As I wrote in my recent scuttle fly post, I ended up adding my worms earlier than planned (last Saturday to be exact). I wanted to make sure they established themselves in the bin as quickly as possible so as to offer some competition for the fly larvae.
I actually ended up adding Euros AND Red Worms. My original plan had been to wait for a while to add the Reds (to give the Euros a nice headstart in the system), but I noticed that there were no scuttle flies in my Red Worm bin (from my “plastic worm bin follow-along“) – unlike the Euro bin which seemed to have a fair number of them. I thought this might be a sign that Red Worms are better at outcompeting the larvae than Euros.
Whatever the case may be, I think it’s going to be a really interesting experiment to have both of them in there. Apart from wondering about Euros in flow-through systems, people also ask about mixing Euros and Reds in the same system. Normally I recommend avoiding this, since it may hamper the success of your Euros, and it makes it difficult to separate them later on – but again, it’s always fun to challenge my assumptions (based on previous experience) and to test things out again.
As alluded to above, it was my plastic “follow-along” bin that I added to the new bin. It was absolutely loaded with small Red Worms, so I think that will get me headed in the right direction pretty quickly as far as building up my worm population goes.
I performed a similar bin-dump with one of my Euro bins – and as you can see the material in the bin was quite similar in appearance (i.e. pretty sludgy). Plenty of Euros in there, though!
I made sure to spread everything out as much as possible, while still keeping all the worm habitat (and worms) together in a layer. The last thing I wanted to do was mix everything up in the bin, forcing the worms down into zones that may have still been inhospitable for them. On top I added moistened newsprint strips.
Over top of that I added a very thick layer of dry shredded newsprint.
With the sludgy habitat material sitting up on top of a thick layer of straw – resulting in much better aeration – and the worms continuing to work on it, it’s amazing how quickly it’s been converted into something much closer to nice looking vermicompost in the short time since everything was added to the bin!
As I expected, a lot of the worms have remained in the old habitat material, but I’m starting to find quite a few down in the straw (and I have little doubt many have made their way even further down as well).
I’ve been blown away by how quickly the level of material in the bin has been dropping. I keep topping up with shredded newsprint, but within a day or so it’s already down again. There has certainly been some heating in the bin – especially in the middle – but I haven’t come across any zones over 40 C (104 F).
Temps around the outer walls are much more reasonable (in the 20-30 C | 68-86 F range) – and not too surprisingly, this is where all the worms seem to be hanging out. I haven’t added ANY more food yet. I definitely want to give the system some time to cool down and allow the worms to work on what’s already there. This practice is never a bad idea when you first start up a vermicomposting system.
I’ve finally started finding droplets of water down on the cardboard false bottom and bars of the floor grate, but nothing seems to be dripping down onto my tarp below. Nor have there been any worms (or other critters) trying to escape at all.
I have noticed a LOT of pseudoscorpions up near the lid, though, which seems interesting. I guess they may prefer lower humidity and lower temperatures.
Speaking of lower temperatures – as mentioned in another recent post, I ordered some parasitic nematodes (Steinernema feltiae), and they arrived earlier in the week. I am holding off on adding any to the VB48 though. They do not do well when temps are high, so I think it’s best to wait until most of the bin has dropped down closer to 20 C (68F). I’ll likely try them in a couple other smaller systems in the meantime.
One other quick thing to mention. I have NOT been recording the weights of materials added to the bin as of yet, but I really want to start doing so. I think it would be a lot of fun to see how much food waste and bedding this system can process over time. I’ll likely just use 20 lb as my starting amount (I know I’ve added at least that much material thus far), and start weighing/recording everything from here on out.