Forum Posts

scottkent45
Sep 22, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
What Do Worms Eat? To first understand how to help worms eat faster, we need to know what they eat. Yes, they swallow and process organic matter, but this is not actually the main source of their nutrition. Technically speaking, earthworms are predators. From Clive A. Edwards quoted from nrcs.usda.gov; [Worms] are major decomposers of dead and decomposing organic matter, and derive their nutrition from the bacteria and fungi that grow upon these materials. The earthworms are not nearly as interested in eating the organic matter as much as they are interested in potential microorganisms that they can consume alongside the organic matter. This is actually how they can tell what's edible and what's not - if it has started decomposing! A confession - I really only like the fries at Chick-Fil-A because I usually load them up with Chick-Fil-A sauce. Though I am eating the fry and the sauce, I mostly do it for the sauce. A confession from your worms - I really only like fruit/vegetable waste because it's usually loaded up with plenty of yummy microorganisms. Though I am eating this organic matter and the microbes on it, I mostly do it for the nutrition from the microbes. And so your worms go forth in your bin, from a microbe's perspective, as an astronomically sized monster, consuming entire planets (considering how much bacteria can be on just a small piece of organic matter this is actually a pretty good analogy) whole. Just some fun imagery. So.. Are Worms Decomposers? You could not possibly create a more advanced composting system than the earthworm. Worms obtain nutrients from the microbes as decomposition occurs, so their digestive system has completely optimized itself to be a decomposition super accelerator. The material that enters the earthworm will quickly be covered by saliva which innoculates it with more microorganisms, then the material is crushed and ground - almost like a shredder - in the gizzard which massively increases the surface area of the food and allows for masses of microorganisms to populate the material where they couldn't have before. Then in the intestine it is further broken down and the worms obtain the nutrients they need before excreting the worm cast, which will explode with microbial growth due to the microbial innoculations and massively increased surface area. The whole process remains aerobic and produces beneficial bacteria while destroying pathogenic bacteria. The material they eat becomes decomposed in only a few hours - as long as it takes for it to go from one end of the worm to the other. Guidelines For Feeding Worms Aerobic Conditions and Bedding You need to make sure your bin stays aerobic. Organic matter that will contribute to aerobic conditions in any quantity is considered bedding. Other organic matter would be considered food. The majority of your bin (75% or more) should be bedding, or finished worm castings/compost, at any given time. This is very important. If you do not know the difference or if these do not seem like familiar terms, you need to learn more about bedding. The entirety of the rest of this post will apply specifically to food such as fruit/vegetable waste; things that are higher in nitrogen and water content typically. Avoid certain types of foods Generally you'll want to pass on feeding citrus, meat, dairy, spicy foods, salty, greasy, or oily foods, because the worms don't handle them very well, and other organisms might take advantage of the available food. Check out the squirm firm infographic at the bottom for more details. Bury the food Worms feel safe below the surface, they don't want to have to come up out of the soil to eat if they don't have to. If there is any light getting into the bin at all it will further discourage them from leaving the soil to eat. Additionally, burying the food can help prevent the material from drying out if its left over the surface. If the worms are protected from light and the material won't dry out on top, you don't really need to bury the food - however it will help prevent any gnats/fruit flies from discovering the food if its buried as well. Don't add throughout the entire bin Until you are familiar with the type of food you are adding and how the worms/bin will respond, don't add the food throughout the entirety of the bin. This allows the worms, if they don't like the material/conditions you've created, to just go to a different section of the bin (whether horizontally or vertically). If it has been added throughout the entire bin and something has gone wrong, their only option is to escape the bin as a whole. It is a good idea while you are still learning to always leave a portion (a third or so) of the bin free of any actively decomposing food as a safe space for the worms if you make a mistake elsewhere in the bin. This also allows you to figure out if a food/type of organic matter will be okay for your worms. You can ask your worms directly by adding some of the food in a small area in the bin. If they don't like it, worst case scenario is that they'll avoid that area and not touch the food. If they swarm it right away, they like it. Fruit Skin Although you don't need to do this, the worms will be able to eat a watermelon/grape/apple/any fruit with skin much faster if the skin has been punctured or they are able to access the "flesh" inside. Man, that sounds morbid without context. But, when I feed my worms zucchini, for example, I don't just put it in whole. You'll want to expose the inside somehow. Breaking or cutting it in half, cracking it open, or cutting a chunk out of it will greatly decrease the time it takes the worms to eat all of it. Microbial Populations The more microbes and more microbial diversity, the better. The microbial population should establish itself after the first few weeks (and is really only a concern as you first start), but you can always improve it/add to it by adding little innoculums of healthy (KEY WORD) soil/organic matter from healthy soils. I often go to parks, forested areas, or healthy garden soils. Just take a small amount of material (half a cup) and toss it in the worm bin. Be aware that you're adding anything else that might be in that handful - like any bugs. This usually isn't a problem because if you're not fostering an environment where bugs will thrive then they will go away, but you might introduce some roly-polys, or springtails, or millipedes that will live alongside your worms in small amounts if your worm bin isn't totally unmanaged. Moisture Make sure the moisture levels in the bin are good enough. Without water there is no life, and no life means no microorganisms (let alone worms) which means no decomposition. Of course as always you'll want to make sure its not too wet that it creates anaerobic environments though. How much food to add at once - Overfeeding There are a few things that limit how much food to add at once. You don't want to create anaerobic conditions from excess water, you don't want to start thermophilic (hot) composting, and you don't want to add so much food that the worms can't eat quick enough so other organisms start flourishing on the extra available food. Whenever you make one of these mistakes you can always remove the food you added to help resolve it, and if you are following the practice of only adding food in certain areas of the bin then its an easy fix. Read on to learn more about all of this. Overfeeding and Excess Moisture As you are adding water-rich foods, like fruit/vegetable waste, they will release their water into your bin as they decompose. If too much water is released it can waterlog the bin and create anaerobic conditions. You will eventually need to add more dry bedding to counteract the excess moisture if the bin starts to get too wet. Overfeeding and Pests Ideally worms will be the main macro-organism eating your food. However, if some food waste hasn't been eaten by the worms and there's plenty of excess food that other organisms don't have to try to outcompete the worms to eat, you may start to see mites, mold, or other unsightly (but usually not inherently bad) organisms start to feed on the material. The key is to just provide enough for the worms - as long as you make sure its worm-edible, nothing is going to be able to outcompete the worms. Burying the food of course will help with this. Overfeeding and Thermophilic Composting If you add too much food that is too high in nitrogen the rapid microbial growth can cause the material to heat up - which can kill your worms. Be aware of the general Carbon to Nitrogen ratio of the food you're adding. The higher the nitrogen content, the less of it can create heat. In situations where you are feeding them higher nitrogen material (such as coffee grounds with a 20:1), if you add it in small concentrations (only a small amount at a time/spread out more thinly) it will help prevent the heating up effect. Materials like fruit and vegetable waste are usually around 35-40:1 carbon to nitrogen and aren't so prone to heating up unless you have added a lot. If you are following the first step of not adding food throughout the entire bin the negative effects of this will be mitigated though as the worms will just avoid the hot areas - as long as it doesn't heat up the entire bin. Surface Area More surface area means more microorganisms can colonize the material and more room where the worms can start to eat. Again, this is not necessary, but will help a lot. You can increase surface area of the material you add by breaking/cutting it apart - most commonly and easily done with a blender. The Unknown.. If these other things are provided for and the worms aren't eating it, its probably for a good reason. Worms are very tiny but very advanced soil testers. It may be too acidic for them (citrus), too spicy (peppers), or have some chemical - natural or unnatural - that they don't like (I believe they don't eat potato peels for this reason). Maybe there is some sort of herbicide, or salt, or something on the material. Its hard to say and I would have to leave the detective work up to you to figure out what it may be. Bonus: Squirm Firm Infographic
Feeding your Red Wiggler Worms content media
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scottkent45
