muddy vermicompost harvest

VermiillerApril 20, 2013

I use a standard plastic worm bin and I have been having trouble harvesting it due to the thick consistency of the compost.

When I dry out the compost it shrinks in size and becomes like dry clay.

I have read online of possible solutions and one of them which I thought would help was to take of the lid since the plastic bins keep too much of the moisture in.

If anyone can share something that can help it would be great.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Raw_Nature(5 OH)

I cut big rectangles in my plastics bins and glued window screening.. Really improves airflow, and the compost flourishes! It is very important to have enough air! Is seems like you are over watering.. Just use little drops or a sprayer, it just needs to be moist like a sponge, not soaked... Just keep it a little moist...

You dont happen to have a picture do you? Are you just using a plain old plastic storage bin without Any holes,etc? Or what? How are you watering? How are you harvesting? Are your worms happy?

Joe

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sbslider

I wonder what you feed them? If it is just kitchen scraps, that could be part of the problem. They also need roughage of some sort, like cardboard, newspaper, dried leaves and such. I have had the same problem, but have not been adding the "browns" as they are known long enough to harvest more compost. I do not recommend leaving the lid off though, that is for sure.

I agree with the previous poster that air and water are very important, too much water is not good.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 10:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chuckiebtoo

Holes are way overused. Never put holes in the lid. Sometimes you might want to leave the bin(s) outside & if it rains....

No matter what sized plastic tote, drill 2 holes in the bottom....both on one end at each corner. That way, you can control the moisture by tilting the bin toward the hole-end for drainage or opposite to retain moisture.

I drill one hole on each end (near the handle area),,,,usually using a 1/2 inch drill for all holes. That's it for holes.

No need to worry about putting screen over/under the holes: the worms do not want out of there if you're treating them right, and you ain't gonna keep critters out no matter what. (MOST critters are great to help the worms prepare food for them) WATCH OUT FOR THOSE THAT LIKE TO KILL WORMS THOUGH.

And yes, I do take the lids off my bins sometimes for as long as up to a day depending on the moisture situations. It really helps your bins' overall health for you to be "on-hands" with them occasionally (I know, I know...."leave the worms alone", "don't disturb the worms".....that's all BS. The worms are highly adaptable and extraordinarily able to get back to business when you get out of the way.

Chuckiebtoo

BTW...oh yeah, I forgot...."muddy vermicompost harvest"...that's too much moisture. Spread it out on a "cookie sheet" for a couple of hours & let it dry a bit, but not too much....it will stay viable longer if it is on the damp side (remember there are still cocoons in there).

And if you want to not do any of it these ways, you'll still make great worm bins using MODERATION.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
11otis

My household use the disposeable aluminum roasting pan and I keep them for drying VC that are too wet. Line it with corrugated cardboard and layer with that too when filling it with the "muck". Once it is not "pasty" remove the cardboard. And break up the clumps. If you feel the cardboard layering will still absorb a lot of moisture, you could do it again with fresh corr. cb. It is important that you break up the clumps before it gets too dry or all the worms' hard work will be just clumps of rocks. Air dry until you feel the dampness is right for storage.
The cb you used for this will be very easy to rip by hand and this is full of MO, add this to your working bin.

My guess for your situation, your worm food is probably too wet. If you freeze your scraps, when thawed, do not include the melted water. If you do not freeze, keep the scraps in a plastic bag or any other container lined with newspaper or cb. and once mushy, do not feed the liquid pooling at the bottom. I usually cut a bottom corner of the zip-lock and let it drain in the sink.
Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 1:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
PRO
equinoxequinox

"do not include the melted water"

"do not feed the liquid pooling at the bottom"

"let it drain in the sink"

I look at the moisture in the greens as being the perfect amount to wet that which is the exact amount of browns the greens needed to do that thing that worms do. Plus if it is fresh it is yum, yum. yummy. I think of it as like the syrup on a snow cone with the browns as the ice.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
PRO
equinoxequinox

I hope I had the right tone there of respectfulness because otis11 is a long time poster with no doubt pounds and more worm experience than me. So if in doubt I would go with his or her tips than mine. That goes for most all of the long time and mid time posters here. I bet I have less vermicompost experience than even a few of the newbie posters. My experience is mostly just from reading the archives and sitting watching the worms. And maybe once smelling them real well.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
11otis

eqeq: not to worry. You are a long time poster as well and know the rules here even better than me.
""So if in doubt I would go with his or her tips than mine."" Remember, there are no set rules in worming other than not to let the bin dry out or stay flooded. Each worm farmer/bin has a different situtation so when in doubt, get more info to set aside your doubts.

Back to the moisture thing in a bin with no drainage hole, I have to make an addendum to my post.

"do not include the melted water"
"do not feed the liquid pooling at the bottom"
"let it drain in the sink"
All the above is to minimize the risk of the bin getting too wet. I find it easier and faster to spritz some water on top rather than removing moisture of a too wet VC. Besides, there will still be enough moisture left in the scrap bag once it drained.
The moisture content in greens is different also, depending on what kind of greens you've got.

