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Compost bin is full

Post in 'The Green Room' started by EatenByLimestone, Feb 26, 2007.

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  1. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    What do you folks think about vermicomposting with nightcrawlers?

    If I toss an extra garbage can I use for manure hauling into the basement I can probably set up a vermicomposting bin pretty easily.

    What do you think? Should I just start a new bin and dig the worms come spring?

    Matt

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  2. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Funny you should mention that...the wife just took delivery of a margarine bowl full of 'composting worms'. This is her project, so I don't know too much about it, except that we are now the proud owner of a fairly large rubbermaid container filled with various bits of newspaper, twigs, vegetable food scraps, and of course, the worms. It looks like this composting is going to be an extremely slow process unless the worms get much bigger and/or more numerous...but I guess that would be nature taking its course! Apparently, the worms already living in the existing compost bin aren't suitable for composting? I still have a lot to learn about this project!

    Corey
  3. Kenny1

    Kenny1 Feeling the Heat

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  4. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the link Kenny. I clicked it, but it seems like it just took me to the Whitehorse City home page...I looked for another link to worm composting but didn't seem to see it.

    I did have a chance to do some reading over lunch on some different sites, though. It appears that garden variety worms and worms that are in the compost heap really AREN'T the right worms for the job. Seems like the site recommended 'red wigglers' They also recommended about 2000 worms per pound of food scraps per day. I think the wife ordered a quantity of 100. So it looks like we will be in limited production mode until some breeding starts going on! By that ratio, we're composting about 0.05 pounds per day. I think the rubbish from my salad last night is going to keep them going for the rest of the month.

    Anybody know what the life / breeding cycle of a worm is?

    Corey
  5. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Nightcrawlers are supposed to eat their weight every day and lay an eggs around every 7 to 10 days.

    It's winter so I really can't dig my own, but Walmart has nightcrawlers for sale for fishing. 24 for a little over $2. With 3 containers, I was wondering how much I could do.

    Maybe I'll just wait until Spring and dig my worms when I turn the garden over. Then there will be nothing lost if the experiment fizzles. I'll probably just dump a bunch of them on top of my current compost can to get the level down.

    I was shocked to see how fast the can filled up with scraps when it became too cold to rot down. It must cook the stuff down quickly in the summer.
  6. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    I have 3 worm bins inside. There's two types of worms, earth movers and I think the other if I remember is composters. Earth movers are the night crawlers or any other worm that makes permanent burrows/homes. They make permanent burrows many feet deep and HATE them being disturbed. At night, they come to the surface looking for surface scraps to eat. They always end up at the hole they left from, they release a slime as they travel away looking for food, and can distinguish their trail from all others, and will follow it back to their individual burrow. Bins full of earth movers, everytime you disturb the bin to put in food they'll all come out trying to flee, and the person who wrote a book, known as the worm woman tried repeatedly to make them work and earth movers always died, unable to live in a worm bin environment. The other are the compost worms, red Wigglers, Eisena Fetida, whatever they don't live in perm burrows, don't mind being disturbed, have an unquentiable appetite but MUST live in organically rich environment like worm bins, manure piles, compost piles, etc. If you put them in the garden to be "set free" they usually die as they thrive in organic matter, not dirt.

    I have 3 worm bins, I started one for my home and went online and purchased the Eisenia Fetida. I got mostly P. Excavatus worms instead which are like, the weeds of the worm industry. They mutliply 3x faster but try to leave your bins constantly, good for southern places but not north as they're a tropical earth moving worm. I complained and got my money back, and as I feared they died in winter when my basement temps dropped. I tried again to purchase E. Fetida from a place called http://www.HappyDranch.com and they were all E. Fetida, if you're serious about it that's who I recommend from. You could also just go find a manure pile and fill a worm bin with it, you're sure to find E. Fetida in them.

