Feeding/Newbie questions

demilloApril 20, 2014

I know that a lot of people have posted about this, and I've been reading about it all over the internet, but wanted to get all of your opinions. My five year old son and I began our first worm bin (typical large rubbermaid bin) about three weeks ago. I mixed topsoil (peat moss, wood chips etc.--all organic) and newspaper Overall it is about 10 inches deep. I added my 250 European Nightcrawlers on Friday. They seem to be doing well. Very active, not trying to escape or anything. I added food (banana peel, bell pepper, tomato, and crushed up one egg shell) in the corner. They seem to be actively feeding in that area. The bin is located in my basement but seems to be staying on the dry side so I have a layer of newspaper on top that I've been keeping moist. I'm keeping a container of kitchen scraps under my sink to add at a later date. I have a couple of questions as a newbie:

1. How often should I spray my top layer if the bin seems dry? I can squeeze the soil into a ball, but no moisture comes out.

2. When do I feed again? Do I wait until all the food is gone, or feed while it is still there? I've seen people say both.

3. Do you alternate feeding in your bin from one side to the other? I heard this was a good idea due to food breaking down causing heat. If that's the case, should I move the food they haven't finished to the other side?

Do you have any specific tips you could give me? I've been reading up like crazy, but don't want to miss anything. If you have one or two things that you think are extremely important, what are they?

Lastly--my wife is terrified of worms, so I'm trying not to talk about it too much around her as she isn't keen on this idea. I hope she grows into it!

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Spray the lop layer when it isn't damp. But the top layer shouldn't be soil.

When you wait until the food if GONE, there is still teeny-tiny little particles of food left there that we don't recognize but the wormies do, so when you feed when the food is GONE, you're OK.

You can feed in different places. It keeps everything in the bin active. The worms move around grazing. No, don't move the food being eaten ...it just pisses off the feeders.

Now, about the wife: you will need to exhibit extreme caution and understanding with regard to her. Most wives who are terrified of worms remain so forever. Never, ever allow a worm to be seen by her within her "domain". Her domain will be whatever she says it is, and if you are gonna need to move the wormin' endeavor totally off your property, consider going into another hobby.

You can teach her to embrace the herd though if you convince her that they'll make her garden look a lot better.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Thanks. The top layer is shredded newspaper--only an inch or so to cover the soil/peat. Now I'm wondering if I should add more.

As for my wife, I have the bin in the basement away from the laundry. My son is super excited about the worms, my wife not so much. I'm trying to keep it low-key so she doesn't feel bothered by it!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 9:51PM
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1) Spray when the top layer of bedding is dry. Once the bin is well established, you will be feeding enough for moisture in the food to keep things damp enough. When you reach that point, having an inch or so of dry bedding on top won't hurt. But, if you are like me, it just won't feel right, and you will spray more than you need to.

2) I am in the feed before it is all gone camp. It takes a few days for the food to decompose enough for the worms to eat it. As long as you are not overfeeding, feeding a few days before the previous feeding is gone will give your worms an uninterrupted food supply. Or follow chuckiebtoo's advice. You can't go wrong either way. Feeding is as much an art as it is a science. You will eventually get a feel for it. You will also find that worms are very forgiving if you feed a little late or early.

3) Yes, feed somewhere else next time. This encourages decomposition of the bedding throughout the bin and gives the worms a place to go if something goes wrong, like overheating. Don't move the previous feeding. Once the worms are in it, you can assume they are happy with things the way they are.

I would suggest that your bedding is a little deeper than it needs to be. I would be reluctant to add more before it breaks down to the point where it is no more than 6 inches deep. If you are only feeding the top, the bedding farther down will not decompose. This can make things a little messy when it is time to harvest. You may want to turn the bedding over one time in about 3 months to pull any undecomposed bedding up to the top.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 11:46PM
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The poor guy. I'm the third poster and no doubt will have a third answer for everything :-)

Like your wife I'm pretty terrified of worms too. Perhaps you should peruse the BSFL Black Soldier Fly Larvae forums especially the youtubes. Then she will be pretty happy you have not BSFL but simple worms. ... I secretly want BSFL too. Gosh I read now you have not just worms but night crawlers. Might as well be baby snakes you are raising. I'm a bit more leery of keeping kitchen scraps under the sink. It is an invitation to things your wife would like to see even less, such as mice.

"should I move the food they haven't finished to the other side?" That is a question I have never heard before. I suppose it is not any different than digging through the bin to see what is happening.

Specific one or two tips I think are extremely important are:

1. Cardboard egg cartons torn into one inch pieces added to bedding.

2. Feed for two months and then stop for a month. Why? Because everybody in their third month stops feeding a banana peel, bell pepper, tomato, and crushed up one egg shell once a week and starts feeding a 55 gallon barrel of kitchen scraps a day. Then the bad thing happens and it smells.

3. I wish I knew. Seems I know less and less about vermicomposting every day.

It is nice your son and you are doing this together.

I have no idea what the topsoil, peat moss or wood chips are doing in the bin. But then again night crawlers are different than red wigglers. I do not know anything about night crawlers.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Thank you for all of the responses. I was planning on moving the lower layers to the top as they composted the top.

As for the topsoil/peat moss--well, I read that peat moss was good bedding (this is debatable by some)....and I didn't look into things as closely as I should have with the soil. I probably have a bit too much of that as well. The worms seem to like it, though, as they are all over the bin--top, middle, and bottom layers. Euros can/like to go as far as 10 inches deep from what I have read. I'm hoping as I get used to this that I will become more used to it and make changes. I believe by the end of July/early August I'll be able to either turn the bin contents (if the bottom is not being composted) or even remove some compost and soil and slowly integrate more cardboard and newspaper.

The food under the sink is in an air tight tupperware container. No smell unless I open it (which I don't do if she is around). I may move the container to the basement with the worms, but haven't decided on that yet.

Also, as a newbie, I can't help poking around a little bit. I've noticed almost all of the pepper is gone, no tomato left (at least not visible to the eye), and they're working on the banana peel.

When should I expect to start seeing cocoons--and will they be near the feeding area? I believe I read they should be, and probably below the feeding area.

I believe my next feeding will be apples, strawberries, and coffee grounds :) I can't believe how excited I've gotten doing this.

Thanks for all of your tips everybody!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 10:52AM
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My hubby was in the same camp as your wife. When I broached the subject to him.....we live in an apartment, he said I could have worms, as long as he doesn't see them.

I've been doing it for a number of years.......he doesn't voluntarily look at them, or spend time in the room with me when I'm harvesting, but he sure knows what they do!!! He loves saving food for them, and we have a bucket full of bags of chopped food for them in the freezer. He loves the fact that we don't have a lot of garbage. The worms get fed first, then the green bin. There are times when my freezer has too much lad food in, and the green bin gets utilized, but he can't wait to save melons etc for the lads.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 3:29PM
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Perhaps consider bokashi under the sink. Things in a closed container often turn into bad things worms do not like. But then again you have had success for many years. Why mess with success.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:30AM
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