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Edd
01/03/2014 at 10:50

As a general rule, Dove. If it has lived then they will eat it, eventually. Avoid meat and dairy products as they attract vermin and can quickly turn a worm bin 'sour' and smelly. Powdered milk is ok as it bulks up the size of the worms. I try to avoid cooked foods as well. I have had problems in the past with that.

Edd
01/03/2014 at 12:23

When it comes to starting up your vermicomposting system there are four main components to consider: 1) Container (worm bin), 2) Bedding , 3) Waste material, and 4) Composting worms. 

  1) Containers.   There are a wide variety of options when it comes to choosing the worm bin you want to set up. If you are the handy type you may want to build your own creation, or if you don’t mind spending the money perhaps you will opt for a ready made system. As you can see i use recycle bins that the council use. This is not their intended use but it is my own interpretation of recycling. Any similar sized container can be used. I have bigger and smaller systems as you can see in the other photos. Most store like Wilko supply them. You will have to avoid clear plastic tubs as the worms do not like light.

Some things to keep in mind when you choose your container – 1) Light penetration, 2) Surface area vs depth. An ideal bin will be opaque (ie not allowing in light) and will be relatively shallow.

Red worms (and earth worms in general) are very sensitive to direct light – it can lead to considerable stress and even death if they unable to escape from it.

As far as depth goes, you don’t need to worry too much about exact dimensions but you definitely do want to put more emphasis on the surface area – this allows for greater oxygenation of the bin and also allows the worms to spread out more.

 

I tend to keep 2 or 3 small indoor bins at one time, plus an “overflow” bucket (for excess food waste. see photo above), thus making it much easier to ensure that balanced conditions prevail and if things do not work out in one then i can rescue it with another.

There is nothing wrong with a single worm bin in the size range of a typical ‘green box’ recycling container. This size of bin should be large enough to provide both buffering capacity and waste-processing potential for a typical household (especially if you use an overflow bucket and/or an outdoor composting heap as well).

Another important thing to mention is aeration. If you are using a typical green box type of bin its not a bad idea to drill some holes in the lid (optional but it keeps the rain off) and along the sides prior to adding your bedding/worms etc. This allows for more air flow in and out of the bin. If you have your bin sitting on some sort of tray you may even desire to drill a few holes in the bottom of the bin – a great way to ensure bin contents don’t get too waterlogged and it will collect the leachate (run off)

Enough for now. BEDDING. To follow

Regards

Edd.

Edd
01/03/2014 at 13:21

2) Bedding

Composting worms not only need food, but also some sort of habitat to live in the bedding materials provide both. Ideal worm living conditions can be created initially by adding lots of bedding material with a decent amount of waste material (and likely some water to ensure good moisture conditions).


People often refer to the ideal composting moisture content as being similar to that of a wrung-out sponge. Higher moisture levels do tend to work better for worm composting, but this is definitely a good guideline to start with.

Some great materials for bedding include shredded cardboard and egg boxes (my favorite), shredded newspaper, aged straw, coconut coir, fall leaves and peat moss (although I prefer not to use this material since it is not harvested in a sustainable or environmentally-friendly manner). Worms seem to absolutely love rotting leaves, so definitely don’t throw them away in the autumn. The downside of using leaves (aside from seasonality) is the fact that they don’t really absorb much water – this is why my ideal bedding will consist of a mix of leaves and brown cardboard (another material worms seem to have a real affinity for is the compressed trays and egg boxes).

Bedding materials will typically need to be moistened before worms are added. In fact, a practice I highly recommend when starting a new bin is mixing bedding with a decent amount of moist food waste and a handful of garden soil, then simply letting the mixture sit in my outside box for a week or so before adding worms. This way you are creating a very friendly environment for your worms to live in. Aside from activating the important microbial community, this also allows for moisture to makes its way throughout the bin materials.

http://s3.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/38600.jpg?width=350

 Waste material, To follow.

Edd
01/03/2014 at 14:12
Some quick and interesting facts obtained from a vermicomposting web site.  
    • Worm composting (also known as vermicomposting) involves the breakdown of organic wastes via the joint action of worms and microorganisms (although there are often other critters that lend a hand)

 

    • Regular (soil and garden) earthworms cannot be used for worm composting. They will die if added to an indoor worm bin.

 

    • Soil worms will however congregate in the lower regions of outdoor bins (if open to surrounding soil)

 

    • Composting worms are specialized surface dwellers (not burrowers), typically living in very rich organic matter such as manure, compost heaps or leaf litter

 

    • Most common variety used is Eisenia fetida (also spelled ‘foetida‘), although it’s larger cousin, Eisenia hortensis (a.k.a. the ‘European Nightcrawler’) is commonly used as well (more commonly to be sold as bait worms)

 

    • Common names for E. fetida include: red worm, red wiggler, brandling worm, manure worm, tiger worm.

 

    • Lumbricus rubellus is another species (and also a small reddish worm) sometimes used for vermicomposting, but is not as effective as E. fetida

 

    • It is widely believed that a composting worm can process the equivalent of it’s own weight in waste each day. Under highly optimum conditions (not likely to be attained with a small home system) red worms have been found to process multiple times their own weight! This is very much dependent on the foodstock and how well managed the system is.

