On Thursday I finally managed to get the ball rolling with the new “Worm Inn vs Plastic Bin” challenge (had hoped to get this post up yesterday, but an ice storm left us without power for most of the day). The goal was primarily just to create baseline habitat for the worms – something I’ll continue to tweak over the next week or two.
The plastic bin I selected is a Rubbermaid “Roughneck”, with a similar volume as the Worm Inn (~ 2 cu ft). It has quite a few small drill holes along the the upper sides, and 4 bigger holes (originally cut out with a box cutter) in the lid. With a depth of less than 9″, I think this particular model has the potential to do reasonably well against the Inn…but we shall see!
It’s really important to keep everything (other than the containers themselves) as consistent between the systems as possible. As such, I decided to delay the addition of food waste initially. All I had on hand were mixed bags of kitchen scraps – and the last think I wanted to do was chop it all up by hand and mix it until completely uniform (alas, I don’t have any sort of old food processor at this time). Some fairly uniform materials I did happen to have on hand were 1) telephone book newsprint, 2) very-well-aged (and originally mixed with bedding) horse manure, and 3) lawn thatch (something I am going to write more about in another upcoming post). So these were the only materials that ended up being added.
I should mention that the “aged manure” actually does have some Red Worms and cocoons in it (the pile I collect it from has a resident population of these worms), but there were not many in the material added, and the distribution of the worms (and cocoons) seems pretty consistent so I’m confident this won’t alter the results. If anything, there may be a few more worms in the material that went into the plastic bin, simply because there seemed to be more worms further down in the container the manure came from – and the final portion of aged manure weighed out was then added to the plastic bin.
I started with a good layer of bedding at the bottom (much of which will become the “false bottom” in the Worm Inn), followed by a layer of the aged manure, a layer of wet thatch, another layer of the aged manure, and finally, a thick layer of bedding over top. Although I haven’t included the exact weights of everything here, rest assured, all weights were recorded (so I will have a running tally of the total amount of materials that have gone into these two systems over the course of the experiment).
IMPORTANT NOTE: For those of you fairly new to vermicomposting who are reading this, please keep in mind that this is NOT a recommended way to set up a new worm bin. Until you have more experience working with different waste materials, it is recommended you steer clear of any type of “manure” – especially in the case of a plastic enclosed bin – since it may contain (or release – as is in the case of ammonia) harmful compounds.
I have started setting aside some uniform food wastes (watermelon rinds and old bananas/peels, so far), and will be adding equal amounts of these sometime over the next few days. Then I will simply let the systems sit for a little while. Given all the great “living material” I’ve got in there, I really won’t need much of an aging period, but I figured I can use the time to A) make sure we have a nice moisture content (and evenly distributed), and B) round up my initial stock of worms.