Reader Questions – 06-24-08

I’m kinda running out of titles for these ‘Reader Questions’ posts, so I’m going to start using a generic, date-based title for some of them (particularly those that cover multiple topics). Anyway, here are some good ones from Amanda:

Hi! I’ve found the information on this site very useful, and
I’m planning to set up a worm bin very soon.

I have a large, square (good surface area) planter box on my condo
deck that I was intending to use for my worm bin. I don’t know the
exact dimensions, but it’s big enough to plant a tree in. It’s about
half filled with soil, and I had this brilliant idea of adding worms
and some kitchen waste and everything would just be wonderful.
However, after reading though many of the posts on this site, I have
some concerns:

1. I don’t have a lid for the planter. Most of what I’ve read here
describes plastic tubs with lids. Will my woms all jump ship? I had no
idea worms could crawl up a slippery plastic surface. The planter is
in a very shady area of the deck so direct light should not be a
2. There is soil in the planter. I keep reading about bedding (I
didn’t even know worms needed bedding!) Would it be ok to introduce a
pound of worms into the planter if I mix the soil with lots of
shredded paper/cardboard, kitchen scraps, and water?
3. Do I need to drill holes in the sides of the planters if I don’t
cover it?
4. Can redworms go directly into my planters of fruit and vegetable
plants, or will they die?

Thanks so much for any advice…I want to make sure I know as much as
possible before I order my worms, so I can make them a cozy home.

Hi Amanda

1) You definitely don’t need a lid for your worm bin. While they can certainly help to keep things moist inside, lids aren’t vitally important. What I WOULD however suggest is making sure you have a really thick layer of bedding material over top – straw or shredded newspapers etc will work great. The only concern might be rain flooding the bin, so you might want to use some sort of temporary lid on rainy days (assuming there is no drainage). You mentioned it being in a shady location, which is great – but if it did happen to be in a spot that received sunlight, in my opinion it would actually be better without a lid. Tightly enclosed bins, especially those made of plastic, can turn into little ovens if sitting exposed with a lid on. Any temporary worm tubs I keep outside are left without lids so as to prevent the worms from getting baked. If it is made of wood slats (with spaces between), a lid is totally fine (and helpful) since there is good air flow.

2) Soil is ok in a worm bin, but yeah it definitely helps if you have a fair amount of ‘bedding’ types of materials – these tend to be carbon-rich and absorbent, so they help to keep things balanced. In my experience, soil just tends to get compacted and mucky – and it does nothing to keep C:N ratio balanced, so things can get a little nasty if you are not careful. Definitely mix in a LOT of the bedding materials you mentioned, along with some water (be careful with it if you planter has no drainage) and food scraps. Corrugated cardboard (shredded) should really help if you have it, since it is quite rigid and bulky, thus allowing air in. The worms also really love it once it gets nice and wet.

3) You should be ok without air holes if it is open at the top – hopefully it has a reasonable surface-area-to-depth ratio (the higher the better). In other words a shallow tub is much better than a tall bucket. A standard square or rectangular planter would work very well. You mentioned that it is “big enough to plant a tree in”, so that sounds pretty good to me.

4) Red Worms can survive in soil in close proximity to plants, just as long as there is ample rich organic matter there as well. I’ve been experimenting with Red Worms in my garden this year and they seem happy to stick around as long as they have a food source. In regular soil they will either leave or die.

Hope this helps!

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