Worm Inn Journal-03-04-11

All this recent talk about Worm Inns has reminded me that it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written an update for my own Worm Inn system. I’ll be the first to admit that my various systems have suffered from neglect during the past few months (Worm Composting Windrow?…Whoops!) – but I actually have started tending to my Worm Inn in the last couple of weeks.

Those who know me probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve decided to do something somewhat different with the system (I love my “hair-brained experiments”!). Rather than feeding the Inn run-of-the-mill household food wastes, I’m going to convert it into a cardboard-only system. Well – ok, not quite! I’ve decided to provide a nitrogen source in the form of water from my daughter’s goldfish tank.

So far it seems to be working quite nicely! The level of cardboard in the Inn continues to go down, and the worms seem to be healthy and active. I will be very interested to see how things pan out over the next few months – my hunch is that I’ll end up with a LOT of worms, and some nice crumbly cardboard-vermicompost!

I encountered a very surprising sight today – my systems seems to be a veritable breeding grounds for slugs! This is definitely a first for me – and especially intriguing given the fact that this is an indoor bin! Slugs generally don’t do well in regular enclosed plastic worm bins, but I guess the damp (but not soaking wet), well-aerated environment (and perhaps the microbial buffet provided by the fish water?) is ideal for them. I dunno – but very interesting nevertheless!
Maybe I can become a professional escargot farmer!

Thankfully, these don’t seem to be one of the predatory species of slugs (not even sure if we have those around here), so they seem to be co-existing with the worms just fine.

Slug in My Worm Bin

While I was digging around, I also noticed a lot of small, orange globules (see below). At first I thought perhaps that these were slug eggs, but after doing a Google image search I’m pretty sure they must be something else. They may be some sort or slime mold or some strange variety of fungi – hard to say for sure.

Slug Eggs? or Slime Mold?

Anyway – that’s basically it for this update. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on my progress with the fish-water Inn!

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    • Anna
    • March 4, 2011

    I loved your over-feeding challenge so I’m glad you’ve started another Worm Inn project. I’m also curious about your mystery substance. Please keep us updated.

    • Julie
    • March 4, 2011

    Love to see worm inn experiments 🙂

    I’m still struggling with my worm inn at the moment. I’ve resorted to dropping gallons of water every couple days in there to keep the worms working. If I don’t, they just hide below the dry crinkly layer, and don’t work through the little bit of food I put in there.

    I’m also finding a few slugs in my plastic bin, that spent some time outside last summer. I brought it inside in late fall. It had a couple of corrugated cardboard as bedding cover while outside, and a couple slugs on the top, which I left there. It’s been in my basement since. 4 months later I’m still finding slugs. under the cover, and crawling on the top of my brown grocery paper bags serving as bedding cover . It’s not humid in there anymore, actually on the dry side these days, but I’m finding a couple of big ones, and a herd of little ones every time I look in there. Also found slugs in my other plastic bin where I transferred worms and some vc, so I must have transferred slug eggs somehow. They seem to like the brown paper and carboard 🙂

    • Ted Cravins
    • March 5, 2011

    I asked the same question last fall when I found a slug in my bin. If you added fall leaves to that batch, it may of been attached, or layed eggs on the leaves. Just a hunch of the matter.

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • March 5, 2011

    Yay! More Worm Inn Updates! I read through all the old ones again last week. Looking forward to updates on the cardboard inn!

    • Peter
    • March 5, 2011

    Heh, I do the same with my 90 gal aquarium. Not only does the water have some N in it from the fish, but it’s also throughly dechlorinated. It’s a planted aquarium also, so that’s where the plant clippings go after a pruning.

    Julie, I find the top gets pretty dry also. I have some sheets of paper on top which I give (and a shot around the edges) a daily watering to keep damp. Do it the same time I feed the fish. If you haven’t noticed or tried, with a good watering pot that gives a nice solid water stream you can water right through the top netting without unzipping it or it splashing. Just needs a bit of speed before it hits to pass right through.

    I don’t worry if it’s a little dry and maybe isn’t worked as well by the worms, as next time I add food that dry top becomes the buried ready to eat food.

    • brenda bowen
    • March 5, 2011

    looks like yellow gold to me Bentley

  1. My small flow through bin also has had the “orange globules” accompanied with a lace like growth (same color) up the side walls. I googled with similar results to yours (link). It seems to die back when exposed to light.

    I wonder where this stuff comes from?

    • Megan
    • March 6, 2011

    I haven’t found a satisfactory answer for the Worm Inn drying out either. The bottom half and the area right above the ties tends to stay pretty moist, so every time I open it to harvest I catch a large clump of worms falling out with the castings. I also have to be careful when I add water to the dry sections — inevitably, a worm or two wiggles through the closed ties with any runoff and into a catch bucket below.

    Anyway, here’s a stupid story. There’s always a layer of dried, completely pristine bedding next to the fabric of my Inn. It wedges itself in place, I’m guessing from from the weight of the finished castings pressing against it, and I’m always scrapping it out of the bottom during harvesting and throwing it back into the top section. Anyway, I once tried to keep the Inn more moist by wrapping some plastic around the outside of the bag for the top third or so, thinking the bedding wouldn’t dry out so much and the worms would move closer to the top of the system. Once the wrapping was in place, I watered it and walked away. Fast forward two days later I had monster mold growing between the plastic and the outside fabric of the Inn, as well as a ton of fungus growing through the top of the bedding and hitting the cover. I had to completely empty the Inn and scrape it all off with a putty knife; it was a disgusting task.