Jun 16, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Keeping aerobic conditions throughout your bin is crucial to a successful worm bin. Aerobic means "in the presence of oxygen." Anaerobic means the opposite - "an absence of oxygen." A soil, or compost, should have 6 parts per million of oxygen present at all times to be considered aerobic. The microorganisms that exist in aerobic conditions are generally the ones that are beneficial to plant growth. Most disease causing or pathogenic microorganisms are found among anaerobic organisms. Anaerobic conditions will lose nutrients from the metabolic processes of anaerobic microbes (the bad smell is the smell of nutrients being gassed off), potentially harbor harmful bacteria, be high in acidity, and can harm or kill your worms. Aerobic conditions will do the opposite. It will keep nutrients, kill or outcompete harmful bacteria, remain pH neutral, facilitate quick decomposition, and keep your worms happy and healthy! Without a microscope, there are other easy ways to get an idea if your worm bin has anaerobic conditions or not. Aerobic conditions will Smell earthy Be free of pests like flies and gnats Feel fluffy, spongey, or crumbly like a healthy soil Happy, healthy worms Anaerobic conditions will Smell bad Potentially have pests Feel gunky/slimy or waterlogged like clay or mud Unhappy, unhealthy, or dead worms Aerobic conditions is something you create by properly managing the other factors such as not overwatering, overfeeding, and using plenty of bedding that, by its physical structure, allows for air to permeate throughout the bin. So, to be well prepared to keep an aerobic worm bin, read through the entirety of this post and the posts that it links to! How to Start A Worm Bin
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scottkent45
Jun 16, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
This question, like many others, will very much depend! It will mostly come down to moisture levels and nutrition, which will be provided for with quality bedding because a good bedding will hold moisture and provide a long term source of food. Moisture This is the biggest factor in how long they will last without your intervention. Worms prefer a moisture level around 80% (a few drops of water coming out when you squeeze the material), and can survive down to around a 40% moisture level or slightly less (no water comes out, material only clumps together somewhat as you squeeze. How long they will survive without you adding water is the exact same amount of time that the worm bin, or a portion of it, will stay above 40% moisture. So do what you can to keep the bin from drying out quicker than you will be gone, without restricting too much oxygen from the bin. Things that will help maintain moisture content: Starting out at the correct moisture level - around 80% throughout the whole bin. Extra moisture absorbent bedding (coco coir, shredded cardboard, or even worm castings/compost) will help greatly to keep the bin at a good moisture level. A bin that has greater depth of bedding will last longer as it will take longer for it to fully dry out. Cooler temperatures (between 40-50 degrees) will help to make the bin not dry out as fast, and will also slow down the worm's metabolism to not eat/need to eat food as quickly. A bin with a lid/a worm blanket will stay moist much longer than a bin without either. Restricting airflow will help it to not dry out, but make sure the worms and the bin can still breathe. Its hard to say what steps you should take for how long you will be neglecting the bin because there are so many factors. Hopefully you have had enough experience with how much water your worms need to have added and how often that you can make an educated guess on how much prep work you need to do to keep the worms hydrated enough while you are gone. But, if you prepped your bin with all of those steps, it could likely maintain a proper moisture level for several months. Food Worms can go a while without a good meal. If you'll be gone only for a week or less, you probably won't need to add anything at all besides their usual food before you go. For any time longer than a week, adding plenty of high carbon bedding will be a safe bet (which will also help maintain moisture levels). Just estimating numbers - for every week you are gone and for every 1 pound of worms you have, an addition of 1 gallon of bedding should keep them happy. And adding a lot of bedding will never cause problems, so doing a bit more than 1 gallon could provide you with some peace of mind - especially as it will help provide more stable moisture content. https://www.utahbioagriculture.com/guides/how-to-worm-compost/all-about-worm-bedding
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scottkent45
Jun 10, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Natural Environment There are many different types of earthworms with different ecological niches. The earthworms you typically see in your soil, or after a heavy rain, are either 'Endogeic' or 'Anecic' earthworms. These kinds of earthworms prefer to live in burrows deep in the soil rather than pure organic matter, and don't live in densely populated conditions. For these reasons, they are not suited for life in a worm bin. The kinds that are best suited for life in a worm bin are 'Epigeic' earthworms. This is what Red Wigglers are. These earthworms prefer to live in the top few inches of leaf litter/decomposing organic matter. They eat much more rapidly than other types of worms, and can live in densely populated worm-communities. This is what makes them a suitable option for composting bins. Epigeic earthworms are more pigmented than other worms. Being in just the top inches of soil, they are more likely to be exposed by sunlight. They are also much smaller because they do not need much muscle to travel through their environment as other worms. Reproduction and Life Cycle Which came first, the Red Wiggler, or the cocoon? Cocoon Phase Without delving into philosophical rabbit holes, life begins for an individual red wiggler worm inside of a cocoon. These cocoons, when laid, are a white color, but quickly darken to a yellow color. When the worms are about ready to hatch it will get even darker, almost a brown color. Just before they hatch, you will be able to see the baby worms inside of them. Each cocoon is a capsule for 1 to 7, but usually 2 or 3, fertilized worm eggs. After an average of 21 days, the baby worms will exit the cocoon through the tapered end of the cocoon. Growth Baby Red Wigglers are very small, and can be difficult to see. A worm fresh out of the cocoon will be about half the size of this one pictured. For the next 40-60 days, the worms grow bigger and fatter as they eat. After that time frame, they will become adults and start reproducing! Adulthood Sexually mature adult red wigglers are easily identified by their clitellum - the band around the earthworm's body towards their head. Red Wigglers, and all earthworms, are hermaphrodites! They have both male and female reproductive organs. The clitellum is similar to human ovaries as it stores the unfertilized eggs of the worm. The male reproductive glands are near the underside of the clitellum, but are more difficult to see. During sexual reproduction, two worms will line up their reproductive organs to be able to exchange reproductive fluids to each other. Both worms will get 'pregnant' from the encounter. After the exchange of fluids, each worm will form a mucus layer around the clitellum, that will be sloughed off to form a cocoon. In laboratory conditions, Eisenia Fetida have been found to be able to produce up to 3 cocoons per work per week. The total lifespan of a Red Wiggler has not been thoroughly researched, but is a matter of years rather than months or weeks. Size As previously mentioned, Red Wigglers naturally do not grow much bigger than 3 inches or so. The more nutrient dense, wet, and less crowded their environment is, the bigger they will get. Each worm weighs between a third and a half of a gram. (A little less than 1/1000th of a pound). Consumption Rates In ideal conditions, Red Wigglers can eat around half their weight in food each day. This will be affected by what kind of food is available to them, temperature, moisture levels, microbial communities, and other factors. Temperature Requirements Red Wigglers will do best in the temperature range of 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit - their exact ideal temperature being 77 degrees. They will begin to die in temperatures above 85 degrees, and at, or near, freezing - depending on how long they are left in that temperature range. 40-80 degrees is a safe temperature range for extended periods of time. The closer they are to 77 degrees, the faster they will eat and reproduce. Population Density Since Red Wigglers tend to stay in only the top 6 inches or so, square footage (with at least 6 inches depth) is usually the main way to measure how many red wigglers an area can sustain. 1,000 Red Wigglers per square foot is the commonly accepted rate for how densely populated an area can be, but it is possible to keep them more dense than that if you keep them happy.
Red Wiggler (Eisenia Fetida) Fact Sheet content media
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scottkent45
May 12, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
One disadvantage that worm composting has to true thermophilic composting is that it does not kill seeds. So, if there are weed seeds, or seeds from the fruits that you have fed the worms, the worms will not kill them and they can end up still viable in your finished worm castings. Fortunately, where there are worms there are worm castings, and where there are worm castings, there is plant growth. Seeds in a worm bin will often sense the nutrient rich environment (try to imagine a better place to germinate as a seed!) and will germinate and begin to grow. If the seedling cannot reach sunlight, it will eventually die, and then it will get re-composted into the worm bin. If you really need to kill the seeds in your worm bin, the best methods would be to hot compost the material/kill the seeds some other way first before adding it to the worm bin (if you kill them after you'll also kill a lot of the beneficial stuff in your castings), or do what you can to encourage germination (warmer "soil temperatures and good moisture levels) before using the worm castings.
