Got my worms

inthebasementFebruary 23, 2009

Well allright. I have begun my journey into vermicomposting. A couple of issues during the first days. My worms came in the mail on Friday. I put them in the bin Friday evening. Woke up Saturday morning and took off the cover and the worms had all crawled up the sides of the bin and on to the bin cover as well. Not what I had expected. I thought they would burrow into the bedding.

I used the sprayer to get them back where they belongn and picked up the ones that had escaped from the bin as well. I did not have time to analyze the issue on Saturday as I was going on a family trip, so I covered the bin and left. Of course when I checked them again on Sunday morning I had te same issue. Once geting them all back where they belong again. I placed a layer of dry bedding on top. That seems to have remedied the issue.

Sinday evening I gave them their first feeding. A bananna peel, some old celery, and a spoiled cucumber. All chopped up nice and small. I buried it in the bedding. My two little girls had fun holding some of the worms. THey are still very young and worms are not icky yet.

So far so good. Hopefully the good news will continue. I will keep you all updated.

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The worms are a little traumatized by being shipped and then plunked into a sterile environment. Most shippers grow them in manure (I believe) and then we put them in newspaper and cardboard. Far cry from what they're used to.

Keep the lid off and a light on if possible, and they'll settle down into the depths of the bin.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 7:59PM
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a layer of dry bedding on top is often a good idea. I like a layer of paper, cardboard, paper bags etc over the top of my worm bedding.

I like to suggest the people with new worms, place the opened package of worms, package and all down into the new worm bedding (kinda dig it in on it's side or something) so the worms can move out into the new environment in their own time rather than the shock of being dumped into the new situation with no time to adjust.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 9:20PM
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They might have been looking for food. A pound of worms will eat a pound of food scraps.I would add some cornmeal to the bedding - sprinkled throughout if you don't have other food for them.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 9:42PM
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OK, so heres my solution to my problems. Seems to be working. One of my errors was that I drilled drainage holes in the bottom of the bin, and then just put the bedding in. Seems the worms just found there way down and out. Other worms were climbing up the side of the bin and getting trapped between the lid and the container.

So I emptied the bin and put sheets of newspaper covering the bottom drainage holes. It should still drain if necessary. My bin is in the basement and so leaving a light on all the time with the cover off is not reasonable. So I bought a small flourescent light and mounted it on the inside of the cover to the bin. Its a low power light and creates no heat. I leave it on all the time and so now all issues appear to be solved. It's only one day since I implemented this though so I will have to update you all in a couple days. I gave them their first big feeding. Let's see how that all works out.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:17AM
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The bin is in my basement and although it does not smell horrible, it does not smell great. It definitely adds an odor to the air and I don't really care for it. I'm in New York and it gets pretty cold outside. If I put it in my garage, I think I can avoid freezing, but it will still go down into the mid 30's. Is that going to kill my worms? It is clear that I cannot keep them in the basement. It's a finished basement and I get together with people down there for band practice. Can't have the smell of decaying table scraps.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 11:14AM
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It sounds like there is something rotten in the bin. You should not have any sort of bad smell from your bin. If I put my nose right near my bin I can sense a "good-dirt" type smell but I have to be pretty close.

After the first few days you should not need a light. If you do that means that there is something about the bin that the worms don't like. If they like their environment they will stay there.

Provided they don't actually freeze and you have EFs (red wigglers) they won't die from the cold. However, their consumption will likely slow way down. I've found that my worms did fine down to about 55 degrees. Getting below that though they slowed down. At 50 degrees F they were still eating but much less than at 70. Even if you have a solid freeze the cocoons should survive.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 12:51PM
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I added the food last night. I added it in kind of a lump of about two cups of brussels sprouts and strawberries. Should I be mixing this stuff up with bedding or just leaving it as one mass of food? At what point do the worms begin processing it. Is it immediately or does the food need to begin to decompose first? Oh, this feels wrong. I feel like I have not done something correctly.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 1:35PM
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I'd leave it mostly together in one spot in the bedding. For each feeding I'd pick a different spot (I usually move clockwise around the bin, but that's just me). Yes, it will need some time to decompose before the worms will eat it. The strawberries are very juicy, so they may start to mold some. The more air they get the less likely they are to mold. I assume the other food you gave the worms (banana, celery, and cucumber?) were gone or mostly gone?

