It’s been ages since I’ve posted an update for my small indoor wooden flow-through bin (you can find previous posts below). From the look of things, everything seems to be going really well in spite of some neglect on my part. Every time I open up the lid I find congregations of Red Worms up at or near the surface readily feeding on whatever happens to be the most recent waste addition. I haven’t been adding loads of food, but everything that does get added seems to get processed quite quickly!
It’s been more than three weeks since my last wooden flow-through bin update. That’s not to say that I’ve been completely neglecting it since then, however. I’ve added a lot more worms (two bags of the “Red Worm Mix” I sell up here in Canada) and of course some food – although, I will admit to slacking a bit on that front.
When I added the additional worms, along with some extra “living material” (well aged manure in this case) the level of material in the bin was very close to the top. It didn’t stay this way for long, though, and when I checked on the bin last week the overall level was back down in the lower half of the bin. Looks as though the extra worms are helping to speed things up!
Last Tuesday I added 847 g (1.87 lb) of frozen-then-thawed food waste along with some shredded brown paper. This was then covered with a layer of aged manure.
I thought I’d share a quick update for my new wooden flow-through bin. As is often the case with my projects (especially this time of year), things have been progressing a bit slower than planned with this bin. I ended up taking it with me for a workshop I was giving several weeks ago, and I stocked it with some Red Worms as part of the demonstration – but I’ve done very little with it since then.
Yesterday I decided to start getting things back on track by adding some frozen-then-thawed food waste (1.306 kg / 2.88 lb) along with some “living material” and shredded cardboard. I also added the second level so I’d have more space for the materials being added.
Yesterday I decided to harvest vermicompost from my WF-360 (so I am now back to one tray). It probably seems like I’ve been neglecting the bin for a while now – and it’s true, I have. But there’s more to it than simply being occupied with other things. Rather than continuing to provide the worms with lots of rich food waste, I decided to let them go hungry for a bit so they would convert more of the bedding material into vermicompost. Judging by the look of the material in the lowermost tray (i.e. the stuff I harvested), I’d say the strategy worked quite well.
Truth be told, I hadn’t even considered harvesting this early due to the fact that I was only on the second tray. In my mind it made sense to keep moving upwards with new trays until the very last tray (4th in my case) was full. An e-mail exchange with Kate (from Nature’s Footprint) reminded me of the fact that it’s the time (passed since starting the bin) that’s probably a more important consideration than the number of active trays.
Kate also shared with me a very cool (and easy) approach for harvesting the vermicompost without losing lots of worms (one of my other concerns had been the fact that most of the worms were still in the lowermost tray). It’s similar to my own “turbo light harvesting method“, but rather than ending up with a gob-o-worms down at the bottom of a harvesting tub, you’re using two Worm Factory trays – driving all the worms from the upper down to the lower tray.
My first step was to create a new “bottom tray” (which, as touched on earlier, is now my only tray). This involved lining one of my unused trays with newsprint, and then simply transferring to it all the material from my second tray.
Once all the material was transferred from tray #2, I placed my new “bottom tray” underneath the tray I wanted to harvest vermicompost from (the original “bottom tray” – confused yet? lol). At this point I had the system sitting underneath a bright lamp so as to drive the worms downwards.
Before removing any material I loosened it up quite a bit with my trusty hand fork. The disturbance, combined with the increased light penetration helped to get the worms moving down. After leaving everything to sit for a little while I started slowly scraping off the upper layers of vermicompost and then loosening more material down below.
There was still some intact bedding in the tray – primarily the remains of the newsprint around the sides and at the bottom. I ended up removing most of this and transferring it to my Worm Inn system since there were quite a few worms living in it, and (obviously) it wasn’t yet “finished”.
I ended up finding some pretty serious concentrations of worms in places – typically associated with the remaining bedding.
All in all, I was really impressed with the look of the vermicompost I removed, and the ease with which I was able to drive the worms into the tray below! Apart from a few stragglers congregated along the sides (where there are no grate holes), the vast majority of them seemed to head right down even before the light hit them.
