and still do just fine.

It’s just that if the environment seems too “foreign” to the worms, they will likely be a LOT more restless. They may even try to escape from the system en masse.

Aging a system with food wastes ahead of time at least allows for the development of a decent microbial community, and also (thanks to that microbial community) helps to make the food more “worm-friendly”. But if we don’t have the option of waiting for the microbes to reach an ideal level, the next best option (or in some cases, an even better option) is to add beneficial microbes to the system.

This brings us back to the topic of (more…)

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Tiny Tub Challenge – 2-17-15

I checked on my TTTWC bins this morning. It’s been a little longer than I’d hoped since my last observation. “Thankfully”, things have been going fairly slowly – likely due to the ~ 64 F (< ~ 18 C) temps in my basement. So it doesn't look like I've missed out on too much. That said, I'm happy to report that one of my bins now has (more…)

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Disappearing Bait Shop “Red Wigglers”

Question from Judy:

Hi, I have set up a new worm bin in a 10 gal plastic tub with lid & holes. I used the coconut fiber with lots of shredded & cardboard. Added processed food, veggies, egg shells I looked in today & can only find one worm. I notice the bedding is dryer than was explained in your info. Could I have lost all of them so soon? I bought a small container from a local bait shop who said they were “red wrigglers” buy they didn’t appear small, red or wriggly.

Hi Judy,

You’ve highlighted one of the potential problems with buying worms from a source other than a reputable composting worm supplier. Unfortunately, you just never know what you are going to get. Bait shops almost always just use common names – and they are certainly not overly concerned with the exact classification of their worms.

Although, you would think they’d at least get the “small, red, and wiggly” part nailed down! lol

There may have also been some issues with your system set up. I’m not a huge fan of coir at the best of times – but when it is dry, it definitely won’t be an ideal bedding material.

My suggestion is to get everything well moistened (without excess pooling in the bottom – assuming bin doesn’t drain) and to order some proper Red Worms (from a composting worm supplier) – or maybe track someone down in your area who is vermicomposting and see if they will share (advantage there, apart from saving money, is that you’ll get some nice worm bin material that will help you inoculate your own system). The Vermicomposters Map may help with this.

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Outdoor Compost Bin Worms in Indoor System?

Questions from Tim:

Hi Bentley, I am blown away by your knowledge and the way you share it online, thanks so much for this.

I just bought my first worm bin and was given worms from a regular outdoor compost bin. It was just semi-mature compost containing worms.

I am not sure if this is the best source of worms and if they are the right type. The bin has some coconut coir and then the compost. I haven’t added waste yet (it has only been 3 days).

There seems to be little obvious activity and worms in there, but there a few there right at the bottom. Also, some have fallen through to the bottom tray (where the water drains). So my questions are:

Do I need more worms – i.e. is there too much compost for the number of worms?

Do I need a different type of worm? Have I received an earth worm instead of one suited to composting? Is that expected when sourcing worms from an outdoor compost pile?

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the kind words (almost wrote “worms”)!
When you use worms from outdoor sources, there is a decent chance you’ll end up with some that aren’t well suited for indoor vermicomposting. But, that’s not always the case. If these worms were taken from an active outdoor bin (one receiving rich wastes such as kitchen scraps), if they are small, reddish, and there was a lot of them in the material, there is a reasonable chance you’ve got some Red Wigglers.

One of my recommendations for those setting up a stacking bin is (more…)

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Two Worm Challenge – 2-06-15

I finally managed to check on my TTTWC bins this evening. It looks as though bin #2 is still devoid of worms, so it’s safe to say they weren’t “hiding”.

Just for fun, I am going to leave the bin going. I think it will be interesting to watch the decomposition process as it compares to the bins with worms.

Speaking of which, both worms in both of the other bins are now (more…)

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