    From a vermicomposter... for bedding for them I was surprised natural stuff is not the best. Nothing beats cardboard like the brown cardboard or gray but not white all the way through. Rip the box and if the middle is gray (or light gray) or brown you're good (cereal boxes). If the middle is white avoid it (most toothpaste boxes). I've found paper bedding tends to form into solid balls. I send my cereal boxes, toilet paper & paper towel cores, and cleanex tissue boxes through my paper shredder and try to use that for bedding the most, along with any of my private documents I shred and some brown cardboard boxes I've ripped into strips. The next best material is newspaper, followed by laser or copy paper. I haven't had any luck with leaves (particularly oak), nor straw, especially sticks because they don't hold water like a sponge, and worms love moist bedding (but not too wet). The bins the bedding was just paper did not do as well as the ones with shredded cardboard mixed in as well. Weigh the stuff in a container when dry, and add 3x the amount of weight in water. Got 3 lbs of shredded paper & cardboard then soak 9 lbs of water in it. The bedding should be about 6"-8" deep before adding worms, the worms eat in only the top 6" or so, throw in a couple hand full of sand/dirt worms don't have teeth they grind their food in their gizzard and use the sand/dirt to help. One of the first mistakes I made was making the bedding 16" deep. As the bedding starts to lower from eating and you're having more difficulty completely burying the scraps then add more bedding, usually 2-3". Things I don't add are brocolli as it stinks to high hell, lettuce as I did that once and it got all slimy and covered with little fruit flies, banana peels you have to wash them as the peels can be covered with pesticide and cut them up in pieces with scissors. Grapes, pierce the skins with a fork first before adding (worms have no teeth), onions & garlic & citrus should be avoided but you can add small quantities in worm bins. But, those things usually release an acid the worms don't like and they'll try to move away from it. Egg shells are a requirement, they give your worms the nutrients required for them to lay eggs and the worms use them to help grind the food. But, they have to be in powder/granule form to be useful. I take my egg shells and leave them in the sun for a day to dry out. Then put them in a ziploc bag and use a roller on them repeatedly in all directions with a lot of force which turns them into powder. I then sprinkle the powdered eggshells on any food I add. Usually, the food you add makes up for any loss of water and you don't need to add anymore. But, on occasion check your bins anyway to make sure. I moved up to 3 bins because I didn't like seeing the company I work for throwing away so much coffee grounds and cardboard and I take all the grounds home and any small cardboard boxes if it's time for more bedding and rip it into strips and put it in the bins. In winter time, they slow down... A LOT (unless you have them in a heated area). In summer it usually takes me about 3 months to go through a bin and the worms are lively, in winter they're about 1/4th the speed and sustain heavy losses. Once spring comes they perk right back and population recovers. I find it pretty fascinating I can turn some of my waste and work waste into the richest organic fertilizer known to mankind. Worm waste is saturated in beneficial bacteria and microbes, it's also a light hormone that stimulates plants, and improves any soil added. But, it needs to be mixed in with regular dirt for biggest impact. Plants grown in just worm castings, or just dirt didn't fair as well as those mixed with both. By the way, you'd be surprised how heavy worm bins get. Each of my bins starts out about 40 lbs and I add 8-15 lbs/week. After 3 months each weighs in 75 - 100 lbs. Remember, when it comes time to harvest you have to carry them someplace and trust me you're better off with several small bins than trying to lug one large bin weighing a couple hundred lbs. Also, for bins what matters is surface area not depth. You want more length and width than height like a dresser drawer, not a deep but short container like a trash barrel. Mine are plastic storage containers I purchased from K-Mart for $4.99 each, I drilled holes for air.
  7. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I have a bin full of red wigglers. I feed them coffee grounds and horse manure. For bedding (which eventually gets eaten, too), I use leaf mold (composted leaves). Worm castings are about the best organic ferts you will find. You can mix them right into the soil or make worm casting tea, which can be used to water any plants, any time. Sit back and watch 'em grow.
  8. Kenny1

    Kenny1 Feeling the Heat

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    Ooops, sorry about that.

    Dunno what happened, but the artical is under Solid waste/compositing.

    However, Rhonemas has already given a much better description (along with pratical information).
  9. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    There is a place in Milwaukee called Growing Power that uses worm composting on a massive scale. They have 2 or 3 acres in the middle of the city, and grow a tremendous amount of food using worm castings as their main fertilizer. I have never tried worm composting just because it is more work than throwing the stuff in a heap outside someplace. Also you don't have to worry about the worms starving to death when you go on vacation for 6 weeks, or if they get too cold in the basement or whatever. BUT, if you want to try, at least it would avoid slogging through the snow to take the compost outside . . . That is our problem this winter, it keeps snowing all the time. We have a cold frame near the house where we put compost in the winter, to save the long hike out to the main set of compost bins.

    On GardenWeb they talk about worm composting quite often, check out http://www.gardenweb.com/forums/soil

    It is set up sort of like HearthNet except with a gazillion more forums. The "Soil, Compost, and Mulch" forum is the main place they talk about composting, worms or otherwise. I tried composting in 20 banana boxes (long story) and carefully moved worms from my garden into the boxes to be sure there would be some there to help. Of course later when I dug all the dirt out of one box I came across well over 100 worms, in about 20" x 30" less than a foot tall. So they seem to reproduce pretty quickly if they have good organic material to eat.
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