Seeds or Seedlings in the Worm Bin content media
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scottkent45
May 12, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
The top of the material in your worm bin, being exposed to air, tends to dry out quicker than the rest of it. And water tends to, from the effects of gravity, collect in the bottom of a bin. To help keep moisture more consistent throughout the top and bottom of a worm bin and/or help the top of the material from drying out as quickly, some people utilize worm blankets. Worm blankets, like fiber mats, bubble wrap, or damp newspapers, are placed over the top of the material in a worm bin to trap evaporating water from the worm bin and keep that moisture in the top layer. They also help keep out light, and if you are using one you will see more worm activity on the surface level just underneath the blanket. Just be sure that the blanket will not stop oxygen from reaching the wormies! Fiber mats are porous, but bubble wrap and damp newspapers shouldn't cover the entire top to make sure oxygen can still penetrate into the rest of the worm bin.
Worm Blankets content media
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scottkent45
Apr 29, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Time flies like the wind, and fruit flies like anaerobic conditions and uncovered food. If you are seeing fruit flies, or similar flying insects (probably minute scavenger flies), it is a sign that there are conditions favorable for fruit flies in your bin, and they are able to detect it. In other words: Your bin, or a portion of the material in your bin, has drifted into the area of anaerobic conditions There is un-buried food material that the fruit flies can easily detect The steps I'd take: 1. Take out the food (pay attention for any of it being stinky, slimy, gooey or just gross in general - it's likely anaerobic and thus attracting the fruit flies) 2. Check moisture levels throughout the bin. Correct it where you need to. This will also help keep things aerobic if the bin is too wet. 3. Add bedding. This is the fix all of pretty much every problem in the worm bin. You can add it in 2 ways. First you can mix it throughout the bin/problem areas to help correct moisture levels and help keep things aerobic. Second, you can leave a layer of dry bedding (about an inch) over the top of the bin which will help keep fruit flies and other insects from discovering the bin in the first place. Preferably something you can remove pretty easy to access the bin when you need
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scottkent45
Apr 09, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
I see a lot of people wanting to use Red Wigglers or European Nightcrawlers to add into their garden soil, or raised beds. There are huge benefits from getting these guys in your soil, but to have success with that a few things need to be understood. The Different Kinds of Earthworms There are 3 main types of earthworms that live in the soil profile. They do not all have the same ecological niches/natural habitats. Composting worms are 'Epigeic' Earthworms. They prefer to live only the top several inches of the soil profile - in decaying organic matter rather than soil itself. Because they prefer to live in leaf litter, they do not make burrows like other kinds of earthworms. The kinds of earthworms that do prefer to live in the soil, are Endogeic and Anecic Earthworms. These are the ones you see in your yard as you are digging, or you find after a heavy rain. They make burrows throughout the soil that can be multiple feet deep, and are the "earth worker" earthworms. You can read more about these different kinds of worms here: https://www.utahbioagriculture.com/guides/how-to-worm-compost/composting-worms-vs-other-earthworms Composting Worms in soils/raised beds Composting worms are the fastest worms for eating organic matter and creating worm castings. If an area is suitable for them, they will improve a soil tremendously. However, their success depends on how suitable their environment is for them. If, for example, you have a raised bed that has been filled with compost, leaves, straw, manure etc., the composting worms can do extremely well. If you have soil with very little organic matter, they will not be in their natural habitat and won't be able to demonstrate their effectiveness nearly as much. Earthworker Worms in soils/raised beds "Earthworker" worm's are especially effective at aerating soil through their burrowing/tunneling. They also produce worm castings, but not as fast as composting worms can. Unfortunately its very difficult to grow endogeic/anecic earthworms in mass like composting worms due to their natural lifestyle, and I would be hesitant to purchase them to apply to your soil anyway because it could be difficult to get them established. Fortunately, if you're growing in the ground directly, or your raised bed is connected to the ground, you have access to the largest earthworm farm that sells their worms for free! You can help attract these worms to your soil, and encourage them to reproduce too, in the same way that you can help establish composting worms. How to Establish a Worm Population in Your Soil For all kinds of worms the method is the same. Moisture and Organic matter! The more decomposing organic matter in (or on) your soil, the more worms will be attracted to it to it. However worms don't want to risk dehydration, and will choose water over food so make sure there you have moisture to help encourage them too. Moisture will stay more consistent deeper in the soil, so pay extra attention to moisture levels in the top 3-6 inches for your epigeic/composting worms because thats as deep as they can go. Encouraging Earthworker Worms For endogeic and anecic earthworms, my recommendation is "If you build it, they will come." These worms are practically everywhere, just in higher or smaller densities. They will come to you. I suppose you could go dig up these worms and add them directly as long as you make sure they are able to get underneath the soil and build themselves a burrow, but I really don't think that would be time efficient and I'm not sure what the survival rate would be - but I'm not really an expert on these kinds of worms specifically so maybe it could work well. Add organic matter, do what you can to keep the soil moist, and you'll see them show up. Establishing Composting Worms There are a few ways I do this in a soil. Adding them directly by mixing them into the soil and hoping for the best. The more organic matter and moisture, the better their chances and the better the chances that earthworker worms show up. Use an in-ground worm composter such as the Sub-Pod. This will give you a defined area that you can optimize for worms, but will still allow for them to travel throughout the rest of your soil as they choose. It'll also be easier for you to check on the general health of the worms because they will be a lot easier to find in the subpod instead of digging through the soil to look for them. The Sub-pod will also help attract earthworker worms already in your soil. Start a normal above-ground worm bin to help you learn how to keep worms happy in general, easily harvest pure worm castings directly, and then (the main reason I like this method) you can use that as a renewing source of worms to fuel method 1 or 2. You can also use the worm castings harvested from this bin to add to your soil to improve it's quality. Whichever method you feel is best for you, you can find the worms or bins that you need here at the shop! www.utahbioagriculture.com/shop
Red Wiggler Composting Worms in Raised Beds, Gardens, and Soil content media
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scottkent45
Mar 26, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Worm Leachate The liquid that drips from the bottom of the worm bin is NOT worm tea. That liquid is called leachate and it is NOT recommended for use on plants. From the Worm Factory's instructional guide: The liquid runoff that settles in or below the vermicompost or worm castings is known as leachate. Leachate can contain phytotoxins (toxins that can harm plants and humans). Some of these toxins are created by bacteria. Every worm composter has good and bad bacteria. This is ok of course, as long as the good ones outnumber the bad ones. Some leachate can contain harmful pathogens because it has not been processed through the worms intestinal tract. It should not be used on edible garden plants. Leachate is harmful because it can contain disease causing microbes and can have high acidity. This is because it comes from anaerobic conditions. When your worm bin is so wet that it is dripping water out of the bottom, it means it is waterlogged. If it is waterlogged, it is not getting enough oxygen and all sorts of nasty microbial processes happen in those anaerobic conditions. If you choose to apply it to your plants, be aware that it may harm them or kill them. If you have leachate, you can use it to moisten up some dry bedding, and then feed it back to the worms who will safely process it. From there, fix the moisture level in your bin as it is too wet. You should not have any liquid dripping from your bin. Worm Tea Worm Tea is much different than Leachate. Worm Tea is made in aerobic conditions - in the presence of oxygen - so all of the good microbes from your worm castings are present and flourish in the tea. A pound or two of worm castings is suspended in a tea brewer, and additional foods can be added to help stimulate microbial growth. This video covers how to make worm tea pretty well. You can start around the 19 minute mark.
