how do i harvest castings

organic-kiki(Zone 6)May 6, 2006

I got my worms last summer and put them in a Walmart tote with holes drilled in.....first off many of them crawled out! But that is another story. I used a bit of shredded paper, but mostly coir. I put them in the basement for the winter and it seemed that many disappeared. But now they are out of the dungeon and the coir looks more like the worm castings that I bought last year. I don't see many worms now, don't know if the basement was too cold for them or if they are just hiding in the bottom.

Anyway, to my question....am I right that I dump the whole thing out on a tarp and scoop dirt up until I have all the worms separated and then put them in new prepared bin/coir? I started with 2 pounds of red wigglers and I'm wondering what is really down in the bottom of that bin, lol. The loch ness monster, maybe? Cause the food was et by somethin'.

Thanks y'all,

Kiki

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username_5(banned for no reason)

How to harvest is something everyone seems to have their own way of doing. The method you describe seems to me to be the most time consuming, but it seems to be popular.

I just started my bin so haven't had to deal with harvesting yet, but the method I have read from some more experienced wormers that I will be trying is putting everything into a mesh bag of some sort and shaking it gently to get the vermicompost out and keep worms and coccoon eggs in.

I would imagine a bag that oranges or onions come in could serve well as the first filter and then the final pass being something along the lines of a window screen or something with a little larger opening size. I haven't done it yet so when the time comes I will have to experiement with mesh sizes to see what gives the best results.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 11:18AM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

a good way to harvest the compost is to entice the worms to climb out!! fill the mesh bag user mentions with some feedstock that's already started to decompose [compost, or some fresh feed mixed with some of the bin material] and tuck that in along one side of the bin - in a few days you'll have worms crawling in, a couple weeks and most will be there, so you can set that bag aside, dump the bin as you say and poke thru to get the laggards

another way is to lay some fly screen on the surface and put new food on top of that with some bedding - over time the worms will come up thru the screen [yes they can] and you just lift that off and most will be out, again, dump the bin and check for strays

to do it the way you say, mound the material and let it sit a bit, then slowly peel away the surface until you see worms, let it sit a bit again, and peel away some more - eventually you'll get to a point where you have all the worms huddled in a mob with little casting material left, scoop that all up and toss into a new bin

Bill

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 4:20PM
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socks

Where did you get the coir?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 9:43PM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

I'm betting that'd be from a store, most likely a nursery/garden supply :)

Bill

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 1:38AM
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synger(MD z7)

I have an 18 gallon Rubbermaid bin, and have a four month cycle of feed/harvest. I have a sheet of nylon window screening (the black stuff) that separates my active feeding level from my harvesting level.

So at first, I only had an active feeding level. Then when I wanted to do my first harvest I put the screening on top of it, added more bedding and food on top of the screen. The stuff on top of the screen became my active feeding level.

Within a few months the majority of the worms had migrated into that level.

When it was time to harvest, I lifted the screen out and harvested the bottom layer of compost. I put the stuff that had been on top of the screen into the bin, then put the screen back on top. I began layering new bedding/foodstock on top again, and the process continues.

Now I'm harvesting pretty much every three-four months. If a few stragglers stay in the harvesting layer, I ignore them.

My only problem with this method is that the bin gets really heavy after a while. But I don't wnat to mess around with the bag-in-the-corner method, which is basically the same thing vertically rather than horizontally. Plus, I don't wnat to stop feeding for two-three weeks to give them time to migrate into a bag. With the screen method, I can continue my weekly feeding schedule.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 3:31PM
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gw:organic-kiki

The coir did come from a store, Countryside Naturals, in a nearby town (VA). They sell organic feed and such.
Kiki

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 1:19PM
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sqh1(z7 NC)

I make up a new bin. I put a screen of hardware cloth on top of the new bedding. I then start scooping out the contents of the old bin, putting about a 1" layer across the screen in sunlight. The worms will crawl away from the light, through the screen and into the new bin. Dump the screen into a storage container and scoop again.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 11:13AM
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gw:organic-kiki

Hey, sounds really easy. Next time I'll try it that way. Thanks, sqh1.

