Feeding Worms – When and How Often?

Here is a question from Robyn, who is wondering about the feeding schedule once the worm bin is set up.

Hi Bentley,
I am ready to go I believe…I have an old recycle bin (
19″Lx12″wx13″h) with some small holes aready drilled (this does not
have a top for it, so I’ve covered it with aluminum foil – will this
suffice?); I’ve put down 5 layers (bedding, food, bedding, food,
bedding), and watered it all down.
I’ll let it sit for a week or so, then add in a pound of worms.
My question is, how often after this do I add more scraps and/or
bedding?

For harvesting, from reading other posts, it sounds like I just need
to watch the progress and when I start seeing the dark castings I
know I can use it on my plants.

Hi Robyn,
It sounds like you are off to a good start! I would recommend monitoring the bin during the week (aging period) to make sure the moisture is getting evenly distributed and not pooling in the bottom. Mixing everything up a couple times will definitely help as well. Putting tin foil over it while it ages is a great idea since it will help to keep the moisture in (further assisting you in balancing moisture levels throughout bin). Once the worms are added, you can keep the foil on if you want, but you don’t really need it. It sounds like your bin has a decent depth so you could probably get away with a thick layer of bedding over top of your bedding/food mixture down below, and not have to worry about a lid at all. A thick layer of straw or shredded paper/cardboard will work great, and will also help to ensure that your bin doesn’t ever get too wet since much more water vapor will be able to escape.

Once you have added the worms I’d recommend simply monitoring them for the next week or so to see how they adapt to their new home. Dig around a bit periodically to see if they are settling in and consuming the food waste you’ve added. If they seem really responsive, and are clearly reducing the volume of the materials in the bin and you can’t see too much in the way of obvious food waste, you can start adding small amounts of new wastes (preferably aged). Again, watch how quickly they process the materials, and adjust your feeding accordingly. I would recommend adding more bedding material with each feeding, or at least every other feeding to help keep moisture levels and C:N ratio somewhat balanced – not to mention helping to maintain air flow throughout the bin.

It may take some months before you can harvest the material (would be faster if using some sort of ‘continuous flow’ system), and yeah just keep an eye on the level of vermicompost in the bin. When it is starting to look like most of the material is dark and soil like you’ll probably want to get a new bin ready. Once the new bin has been aged you can then transfer worms over using my simple ‘garbage bag harvesting method‘.

By the way, as mentioned in a previous post, I have started up a bin of my own so I can go through all the usual steps of taking care of a new worm bin. I’m going to be sharing the results with my newsletter members in the form of a ‘worm bin journal’. As an indication of just how laid back I am when setting up a new bin, I STILL have my vermicompost sitting on top of the garbage bag (harvester) in the new bin (it’s been more than a week)!
😆

I have been monitoring the worms down below (all have migrated down to the bin) however, and they seem to be doing very well. I’m going to remove the harvester today or tomorrow and get into the swing of things with caring for the bin. If nothing else, this should at least show you how mellow you can be with a new worm bin (set up the way I recommend). The worms have plenty of food so there is no rush to start adding tons of scraps. I know it can be tough to be patient during this period – if you need some place to put your scraps just start up a bucket with lots of bedding in the bottom and add them there (along with some bedding each time you add scraps), assuming you don’t have some sort of outdoor composter.

Anyway – hope this helps!

Bentley

[tags]worm bin, food scraps, worm composting, vermicomposting, worm castings, vermicompost, worm compost[/tags]

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