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scottkent45
Mar 26, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
What are the differences between composting worms, like the Red Wiggler, and the earthworms you might see outside after a heavy rain, or you might see digging into the soil? Well, there are 3 types of soil dwelling earthworms; Epigeic, Endogeic, and Anecic. Anecic (Greek for "Out of the Earth") Earthworms live in deep vertical burrows that can be several feet deep. They are usually the largest, and slowest moving. When it rains, these worms will often come out of their burrows to avoid drowning, and you'll see them dead on concrete because it disorients them and they aren't able to find ther burrow before the sun comes back out. They are not suitable for a worm composting bin because they prefer to live in very deep burrows, in soil rather than organic matter, and not in very dense populations. Endogeic (Greek for "Within the Earth") Earthworms live in horizontal branching/networking burrows in the soil. They usually stay in the top 20 inches or so of the soil profile, and feed on the soil itself. They rarely come to the soil surface and so they have little to no pigmentation - they are very pale. They are smaller than anecic worms, but still bigger than epigeic. They are not suitable for a worm composting bin for similar reasons as the Anecic Earthworms. Epigeic (Greek for "Upon the Earth") Earthworms thrive in pure decomposing organic matter. They do not make burrows, they eat pure organic matter, and they can live in densely populated conditions. These worms are ideal for worm composting for those reasons. These Epigeic earthworms will not populate soil as well as other types of earthworms. They do not make burrows and naturally only live in the top few inches of a soil profile, but it is possible if there is enough organic matter available for them as they eat organic matter instead of soil itself. Epigeic Earthworms include the Red Wiggler (Eisenia Fetia/Andrei), European Nightcrawler (Eisenia Hortensis) and the African Nightcrawler (Eudrilus Euginae).
Composting Worms vs Other Earthworms content media
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scottkent45
Mar 26, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Totally depends! First you'll want to think about how many worms you want total. 1 Pound of worms can eat about half their weight a day, and will take up about 1 square foot of space. Need to vermicompost 7 pounds of food a week? You'll eventually want at least 2 pounds of worms. Want to fill a 3 square foot bin up with worms? You'll eventually want 3 pounds of worms. Second, you need to decide how quickly you want to get there, and at what cost. For example, if you want to have 4 pound of worms eventually, you can either buy all 4 of those pounds at once, or start with a smaller amount like half a pound. If you buy all 4 pounds at once, you'll reach high efficiency a lot quicker, but it will cost more money up front. Or you can start with less worms (like half a pound), save money, and ease into worm composting, but it will take longer to get to top performance as the worms need to reproduce. Another thing to consider is that the more worms you start with, the more you'll need to make sure you're providing them a good home. 4,000 worms will be somewhat more demanding than only 500. Also be sure that your bin has enough material in it to house the worms you get. An Urban Worm Bag can hold 4-8 pounds of worms - but only when its full. If it only has 5 gallons of material in there, it cannot hold that many worms. I'm still not sure.. If its your first time, and you're still unsure, a half pound or one pound is a good place to start!
How Many Worms to Start With? content media
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scottkent45
Mar 26, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Want to get into worm composting but don't want to buy a professionally made bin? This guide is for you! Picking a Bin As long as worms have air, water, and food, they wouldn't know the difference whether or not they were just in a big pile of organic matter on the ground, or a fancy worm bin. The worm bin is mostly for you to keep all of your worms and the contents of the worm bin in a confined location. I've seen people use things like old refrigerators/freezers and old bathtubs, but 99% of people doing DIY bins go for plastic totes. Usually between the 5 gallon to 50 gallon range - so most of this post will be geared towards those using plastic bins. Bin Checklist Make sure it is at least 6 inches deep Make sure it has at least 1 square foot of area per pound of worms you'd like to have You probably want it to be able to hold at least 5 gallons total, but I prefer the 10-20 gallon range. You can have worms live in a bin thats shorter, or smaller, but you won't see much results from those bins. You won't be worm composting as much as you just have some pet worms. But if thats your thing, go for it! Ventilation Your worms need to have air. Without air they will die. I never put ventilation holes on the side of the bin. Its not a huge deal, but I'd rather put them in the lid (if im even using a lid) so that the worms cant use those ventilation holes to escape. If you have plenty of holes in the lid it will provide all of the air that the worms/bin will need. In, for example, a lid thats 1 foot by 3 feet, I would put about 10 1/2 inch holes drilled into it. You can also just cut out a section of it, too. Additionally, if you want to help keep fruit flies out, you can lay a breathable fabric/wire mesh over the bin to allow airflow, but prevent insects from finding the bin. Drainage Holes This has some conflicting information online. Your bin does not need drainage holes. If you bin is leaking water out of the bottom, it is too wet. If there is liquid coming out of the bottom it not worm tea, its worm leachate, and it is not recommended to use on plants. Drainage holes are also annoying because worms will sometimes use them to escape the bin/go into a water collection bin, where they might die if you don't collect them and put them back into the bin. BUT, very small drainage holes can still be good to have. I use a 1/16" drill bit to put holes big enough for water to drip out, but too small for worms to escape, in the bottom of the bin. Then you can place something underneath it just in case. A towel, an upside down lid, another bin - whatever. Again - you shouldn't have water dripping out of the bottom because your worm bin should never be that wet/waterlogged, but its good to have that protection in case it does get too wet. Stacking System, CFT, or Batch From here you could leave your bin as-is and it would be a "batch" system. You will add food into the plastic bin until it is full and the worms have eaten everything, and then you will harvest it all and restart. Very simple. To make harvesting worm castings easier, though, people will often modify their DIY bins further. Either making a Continuous Flow Through design, or a Stacking Tray design - which is a different approach to a CFT system. Because a stacking tray system is more common for DIYers, I'll talk/type about that first. Stacking Tray System In addition to the first plastic bin that you have, you can get a second bin (preferably the same bin so the bottom of the second one can fit into the first one), and drill bigger holes into the bottom of it. Something like 20 1/4" holes. When your first bin is full, instead of harvesting it, you now remove the top 2-3 inches of material from it, place the second bin (with all the holes in the bottom) on top of the first bin, place the top 2-3 inches back into the top bin, and continue adding food like normal into the second bin. What will happen is the worms will migrate from the bottom bin into the top one in the pursuit of food. Once the top bin has filled up as well, most all of the worms should be in it. You can then remove the 1st bin (which should be all worm castings and only a few worms) and use the material as finished worm compost/worm castings. When you've removed and emptied the bottom bin, you then empty out the top bin's contents into the bottom one, and then repeat the whole process. In theory this works well, but in practice I usually find that there's still a lot of worms in the bottom tray and you have to harvest it as if it were a batch system anyway - which kind of defeats the purpose, but it still definitely does help get a lot of worms out of the bottom bin. Continuous Flow Through DIY Bin If you're new to worm composting I wouldn't worry about trying to make a bin like this. Get the practice/skill of worm composting down first before you put a lot of time/effort into making a CFT bin. The concept is that you make a worm bin that has had the bottom removed and replaced with something that will keep the contents of the worm bin from falling out on their own, but will let some of it fall out when you agitate it. That way you can continuously remove worm castings from the bottom of the bin, while adding food at the top. Harvesting will be the easiest in this set up, but the bins are difficult to make and you might as well get a professionally done one like the Urban Worm Bag.
How to Make a Simple DIY Worm Bin content media
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scottkent45
Mar 05, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
When your worms arrive they will likely be pretty thirsty. Mist them down a bit with a spray bottle and place the worms, with what they were shipped with on top of your bedding. By laying them on top of the bedding and giving them the choice to burrow into it or not wil let them communicate to you if they like the bedding or not. If they don't go into it after 30 minutes to an hour, chances are they do not approve of the bedding and you may need to try another bedding. Then place your worm bin directly under a bright light (Do NOT use sunlight). This will encourage the worms to bury down into your bedding. For the first night or two it is a good idea to keep the bin under a bright light to encourage the worms to stay in their bedding. My first night after having set up my worm bin I awoke to several worms on the floor! Sometimes worms, when introduced to a new environment, will want to wander - and you don’t want that! Another reason they might wander is if they are unhappy with the bedding. But, if you used coco coir, there is no reason that your worms should not be happy in their bedding. So just keep a light on them for the first couple nights. Anytime past a week or so, if more than just a couple worms are trying to escape, you should NOT force them to stay in the bin. They are likely trying to leave because conditions are unfavorable for them and might be killing them. Instead, try to identify why they are not happy with their bin and see if you can fix it. After a few hours your worms should have buried into their new bedding and rehydrating themselves. You can do whatever you’d like with the material they were packed in. Remove it, mix it with the bedding (after hydrating it). For more information on run away worms, go here.