Remember that your worms won't starve as long as there is any food or raw (not-eaten-yet) bedding left.

How wet is your bin? If you grab some of the material in the bottom and squeeze it does water come out? If so, that's too wet and you should mix in some more dry material like newspaper or cardboard. The moisture content of your bin can have a dramatic effect on how smelly your bin gets.

Does you bin have plenty of air? The less air flow the higher the chance of mold and other nastiness.

Of course, I've only been doing this since October so take what I say with a grain of salt...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 1:56PM
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Given your comments, I may be too wet. I will mix in more paper. I have ventilation holes in the cover and around the top of the bin. Perhaps not enough though. The last feeding was not eaten yet, but when I dumped the bin the put the sheets of paper on the bottom, it got all mixed arounf in the bedding. I guess you could say my startup worm bin is a bit of a mess at this point and I hope the natural process that will take place will fix it all up relatively quickly. Another issue I may have right now is that it is winter and although the bin is in the basement at this point and the basement is finished, I am not down there that much so I leave the heat off and the temp drops to around 50. Could this be causin the worms to be inactive?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 2:38PM
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Inthebasement, 50 degrees is pretty cool for the worms. They definitely won't be active eaters at those temps. If it's comfortable for us, it's comfortable for the worms.

Wait a few days before feeding again, and put some in a corner of the bin. Always cover your food with dry shredded paper. This keeps fruit flies at bay, and the shredded paper absorbs excess moisture.

The worms only eat the food once it decomposes so it takes a few days for fresh food to break down where the worms can even eat it.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 7:41PM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

Just a few thoughts:
-It's winter. It's cold. Everything slows down. Optimum temp is around 70.
-A new bin can take several months to establish a vigorous eating schedule.
-You are feeding the worms a different diet than they were raised on.
-Freezing or microwaving the food will speed up the decompostion (and kill fruit fly eggs).
-Most of the oldtimers around here accumulate worm food in a slop bucket or some kind of holding container. This starts the decompostion and the growth of the micro-organisms that the worms actually eat. Think "slurp, slurp" rather than "crunch, crunch."
-Brussel sprouts take a long time to decompose - and will smell while they are doing so. As will their cousins cauliflower and cabbage.
-Depending on the decibel level of your band you may want to relocate the bin. The vibration of the instruments could be stressful to your worms. Imagine living through hours of earthquakes several times a week. Outdoor worms are often observed evacuating before earthquakes or unusual weather patterns.

Good luck. I'm only a few months ahead of you on the learning curve.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 7:49PM
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I missed the part about band practice. They certainly won't be comfortable with the vibrations.

Folly is right. Certain foods do stink as they break down. Even though I freeze ALL my food prior to feeding, to make the breakdown process quicker, hubby always knows when I put Kale in the bin. He always says "it stinks in here." and it's always when I feed them kale. Start off with carrots, potato peelings, fruit, lettuces, apples, whatever and you won't notice any smell.

If the bin is too wet, and has too much food in, it will smell as well. The whole thing can get anaerobic. Mixing in dry shreds will fix this.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 8:14PM
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folly grows, you said, "-Most of the oldtimers around here accumulate worm food in a slop bucket or some kind of holding container. This starts the decompostion and the growth of the micro-organisms that the worms actually eat. Think "slurp, slurp" rather than "crunch, crunch."

I do this. I have a "slop bucket" that I scoop a little food out of and put in the bin. But I have a mite problem and I was worried that might have been the culprit. I guess it still could be, but you are saying it's perfectly find (even better?) to put sloppy, already mushy scraps in than fresh from the chopping board? I guess I just want confirmation that I am not doing something wrong, cause I thought I was.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:15PM
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I have been freezing my scraps until my wrigglers got here from PA, I just integrated a small amount of scraps today... should I keep the scraps in the freezer and add them to the bin frozen or should I zap them in the microwave?