Kiki

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 7:37PM
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swampboogiequeen(twilight)

I would put some gloves on, dig into the bottom 'muck' and see what's up...it sounds like you may have alot of great stuff going on down there. Only you can find out. You may have perfected it! A sloppy, wormy mess may be what you find.

SQH1 is usually right (actually, always right by my experience). so, listen to her first before me!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 1:03AM
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gw:organic-kiki

There was no mess in the bottom, it was damp not ookey in the bottom same as the top. Do you all think this is from the coir? I started with 2 pounds of worms and I would be surprised if I had 1/2 pound now. I know some escaped/died when I first got them BUT I wonder about the coir.....I mixed only a tiny bit of newsprint in with it. Does anyone know if 100% coir is bad for the worms......course I did get 6 gallons of castings and except for a few lumps of coir here and there it looked like 'dirt' not coarse and hairy like it started out. hmmmmmmm........I used paper this time. I also wondered if I fed to heavily with coffee grounds. And how do I keep the castings damp if they need to get air?
Thanks,
Kiki

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 8:29AM
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sqh1(z7 NC)

Kiki..You can store the compost in a rubbermaid tote with a top and some ventilation holes. It will store like that for years, (not that mine has ever stayed around that long).

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 9:06AM
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swampboogiequeen(twilight)

Mine did perfectly fine in 100% coir. You can get it at petco (check the hermit crab or reptile section).

I think I added too many coffee grounds at once, and they didn't seem to dig it much.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 12:54PM
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swampboogiequeen(twilight)

And how do I harvest castings? Well, I'm the laziest harvester in the world....here's what I've done the last couple of times.

I use my stacking system as sort of a finishing area, because I am too lazy to sort well. Here's how mine stacks up. Starting bottom to top:
1. Collection bin, hopefully dry.
2. Dry shredded paper (will become bedding later)
3. Mostly finished compost
4. Alot of finished compost.

Step 1. Harvest #3. I do this by taking the lid off, scooping all the compost into a pile, then scraping off the top a little at a time. The worms burrow down away from the light, and mostly into #2. I never totally empty this bin because I'm too lazy and there is too many worms at bottom.

This harvested compost goes into a new rubbermaid container, and I remove any worms and any unprocessed stuff I can find.

Step 2. I go to all my other bins, move the bedding layer and food layer all to one side, and scoop up the mostly processed bottom layer. I put this right into #3 where it will 'finish', worms and all.

then I add the paper and worms that was in #2 to the bins I just harvested 1/2 of, and refill with dry paper. This works for me to keep my leachate down to a minimum, and I have no problem with it drying out.3

I check my harvest a few weeks later and take out any new worms.

Did that make sense? Basically, I never harvest a whole bin at once, except for the #2, which is almost all finished compost, nice and neat, but I do it more often. It's a constant cycle. But it's easy and not messy!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 8:12PM
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serena

How do the worms get through hardware cloth, please? Aren't they fatter than the holes??? Thanks.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 2:23AM
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brighteyes(7)

You would be surprised at how small of a hole they can get through. Even window screen wont stop them.

Carey

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 11:44AM
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jbuddy

is there a commercial demand for worm castings? We have 200 acres of hazlenut trees and our entire orchard floor is covered with worm castings. Could someone give me the scoop on if we should be doing somthing other than mowing over these castings. I am very interested.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 7:40PM
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betho

I use the whole "dump, wait and scoop" method. I like to make it an event - I take an old shower curtain, spread it out on my kitchen floor where there's a bright overhead light. Dump out the bin, and then set the bin aside. Hop onto the computer and start playing a game. Every 30 minute or so, I go scrape the castings into piles on the outside of the main pile. It takes a while, and I usually make sure I've got goodies on hand or order a pizza because I can't use my kitchen, but I've made it into an event I really look forward to each time. A night spent scraping castings, eating pizza and playing computer games :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:05PM
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leearnold(z5 In.)

jbuddy - I'd say if you can collect the worm castings you should try to sell it on Ebay. Last time I checked, worm castings were selling for about $10.00 a pound.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 7:17PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

Maybe your worms croaked because you didn't feed them all winter?

Deanna

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 11:32PM
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