from anaerobic to aerobic, safe to feed worms?

russelllandonApril 22, 2011

I have a question that was touched on another thread here, but not exactly answered. I understand that adding anaerobically decomposing food to a worm bin is a bad idea both because of the smell and the fact that it is inhospitable to the worms. My question is whether there is any good way of preparing my nearly 10 gallons of anaerobically decomposing material (which consists of probably 10% coffee grounds, 5% eggshells, and 70% vegetable scraps from the kitchen, and the rest garden scraps from last year) so that it will be good food for my worms.

I have probably 1500 worms in two bins, and I just harvested compost from them two weeks ago, and have now laid fresh bedding and given the worms a few fresh scraps. But I want to begin to feed them the ten gallons of waste I have outside in part because I live in the city, I can't dump it, and I don't have means of transporting it. The smell, by the way, is atrocious. But most importantly, I want to USE this waste, preferably with my worms, if possible to do safely.

So ... If I were to introduce oxygen to the anaerobically decomposing material for a period of time long enough to allow the odor to dissipate, would it then be good food for my worms?



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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Russell, if you aerate 10 gal. of mushy rot, I doubt it would do much to lessen the stink. I've thrown stuff like this into a big worm bin and the worms are all over it pretty quickly. You obviously can't do that with your bins that have less than a pound of worms each, but you can spread a handful (use a measuring cup if you don't want to touch it) over half of one bin and see what happens. Cover it all with lots of dry bedding. I'll bet a nickel that if you give them 2 days, the worms will swarm the stuff and the stink won't be noticeable.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 1:28PM
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short answer yes

worms will 'fix' an anaerobic environment as long as there is sufficient drainage and ventilation.

longer answer small/manageable amounts of 'bad' food stuffs can be added as long as you allow good space for the worms to move. the organisms inside a bin will accommodate a certain amount of anaerobic material as long as the bin is healthy.

my experience adding anaerobic material to worm bins is somewhat limited but i do know that the smell will mean some heat is created as well as sulfur and ammonia. this process uses nitrogen and requires carbon/oxygen to maintain a 'healthy' odour. you absolutely need to add oxygen to get move the system from anaerobic to aerobic.

10 gallons of bad/anaerobic material for 1500 worms will take a while. i'm inclined to think if you have 2 bins you might have more like 2k worms. or will soon. if we work on low estimates 1k worms will consume 1/2 pound of food per day. your two bins will accommodate a pound a day of healthy food stuffs. so maybe 1/4 pound a bin of anaerobic material?

good ventilation and drainage is paramount in bins and aerobic compost systems. i have a suspicion you already know this. what you are after to deal with 10 gallons of 'bad' waste is bokashi. look up effective microorganisms. if you make yogurt/sourdough you have the start of an anaerobic innoculant. bokashi is ideal for dealing with food waste in small spaces. and, from what i understand, is worm friendly

i'm starting to ramble so i'll sign off for now

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Russell, I mix my anaerobic slop (there's probably close to 10 lb.) and coffee grounds in a 5 gal. bucket with my usual moist bedding (cardboard, leaves, egg cartons, etc.). I use enough bedding to fill the bucket. The smell is really bad the first few days. However, after mixing the mixture up every day it no longer smells. Usually after a week, it has cooled down and can be given to the worms. I have 3-18 gal bins. The 5 gal. bucket (which is no longer full) makes enough to spread on the top of the bedding in the bins. I usually sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of finely ground egg shells when I spread the mixture on. If I don't use it all, I just add more stuff to the bucket and feed it to the worms the next week. The worms really chow down on it. So don't get rid of your mess!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:57PM
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Agree. For new waste you might be interested in bokashi.

I'm guessing the material is now in two five gallon buckets or a plastic garbage bag or bin. Maybe you do not want to just flip it out onto the ground because the neighbors will complain. One solution is to do it after they have gone to bed. The worst of the smell should be gone by they time they get home from work. Or maybe in the city there is no access to the earth. Another way is to just crack the lid open a bit. The smell will be minor and stay nearby. As oxygen gets in you can remove material from the top layer for your bin as it destinkafies. This may take a few weeks. If the material is very wet add dry egg carton or corrigated cardboard. This will both soak up moisture and add airspaces for oxygen to get in. Papertowel tubes might help too. If you have a second bucket line the bottom of it with them standing up. Maybe a thick layer of shreaded egg carton. Then dump in the material you want to air out and dry.

