It has been almost 3 weeks since my last Worm Inn Mega update, so I figured I should probably bring everyone up to speed on that front.
As touched on last time, I have decided to take more of a laid back approach with the system this time – an approach that’s likely much closer to the “norm” among Worm Inn owners. My extreme-optimization strategy was certainly effective, but realistically, there likely aren’t that many vermicomposters who want to go to those lengths to help the process along.
What’s great is that a Worm Inn can work well either way, even if you are feeding heavily on a regular basis (the same can’t be said of most plastic, enclosed systems – that’s for sure). But there are definitely “right” and “wrong” ways to do it. Bare minimum, you will need to include plenty of bulky bedding with each addition of food. Even with all the air flow a Worm Inn provides, a huge heap of decomposing food will turn into a foul stinking mess.
I like to take things one step further by also adding a layer of “living material” (in this case, well-aged horse manure) every time I feed as well. This way I get loads of beneficial microbes (and other critters) right where I need them to be, and I also get the odor-eating properties of the aged manure. This could be considered “optimization” for sure (as could the freezing of the wastes, which I am also doing) – but it is the sort of “easy” optimization that anyone can implement without much additional time/effort.
Adding alternating layers of food, living material and bedding, you can basically just fill the Inn right up to the top – regardless of the size of your worm population. As you can see in the next image – taken after today’s feeding – I am getting quite close.
The total amount of food that’s been added since July 8th is ~ 36 lb (this does not include bedding or living material). This works out to about 1.6 lb of food per day – so it’s on the “low” side for a Mega – but I’m still adding food faster than I did last time around.
I’m enjoying the convenience of the new approach – but it’s not without its disadvantages. For one thing, it has become abundantly clear that I’m going to fill the system a lot faster than the level of material can go down. This means I will likely need to stop feeding altogether for a period of time.
Adding a lot more bulky foods, and foods that won’t immediately be processed by the worms in general, also greatly increases the risk of ending up with an outbreak of various other less-desirable critters. And that’s exactly what has happened. The system is loaded with fruit flies and gnats now.
What’s interesting is that I started seeing a LOT of them flying around in the bathroom where the Mega is sitting. At first I couldn’t figure out how this could be – the zippered lid is normally so effective at keeping them contained. Then I noticed that I had somehow nicked a couple of small holes in the mesh! Doh!
Placing a piece of tape over the holes solved the problem, and the presence of these flying annoyances has hardly been noticeable ever since. Had this been pretty well ANY other type of system, I’d have clouds of them flying around my house (not to mention an angry wife – lol), and would need to either take serious action or to throw in the towel altogether.
In this case, the only “action” required is a pre-feeding vacuuming. I simply open up the zippered lid enough to get the vacuum nozzle in, turn it on and suck up the flies/gnats before opening up the lid enough to add the food (etc).
I’m very interested to see how the worm population is doing this time around. My hunch is that I won’t end up with the same densities found in my uber-optimized system, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of worms, especially in a few months time! I’ll likely start digging around a bit – to find out what’s happening down below – once the system is completely full.
*** UPDATE – 07-31-14 ***
Today I added another 7.4 lb of food + thick layers of aged manure and bedding to finish off my upward stacking of materials in the Mega (it is now officially full). I will likely now let it sit for at least a week before digging around and posting another update to let everyone know how things look.