What to Do When Your Worms Arrive in the Mail content media
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scottkent45
Mar 05, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
Balancing the moisture level in your bin is a key factor in having a successful worm bin. If your worm farm doesn't have enough water, decomposition will not occur and you won't see the productivity from your worm bin that you were hoping for. If your bin has too much water, it can inhibit oxygen in the system, which can cause your bin - or portions of it - to go anaerobic. Most every problem related to worm composting comes from anaerobic conditions. How much is appropriate? Aim for somewhere between 60-80% moisture throughout the entirety of your bin. If you want to get a hands-on idea of what a good moisture level is - go saturate a sponge in water, give it one good strong squeeze and then feel that moisture level (with a dry hand). That is about how your worm bin should feel. Similarly, the "squeeze test" is often used to measure moisture levels in a worm bin. If you take a handful of the contents of your worm bin (try not to have any worms in it!) and squeeze it - you want to see around 1-3 drops of water come out. More than 3 drops and you probably have too much water, if no water comes out it may be on the dry side. Of course the drop-test depends on how well your bedding holds water and how strong your hands are, so this is just a general guideline. Other signs that your bin is too wet is if it is leaking water in the bottom/water is pooling in the bottom, or you're smelling bad smells from the anaerobic waterlogged material. How to Water It is always better to under-water than to over water. It is very easy to add more water to fix a dry bin, but much harder to dry out and fix a wet bin. As you feed the worms you will often be adding water at the same time. Fruit waste, such as banana peels or watermelon rinds have a lot of water in them that they will release as they decompose. This “method” of watering will happen naturally. With that being said, you need to be aware of how much moisture your food holds when you add it, and be careful that it doesn’t add too much water. Especially if you are adding a lot of this food, you should pay extra attention to too much water being added, which will usually collect in the bottom of the bin. But, if you are not adding water rich foods or you just need to manually add water, I recommend misting your bin to add water (like a spray bottle) instead of pouring water on it (think of a watering can). This is because the water from a watering can will quickly make its way to the bottom of your bin and collect there before it has the chance to be absorbed by the material above. There are really convenient pressure spray bottles that will save your hand many cramps that you can find online or at your gardening store. I definitely recommend them if you find that you need to manually water your bin often. How to Dry your Worm Bin Drying the bin is not quite as complicated, its as simple as mixing dry bedding material throughout the bin where it needs to be drier. The dry bedding will absorb the excess moisture and help get your bin to the correct levels. Increasing airflow will also help, but adding dry bedding is much quicker and easier. Water Leaking from the Bottom of the Bin Contrary to misinformation online, not only should your worm bin not be leaking water from the bottom of the bin, that liquid is not recommended for use on plants. From the Manufacturer's Instructions on the Worm Factory: The liquid runoff that settles in or below the vermicompost or worm castings is known as leachate. Leachate can contain phytotoxins (toxins that can harm plants and humans)... Some leachate can contain harmful pathogens because it has not been processed through the worms intestinal tract. It should not be used on edible garden plants. If water is leaking from the bottom it is too wet and you need to mix dry bedding into the bin to take care of it.
Water / Moisture in the Worm Bin content media
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scottkent45
Mar 05, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
What is Worm Bedding? Worm Bedding is material that is: High in Carbon - greater than 40:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio Moisture Retentive - it will absorb and hold moisture Fluffy or Spongey - it allows for airflow Free of chemicals, sharp objects, or any other factors that could harm the worms Examples of common bedding includes: Coco Coir - I highly recommend for beginners Shredded Cardboard Shredded Paper Fall leaves Straw/Hay Finished Compost Aged Manure Sawdust Finished Worm Castings/Vermicompost - I use this instead of coco coir when its available. You'll often want to mix these beddings together because they have different strengths and weaknesses, you can read about that in the "How to Make and Use Bedding" section. Why use Worm Bedding? Worms cannot live in food scraps alone. Material like fruit/vegetable waste and coffee grounds, and fresh manure are all High in Nitrogen High in Moisture Content Because those materials are high in nitrogen, they will Decompose Rapidly Generate Heat from rapid microbial growth Release all their moisture as they decompose If there is too much of this material in your bin at once (key word being "too much"), it will Heat up your bin - which could kill your worms Release too much moisture - causing the bin to go waterlogged/anaerobic - which could kill your worms Create foul odors as it decomposes anaerobically Attract pests like fruit flies So, we NEED to use bedding because it is high in carbon, and will not decompose rapidly - it will provide a stable environment will absorb and hold excess moisture allow for better airflow, which will help keep the bin aerobic inhibit odors (if you are feeding worms in the proper amounts there won't be much odor to inhibit, but bedding will help if there ever are odors) "hide" your worm bin from fruit flies and other pests Having good bedding in your bin is almost synonymous with having a successful worm farm. How Much Worm Bedding Do I Need? You can have up to a 50/50 mix of bedding and food - but not when you first start your bin. Starting the Bin When you start, you need to have at least one square foot with at least 3-4 inches depth of bedding for every pound of worms that you have, or plan to have. Your bin will be 100% bedding. *You could actually keep your bin at 100% bedding if you don't want to add food waste, but you don't want it to ever be less than 50% bedding. Maintaining the Bin Over time as you eventually add approximately an equal amount of food (remember to add food in small amounts at a time) as you initially added bedding, you will want to start to add an equal amount of bedding as food that you add. For example, say I start my bin with 2.5 gallons of bedding. For the next couple months I add only fruit/vegetable waste. At that point I estimate that my bin has doubled in depth from all the food scraps I have added and is now about 5 gallons of material. This is when I will begin to add additional bedding as I add food scraps to balance the food that I am adding, up to a rate of as much food as bedding. Of course I am also making sure that I'm aware of the moisture level in my bin, and adding dry bedding to soak up extra water if needed at any point of the process. How to Make and Use Bedding If you are worm composting for the first time, you will have such an easier experience if you invest in coco coir just for your first set up. Once you have gotten some experience and are more familiar with how to take care of your worms, you'll want to Identify which bedding materials are locally available, and free to you. Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those beddings Create a mix of beddings that will compliment each other Get them to an appropriate moisture level - only a couple of drops of water should come out when you squeeze it. Remember that bedding needs to be high in carbon and allow for airflow while maintaining appropriate moisture levels. Individual bedding materials may not be sufficient on their own, and will need to be mixed with others. Coco Coir Is a great stand-alone bedding. Shredded Cardboard Provides a lot of airflow and worms love it. The more shredded, the better. The only downside with it is that, although it absorbs a lot of moisture, because it allows for so much airflow it tends to dry out quicker than others, so you might have to add water more often. If you ever need to dry out your bin this is the material to use. Shredded Paper Just make sure you don't add too much. If too much of your bedding is shredded paper, it will clump/mat together and not allow for airflow. Fall Leaves Fall leaves are a great bedding material. Although they are also prone to matting, shredding them will help. They will also not hold moisture as well as other material. Fall leaves will add native microorganisms to your bin, so I would recommend using them, but try to make sure there are no bugs in your leaves when you add them. Straw/Hay Be sure it doesn't have chemical residue on it. These will provide good airflow, but don't absorb moisture as well as other beddings. Finished Compost This totally depends on how quality the compost is. I tried compost from the dump once and my worms wouldn't even touch it. If its high quality compost, it will be some of the best bedding possible. Aged Manure This one also has a lot of variables. There can be pests in it, chemicals, etc. But, aged manure can also be some of the best bedding possible. If you are thinking of using aged manure, test a small amount first and gradually add more as you get a feel for if it will work or not. Sawdust Only use in very small amounts. Sawdust will also clump/mat and restrict airflow if it is too dense in the worm bin. Worm Castings/Vermicompost You actually can use worm castings or vermicompost (material the worms have mostly eaten) as bedding too.