Time is your friend here. It will do the work for you.

If you find "friends" in the bucket, they may be Black Soilder Fly Larve. BSFL. They work harder and faster than worms on more difficult materials. Some feel they are less cuddly.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 12:11AM
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Thanks everyone. Very helpful. -r

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 11:38PM
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I have a similar problem. We generate more food waste than the worms can process. We eat a lot of Bananas(maybe we really are descended from Monkeys), so we always have a surplus of Banana peels, as well as other stuff. Some of it I freeze but there's just not enough room (maybe if I had a walk-in freezer). So the bulk of it ends up in 3 5-gal plastic pails sealed with their lids (this to keep out flies and maggots). Whenever I want to feed, I'll open a corner of the pail and drain off whatever liquid comes out, then I'll run the partially-decomposed scrap, together with coffee grounds and composted rabbit poo, through my food processor. Finally I'll mix it with dry shredded cardboard and layer it in 1/2 of the bin. Usually within a week or two, the worms have moved in on the new food source and they're all over it. Two weeks ago I did this on both my bins. As the worms vacated the castings, I was able to harvest one side of both bins. Yesterday I combined the two 1/2 bins into one. When I went to move the one side (into the other bin) that had been seeded with this 'Anaerobic' mix, it was just teeming with worms.
Now, I've read many times on this forum, discussions of how food waste stored anaerobically is toxic for worms, but my experiences just don't show that.
Maybe this is another myth that needs to be put to bed along with "wet as a wrung-out sponge" and "don't feed onions or pineapple".


    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 2:06AM
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I agree. You need more worms Shaul!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 5:37PM
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We want to stop the kitchen scraps from getting to the bucket of rotting waste stage. From where I am I can see two possibilities. ok Three.

At the volume you are at, and I see you are already using 5 gallon buckets, make bokashi. I have not due to not needing to yet. From what I have read the key secrets seem to be using enough bokashi, pressing the air out of the material with a plate sized to the inside of the bucket. A drain adds to the cost and does not seem to be always needed.

Option two is BSFL. They are way cool. Also I have no direct experience of these. But the seem to fit the bill. Immediate reduction of waste. 90% and making it perfect for the worms.

Can the daily kitchen scraps be sun dried? Is there a season of less worm food availability?

At some point most all of us have had to trim a bit of our vermicomposting activities for various reasons.

Maybe a lot of the trimmings can be used to make soup stock. This would reduce their volume for the worms.

Maybe a pet chicken?

On the other hand what most home kitchens throw out is probably better than is in most processed foods.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 2:22AM
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Hi Equinox,
What's the benefit of bokashi, as opposed to just freezing the kitchen scraps until the worms are ready for it?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Thanks for the suggestions.
Pete, I agree. I've been considering moving up to a third bin.
Equinox, let me answer them in order. I'm familiar with the Bokashi process and responded to that question here today. I'm waiting for answers, either from the original poster or from others, on the feasibility of using fresh Bokashi in a worm bin; after all, I don't want to pickle my squirm. I have nowhere to set up a compost bin. If the Bokashi requires secondary composting before being fit to feed to the worms, then it's not for me.
I have never seen BSFL in Israel. That doesn't mean they don't exist, I just have never encountered any; and not having a use for or any way to dispose of the byproduct (that is - the larva), I'm not going looking for them either. If I was in a living situation like in the early 1980's where I had ducks and neighbors with poultry, that would be different. Now, it's just not feasible.
Can the scraps be sun dried? maybe, but how would that work with rehydrating them for worm food?
A season of less worm-food availability? Not really. One of the things about living in a Mediterranean climate is that most worm-friendly foods are available almost year-round.
Soup stock...but not for me. If I need to be cooking up veg peelings with rotten or funny-tasting fruits to feed my worms, then I might just as well order them in - Home Catering.
Pet chicken: usually ends up as dinner.
So I'm probably going to opt for another bin with the possibility of adding the Bokashi process.
Worst case scenario: my town has a city-wide organic waste recycling program and I can always throw the excess there, but not only is that an insult to my hoarding tendencies, it just feels plain wrong.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Too funny Shaul.LOL I saw youtube videos of bakashi going directly into bins and the squirm all over it in 12 hours!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Interesting discussions, how did I miss this thread before? Hahaha I need to find that video on YouTube!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:34PM
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