Reader Questions – 08/01/08

Here are some questions from Tomas:

Hi! I just have a few questions about worm composting.

1) When maintaining worm the bin, do I need to manually stir the
bedding and mix it with the food ?

2) I heard from someone that red wigglers don’t do well in its own
compost and will die if the compost is not taken from the worm bin as
soon as possible. Is this true?

3) Do I need to make holes on the lid of my bin for air ?

4) The new bin I made is layered with alternating layers of food and
newspaper. Does it need to be layered?

5) Does the food need to be place at the top of the bin or can food
be placed anywhere?

6) Do I need to mix soil in the worm bin with the other organic
materials I put in the bin or is the organize material on its own ok?



Hi Tomas!

1) Some recommend stirring the bedding periodically to help aerate the bin and ensure that moisture is evenly distributed throughout. I personally prefer not to do too much of this once the worms are in the system since disturbing their habitat can cause them stress. It’s a toss up though, since increased aeration can prevent anaerobic conditions from developing and help to accelerate the production of vermicompost. When adding food, I recommend simply pulling back the bedding and dropping some food in, before covering back up. If it is a sloppy wet food material you may want to add some dry bedding in the hole before adding it, to help absorb excess moisture.

2) That’s not really true. While Red Worms certainly won’t get much nutrition out of the well-processed material (which contains a lot of their waste products), it doesn’t quickly reach toxic levels or anything like that. Back in early July I wrote a post about harvesting some vermicompost from my big outdoor worm bin. As mentioned, I found countless tiny Red Worms in the finished vermicompost, so while they were clearly suffering from a lack of nutrition, the material couldn’t have been seriously toxic (if at all) even though it almost certainly contained a very high percentage of worm castings by then (since I’ve never harvested material from that bin).

3) I’ve had successful worm bins without air holes in the lid, but I do recommend you add them since it helps provide more air flow inside your system, and allows more water vapour to escape. This is of course assuming we’re talking about a plastic enclosed bin of some sort.

4) I like creating a layered system when first setting it up, but usually by the time the worms are added (I often like to let my systems age for a little while before I add worms) I will have mixed it up a little to help distribute moisture and aerate everything. Layering certainly isn’t a requirement, and the worms will end up mixing everything up either way.

5) The food can be placed at the top of the bin, but this may increase the likelihood of attracting ‘pest’ organisms like fruit flies. I personally prefer to bury wastes – but not TOO far down.

6) You CAN mix in a little soil when you first set up the system to inoculate it with microbes and to provide some grit for the worms (helps them with digestion), but it’s certainly not a requirement. If you do add it, do so in moderation. Soil can be dense and heavy, thus impeding air flow and may get ‘muddy’ as moisture levels increase. The composting worms certainly don’t need it.

Hope this helps, Tomas – thanks for the questions!



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