Here is a question from Joel:
I havested some castings but it was wet, I aired out the castings but
then it became hard as a rock. How can I get a nice crumbling casting
that is soft and not a rock hard castings that basicaly I can not do
anything with it?? please help.. Joel
Someone else recently asked the exactly same question so I thought it would make sense to write a response out on the blog. I’m sure this is something a LOT of people have encountered! I’ve certainly created my fair share of vermicompost cement over the years!
I don’t know what it is exactly that causes the material to solidify to effectively (the worm mucus perhaps), but I think some materials scientists should be looking into this – we could have the next revolutionary drill bit material on our hands here! haha
Seriously though, it is incredible how hard this stuff can get! I clearly remember the frustration of trying to revive a set of wooden systems I’d neglected down in my father’s basement. Not only could I not re-hydrate the material, but it was incredibly challenging even to break it up and get it out of the boxes!
Generally speaking, you are going to encounter this far less often with systems that receive frequent attention. The key here is to not let the castings get wet and then pressed together and allowed to dry. In the case of a flow-through system, my recommendation would simply be to keep things moving along – don’t just leave it to sit for a month or two at a time. I have learned this first hand with my first couple of Worm Inns (which can dry out fairly quickly as it is) – when I finally decided to dump the contents of these systems into an outdoor bin, the compost inside was pretty solid. I’ve encountered something similar with a wooden stacking system that I’ve used.
My current Worm Inn has materials packing down in the bottom (actually a good thing since it prevents everything from just falling out) but because it is being used so frequently, everything is staying moist and the vermicompost I’m scraping from the bottom is great stuff.
For those of you who are dumping out the contents of a plastic worm bin, my major recommendation would be to mix the material a LOT initially to break it up, then continue to mix and break it up on a daily basis. A small hand fork should work quite well for this task. As long as you can prevent large clumps of castings from staying pressed together while drying out, you should be ok!
Anyway – hope this helps!
Thanks for the great question.