After all the vermicompost had been removed, I took off the harvesting tray and provided the worms with a long-overdue meal of peeled carrots. Inspired by a recent “Worm Brief”, I also added some rich “living material” (which actually contained loads of tiny worms) from another bin. As per usual, I topped everything with a layer of shredded cardboard before putting the lid back on.
As for the vermicompost, I am storing it in a former worm bin. The idea is to keep it fairly moist while still providing it with a good supply of oxygen.
I’ll let everyone know when I start using it!
I checked on my WF-360 system today to see how things are coming along. It seems the worms have once again done well with the food materials I added last time. Given the (larger) quantity, I’m thinking the freezing definitely helped.
Still plenty of recognizable food materials in there, but I could easily get away with adding some more food if I wanted to. Me being me – I’ve decided to just let the worms continue munching away on what’s there.
Lots of worms hanging from the bottom of the second tray when I lifted it up, and lots more down in the first tray. If I do decide to harvest some vermicompost this month, I’m sure I’ll be needing to separate plenty of worms from it as well.
The material in the first tray is looking quite nice, though – so it probably won’t be long before I do harvest. Hopefully by holding off on feeding this week I’ll encourage the worms to work on some of that unprocessed bedding.
Still no worms down in the reservoir, so I’m happy about that!
IMPORTANT: Remember, today (Feb 14) is the deadline for submitting your entry for the February Worm Factory 360 contest – the draw will be tomorrow. As mentioned previously, this is actually the LAST chance (at least for now) to win one of these bins! All you have to do is fill out a short (Nature’s Footprint) survey on the Red Worm Composting contest page.
I decided to check on my WF-360 system today. It’s been a little over a week since my last feeding – which coincided with adding my second tray – and I’ve been eager to see what the worms have been up to.
I must admit to being rather taken aback by what I saw when I removed the lid and started pulling away the upper bedding cover layer. LOTS of worms have moved up into the second tray, and what’s more, the food has all but vanished – replaced by lots of fibrous castings!
When I pulled off the second tray I saw plenty more worms still down in the first level, along with quite a few “danglers” (lol). This is obviously to be expected so soon after adding the new tray. The material down below looks quite well processed, so I don’t imagine it will be too long before I can potentially do some harvesting!
Given the impressive effort my Worm Factory worms put in this past week, I decided to be a fair bit more generous with their food today. I added 1211g (~ 2.7 lb) of compostable kitchen scraps. The big difference this week is that I tossed these materials (including the stuff I’ll be adding to my Worm Inn) in my deep freezer and then let them sit and thaw out for a day and a half. I think this is going to be a pretty significant improvement!
[Aside – this actually has me feeling really inspired to set up a simple comparison experiment (somewhat similar idea to my now-defunct “particle size experiment”, but much easier to set up and monitor) with materials at various levels of “optimization”]
I chopped everything up a lot (same way as with recent feedings) – clearly, this alone is making a pretty big difference! Speaking of which – something really interesting I noticed today is the presence of some gnats in the bin – but only a very small number of them. My hunch is that when the worms are able to feed on the materials quite quickly, the gnat (and fruit fly) larvae don’t have nearly the same opportunity to establish themselves.
Once it was chopped up to my satisfaction, I simply dumped the food waste into the second tray and mixed it in with my hand fork.
I topped everything off with good layer of (new) shredded cardboard, before moistening everything (didn’t include an image of the final appearance, in case you are wondering).
Speaking of moistening, I was happy to see that the reservoir is still fairly dry and that there are currently no worms down there. I know some people tend to think they are doing something wrong when they’re not accumulating “tea” down there – but my preference is definitely to use some nice finished vermicompost for my tea making, while (hopefully) avoiding the creation of a prime worm hang-out!
That’s all for now – with the way these worms are munchin along, I’m sure I’ll have another update soon!
IMPORTANT: As mentioned in a recent newsletter, Nature’s Footprint has started up another WF 360 contest for us. All you need to do (once again) is fill out the survey on the RWC Contest Page. One new development, though, is that this is actually going to be the LAST chance (for now) to win one of these bins. Kate doesn’t want to bore everyone to death with surveys every month, and it might be fun to explore some other contest ideas here at RWC. Just so you know, I will definitely continue to post these WF-360 progress reports, so no need to worry if you’ve been enjoying them!