I decided to put together a video about making “Homemade Manure” (with the hidden agenda of seeing how many times I could make lame “guns of steel” jokes in a single video – haha!).
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, “Homemade Manure” is basically just a special mix (every batch is different) of bedding and pulverized food waste. It has been working VERY well in my Worm Inn (have used it for the last couple of feedings), with the worms really diving right in. When I first started making it (a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly) I used a blender, but it took forever! Now I just throw everything in a big bucket (Rubbermaid plastic garbage can to be exact) and beat it up and mix it with various tools.
As I mention in the video, something that occurred to me is that this would be a great way to get material ready for a new worm bin as well. I might suggest increasing the bedding-to-food ratio in that case, but same basic idea – and this way you wouldn’t really need to wait around for a week or two before adding the worms.**Want Even More Fun With Worms? Sign Up for the RWC E-mail List Today!**
Question: Do you still need to cover the contents of this homemade manure with cardboard or shredded paper to keep down the smell etc. in the Worm Inn?
I’d like to offer the suggestion to anyone who does “juicing” if they haven’t thought of it already. The pulp from the juice machine is a great composting and worm food. It’s mostly carrot, celery, cucumber and apple. I feed my worms once or twice a week and they’re thriving.
NANETTE – In the case of the stuff I’ve been adding to the Worm Inn, yeah it’s not a bad idea to cover it since it’s pretty rich stuff. If you up the proportion of bedding you mix in (if you are planning to create a full habit and food all-in-one, for example) you might not really need to cover it.
NANCY – Great advice. I too am a juicer and have been using all that pulp (often as-is) for worm food as well.
Bentley, great site. I think I’m getting close to the end of reading all your content, so I’m starting to go through it all again. I learn something new every single day.
My bin is 3.5 weeks old and I added 2 lbs. of red worms 1 week ago. I aged the bin as you recommended and I didn’t start with the homemade manure (“HM”). Until yesterday, I hadn’t added any new food since adding the worms, I didn’t want to overload the system since it was new. I whipped up a fresh batch of HM, I didn’t weigh it, but I would guess it was roughly 2 lbs. or so. First, I let the scraps sit for a few days, then froze and thawed them, then mixed in cardboard until it was no longer dripping wet. Well, the worms haven’t started on it yet, but I suppose once the microbes colonize it, the worms will follow.
How long does it takes for the microbes to get into it? My guess is immediately, and they probably reproduce very quickly under these conditions.
The HM is heating up the side of the bin where I put it, can it get too hot and harm the worms? I suppose they can just move away from it. Also, the heat is a sign the microbes are chomping down, correct?
Should I have used a more scientific method for the amount of cardboard I add versus the food scraps than just adding cardboard until the HM was no longer sopping wet? My concern here is that I added too much nitrogen rich material and the HM will get too hot. The rest of the bin is primarily cardboard and newspaper.
Would it be better to spread the HM around evenly? Would that prevent it from heating up so much, or does it even matter?
How long does it usually take for the HM to settle and start to cool down? A few days?
If your worms could handle the heat generated from your overfeeding challenge, then mine can certainly handle 2 lbs. of HM. I guess I’m just a nervous new parent here, right?
Let me apologize in advance if I happen to miss the odd question. hehe
Microbes should get into HMM very quickly, but still you may see some lag time before the worms are interested in it.
If it heats up that could cause issues in an enclosed plastic bin, especially if ambient temps are pretty hot already. You may want to leave the lid off during the day just to provide a bit more air flow.
Heat is indeed created via aerobic microbial activity – so a good sign.
I use the non scientific approach you mentioned and it seems to work just fine! Science is great, but don’t let it get in the way of just trying this out and making progress. It’s never a bad idea to err on the side of too much bedding though.
Spreading the material around should definitely reduce heating (and lessen potential for anaerobic pockets developing). Heating doesn’t matter too much as long as it doesnt get too hot for the worms. So if it’s a small enclosed system DO be careful with the amount added at once. If larger, open system you can get away with a lot more.
Time until cooling will totally depend on the amount you add and the C:N ratio of the mix.
What type of system are you using? (sorry if you mentioned this already)
Sounds like I’m on the right track. Thanks for the reply, it was very helpful.