All About Worm Bedding content media
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scottkent45
Feb 25, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
The "Best" Worm Farm Will Depend On Your Needs Its important to know that no matter what bin you use you can have success. Its going to come down to what will be best for you. To help you make an informed decision, lets review the different kinds of worm bins available, why you might pick one over the other, and my recommendation for a specific bin for each type - each of which I have used personally. Types of Worm Bins For home worm composting, there are 4 types of Worm Bins Continuous Flow Through Stacking Trays Batch Systems - usually DIY In-Ground Systems Continuous Flow Through Bins - The Urban Worm Bag v2 Contiunous Flow Through Bins, or CFT bins for short, are generally accepted as the most efficient type of worm composting systems and the most similar to the natural feeding habits of epigeic earthworms. Professional worm casting operations almost always use CFT systems. A CFT bin is designed so that food and organic matter can be added at the top of the bin, while worm castings can be harvested from the bottom of the bin. Using a CFT you can continuously add food to the top, without the bin ever filling up because you are simultaneously taking material from the bottom. The Urban Worm Bag v2 My top recommendation for a CFT bin is the Urban Worm Bag 2. CFTs are generally the best worm bins, and I really don’t think you could design a better CFT for home worm composters than the Urban Worm Bag. Unique Benefits: I like it, besides the ease of a CFT system, because its built out of a breathable fabric material and it will help beginners to make sure the worms and the bin gets proper aeration, which is huge. The source of almost all problems in a worm bin is lack of airflow, so this will help tremendously. I also really like that it seals itself completely - whatever is in the bin will stay in the bin, and whatever is out of it will stay out. Other bins that are not built like the UWB have holes in them that can allow fruit flies or other pests to travel in/out of them. And of couse since it is a CFT it is very easy to harvest worm castings when that time comes. Size/Capacity: Its about 27” by 27” length and width, which means it can house at 4-8 pounds of worms, and process plenty of material - about 2-4 pounds a day, and of course, make more worm castings which are really easy to harvest from the base of the bag. It can hold about 5 cubic feet of material, which is much more than other similarly priced options. To top things off, it comes with a 100% lifetime warranty on material defects and guaranteed workmanship. Things to Consider with the Urban Worm Bag: Its not very mobile. Once you place it somewhere, you will need a second person to help move it. The zipper at the base used to be difficult to use, but that has been updated since version 2. Get the Urban Worm Bag v2 Here: Stacking Tray Systems - The Worm Factory 360 Stacking Tray systems are just modified CFT systems. They are composed of a number of plastic trays. Each tray has a bottom that allows worms to travel through the bottom of the tray. Once the worms have eaten all of the material in their current tray, another tray is added on top with more food, and the worms will migrate vertically into the new tray in pursuit of new food. Eventually, you will be able to take out the bottom tray - which should be all finished vermicompost, empty it out, and continue to add trays on top, and take trays from the bottom. The Worm Factory 360 My recommendation for a stacking tray worm bin is the Worm Factory Basic or Worm Factory 360. The Worm Factory is the original stacking tray worm composter, a lot of other tray systems copied their design. Unique Benefits: Although it is built out of plastic and doesn't have the same breathable material as the UWB, the base has an area where excess water can be released, making sure the bin doesnt get waterlogged. Its also really fun to lift up the top couple trays and look at how the worms are doing deeper in the bin without having to dig up the bin. When its time to harvest, its easy to take out the bottom tray, harvest it, replace it on top and repeat the process. The Worm Factory also comes with bedding included as well as other resources to help you get started worm composting. Size/Capacity: The Worm Factory is somewhat smaller - about 18 inches by 18 inches. This will make it easier to designate room for it, or move if you need to. It can hold 2-4 pounds of worms, and process 1-2 pounds per day. If you want something smaller, or don’t need to compost as much, the Worm Factory is a great pick. Things to Consider With the Worm Factory: The Worm Factory 360 is the same as the Worm Factory Basic, but it includes an extra tray and some other extra tools. Batch Systems - DIY Bins A batch system is one that has no continuous flow aspect to the worm bin - something like a plastic tote where worms and organic matter are added until its full, at which point, the entire bin is taken out, and harvested all at once - in one whole batch. Batch Systems are generally accepted as the least efficient worm bin set up. Batch Systems are usually very basic DIY bins. Now just to be clear, I am not talking about DIY Bins as a whole here, because theres an infinity of DIY bins you can make in all different styles, so I will strictly be talking about the concept of a batch system, which are usually a very basic DIY bin like this plastic tote, so I will use the term synonymously in this context. Unique Benefits: There are no advantages to a batch system, other than the fact that they are usually DIY bins which are cheap or free. They can also be any size or shape. You can totally get creative with it, people use old freezers, old bathtubs - remember, the only thing a worm bin needs to do is keep them in a confined location, and not inhibit worm’s other needs, temperature, food, water, and air. Unique Disadvantages: The main downsides to a Batch system is that they are a bigger ordeal to harvest worm castings. When you harvest you have to do the whole bin at once, which means it all has to be ready, its more disturbing to the worms, and you have to restart the bin when you're done. The downsides to basic DIY systems (which are what most batch systems usually are) is that they have less room for error. Specifically water and air are harder to keep in balance throughout your bin when your are using something like this plastic tote. Especially as a beginner it is likely that you will overfeed or overwater your bin, and you will see the effects of those mistakes somewhat amplified in simple diy bin, and it will be a bigger ordeal to harvest worm castings when that time comes because you have to harvest the entire bin at once, and restart the bin when you’re done. Theyre just not optimized for worm farming like other bins, but they can still work as long as it keeps the worms in a confined area, you’re okay to do more work harvesting worm castings, and as long as you make sure between the design of the bin, and your personal efforts, that you keep moisture and oxygen at the appropriate balance. Be sure to have a source of ventilation for your worm friends - do not use anything thats airtight or has a lid without ventilation holes. Again with DIY bins there is an infinitude of options, so I won’t talk about them all here, but I'll have a DIY worm bin guide in the guides at some point. In Ground Compost Systems - The Subpod In Ground Composters are systems that are partially submerged into soil. These stand out from the others because they are exclusively outdoors. The idea is that worms can eat food in the composter, but then leave it and travel into your garden soil, where they can aerate it, leave worm castings, and improve soil health. Additionally these will attract native earthworms who will do the same. The Subpod The Subpod is the top in ground composter available. Unique Benefits: The Subpod allows your composting worms and native earthworms to travel directly into your garden soil and deposit worm castings there and aerate the soil. Because it is outdoors you won't see the consequences of neglecting it effect you as much. If you neglect an worm bin and mismanage it, you may have worms try to escape the bin or may experience odors/pests inside. This does not happen if you manage your bin well, but if you're worried about not having enough time to take care of your bin, the subpod could be a good choice since it is outdoors. **And to be clear - indoor bins can also be neglected for extended periods of time if they were not mis-managed prior to the period of neglect. Because it is somewhat buried, it will survive the winter easier than other bins if they were left outdoors. It has a horizontal migration system (like the vertical migration system of the worm factory, but horizontal instead). Size/Capacity: The Subpod comes in two sizes - regular and mini. Things to consider: The conditions in your worm bin will be mixed with the conditions outdoors. Your worm bin wont be purely worms and waste and worm castings, but may become a mix of compost worms, native worms, other decomposer critters, and any other conditions that may be particular to your garden. Though it is low maintenance, it is not immune to the potential cost of lower productivity that comes with lower maintenance. Even though it is somewhat buried, it is still subject to temperature extremes. Worms will slow down productivity as they are colder, and may die in the winter. Since the worms can leave freely, you wont have as dense of a worm population in the subpod (unless you maintain it well), and you won't be able to easily harvest as many worm castings because the worms aren't depositing all of their casts in that location (which can be a good thing because they're doing it in your soil.) Conclusion If you have the space for it, I'd look at the Urban Worm Bag 2. If you don't have as much space, or don't need to compost as much, I'd look at the Worm Factory. If you need to save money and recognize that you will need to take extra caution in taking care of your bin, I'd look at using a DIY bin. If you 1.) need to do it outdoors 2.) don't want/need to worm compost all year as worms will survive, but are going to slow way down in winter 3.) don't mind worms being able to leave their bin, and other critters from your garden being able to enter the bin 4.) think that you'll have to neglect your worm bin for extended periods of times (weeks or months at a time) or 5.) only want to use the worm castings for the garden/soil area you are putting it in, I'd look at the Subpod.