    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:42PM
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just.trott, defrost them in the microwave, at least if your bin is in a cool location. Otherwise, you're cooling down the bin and that slows down the worms.

maryld, I've got to disagree that a pound of worms will eat a pound of food scraps (at least very quickly). In cool conditions, I'd say more like a 1/4 pound of food scraps per pound of worms per day. Even that might be pushing it.

Good luck, inthebasement. Don't get stressed. It will all work out fine. Sounds like you're doing the right things.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:03PM
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This may be obvious, but how long should I defrost them?

I live in Alabama, so it doesn't get too terribly cold and I keep them inside.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 11:16PM
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Take your food out of the freezer, and put the food in a container to defrost. Leave it on the counter overnight or whatever. Put it in a colander to drain thoroughly and feed to your worms.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 7:35AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

Inthebasement: Re-reading your posts, I realized that you didn't tell us how many worms you've got, or how big your bin is. We're assuming a pound or two of worms in a 10-18 gal plastic tote. Is that right? Two feedings of 2 cups each in the first week is way too much. In a cool basement there certainly hasn't been time for the food to break down.
Imagine leaving a cut piece of fruit outside in the summer and the same piece of fruit in the winter. During which season will it start start to brown and soften fastest?

Gmt903: Some people put in fresh, some people put in aged food. Both will work in an *established* bin. It's all a matter of how/where you want the food to decompose. The mites are a whole other issue. The wetter the food > the wetter the bin > the more attactive to mites. Indoor bin/outdoor bin. Plastic or wooden. Winter or summer. There are lots of factors to consider.

To all Newbies: The hardest thing at the beginning is not doing too much. Too much food, too much water, too much fussing. The worm bin will take weeks or even months to get fully running. Take to heart the mantra of one of the most interesting posters (Chuckiebtoo) on this forum: Moderation, Diversity, Patience.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:33AM
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My bin is an 18 gallon container, 1 pound of worms. I get it. I am just doing too much of everything. I have placed enough food in there under present conditions to last about 3 weeks if I understand correctly. I will just stop now, and let the system normalize. As far as the band thing goes, I don't think this should be an issue. I call it band practice, but it's actually me and one other guy playing electric guitars at a reasonably low level for 3 hours or so every friday. We don't have the full band in the basement. It's not band levels like would be in a bar or anything like that. For those who have taken guitar lessons, it's sort of like that type of environment. WE play, and teach each other stuff to use in a playing situation. Kind of like a 3 or 4 hour lesson.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:52AM
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Thanks so much for the advice! I guess I'll stick with my mush. I fed the worm a handful of mush last Friday. Considering I have motes at the moment, I'm going to hold off a little while longer until I feed them again. There is plenty of bedding and some old food scraps, so I'm sure the worms won't starve.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 4:35PM
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50 degrees F certainly seems low. I know that my worms' activity drops off significantly when I get down to 50 degrees. To fight that I've added a fish tank heater to boost the temp back into the 70s.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm Heater

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 5:16PM
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Update time. I may get kicked off the forum for this but here it goes. After my bin began to smell up the basement I decided to move it to the garage. I am in New York and it's cold, but the garage rarely goes below freezing. I guess my house insulation is not so good, and it's an attached garage. Anyway, it was in the garage, for a day when the family and I went out for breakfast. When we returned, we noticed that the smell was still seeping into the house. So I put the bin outside. The weather seemed to be in the warming trend so I was OK with it. Then came the snow, and the deep freeze. The bin has been outside through the past few nights where the temp fell into the teens and single digits. I guess all I can do now is hope for the best and when the temp warms up I will go out and rummage around to see if there are any survivors. If not, I will wait a month, until the temps come ups and I will start over again.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 10:20AM
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Even if none of the worms survive, their cocoons should.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 11:31AM
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