 

    • A reasonable guideline to follow is 1/4-1/2 total worm weight in waste per day. So if you have a pound of worms, they should be able to process roughly 1/4-1/2 lb of food waste per day. Keep in mind however that you may need to feed them less during the first couple months since they usually require a period of acclimation when added to a new system.

 

    • Red worms technically graze on the microbial community that colonizes waste materials – not really the waste itself (although they certainly ingest some of the rotting waste in the process). Some research has indicated that protozoans are the primary food source, while there is also evidence that fungi and other microbes are consumed as well.

 

    • There have been a number of research studies indicating that vermicomposting can significantly reduce levels of pathogens in waste materials, such as biosolids.

 

    • Red worms love (and can tolerate) very high levels of moisture content (80-90%), but they also require oxygen so it’s important to find the right balance

 

    • One lb of composting worms is estimated to consist of approximately 1000 individuals.

 

    • Surface area far more important than depth when it comes to worm bins (ie tubs work much better than buckets)

 

    • Regular light is harmful to worms but red light is not

 

    • Red worm eggs look like tiny straw-coloured lemons

 

    • Baby worms look like very small versions of the adults (but have less red pigment)

 

  • Adding crushed egg shells (or other calcium sources) can help stimulate worm reproduction.
Edd
02/03/2014 at 11:31

break23. As you can see from the second lot of photos (last two pics) You really do not need that much space. Any size of plastic (or other) containers can suffice. 

02/03/2014 at 11:36

Edd- are you entering that for the Booker prize? 

That must have taken you ages gathering all the info and putting it down here. I'm sure lots of people will find it really helpful and will be very grateful to you for taking the time.

Edd
02/03/2014 at 12:09

No Fairy. I have most of the info from years ago so it just needed a tidy and up date with some new pics.

I do mealworms as well if needed!!!

02/03/2014 at 13:21

H Edd what do you mean u do mealworms

Edd
02/03/2014 at 13:29

I grow/breed my own Alan. Its very easy.

02/03/2014 at 13:44

 R these the mealworms you feed to wildlife ,if so id like to breed them as well ,im interested Edd ,more please if poss

Edd
02/03/2014 at 13:55

Yes i breed them to feed the birds. Shop bought tends to be dead/dried and cost a fortune so i can't be doing with that.  It is basically a tupperware box some bran and a few halves of potatoes now and again and a bit of time. Again i keep mine in doors and there is no smell You get to see the whole life cycle.( egg, lavae, pupae and adult. )  Fascinating.

I will start another Thread. It really is simple.

Edd
02/03/2014 at 17:51

3) Waste material

Not all waste materials are created equal from a worm’s point of view (or a human health standpoint for that matter), so i should give pointers to what should and should not be added to an indoor worm bin.

This is a good general list.

 

  • YES TO
  • Vegetable & fruit waste (citrus fruit should be added in moderation when using smaller bins)
  • Starchy materials – bread, pasta, rice, potatoes – all in moderation (beginners may want to avoid these altogether initially)
  • Aged animal manures (careful with rabbit and poultry – need lots of bedding to balance)
  • Shredded newspaper, used paper towels (common sense applies here), cardboard (great idea to add these carbon rich materials at the same time you add any wet food waste)
  • Egg shells (best if ground up and in moderation)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  •  
  • NO TO
  • Human/pet waste
  • Non biodegradable materials
  • Dairy/meat
  • Oils/grease
  • Harsh chemicals


  Letting your waste material sit for a period of time is better than adding it right away. Often people assume that the worms feed directly on the waste materials themselves. In a sense they do, but more specifically they are slurping up ( worms have no teeth) the microbial soup that forms on rotting materials. If you throw in a bunch of fresh carrot peelings the worms won’t be able to start processing the material until sufficient microbial colonization has happened. Should you choose not to wait (obviously if you get your worms at the same time you get your bin it doesn't make sense to wait) I would recommend that you at least try to add some partially rotting materials so that the worms have something to feed on.

Regards

Edd.  

ps. 4) Composting worms. to follow.

Edd
04/03/2014 at 00:44

 I know that i said that i would expand on the Meal Worm/red worm temp topic. But it is getting late. so I will leave it until tomorrow. Plus the number 4) topic above, about worms.

Just out of interest this is the food /bedding mix for the last 3 days. I apologize as i am trying to use the toilet roll tubes for my sweet peas so have had to use brown cardboard instead. Its the same thing and i do use it daily but prefer egg cartons..

http://s4.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/38794.jpg?width=274&height=350&mode=max

 That is a 1Lt jug and a hand blender, with 3 dry egg shells in the bottom.. There is no need to do this. I do so because it makes smaller pieces so it is easier for the worms to eat ( remember no teeth) and it composts faster, but there is really no need when starting off. 

In the colander is 1 banana skin/3 carrot peelings and the same again with potatoes skins. Plus one very, very small leaf of cabbage. and then the same weight in cardboard. in 1/3 Lt rain water. This is the result.

http://s4.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/38795.jpg?width=274&height=350&mode=max

 This goes straight out side for a week in a bucket with a hand full of soil. 

