Plastic Worm Bin-07-12-12

I decided to check on my plastic bin yesterday to see how things were coming along during the “aging” process. The food waste had decomposed quite nicely and moisture had become more evenly spread throughout the bedding, but – as I suspected would be the case – it was still in need of some assistance from me.

One thing that seems to concern people during the aging period is the growth of “mold” in the bin. I only observed fungal growth on some of the food waste in this bin (so far), but it’s not uncommon to encounter larger, fluffy growths of mycelium spread through the bedding as well. Either way this should not be cause for concern.

Mixing up the contents of your bin (during the aging period) is a great strategy not only for breaking up these growths of fungi, but also for helping to further integrate the food wastes with the bedding materials. This was especially important in my case since there was still some bedding that hadn’t become moistened yet.

I actually ended up adding quite a lot more water as well since I was nowhere near my recommended “as wet as you can get it without pooling on the bottom” level. Speaking of which, I should point out that it’s not uncommon for water to pool down in the bottom shortly after you add it – the key is to make sure you mix the bedding really well since this will more than likely help to sop it up. If it does turn out that you’ve added more than your bedding can hold, simply mix in more dry bedding.

Something else worth mentioning is the fact that I encountered some pretty unpleasant odors while mixing everything up. Clearly, even when wastes are “optimized” and mixed with lots of bedding they can still clump together and create stinky anaerobic zones. This is yet another good reason for doing at least one thorough mixing during the aging period! You’ll end up breaking up a lot of these food clumps and spreading the material around, while aerating everything as well.

As you can see in the image below, everything has settled a fair bit in the bin. I will more than likely mix in even more bedding materials before adding the worms just to make sure they are starting with lots of quality habitat. Yet another reminder of the fact that you really can’t add “too much” bedding when you first set up a worm bin (as long as it’s moist by the time the worms are added).

I’m planning to stock this bin with worms early next week. I don’t mind starting things off with a generous aging period, but I’m also eager to get things rolling. I have little doubt that the habitat will be in great shape by then.

Stay tuned!

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    • Curtis
    • July 13, 2012

    Thanks for posting this thread Bentley. I think it should be mandatory reading for anyone starting a rubbermaid bin. It took me a while to realize I wasn’t putting enough bedding whenever I started a bin, this confirms it!

    • GA
    • July 15, 2012

    A question on the fungal growth – on the one hand, you say it’s not a problem, but on the other say it’s easy to mix up.

    Does it need to be mixed up? Apart from the other reasons to mix it up – I mean specifically because of the fungi.

    It seems to me a pretty normal occurrence and mostly won’t bother the worms at all – in fact, they’re probably eating the fungus, and in the meantime, the fungus will start breaking down some stuff that would be slow to break down otherwise.

    Oh, and what looks to be fungi might be actinobacteria, some of which form filaments like fungi – and also the beasties that produce the ‘earth smell’ chemical, geosmin.

    • Bentley
    • July 15, 2012

    Hi GA,
    Mixing during the aging period is really beneficial anyway, so this is something I recommend regardless of whether or not there is obvious fungal (or similar) growth.
    If there IS lots of growth, the way I see it, if the mycelium is broken up a lot and spread around it may be more readily consumed by the worms once they are added. Aside from that – if it IS a type of mold, the last thing you’ll want is to have it forming fruiting bodies and sending spores all over the place (another good reason to keep it in check).

    So yeah – generally speaking, don’t panic (lol), but at the same time it’s never a bad idea to mix it in before it becomes really well established.

    I agree, these growths aren’t always going to be fungi. Aside from the actinomycetes you can also see outbreaks of slime molds sometimes as well.


    • GA
    • July 15, 2012

    Thanks. Agree mixing is a very good idea, particularly at the beginning, just thinking some people might worry the fungus is a problem. Here, it’s probably a better signal that at this early stage, more mixing is needed.

    I have an outdoor composting bin that has sort of turned into a worm bin on its own; now that it is pretty late in its aging process, I notice it gets a fair bit of white mycelium when left alone, which tends to concentrate in lumps of hard-to-digest bits (packed paper, cardboard, cellulosey-plants, clumps of dried matted grass, etc). Anything the white has infiltrated thoroughly tends to break apart by touch pretty easily and the top layers smell very, very strongly of mushrooms. Only small bits of wooden branches seem to resist this much. More obvious in drier bits at the top but not sure that means anything.

    My working assumption is that the fungus is helpful to the final aging process, and I only disturb it when I am harvesting a bit for the garden or checking for really undigested clumps (or just really want to get my hands dirty). The worms seem to love it all and are spread throughout, although sometimes concentrated in pockets (one of the reasons I do muck around a bit). My impression is that the only thing the worms like more are wetter clumps with more ‘fresh’ food, but that they’re eating the fungi and mycelium don’t really represent a problem to them.

    • Bentley
    • July 15, 2012

    Absolutely! I was thinking more in terms of small indoor bins.
    I love seeing mushrooms pop up in outdoor bins/beds. They are fantastic for breaking down carbon-rich materials – and the worms definitely thrive in their presence (their often-rapid disappearance is probably linked to worms munching on their mycelial network)

  1. yo dude,

    I left town for nearly two weeks and I was super worried about my Worm Inn system since it breathes well and therefore won’t hold moisture as much…I was right! I came back and nearly lost my population…if I had a rubbermaid system, there’s no way that would have happened!

    It’s hard vacationing when your worms are at home by themselves hating life in a 100F+ humid basement! I actually think the humidity might have helped them live just a bit longer, though.

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