I’m using a 14 gallon rubbermaid container (24″x16″x12.5″), although I’m not nearly using all of that volume. I put plenty of air vents on the sides and a few on the bottom as you suggested. The bin is indoors, so the ambient temperature stays around 71 degrees F.
I can’t seem to keep from digging around and checking things out, which definitely increases airflow. Would it be better for the worms to leave it be? Or is stirring it up fine?
Sounds like a good bin to me. Don’t worry too much about digging around, as long as you aren’t doing it twenty times a day or anything. haha
The worms would likely prefer to not be disturbed, but they are also very tolerant.
Hi Bentley! I decided to experiment with the homemade manure. I made up a batch using old produce I picked up from the grocery store, mixing it with just enough shredded cardboard to eliminate the liquid, then let it rot on the back porch for about 2 weeks After that I added it into 2 of the worm bins that I have. I made a trench, loaded it up, then covered it with a light layer of the bin bedding. At the end of of about a week I did some checking. In the first bin I couldn’t find any worms in the bin EXCEPT for in the remains of the manure trench. In the second bin the manure was completely gone! The worms had grown substantially as well. Since you are great at pushing the limits on our pre-concieved notions I decided to fill a whole bin with nothing but the manure. I then added in about 4 handfuls of redworms. Today I looked at them and boy, do they look great!!! Who knows if they are breeding yet, but they sure are happy, you can almost see little grins on their faces…
I mixed my worm food like this. I placed my mixture into the card board egg cartons. So when I feed them I just break off some bowls of food let them thaw and place it in the bin.
I notice in the video you use shredded cardboard. Do you have any suggestions on an fast, efficient way to shred cardboard?
Hi Herbie – unfortunately I do not. Soaking it in water first definitely helps though.
A friend of mine tells me he’s had good success with a very serious paper shredder (25 sheet I think), but I’ve never tested this out for myself.
There are various pieces of heavy machinery that would likely work as well – various chippers, hammer mills etc.
I myself am still looking for the perfect small-scale solution!
A few questions:
– Are there particular cardboards to use/avoid? I assume that toilet paper rolls are fine, but I only have so many of those ;o). What about like, office depot shipping boxes? or the boxes that reams of paper come in?
– For newspaper, does it matter if it has color printing on it, or should it be black and white only?
– For papertowels, as long as they are pretty much used for drying hands, is that ok?
– Also, can you use used kleenex/tissue? I produce a lot of that whenever I get a cold ;o).
– A friend of mine keeps rabbits. If I ask for some of her rabbit poop, what is the proper way to age the manure, or should I not bother asking for it?
Thanks a lot for your help!
Oh yeah, as a follow up question to my post above, would it be safe to use castings in my food garden if I add rabbit poop to the worm bin?
I’ve had a lot of success with HMM. I’ve also got some horse manure quite recently as well. The Euro’s I have love HMM. They swarm it immediatly.
can pete be used in place coco fiber?
gentlemen that sounds like,you have your poop together ,lol but myself,i have raised beds ,that even in 90 degree weather,worms are working,just dug up sweet potatoes today SEPT 22,2013 LOTS OF WORMS,i would bet here in ga there is none with richer soil than mine,ALL I DO IS USE LOTS OF SHRED LEAVES ,LOTS OF KITCHEN SCRAPS,LOTS OF RABBIT MANURE, LOTS OF GRASS CLIPPINGS, SOME BIOCHAR, AND TOP OF LINE COMPOST TEA, THEN ON OUTSIDE OF MY BOXES ,IS THE KEY THING,I HAVE A 2 BY 12 BOARD,ATTACHED TO THE FULL LENGTH OF THE BED,TO SIT ON,THIS GIVES OFF LOTS OF SHADE UNDER THERE,THIS OFF GROUND 12 INCHES, THEN I STORE ABOUT 4 INCHES RABBIT MANURE,LEAVES VERY SHREDDED ,WITH SOME COMPOST TEA, POURED ON TOP, HAVE ALL THE WORM MANURE ,I WANT ALL SUMMER,WITHOUT MOVING MUCH,PLANT ROOTS THERE TO