The jar next to it is my collection of ground egg shells but there is not many in. less than 20.

Sorry for the blurred last photo. I will get better.

Regards

Edd

 

 

 

04/03/2014 at 09:32

Really interested here but still confused on points. A bit dim, Edd, I'm afraid, so would you mind going 1,2,3!    I have a second hand commercial wormery and was only given the info "they will go to where the food is".      1.  Have never added water, but it'all a sludgy mess but packed with tiny baby worms. Never god any of your lovely dry stuff.  What am I doing wrong?  2.  Even tho I only add to the top layer they also crawl down through the layers and drown in the bottom resevoir. I only add stuff as you recommend, and boy do the love mango and vacuum cleaner emptyings.  3dont really get your distinction, bedding, food waste, surely it's the same thing?  4. I obviously haven't got this rotation thing right of the trays in the can o'worms.  my normal composting is faultless. !  I may not have the best worms, I got them from a fishing shop.

 

04/03/2014 at 09:39

Looked up the you tube Can o 'Worms and end up screaming in frustration. It definaptly needs to go in the rants thread!  The female of the duo wittering  like an empty headed airhead around the capable macho guy, neither getting all clear.

 

Edd
04/03/2014 at 10:34

Hello Hester. 

It sounds like your vermicompost is too wet and perhaps a bit sour. That is why your worms are migrating and ending up in the bottom tray where the leachate is. This liquid should be poured off and put on the compost heap. It is not worm tea ( i will get into that later) . I would leave the tap open all the time. 

You are right the worms will seek out the food and technically bedding will become food. You will always find some worms in all the sections of the can o worms so do not worry about that.

Worms do not like sitting in their own casts so will move up to the food area and leave the casts below.  

I recommend adding as much bedding again as you can to dry out your bins and then the worms will convert it and it will not be so sloppy.  The bottom tray will eventually become casts only (no food stuff left) you then need to add new food and bedding to the next tray above. Remember that worms can't jump so the bottom of the trays must be touching the compost, below. You will find that the worms will soon convert all the food stuff/bedding and move up to the upper tins.

Regards

Edd.

04/03/2014 at 11:07

Hi Edd would it be possible to start your explanation for mealworm with that heading please so we dont mix them up.

Edd
04/03/2014 at 11:36

Yes Alan. I will put the info about heat for mealworms on the mealworm thread.

My vermicompost bin that is outside is obviously the outside temperature and varies throughout the year. I have had it totally frozen and it did not seem to harm the worms as they are still there. I get the fastest results when the temp is between 16-25 degrees C. 

My cold garage stacking system is only 2 degrees higher than the outside temperature at the moment. 

My inside (house bin) is at 18 degrees C and the worms process the food at a very quick rate.

If you look at the pic above that i posted on the 27th you will see the amount of food and bedding that was in the bin. Here you will see what it looks like today. They are very hungry fellows and this tub is nearly ready for harvesting and starting again.

http://s4.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/38822.jpg?width=274&height=350&mode=max

Regards

Edd.

 

Edd
04/03/2014 at 12:25

4) Composting worms.  

Not every earthworm can be used for worm composting, or kept in an indoor/outdoor bin in general.

you can not keep a population of soil dwelling worms in a bucket. 

I learned that most of my garden worms were of the “anecic” type – that is to say they were soil dwelling worms that create burrows and tend to lead a somewhat solitary existence (they need their space). The worms ideally suited for composting on the other hand are referred to as “epigeic”. This group tends to live in rich organic material (not soil), and are adapted to crowding and warmer temperatures. So its not difficult to see why epigeic worms would do much better in a composting bin than their soil dwelling cousins.

  The most common variety of composting worm is Eisenia fetida – also known as the red worm or red wiggler and have many different common names. If you are looking to start up your own worm composting bin this is definitely the worm you want.  

How do you get ahold of some of these worms? Well there are various options. The easiest (but most expensive) is to simply buy them. There are a wide variety of online merchants who will sell them to you, OR you may be able to track down a local supplier or a fishing tackle (they sell them as bait). Another option is to track down someone else with a worm bin in your area and ask them to share.Getting in touch with your local gardening clubs and allotments society. Pigeon fanciers usually have a waste area when they clean out their cages. This is the best place i have found them. You will have a decent chance of finding some on a local farm if they keep aged manure piles.  

When it comes to adding worms to a new system, I like to err on the side of caution. I prefer to build my population up to the ideal level, rather than using standard guidelines. A widely accepted recommendation is to add 1lb of worms for each sq ft of bin surface area you have. So if your bin is 1.5 X 2 ft (width x length) it should be able to handle 3 lbs of worms. I would personally rather add 1lb of worms to a bin this size and let the population reach an population equilibrium on it’s own. Red worms reproduce very rapidly under favorable conditions so it shouldn't take too long.

04/03/2014 at 15:54

Hi Edd, when you say ready for harvesting what do you mean? How do you separate the compost from the worms?

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