I do think there must be some value (minimal???) in that liquid so I poured it into my bucket with shredded newspaper. So, instead of draining in the sink, I let it drain on top of shredded newspaper.

We are real frugal here, aren't we, lol.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
PRO
equinoxequinox

"poured it into my bucket with shredded newspaper. So, instead of draining in the sink, I let it drain on top of shredded newspaper. " I feel better already.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
chuckiebtoo

This thread brings up an opportune time to discuss harvesting techniques. I've used many, changed and improved some, and finally arrived at what works best for me.

Since this is the part almost everybody hates, I'll be glad to start a thread on it (I've noticed before that a lotta people don't like to think about it)

Chuckiebtoo

BTW...The pic is my lawn (right) compared to my neighbors yard last year when TAKE-ALL-PATCH swept thru our entire neighborhood decimating every yard for 3 blocks except mine. They are all chemo-heads. I use only AVCT, and no chemicals or fertilizers on my property for 15 years.

I know, it IS hard to believe. All those neighbors are still chemo-heads.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
thedogsLL(6B)

Please start a thread on it?!! I've had my worms going since late October and the VC is doing wonders for my houseplants, but my other half is still skeptical. He just wants to know when they will grow up enough to use for fishing. I keep telling him they are too small to use for bait, and too good at composting to use that way. His passion is his lawn, and if I can find a way to just fertilize a section and show him what it does outside....well! Need I say more?

Lynn

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 7:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
11otis

""if I can find a way to just fertilize a section and show him what it does""
Lynn, you could take a couple handful of VC and sprinkle that over a aera of your lawn Make sure you stake/mark the area and DH watches.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 8:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
thedogsLL(6B)

There may be hope - He agreed to NOT weed n feed a corner (our back yard is all of 20'x30') so I can "play with my worm stuff." ::chortle:: I'll try to get a photo of his face when he sees it outgrow his! hehehe

I had been wondering if it was worth trying the tea, but Chuckiebtoo's comment above gives me the answer to that one, thank you much, sir!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 5:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Vermiiller

Thanks for the replies.

I did not make my own worm bin. I got both bins from the seminar I went to. The bins have holes on the bottom, and on the sides but none on the lid. Mine seems to have come from transformcompost.com

My bedding is mainly shredded newspaper and I only feed them kitchen scraps.

I only use a spray bottle when adding new bedding to moisten.

When harvesting the compost, what kind of consistency should it be at? Should it be dry (link below) or should it be able to hold a shape when sqeezed?

I'm not sure if something is wrong with mine, but my compost shrivels up and hardens when dried into a clump.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 6:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mendopete

Hi Vermiller. Sometimes when I harvest, my castings they have somewhat of a muddy texture and weigh about 8 lbs/gal. What I do is put it in a wheelbarrow and beat it up with a garden rake to break the big clumps up. Then it is dumped in cardboard box or ?? to dry for a week or so outside.. After again breaking up and drying it gets to about 7 lbs/ gal. If I want it to look like the fine castings in the photo, I must run it through a sifter.

Castings do not shrivel up much. Vermicompost does shrink. How long has your worm system been going? How do you feed? Do you mix up the food with the existing bin contents or just top feed??

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 8:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Vermiiller

Ok, what is the difference between the worm castings and vermicompost? All I know is that I do have worms in the bin that are giving worm casting. My last harvest was about 4 months and I just feed them kitchen scraps (veg peels, rotting veg/fruits) and I follow the method of burrying the scraps in one corner of the bin and alternate the corners everytime I feed them.

And yes my big problem here is if I wanted to dry my finished compost, it would shrivel, clump and dry up.

Now my other question here would be, if I were to dry the finished product to get a nice easy harvest, wouldn't that kill my worms since they need a moist place to live?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mendopete

Castings are worm poop..... tiny little black dots like you probably see stuck to the inside walls of your bin.

Vermicompost is a combination of castings mixed with other matter in various stages of decomposition.
It is also full of cocoons.

If you feed on top only and cover with a little bedding, fresh material is not mixed in with the more decomposed material below. When your bin gets deep enough it becomes harvest time Worms and VC on top and the mature castings below.

Usually harvesting involves separating worms, vermicompost and castings. The worms and some of the vermicompost are usually returned to the bin There are many different methods to harvesting.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 11:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hummersteve

Ok So I made my first mistake but my bin is inside , yes I drilled holes in my lid. I suppose if I move it outside I would just cover the lid with something else for rain.

I like the idea from above of making larger holes or more window like and put up screening. I may do that.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 1:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
11otis

vermiller: are you using only newspaper for your bin? I have found that cardoard, especially corrugated cardboard makes very nice crumblier and fluffier VC (when not too wet of course)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 1:33PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Worm Factory outdoors
Would this kill the worms or just decrease their activity...
pasmack
Types of worms
I imagine this topic has been discussed at length in...
duaroger
Seed Swap
Due to Garden Web being houzz and everybody being unhappy,...
equinoxequinox
Worm illness / worms are dying
Hi there, I have a serious problem with my worm bin: Same...
Horst Knotter
Horse Manure Magic
After vermicomposting the waste of our horses for the...
mendopete
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™