Turning or mixing the worm bed

Sam55March 28, 2014

I got my worms in January, am using a mix of leaves and shredded newspaper as bedding, and kitchen scraps as food. The material at the bottom of the bin is very wet. There are holes in the bottom for drainage and nothing is dripping out so far. I was wondering if it is good or bad to mix everything up now and then, or should I just leave it alone?

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chuckiebtoo

I wouldn't mix the materials in the bottom with the newspaper and leaves, but removing them and aerating the glop compacted in the bottom would be ok. Gently. And clean out and enlarge the leachate holes in the bottom.

cb2

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 4:27PM
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sbryce_gw

If the bedding on the bottom of the bin is getting compacted and gucky, I would turn the whole thing. But I would not do this very often. Maybe once midway between starting a new bin and harvesting, about once every three months. Once the compacted bedding has been brought to the top and broken up, it will decompose and be eaten rather quickly. I got in the habit of doing this after the first time I harvested and found about an inch of compacted bedding at the bottom of the bin.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:29PM
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hummersteve

Im guessing you might not have enough carbon or too much food scraps at once for the amount of worms ,, just guessing. Since Ive been doing vermicomposting Ive never had any so called leachate, maybe Im doing something wrong. Ive fed a lot stuff that should be excess such as loads of watermelon. Worms seem to be happy making plenty of cocoons and getting some nice harvests. If it is yucky at the bottom I like others have said turn it and add some carbon and leave the lid off for a bit to let it dry out some. As a rule the worms will naturally aerate the bedding mix wil do most of the poop at the bottom and feed at the top. Thats my two-cents. but I am a rookie so take it for what its worth. Just been doing this for a year.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 5:53PM
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equinoxequinox

hummersteve, no leachate is good.

Worms "will do most of the poop at the bottom and feed at the top." I think worms just poop where ever they are at the moment. So I sort of disagree with your sentence. I think it looks like they poop more at the bottom because that is where the most decomposed stuff is and where if they have been pooping right in the food, the food and poop ends up. They have not had time enough yet to do similar to the new food.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:55PM
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chuckiebtoo

Being top dwellers and feeders, our kind of worms won't normally linger in the bottom of bins unless something is wrong with them. That's why we shouldn't mix food and bedding into the stuff that is vermicompost and vermicastings (black gold).

Vermicompost being composed of vermicastings and mixtures of vermicompost at various stages of completion to 100% vermicastings, sometimes the wormies....if a more desirable menu has not been served them...will wander around in dark places in the bin looking for scraps and orts they turned their noses up at previously. That's why we should occasionally put the herd on a small diet to allow them to finish the previous meal we've provided (make them clean their plate) and so they'll be able (required) to go out to eat so they'll finish off leftovers and we can harvest that really finely processed vc we all love to see.

One thing the vermicomposting family (us) throws around loosely sometimes is the word, and definition, of bedding...which needs to be thought of as those materials like newspaper and cardboard that'll be the last things the worms turn into vermicastings.

About leachate: Very little excess moisture needs to leak from bins (which do need to have some holes in the bottom of them, IMHO), but if not a drop ever exits those orifices just because of gravity, how are we to know if enough moisture is actually in the bin.

The pic shows leachate evidence from a bin after about three weeks. The cardboard box is great for the obvious reason but an added perk was the 24 beers once contained in it.

cb2

BTW...This probably sounds presumptuous to some of the old veterans around here, but some of the newbies sometimes need a little vernacular tune-up.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:59AM
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equinoxequinox

The bin should probably be tested for leachate about once a month or so. For accurate data collection a new cardboard box should be acquired for each test. In my testing I have found that soda boxes do not work. They are prone to incorrect data results. I have also tested the boxes that light beers are packaged. Again a no go. Extensive testing has proven the best results have been from the boxes that contained Fosters.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:44PM
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chuckiebtoo

"Extensive testing has proven the best results have been from the boxes that contained Fosters."

I've not tried leachate monitoring using Fosters cardboard flats, but being always open-minded, I'll get some Fosters tonight.

cb2

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:50PM
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equinoxequinox

Along with recycling the test boxes through the bin it is also a great location for any excess nitrogen you may feel compelled to donate. The excess cardboard and excess nitrogen are about in equal balance. YMMV.

As for "turning or mixing the worm bed" I break all of the rules and do everything wrong. Although after many years I do it less often, I find it entertaining to see exactly what is going on in that bin. Ripping the bin apart, rearranging everything, and rebuilding the bin lets me know how the processes are working inside the normally invisible parts of the bin.

It would be great if we could tag these vermi and track their locations in the bin. It would be massively entertaining to watch a speeded up video of worm tracking perhaps every hour.

One thing I think is forgotten or never mentioned about red wiggler behavior is they are designed to find a patty. Eat all available resources in it. Exit to find a new patty. Along the way leave cocoons in resource rich or just where ever areas. Worms are designed to fulfill the need to search out new deposits. They are found in man made concentrations of deposits but that is not what they spend zillions of years surviving by.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 10:05PM
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