In the last update I mentioned my plan to finally harvest my VermiBag system (that had been up and running for about 4 months at the time). It had been neglected quite a bit, so I decided I should probably feed it fairly heavily first, in an effort to draw most of the worms up closer to the surface.
Well, I must say they went completely crazy for all that pumpkin I added – and it really seemed like my wood chip mix helped to balance it out nicely as well. The upper zone was crawling with “happy” Red Worms in no time.
As it turned out, I put off my harvesting plans during the holidays and then – much more recently – added yet another BIG load of pumpkin.
NOTE: I definitely don’t recommend adding this much of any type of food waste at one time. It is also a good idea to add in pockets or trenches so you are not completely covering the surface the way I did. (My “excuse” is that I’ve been doing this nearly 20 years now – and have a reasonable idea of what I can and can’t get away with – lol)
So yeah, it was a big dump of pumpkin waste that had been sitting in a plastic bag out on my deck, and then allowed to thaw out (and even age) for some time inside.
I felt pretty good about the under-layer (normally I would likely add plenty of absorbent bedding, or simply use whatever thick layer of cover bedding I happened to have at the time). So I left that as-is. But I did add a layer of dry-ish, well-aged horse manure over top (what you see below)…
…before covering with a fairly thick layer of the wood chip mix (really nice stuff, largely because it also had leaves chipped in as well). This combo virtually guaranteed that I wouldn’t end up with any foul odors as that overly-thick layer of pumpkin sludge started rotting even more.
I don’t remember exactly how many days elapsed between the the second pumpkin feed and my decision to (finally) harvest the system, but it might have been 3 or 4.
Harvesting took place on Monday of this week!
When I unzipped the bottom flap I could see a very intact false bottom sticking out (completely normal, and actually helpful, for this to remain in place until first harvest) – and I felt like I was about to uncover an ancient mummy.
That feeling passed pretty quickly once I grabbed my trusty metal hand rake and started attacking the layers of newsprint.
Almost immediately I saw beautiful looking vermicompost falling down into the bucket below, along with the fragments of matted newsprint (which were moved to another bucket so I could add them up in the feeding zone once the harvesting was complete).
The harvesting process went pretty smoothly, but I was regretting the use of the bucket almost immediately, since no matter how carefully I worked, material continued to fall on the floor.
I ended up grabbing one of my trusty concrete mixing tubs to use instead. As you can see, it didn’t fit as nicely below as it used to with my old Worm Inn Mega (wooden) stand – but it still worked a lot better than the bucket!
Two things really impressed me during the harvest: 1) Just how nice (and uniform) the material looked, and 2) The fact that this lower zone was almost completely worm-free!
The appearance of the material (vs a more typical home-system-vermicompost) is likely due to the fact that I mainly added tea bags and manure. Kitchen scraps tend to leave you with all manner of resistant bits and pieces (no biggie – since they can be easily screened out and recycled as a “living material”).
Once I did start seeing a few more worms I decided to call it quits. All said and done, I basically ended up with a full tub of material – approximately two medium-sized sandbags worth. Pretty cool!
I decided to use the bags for storage since they are breathable and because it is easier to find room for them than bins.
Part of why I wanted to harvest was so I could reduce the weight of the system before moving it to a new location in my basement (to free up space for my new UWB 2.0. Before the move I decided to dig around a bit in the bag, which almost immediately resulted in me breaking through to the excavated zone (thankfully I had zipped the flap back up by that point – haha).
This was great with me since it left me with a lower level of material – and it also ended up being a good opportunity to mix the pumpkin in with the habitat material a bit more.
All in all, I am thrilled with my VermiBag so far, and I should end up with quite a bit of nice compost by the time the spring growing season rolls around.