Thursday, June 5, 2014

Caring For Your Worm Composting Bin

Now that you're worm bin is full of worms...what next?

Originally posted 7-9-09

Vermicomposting with worms
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Digger's Vermicomposting Series:

First Entry: Vermicomposting Guide (Introduction to me and my friends)
Second Entry: Red Worms for Composting
Third: Indian Blues Composting Worms
Fourth: European Nightcrawlers for Composting
Fifth: Use a Mix of Composting Worms

Sixth: Setting Up Your Vermicomposting Bin

Seventh: Bedding for Your Worm Compost Bin

Now here's where the rubber hits the road.  We're going to open that bag of worms and put them in the prepared bedding.

Add Your Composting Worms to Worm Bin

So, you've dampened your chosen bedding.  If you're using the Worm Friendly Habitat worm bin, follow these steps:
  1. Put the piece of landscaping cloth into the bottom of the bin before adding the bedding material.  This will keep the worms from crawling out through the holes in the bottom.
  2. Add your dampened peat moss, shredded paper, coconut coir, or whatever into the bin until you have 4 - 5 inches when you are finished.  (Remember, you can add 16 or so ounces of good garden soil or finished compost to your bedding.  Or, spay your bedding with VermaPlex ™, for the microbes.)
  3. Dump out your bag of worms and spread over the top of the bedding.  Since the worms are light sensitive, they will quickly retreat under the surface.  Top off the bedding with a layer of shredded paper.
  4. Set the bin in the tray and add water to the tray.  The tray of water is not just to keep out ants or other creepy crawlers.  It's also an early warning device.  If the water in the tray begins to turn cloudy, your bin is too wet and you must make adjustments.  Remember those holes in the bottom are for air, NOT to drain you bin.
  5. Put the vented lid in place.  (You may want to leave the lid off with a light over the bin for 2 or 3 days to prevent the worms from crawling).
  6. Place the bin out of direct sunlight, excessive heat, excessive cold, and rain.  The preferred temperature is 60 to 76 degrees.  The worms will survive in hotter or colder temperatures, but will thrive in temperatures that we ourselves feel most comfortable in.
Leave the worms alone for a day, not feeding or disturbing.

Worm Bin - Next Day

Lift the lid slowly.  The compost worms, more than likely, will be around the rim of the bin.  Spending 2 or 3 days on the road with all the vibrations disturb the worms considerably.  If they are, just leave the lid off and place a light over them at night for the first 2 or 3 nights until they settle into their new home.

If there is condensation on the lid, the bedding is too wet.  Leave the lid off for a few days to allow the bedding to dry out somewhat.

Feed Your Compost Worms

You may start feeding your compost worms within the first three days.  The biggest mistake in the care of worms is giving too much food at the beginning.  Your worms do not have teeth, so you need to chop (NOT puree) their food.  Really tough food like citrus peels, broccoli, stocks, etc. may be blended for a short period.

You can collect food for you worms in a small bucket with holes in the lid.  Let the food set out for 3 or 4 days unrefrigerated to let it naturally deteriorate.  This will make it easier for the worms to digest the food. (Remember to pour off the liquid before adding to the worm bin.)

Compost Worm Feeding Schedule

You'll want to gradually increase the amount of food your put into your worm compost bin to allow your worms to acclimate.  Here's a good schedule to follow:  
  1. First Week:  Pull back the top of the shredded paper along one side, add 8 oz. of waste food along the exposed side.  Reposition the paper.
  2. Second Week:  Pull back the paper along the center, add 8 oz. of waste food along the exposed center, recover.
  3. Third Week:  Pull back the paper along the opposite side, add 8 oz. of food, recover.
  4. Fourth Week:  Go back to the first side and check to see if there is still food.  If there is, you're feeding too much, or the food is too large (like whole potatoes).  If all the food is gone on the first side, you can increase the amount of food to 16 oz. and repeat the process
Remember:  Don't overload your worm bin with any one particular type of food.  For example, you can feed citrus, but not JUST citrus.  Moderation is the key. (For worms as well as humans.  Dogs....n-n-not so much.)

More Worm Bin Food Facts 

  • Compost worms will consume any kind of biodegradable matter EXCEPT materials containing excessive oils or chemicals.
  • Ground up eggshells or calcium carbonate is a must.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon every several weeks to help control acidity in the bedding (the ph level should be neutral).
  • Without adding the eggshell, the bedding may become too acidic.  Just dry out a few eggshells, grind them with a roller and sprinkle on top of the bedding.
  • Usually, feeding one or two times a week is sufficient.
  • The smaller the pieces the faster the moisture and bacteria will break them down for worm consumption.
  • Pureeing is NOT recommended.
  • Always cover the food with bedding to avoid fruit flies. 

Food For Your Compost Worms:

Coffee grounds, corm flakes, pizza crust, eggshells, molasses, deviled eggs, shredded paper, coffee filters, oats, pancakes potato salad, corn bread, rye bread, bran/corn cereal, organic compost, fruits and vegetables. (Avoid too much citrus).  

Foods NOT To Feed Your Compost Worms:

  • Do NOT Feed Meats,  (meats are for your dog) 
  • Do NOT Feed Fish,   (ditto) 
  • Do NOT Feed Bones,   (ditto, but uncooked)
  • Do NOT Feed Corn Cobs,   (no thanks)
  • Do NOT Feed Large Amounts of Pasta,   (nah)
  • Do NOT Feed Feces,   (uck!)
  • Do NOT Feed Kitty Litter,   (double uck!!)
  • Do NOT Feed Oily Foods,   (no thanks, I'm watching my weight)
This concludes by Vermicomposting Guide Series for now.   I have two questions for you:
  1. Do you have any questions or comments on the series?
  2. Are you having any problems with your vermicomposting bin?
  3. Does your doctor know you're taking questions from a dog?
That's three, you say?  Everybody knows dogs can't count.

Next....Self-Watering Container Gardening

Worm Composting Bin Resources

Vermicomposting earthworms

Red Worms: Nature's premier composting earthworm

European Nightcrawlers: Excellent composting worm and THE best fishing worm

VermaPlex®: Worm composting bedding enhancer

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