    So, there’s what not to do! 😉 This isn’t a complaint against the Inn, and I still prefer this system to my old plastic bins, it’s just that I haven’t solved the moisture problem yet. Right now I use a drip system with a plastic water jug, 1 gallon, with a tiny hole punctured in the bottom from a sewing needle. I fill it half way with water, set the water jug over the Inn (it drips through the fabric cover just fine) and let it go for a day or two. It’s not perfect, but it sort of works until I think of something better.

  2. Hi Megan,

    Let me chime in to help you out. I’ve definitely spent a lot of time working with The Worm Inn. 🙂

    Re: Drying out on top: Flying bugs like two things….Food and water. If you’ve got your food scraps underneath a nice thick layer of bedding, you’ve helped prevent these bugs from smelling the rotting vegetation. As the top dries out, you’ve now taken away moisture attracting the flying bugs. This is the reason why I almost never have any flying bugs hovering around no matter how many scraps I am processing. I’ve got 3 whole cored pineapples decomposting in my Inn right now (If anything will attract flying bugs, pineapple will!….and no bugs)

    The worms never reside on top, so the top drying out will not affect your worms whatsoever.

    Re: Drying out. If you are putting in quite a bit of produce waste, they will naturally release water into the sweet spot of the Inn (The sweet spot is the center portion where the food resides surrounded by bedding). If you only use paper bedding without many scraps, I guess the unit would be hard to keep damp. My issue is normally not running out of scraps though. 🙂 Because most of us have started with plastic bins, we’ve become accustomed to excessive moisture conditions for our worms, and tend to think that worms need to live in mud. Worms need dampness, but they get sluggish in mud. I think you will agree that the worms in The Worm Inn are always extremely lively. This is because they are not struggling for oxygen. I normally add water about every 4-5 days using my mister from the hose. I just water directly through the screen top as you mentioned.

    Re. Worms coming out in your harvest: There is no composting system made that will not yield any worms in the vermicompost, but you can minimize this by doing the following: Let the unit get dryer than normal prior to harvesting. The castings that fall to the bottom will begin to get nice and crumbly (Like coffee ground consistency). As the castings begin to dry, more of the worms will move up into the sweet spot, as that is the area retaining moisture. Now, when you harvest, you’ll have basically finished castings with fewer worms coming out with them.

    Because there are so many variables regarding raising worms, I haven’t attempted to include every scenario in the INNstructions. I have however recently developed a brochure that covers these issues in more detail. You can get the brochure in email format from Bentley, or email me at Jerrygach@comcast.net and I can forward it to you.

    Hope this helps.
    Jerry Gach
    Owner-The Worm Inn

  3. I like the Worm Inn because you can put a lot of food in it. The fabric reminds me of the higher end soft side luggage I use to sale. Almost like balistic nylon.
    Im sure you could wash it out in a 5 gallon bucket. Then use the wash water to pour over your garden or spray it over your lawn.
    In the summer you could set out next to your garden. As you pick of dying plant life just put it in the worm in. Find a few stray leaves blowing in the yard snatch them up and put it in the Worm Inn. Any of the VC that has fallen into you bucket sprinkly over the plants.

  4. Hi All!

    Strange question for you but can you put dryer lint into your worm bin? I use organic detergent and dryer sheets. Mainly my clothes are made of cotton with a few exceptions but I could manage that.

    I hate throwing it away but I have no other ideas for it – other than fire starters.

    • Kator
    • March 14, 2011

    Fascinating Bentley! I also would be interested in what you find. This is one of the reasons that I thoroughly enjoy this site – great ecological diversity in the classroom 🙂

  5. Chris I put my dryer lint in my non worm (hot compost) bin. You could always try a small amount in a corner and see what happens.

    • jean kruse
    • March 17, 2011

    I put dryer lint in all the time – it takes a while to disappear but does eventually with no harm to the system.

    • Sharon
    • March 27, 2011

    Hey Bentley,
    I have a quick question about feeding my worms compost, not my own but some I had purchased last year before my worms were producing sufficient vermicompost. Do you think it’s safe to feed them mushroom compost or Black Kow compost from Lowes? I’m wondering since it’s already composted (I have the mushroom compost) if it would be ok but wanted your opinion. Thanks. Have a great day!

    • Bentley
    • March 28, 2011

    Hi Sharon,
    I definitely wouldn’t consider either of those really good “food” since they are both pretty stabilized materials. Probably decent bedding materials – just be careful of the salt content with some of those bagged manures – may irritate the worms.
    Try small amounts of both and see what the worms do!
    Ya never know!

  6. Jerry or Bentley, I have had my Worm Inn since Feb. I started with 200 worms. The bottom is no longer dripping wet but wet. I felt thru the opening at the bottom and all I feel is the cardboard egg carton pieces that I put in when I started the Worm Inn. Should I place a fan next to it to help it dry. Or is it ok. Im glad this is not one of my plastic worm systems it would be a swampy mess.
    I know I have way more then 200 worms in there now. Im in no hurry for the VC I just want to know if its ok.

  7. Well darn I hoped some one would leave a comment to my question.

    • Bentley
    • April 14, 2011

    Sorry Paula for delay,
    I wouldn’t worry too much. Very normal for false bottom to remain intact – I normally just let this cardboard layer drop out and then start scraping the vermicompost above. Try scraping some material out to see how it looks and smells, and to see how many worms are in it. Ideally it should look/smell earthy and have relatively few worms.

  8. Thanks Bentley, I have a bunch of VC in the bag. The worms plow thru what ever I place in the WI quickly. Its almost half full of VC now.

    • Kelly
    • April 24, 2011

    When I look in my worm bin I have zillions of the little teeny tiny white things that you see in your photo of the slug and orange droppings… I am very new to worm composting… what are those? worms? slugs? something awful or something good? I am finding slugs as well, not sure what brought them into the system, but they haven’t grown very big yet.

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