New worm bin

bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)February 22, 2011

I set up an 18 gallon plastic tote bin with holes drilled in the lid and along the top. I had it sitting with wet newpspaer strips and some lettuce and other scraps setting in it for about two weeks. My one pound of redworms arrived on Saturday and I placed them in the bin. At first, almost all the worms were trying to crawl out the top. Now its more like a handful but I can't figure out why. Its not too wet or too dry. Any ideas?

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Worms don't like drastic change. This almost always happens when you first get new worms. It's probably unavoidable unless you get a lot of the VC the worms were in from the seller, and that would make transport costs a lot higher. Leave a light on over the worms for a few days and they'll settle down and realize that this new stuff is actually okay.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 6:33PM
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My guess is that in a new bin, the beneficial microbes that the worms need to help injest their food have not yet been established as they need to come from the worms gut in the first place. Only after the worms have been pooping amongst the food source can the cycle begin and the bacteria spread out and cover the food. Until that happens, a few days later,your worm farm seems sterile and unappetising to your worms and they see no reason to stay.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Importance of Microbes in vermiculture

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Bookjunky4Life: It may be that there isn't enough oxygen in the bedding for the worms. Wet newspaper tends to clump together. If you add cut up corrugated cardboard, there will be more oxygen available in the bedding. Just finished reading one of the posts at Garden Web on using corrugated cardboard only. Not sure I'm ready to give up feeding the worms food scraps, but I might try a small bin of cardboard only and see what happens.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 8:59PM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

After a few days, they have migrated down into bedding and scraps. I did use some cardboard in my bedding my most of it was shredded newspaper. I am beginning to see little worm poops all over in the bin. I do have a further question. I am using an 18 gallon storage tote for my bin. I do have quite a bit of food scraps and havea second 18 gallon bin set up and ready to go. How many pounds of worms would be ideal for each 18 gallon bin?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 2:24PM
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hibiscusfan zone5-Northwest Ohio(5 northwest Ohio)

Bookjunky4life where did you order your worms from? I ordered from a company and received alot of dead worms. Want to get more but would like to get them elsewhere.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 7:57PM
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hibiscusfan zone5-Northwest Ohio(5 northwest Ohio)

Bookjunkyforlife-Go to search at the bottom of vermicomposting page and type in ( how many worms per pounds of scraps)and it will give you a lot of information.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:39AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

hibiscusfan - I ordered from Bentley Christie at My shipment was very satisfactory.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:50PM
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hibiscusfan zone5-Northwest Ohio(5 northwest Ohio)

Thanks I'll try them next time. I ordered from Wilsons and had to pick out a good handful of dead ones that were beginning to smell, not fun. They might have gotton cold because they were held over the weekend somewhere.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 9:56AM
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hibiscusfan if you are up for a road trip to Columbus Ohio check out also find him on craigslist.
24$ a pound for worms
1$ for castings

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 9:04PM
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hibiscusfan zone5-Northwest Ohio(5 northwest Ohio)

Yea! Many thanks, I have a sister in Columbus and two nephews at OSU so I will certainly check it out.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 12:22PM
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I wouldn't order any supplemantary worms at all!

I put 75 worms from one bin into another (10 gall totes) and in 6 months, had over 1 lb in that new bin. The key to this was not to overfeed (ie 1 cup every 3-4 weeks of food processed kitchen scraps).

Those 75 worms now fill 10 totes, about 2-3K in each.

Now when I give a tote away, I start the new one with HALF of the contents of one bin (ie I split the bin), and in about 4 months, the two bins both resemble the fully operational ones. I seem to get to about 2.5 - 3 lbs of worms per bin, time 10 (I have 10 running).

Cheap (see FREE!) and easy. Requires a bit of patience, but worth the experiment.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 2:41PM
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hibiscusfan zone5-Northwest Ohio(5 northwest Ohio)

Wow thats alot of multipling guess I'll just sit back and relax and let them do their thing. I don't feed mine very much so I hope they will turn out as proliferent Sp? as yours.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:13PM
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Excellent advice here.
I would guess from the description of your first post, the bin was too wet from too much feed. It likely became a bad environment for the worms.
One pound of worms should be fed no more than a cup of scraps at first, then feed again ONLY when all that food is gone.
And if you use paper or cardboard shreds as your starter bedding, then I dont suggest feeding at all for about 2 weeks. They like to make the shreds home first before starting on foods.
I also agree, not to replace quite yet. Just keep working with the ones you have until you have a good grasp of what vermicomposting is all about before making another investment.

Here is a link that might be useful: 3 rights of worms composting

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:51PM
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I think you are right, just a little food at first, but the best is to always throw in some borrowed vermicompost to make them feel at home. If you can't get any then ordinary garden compost is next best - it is all to do with the aerobic bacteria.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 6:12PM
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I'm just starting a worm bin and want to use a plastic garbage can. I have no idea how to set it up and have it ready for the worms. How much shredded paper should I start with and just how wet should it be? I know someone here who has the worms and has been composting woth them for some time. He just has a ground pit for them and they love it, so he has no idea how to use the garbage can.
I know to put 1/2 pound of food for every pound of worms. The garbage can is 20 gals.

does anyone have a suggestion for the set up?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 10:31PM
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I just started mine last week, so I'm no expert. From what I've read, I'd say to put a few inches of shredded paper in the can (also depends on how many worms you have).

