Newbie Questions!

JoyfulBecky(9)March 16, 2012

There is so much to read that I don't know where to find my answers quickly. I appreciate anyone willing to answer.

1) How long will the worm compost be beneficial for gardening when separated out from the worms? Can I "save it up" for a garden next year?

2) Are there any helpful tips specific to vermicomposting outdoors in southern Arizona?

I have so much to learn and am excited about trying this out. Can't wait to get some worms. I already started freezing my scraps. I think it will be a great experience for the kids too!

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Welcome to the forum. Can't help with number 2, but number one yep. Keep the composted in a bin with airholes (needs to breath) but don't allow to dry out (you can always add a little water if you think it's going dry). The fertilizing compounds will always be there, but once dry it's like concrete and you lose the beneficial microbes.

A good site for info. He does outdoor stuff, but it's a wee bit further up north.

I've always heard that kids love the worms, means you've got some potential free helpers ;)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 2:17AM
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Hi there, Becky! PeterK is exactly right about question #1. I think in regards to question #2 I think you'll really have to work on moisture and temperature control. The dry heat in AZ will mean you'll want to take measures to keep your bins moist. I'd encourage the following:

1) Make sure your bins are in the shade at all times, especially during the summer. Make sure they are properly ventilated so they don't get too warm.
2) Use a bedding that retains moisture well - shredded cardboard and coconut will work better than hay, for example. You may need to experiment to see what works best for you.
3) Regular additions of food will help keep the bin's moisture levels up, but it will also allow you to keep a constant eye on the moisture level so you can modify it if necessary. I'd encourage you to get in the habit of feeding at least every other day rather than weekly, at least during the summer.

I'm in sunny CA where the summers are hot and dry but the winters are very mild, so I'm not sure I have the kind of experience that will be applicable to your winters. I'm not sure what your winters are like - I've heard that AZ winters can be very cold, but that may depend on the area. If you can tell us more about what your winters are like (rainy, snowy, below zero temps, or mild, etc.) the people on this forum can probably offer better suggestions.

I'm sure the other members of this forum will have more good suggestions for you.

And yes, it will be an excellent experience for the kids - they'll have lots of fun and eventually (maybe) they'll demand their own bin with their own worms to take care of like mine did :-D

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:32PM
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Thank you, PeterK2! That was what I was hoping. Thanks for the website recommendation, I am enjoying reading some of the info there.

Thank you, Worms4Tracey! We have mild winters here as well. It rarely snows or dips below freezing but it does happen occasionally. We usually have warning that it's coming though.

We have 9 kids (ages 12 and under)and I am confident that they will love the worm farming experience. They will probably try to turn it into a business! We recently moved to a property with 4 acres and are having fun with so much space!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:51AM
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Hello again, Becky! If your winters are mild, you should have nothing to worry about. I noticed that during the winter months my bins slowed down a bit on their consumption, that's all. I put regular additions of coffee grounds into the bins all winter because I was getting ten gallons a day from a local cafe - I discovered that that helped keep them warm (coffee grounds heat up as they decompose). However, I only ever added to one part of the bin (never more than 1/3 of the bin, and always in the same spot) so that the worms could get away from the heat if it was too much for them. Also, as a primary bedding coffee grounds tended to dry out quickly, so I've eased up significantly on them. However, during the winter, despite a few very frosty spells, the bins never froze.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 4:33AM
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Hi Becky. In your climate the challenge will be to avoid cooking the worms in the summer. My suggestions would be:

Either use a wooden bin, or better yet NO bin. Dig a pit and berm the dirt around the perimeter to keep rainwater out. Cover it with a plywood lid.Unless you have a gopher/mole problem, the herd of worms should stay put. The earth is a great insulator, and worms can escape if conditions get bad and then return when better! I would avoid plastic bins outdoors, which would need 100% shade.

Use a lot (4-6") of bedding on top to help keep things moist and cool. I have heard of people adding daily frozen water bottles in the summer. I would also cover with several layers of damp burlap fo the "evaporative cooler" effect.

Your kids should have a blast helping with harvest.

Good luck, Pete

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:29PM
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I have an old wooden armoire outside on my covered patio that I am thinking I could use to house the worm boxes. That would be 100% shade. It does get up to 110 degrees or so in the summer, though. Perhaps when the temps climb really high, I could throw ice packs on the top. I use to have dozens of those around. Wish I had kept them now. Thanks for the great tips and ideas!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:07PM
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maden_theshade(8 - Austin)

I have actually converted some old plastic trash cans (that had lots of holes in the bottom) into worm bins outside for composting leaves and garden waste. They are in the shade most of the day and when it gets over 100 here I make sure I sprinkle it real good every other day. I can't claim no worms have died, but I think the size of the bin allows them to find a cool spot. Every time I empty one there are always thousands of worms in there.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:28AM
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