Best Worm Farm Composters in 2022 / Picking a Worm Bin content media
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scottkent45
Feb 22, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
If you are seeing mushrooms in your worm bin, it is cause for celebration! Mushrooms and Fungi Mushrooms are just the fruiting body, or reproductive structure, of certain types of fungi. Fungi are microscopic (very small) filamentious (they form strands) organisms that decompose organic matter. The presence of fungi is extremely desirable in a soil or compost context, as they perform unique roles that other organisms cannot, such as - but far from limited to - the ability to decompose high-carbon material. On special occassion, fungi will choose to form a mushroom as a means of reproduction. The mushroom will contain millions of spores that spread throughout its environment, usually through the air. Upon finding themselves in an acceptable environment, these spores will "hatch" and begin growing a new fungus, completing the circle of life. Do I want Fungi in my Worm Bin? Absoloutely! Fungi is a crucial part of a soil/compost ecosystem, and often the part we are lacking in most. Fungi in your worm bin will increase the microbial diversity, quality, and rate of decomposition in your bin. Remember that worms don't have interest in organic matter until it has been populated with microbes. Fungi will help prepare the food (especially higher-carbon material) for the worms quicker, and will increase the quality and microbial diversity of the worm castings. However, just like there are good and bad types of bacteria, there are good and bad types of fungi. In a future post I will write about fungi in the worm bin, while this one is more focused on mushrooms specifically. Related: Can there ever be too much fungi in the worm bin? You'd have to make a series of calculated mistakes to ever see too much fungi in your worm bin, and at that point its not the fungi's fault - its just taking advantage of the fact that you've built a bin for fungi instead of a bin for worms. What causes Mushrooms in the Worm Bin? Mushrooms will appear in your worm bin when fungal networks decide to fruit. In a Worm Bin, it is likely that you will see a mushroom because of at least one of the following: That specific fungal species was at one point introduced in your bin There is a lot of organic matter that that specific fungus prefers (this will usually be high carbon material) The area where that fungus is growing has moisture, but still has enough airflow that it is aerobic Is shaded/lit to the fungus' preference There is little worm activity in that given area. The burrowing and "tilling" motion of the worms can break apart fungal networks which can inhibit mushrooms from forming. Make sure your worms are still there! You can use this information to encourage or discourage mushroom growth in your bin. What should I do if I see Mushrooms in my Worm Bin? You should do whatever you want - what a man or woman does with the mushrooms in their worm bin is between them and God (whom you might meet if you eat the mushroom). Totally kidding - do NOT eat the mushroom!!! All joking aside, its really up to personal preference. If you remove the mushroom, the fungus will not be able to spread as well throughout your bin. If you do not remove it, it will release spores and spread throughout your bin, furthering the work of decomposition. Do I Need to be Careful with Mushrooms in a Worm Bin? Mushrooms pose no threat unless they are eaten, in which case some species may be very dangerous. If you are not eating the mushroom, you will be fine. The risk is also very minimal, but there can be danger from breathing their spores in excess. This is very unlikely to happen in your worm bin, but if you'd like to feel safer wearing a mask will help. Do Worms Eat Mushrooms/Fungi? Yep! From a microbial perspective, worms are galaxy sized predators that swallow planets whole. Just having fun with my imagination. But worms really do eat essentially all microorganisms, which would include fungi, and once a mushroom starts decomposing, worms would develop an appetite for it as well. There is no cause for concern with your worms eating mushrooms. Utah Fungus Experts! Katie Lawson at https://www.fungalfocusutah.com/ is a mushroom and fungus expert. For more information on all things fungi, Fungal Focus is the place to go!
Mushrooms in the Worm Bin content media
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scottkent45
Jan 26, 2022
In How to Worm Compost
You've harvested some worm castings, but you're not quite ready to use them. No worries! There are many things you can do to preserve the quality of your castings. Lets talk about the factors that affect how well your worm castings age, both in terms of nutrition and biology, and how to store them best, both for under 6 months, and over 6 months. Oxygen You never want to store your worm castings in such a way that there is no airflow. Sealing them in a plastic bag, or placing a lid over the container they're in (unless the lid has ventilation) will quickly decrease the quality of the castings. If the worm castings do not have oxygen, all of the beneficial aerobic microorganisms will suffocate, and harmful anaerobic microorganisms will replace them. The microorganisms that grow when there is little to no oxygen - anaerobic microorganisms - are the disease and pathogen organisms. These organisms will further decomposition in the worm castings, and the chemical reactions that take place during anaerobic decomposition will cause your worm castings to lose nutrients as they are released through greenhouse gases. This is the only time your worm castings will lose nutrients. In aerobic conditons, nutrients will be absorbed by microorganisms, and then released when they die, but not lost. Portions of carbon are always released during aerobic decomposition as CO2, and so over time your castings might have a higher C:N ratio, but this is not because there is more nitrogen (or any other nutrient), it is because there is less carbon. Additionally, only in anaerobic conditions do pathogenic/disease causing bacteria grow. Though the worms are extremely efficient at sanitizing those microbes to nondectectable levels, if the worm castings get anaerobic enough even just one of those anaerobic microbes can reproduce rapidly. So if your worm castings do not have oxygen, they will lose their value in both nutrients and biology. Water If you have too little water, your microorganisms will die and thus lose the biological benefits of worm castings. If you have too much water, your worm castings will become waterlogged - and thus anaerobic, which we already know is bad after reading the section above. If you are going to keep and use your worm castings within 6 months, you should aim to keep them at a similar moisture level you would for your worms - or a bit drier. It is also quite likely that there are some baby worms or cocoons in your castings, so keeping a good moisture level will help those guys grow. Aim for only 1 drop of water to come out when you squeeze a handful. You don't want more than a couple drops of water, and you don't want the material to crumble apart when you let go of it. This moisture level will allow microbes to remain alive and continue the work of decomposition. Up until around the 6 month mark, the biology will become more diverse as the castings have time to mature. Temperature Ideally you can keep your worm castings at the same temperature as your worms. But its really not that important. As temperatures get cooler, microbial activity can decrease. You don't want to let your worm castings freeze, though, because that can kill your microorganisms. You can use temperature to your benefit if you are storing your castings for more than 6 months. Storing Worm Castings Long Term (6 Months +) Of course, this isn't ideal, but stuff happens. Worm castings have a shelf life because decomposition is occuring. So to extend that shelf life, decomposition needs to be inhibited. The idea is to wipe out the microbial life in the worm castings, so that there are essentially inert. *Note: its better to not use these methods if the worm castings can be used within 6 months. 1.) Dry your worm castings so that all microorganisms die or go dormant. a) The drier, the less decomposition can occur, and the longer they can last. 2.) Freeze your worm castings so that all microorganisms die or go dormant. a) This one is especially useful because most of the time people arent using their worm castings because its winter. If all available water/microbes are frozen, no decomposition can occur. You are essentially pressing pause on your worm castings, so that when you rehydrate them or unfreeze them, they are in the same condition as when you first dried/froze them. However, the big problem with doing this is that you are wiping out the beneficial biology in the worm castings. When you rehydrate/unfreeze the worm castings, many of those organisms will be lost. So to combat this, when you do rehydrate/unfreeze your worm castings, you need to reinnoculate them with the biology. You will probably have fresher worm castings by the time you are ready to use them, so you will want to mix together your older worm castings with the newer. Within a couple weeks, the older worm castings should have been mostly repopulated with biology, and they will be much greater quality than what they would have been if you hadn't frozen/dried them.