Use the "rung out sponge" method as your guide (not too wet and not too dry).

Since you are using plastic container just make sure you have good drainage so that you don't create a soupy mess.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 3:23PM
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Captaindirt: Go to the website "" for excellent advice on starting your bin.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 9:32PM
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I will construct a much better bin once I know i can keep the little guys alive. I only have about a dozen worms to start with that was given me last weekend.
I know if I wait until they number close to a pound, that will be acouple of years.
just testing the waters i guess.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 9:24PM
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This may sound like a very simple question to most here because they probably have they bins up and running and have for some time. Myself, I'm just starting out and really don't have a clue to what I'm doing yet. My bin is somewhere between 1.75 to 2 square feet. I was wondering if I should start it with 1 pound or 2 pounds of worms. I was thinking 2 but thought I should ask someone who knows more than I.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 7:12PM
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captaindirt: 1 pound or 2 pounds, either way, maybe divide them in half for two bins. That safeguards your investment in case one bin goes south, or to heaven.

I started with half an egg shell's worth. Added some volunteers from the compost heap. I have never purchased worms or worm bins. On the other hand I have no idea what variety of worm I have. And they seem to of taken vows of chastity. I think they are all the same age and not mixed.

A rule of thumb might be a family of four might start with a pound. A family of four that are vegetarians, juice, belong to a CSA, garden a lot, can, thus have lots of kitchen waste at certain times might want two pounds.

Although I do not use the electricity, a beginner might do best food processing or chopping and then freezing the additions. Keep the excess in the freezer until your population grows or that late winter darth of worm food. This is no doubt way better for beginners than looking under the top shreds and seeing the same raw broccoli stem for four weeks, still not eaten. And one can have the satisfaction of feeding them something, maybe a table spoon a day, and seeing results quickly.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 1:30AM
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Ditto Andrew, equinox.

What you are trying to achieve is a nice environment for the worms. Any new bin takes a little time for the population to grow into it. Prepare as per Andrews instruction, then wait a week or two, then add the worms (1 lb or 2, doesnt matter) and make sure maybe 1 cup of blended food scraps, moist (but no free water in the bottom, place lid on , and ignore for one month. Yup, forget it. Dont place in the sun, or out in the snow, but if you let the new population "grow" into your new bin, then you are way infront. After 1 month, feed another cup of blended scraps (on top or buried, doesnt matter, but also add a hand full or two of shredded paper or card board to cover, check moisture (shouldn't have to add water), cover and ignore for say 3 weeks.

Get the idea? I have found success comes from underfeeding, and forgetfullness, not over feeding and daily checking. If you're not consuming enough scraps, start another tote. I now have 10 totes and a worm factory (read: worm cafe is similar), 2-3 lbs in each, and feed one handfull of raw unprocessed, un frozen scraps per two weeks. By using a food processor in the start, it allows the worms to settle in and feed faster to kick the whole thing off. Once you have enough totes, you dont need to process as they dont have to consume as much per tote per week.

1 lbs of worms vs 1 lb of food per week? Not going to happen in a 10 gallon tote. 1 handful per 2 weeks? About right. 10 gal. tote max population (half full)? about 3 lbs.



Good luck!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 7:05AM
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ok another worm feeding question. The food I put into the bin has molded, this doesn't seem right to leave it there. should I remove it?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:34PM
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The food is just getting yummy for the worms. Put more bedding on top of the food if the mold is ugly.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:45PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Mold is common in worm composting bins and normal composting bins. Don't mess with it if you have allergies. Mold does not bother my worms. I've seen them eat certain molds.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 11:48PM
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Mold is good -- it helps break food down.

Another common practice is to mix in some dirt from the yard (from a place where plants are growing) to get the bacteria started.

Most of the real work of decomposing organic matter in a worm bin is being done by organisms too small to see. Your worms are essentially slime-eaters, and for stuff like veg peelings and paper they can only start eating after bacteria and mold and whatnot have turned them to slime.

It's an interesting mental transition to make -- compost is still, basically, rotting garbage. You're guiding the rotting to keep it aerobic, and the worms come in handy as soil conditioners -- they help keep the mass aerated and non-slimy. But that said, you still have to embrace the rotting process in much of its charming variety.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 2:45PM
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dowbright(z6 in Missouri)

Nice phrasing, Colin3! You wrote:

"You still have to embrace the rotting process in much of its charming variety."

I find it gross but entrancingly fascinating! Loved your way of putting it. :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 9:13PM
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I've been raising red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) for about 5 years now and while they make excellent vermicompost, I wished for bigger worms for fishing. I had read that European night crawlers (Eisenia Hortensis) don't make compost quite as fast as the wigglers but decided to give them a try. It's been a few months now, and I'm SO PLEASED with the Euro's - they feed voraciously and my bin is already chock full of compost. I think they are actually BETTER than wigglers! Anyway, if you've been thinking on it, don't be afraid to try them. They are INCREDIBLY squirmy and long-lived on the hook, too!

Here is a link that might be useful: Source for healthy European night crawlers

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 6:38PM
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