Worm Inn Mega – 10-16-14

Things have continued to hum along with my Worm Inn Mega system.

It’s been up and running for just over 3 months now, so I decided to crunch some numbers and see where we stand overall.

Total food* added – 104.2 lb
Total # of feedings – 14
Smallest feeding – 3.36 lb
Largest feeding – 10.09 lb
Average feeding – 7.44 lb

*There is usually some “bedding” material that is mixed in with the food. BUT – I didn’t consider the weight/volume of any of the bulk bedding OR “living material” (aged manure) that has been added – this is quite a significant proportion of the total material added!

All in all, I am happy with the progress, but I’d really like to start boosting the frequency of feeding and/or average weight of feeding. I may need to start bringing in outside inputs, however, since I’m easily keeping up with our own kitchen waste production (actually pretty impressive when I think about it, since we are pretty serious fruit/veggie consumers).

As touched on in my most recent updates (9-16-14 & 9-13-14), I’ve stopped adding bedding (other than small amount mixed in with food), in favor of a “living material” + food layering approach. This seems to be working REALLY well!

The level has continued to drop down between feedings, leaving plenty of room for more food and aged manure – and there are gobs of worms to be found in the upper zone. I likely could have continued on like this for another month or two before a harvest was required.

But where’s the fun in that?!

Today I decided it was time to see what’s going on down below. Apart from wanting to see how the vermicompost is looking these days, I’ve been very eager to see if the harvesting process is easier now that I’m using the wooden stand (had the PVC stand for my last set-up).

In two words…HECK YES!!!

Wow – what a difference. Harvesting was much easier due to the stability and extra height the stand offers. I think all the extra air flow down there (since higher off ground) is also making a big difference. Unlike last time, I’m really not seeing much in the way of fungal growth on the lower sides of the Mega. The false bottom was completely intact – the shredded cardboard looked brand new, and I literally had to cut through the layers of newsprint to get to the vermicompost!

I was a bit concerned that the vermicompost down at the bottom was going to be bone dry – but this was not the case at all. It was as close to a “perfect” level of moisture as I think I’ve ever encountered when harvesting a system.

I started scraping everything down into a plastic bin. It didn’t take long to fill it. At first glance, the material didn’t look very impressive. There was a lot of dry bedding, larger chunks of vermicompost, elastic bands, and other bulky, unprocessed ‘stuff’ (for lack of a better word).

I knew the real “magic” would happen when I put my “super simple vermicompost screener” to work. I positioned it inside a plastic garbage bag, and began the rather time-consuming task of screening all the material removed from the Inn.

I really like my simple screener – but I gotta say that I was definitely wishing I owned some sort of DIY rotating screener after 10 minutes of vigorous shaking…and the sight of most of the material still left to be screened!

The bulky material I screened out was dumped into a separate bag. This will end up going through the system again.

It will serve as a fantastic bedding/”living material” mix that can be combined with food waste for best results.

What was left in my screening bag, was beautiful “black gold”. Absolutely gorgeous stuff!

I was also very happy to only find perhaps 3 or 4 small worms in the material removed from the Mega. Fairly heavy/recent feedings up at the top of the system, combined with fairly dry conditions down at the bottom, likely helped a lot with this.

Thrilled with the results of my relatively-small harvest, I decided not to push my luck by continuing to scrape more material out (I likely removed about 1.5 bins worth all told). There is undoubtedly a LOT more finished material near the bottom, but I’m not in any rush to remove it (especially not at this time of year).

NOTE – In case you are curious about the total weight of material removed…it was about 15 lb of bulky leftovers, and nearly 20 lb of “black gold”.

In my next update I’ll let you know how far down the level drops in the system.

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    • Lynn
    • October 16, 2014

    So, it’s normal to find chunks of compost? Even if they’re like small bricks? I’ve been kind of worried about how dry the lower parts are. I have a really hard time keeping anything below the middle anywhere near damp, even though I spray with water twice a day.

    • Peter
    • October 16, 2014

    I get chunks in my Worm Inn (up to fist size after a bit of a wet inn), but not dried out bricks. One side (the one on the fabric side) might be dry, but as a whole you can still crumble them by hand. I find the edges at the fabric are always dryish. And small hard bricks I get left over just get put in my reuse VC bin that I add to new feedings.

    The VC at the bottom has moisture, but I wouldn’t call it damp. The only times it really was (I was harvesting a overly wet inn to make more air space) it also had a fair number of worms which wasn’t ideal.
    So enough moisture to not be bricks, but not enough for the worms to want to be living in it.

    • Colleen
    • October 18, 2014

    So once you harvested you don’t have a false bottom
    How will harvesting be different the next time you do it,

    • Bentley
    • October 21, 2014

    LYNN – Solid chunks are not uncommon at all. It’s important to note that there can be a bit difference between the Mega and the regular Worm Inn. In my experience, the regular Inn forms a sort of hard outer shell – and all the nice vermicompost is found in the “sweet spot” zone in the middle. With the Mega (so far) the moisture seems to be distributed a bit more evenly. Definitely drier around the sides, but not the same sort of dry husk I’m used to with the regular Inn.

    PETER – Agreed!

    • Bentley
    • October 21, 2014

    COLLEEN – The false bottom is great for soaking up excess moisture, and discouraging downward migration of worms when the level of material in the system is quite low. As the level gets up towards the top and there is more and more compost, it’s really not needed. The lower zone should be fairly dry vermicompost, with few worms. Once the false bottom is removed, everything just settles down to the bottom. The next time you harvest (again once overall level stays up close to top) you simply open up the pull ties at bottom and start removing it again (some will likely drop right out – but most will still need to be scraped with a hand rake).

    • Gary
    • May 23, 2017

    The bulky material that was screened out…how do you store that for later use? Can you tie up the garbage bag it’s in or does it need to breath? Same question with storing LM. I can get my hands on some well aged composted manure but for storing it in my apt can i keep it in an air tight bucket or does it need to breath?

    • Bentley
    • May 25, 2017

    Ideally it should be in a semi-breathable container. When I put it in a plastic bag I always leave it open. Don’t put any sort of LM in air tight containers or you’ll end up with an anaerobic community of organisms and likely some foul smells (although LM tends to be fairly well stabilized so it is nothing like putting food waste into an air tight container).

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