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scottkent45
Nov 02, 2021
In How to Worm Compost
Totally depends! Let's look at some of the factors. The Potential Red Wigglers are capable of eating half their weight each day. European Nightcrawlers are in that same ballpark. So, if you had an 18 gallon bin with 2 pounds of worms in it, theoretically they could eat a pound a day - approximately 10 banana peels. Which is pretty crazy because they can do that every day. African Nightcrawlers can eat their weight and a half each day. So 2 pounds of African Nightcrawlers in an 18 gallon bin could eat 3 pounds of food a day - approximately 30 banana peels. Imagine putting 30 banana peels into an 18 gallon bin and having it disappear overnight! The Factors Do worms always eat that quickly? No. Several factors are in play when it comes to the appetite of the worms. What food are they eating? How decomposed is it? Is the bin aerobic? How easily can they take a bite of it? How nutrient dense is it? How much of it is water weight? What temperature is their bin? Is the bin water-logged? Foods like watermelon, or finished compost worms will eat extremely quickly. This is because they decompose rapidly/have already decomposed significantly. Its also very easy for worms to chomp down on these foods and fit them into their mouths. Foods like cardboard and leaves are not as nutrient dense as other foods so they do not decompose as quickly and worms won’t prioritize them over other nutrient dense foods. Basics of Max Food Consumption The biggest factor above all is making sure the bin is aerobic. This will affect how quickly they eat more than any other factor. You should have plenty of bedding that keeps moisture at a good balance, and allows for airflow (airflow will also be created by worms if the contents of the bin are soft enough for them to burrow into it). Worms will not touch food that has gone anaerobic. Anaerobic material creates toxic compounds, bad smells, attracts pests, and can kill worms. How to Feed and Manage Moisture Overfeeding and overwatering go hand in hand. A lot of fruit waste/food scraps have a high moisture content. When you feed high moisture foods, you need to make sure you balance it with moisture absorbent bedding to keep the bin at optimum moisture. Make sure when you add food that you place it where worms can get to it. Food scraps should be lightly buried - just enough so that it is covered by half an inch or so. Worms don’t like crawling up and out of the dirt to get to their food. Put it right on their dinner table! Some foods, such as finished compost, don’t need to be buried. A worm bin cover will also help encourage worms to the top layer of the bin to feed. It is also important to not overfeed in general. If you feed more than the worms can handle, other critters (things like fruit flies) will get to the food before your worms can. The general rule of thumb is to add your next batch of food as the last batch has mostly been eaten - say about 80% or so. Conclusion Worms have the potential to eat extremely rapidly. As long as you keep the bin aerobic and at proper moisture and temperature levels, no matter what you feed them you should see disappear pretty quickly. Find Worm Bins, Worm Bin Supplies, and Composting Worms at the shop:
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scottkent45
Oct 30, 2021
In How to Worm Compost
Which Worm Species is Best? Composting Worm Species Comparison There are four common species used for vermicomposting. Red Wigglers - Eisenia Fetida European Nightcrawlers - Eisenia Hortensis African Nightcrawlers - Eudrilus Eugeniae Blue Worms - Perionyx Excavatus Very rarely Alabama Jumpers will be used, but they are not ideal for composting as they don’t do well in a confined bin and they are an invasive species in many ecosystems. This will just be a quick overview of each species and why you would want to use one over the others. ALL INFORMATION ASSUMES IDEAL CONDITIONS RED WIGGLERS Red Wigglers are by far the most common. They are generally accepted as the easiest composting worm because they are tolerable of many conditions. Scientific Name: Eisenia Fetida / Eisenia Andrei Size: 3-4 inches Appetite: Half their weight/day Reproductive Rate: 2-3 Cocoons/Worm/Week - 86.6% hatching success rate - 3.3 babies/cocoon Temperate vs Tropical: Temperate Difficulty: Easy Number per Pound: ≈1,000 Sources: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02541858.1988.11448096 You should use red wigglers if: You want an efficient and easy composting worm You are a beginner EUROPEAN NIGHTCRAWLERS European Nightcrawlers are similar to Red Wigglers. There isn't as much concrete scientific information on these guys, so take some of this information with a grain of salt. Scientific Name: Eisenia Hortensis Size: 4-8 inches Appetite: Half their weight/day* Reproductive Rate: ≈ 1.2 cocoons/worm/week Temperate vs Tropical: Temperate Difficulty: Medium** Number per Pound: ≈400 *My personal experience has been that they eat slower than this, but not by much. This might be because they like to stay deeper in the bin where the food is usually towards the top, but I'm not sure. **Again, this is based on my personal experience. They seem to be a bit more sensitive to conditions in general, and especially to physical disturbances. You should use ENCs if: You plan on using your worms for both composting and fishing bait - ENCs are generally accepted as the best worm for fishing AFRICAN NIGHTCRAWLERS African Nightcrawlers are the biggest, and most voracious of all composting worms. I've grown Red Wigglers and African Nightcrawlers about equally. Scientific Name: Eudrilus Euginae Size: 8-12+ inches Appetite: 1.5x their weight/day Reproductive Rate: .8 - 1.6 cocoons/worm/day - 84% hatch success - 2.7 babies/cocoon Temperate vs Tropical: Tropical Difficulty: Medium-Hard Number per Pound: ≈250 Sources: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/az/article/view/153490 You should use ANCs if: You know how to keep a worm bin in ideal conditions. You want to optimize your worm bin to produce castings and process waste at maximum efficiency. Your bin won’t ever be colder than 60 degrees fahrenheit. BLUE WORMS - PERIONYX EXCAVATUS Scientific Name: Perionyx Excavatus Size: 3-5 inches - usually much thinner/skinnier than other worms Appetite: slightly less than half their weight/day Reproductive Rate: 7.7 cocoons/worm/week - 40-60% hatching success/cocoon - 1 baby/cocoon Temperate vs Tropical: Tropical Difficulty: Medium-Hard Number per Pound: ≈1,000 Sources: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/az/article/view/153578 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45397373_Vermiculture_and_waste_management_Study_of_action_of_earthworms_Elsinia_foetida_Eudrilus_euginae_and_Perionyx_excavatus_on_biodegradation_of_some_community_wastes_in_India_and_Australia The Controversy of Indian Blue Worms: It is very rare that anyone sells, let alone buys (intentionally) indian blue worms. The big nation-wide composting worm vendors - yes probably the one(s) you're thinking of - often sell blue worms labelled as red wigglers. Look for a "composting worm mix" label, or a species disclaimer on the website. In my opinion, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but they are also advertising on the same page how red wigglers are the best/perfect composting worm, then selling you blue worms instead. If you truly believe indian blues are comparable composting worms, why are you hiding the fact that you have a mix of blues? If you couldn't tell, I have also been a victim of being told I was buying red wigglers, but was actually sold indian blue worms. I think sometimes these companies rely on the customers not knowing the difference. My suspicion is that a big worm vendor received an influx of worms from India (worm composting is huge there), which contained Perionyx Excavatus, which then populated their bins, and the bins of whoever sourced any worms from them as well, which includes other worm vendors. Why I do not prefer PEs: They will overtake your worm bin and can quickly overpopulate/overtake other species. They will reproduce closer to their maximum rate when other species won't be at maximum reproduction. They are very finicky, will leave the bin when the slightest upsets happen, which includes changes in barometric pressure. They are tropical worms (like ANCs) and will not survive lower temperatures. Despite anecdotal evidence, scientific journals find that they consistently eat slower (though only slightly) than red wigglers. See the source above. Not as serious - The way they move gives me the creeps. They don't move like other earthworms. Why you should pick Indian Blue Worms They are prolific breeders even in less than ideal conditions. If you are looking for a worm to use as food for another pet, blues could be a great pick. MIXING SPECIES If you do not mind mixed species there is some benefit in that however the conditions are in your bin the worm species that handles it best will reproduce and populate your bin. There are other minor advantages to each species that you can get by using a mix. If you want to keep a good population of red wigglers or european nightcrawlers I would avoid adding blues to your worm bin as they will outpopulate other species. CONCLUSION There is no best worm, it totally depends on your circumstances and your goals. For beginners, I always recommend the red wiggler. They are going to be the easiest worm for an inexperienced worm farmer. Find useful guides on vermicomposting, including how to start a bin, at www.utahbioagriculture.com/guides
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