New bin: smells only when sprayed with water + other question

BlauerPlanetMay 18, 2011

I started the bin about a month ago. The bedding is brown leaves and corrugated cardboard. The bin does not smell when I open it (have a lid with holes on top) but when I spray the leaves with the water bottle there is a stench. It goes away after a few seconds. At first I thought it's the water or the bottle and I smelled it sprayed on somehting else, but the water is just fine. Does this indicate something is not going well in the bin? Am I doing something wrong?

Also, the worms seem to hang out in the corners of the bin (where I put the food scraps). There are hardly any in the bedding in the middle of the bin. Is something wrong with the bedding? It does not seem too wet. Rather like a very well wrung out sponge. So maybe too dry? Or not enough oxygen and I should leave the lid ajar?

I'm not at all sure there are as many worms in the bin as in the beginning. Kind of hard to tell and maybe I'm just overly concerned.

Thanks for your help!

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That's a bit weird but I think it's probably some inherent property of the leaves. Worms seem to like the outer perimeter of the enclosure and it is difficult to get a good count. Put a little food in the center and just be patient.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:09PM
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as a guess you have an anaerobic layer. w/o pics or more info i'd suggest a radical turning of all material. the worms will not like it but you need to introduce oxygen into the 'bad' layer.

look at your drainage. puddling is bad. if you have the resources let a bunch new bedding sit ina new bin for a week. tip the old straight over onto the new bedding.

otherwise tip the bin up and let the excess water drain to one side and stuff in some balled/shredded/ripped up cardboard/newspaper/hay/straw carbon nuetral absorbent type stuff. after a week repeat on the opposite side. you need oxygen into that unhealthy layer.

take a big garden fork and stir/fold what i imagine is a very moist layer. the worms will not enjoy it. it must be done. after a week or so they will thank you.

w/o pics or more info i might be jumping to a bunch of conclusions. bad smell is bad. anything but healthy siol/earthy aroma means somethign is off - best guess is you need to introduce oxygen/asborbant/carbon neutral material.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 8:59PM
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If it was anaerobic wouldn't it smell bad all the time and not just when sprayed with water? When I open the lid there is no smell at all. Just kind of earthy. But then when I spray with the waterbottle there is a strong smell for a moment. Then it passes. It just started to happen maybe a week ago. It took me two or three times to notice that it was connected to the spraying and was coming from the bin.

The bin is really rather on the dry side. No pools of water. It's a little wetter at the bottom corners where I put the food. But that's not where the smell is coming from.

I was not quite sure what to take pictures of. But here are a few:

The worm bin - top layer

The middle layer - it's also fairly dry - no worms anywhere though

The corners where the worms like to hang out

More thoughts?
Maybe more cardboard in comparison to the leaves?
Oh, and is there too much food for the worms?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:36PM
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I do turn the bedding about once a week. Just in the middle section though to not get the food scraps mixed in with the bedding everywhere.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:40PM
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if by the looks of your layers you have no mucky layers leave it be

lots of food in your bedding to last months if need be

best advice in a bin that looks like that is to leave them - w/o any ammonia/sulfur type aroma yer ok

you look to have lots of room between bins? i'd be tempted to consolidate - just make sure you have decent drainage to help move excess moisture into your catchment bin

best advice i ever received - we can kill worms with food faster than neglect. you look to have lots of fine bedding. keep sure to allow sufficient drainage. worms will mediate themselves as long as they have a decent place to run to.

you have lots of good leaf material. i'm trying the same this spring with lots of leafy type bedding.

best advice i know - leave them be.

interesting tid bit though - pnsb's photo synthetic non-sulfur bacteria thrive on damp leaves. i only dabble in 'em'. something to consider though if a fan of soil biology.

my bookmarks are so disorganised

so much stuff online the last few years

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 11:01PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Your bin looks good. Healthy looking Euros. Leaves are great. Add more if you have them: 6-8" layer on top. Cover with damp cotton t-shirt or burlap so they stay moist. Egg cartons & cardboard (soaked overnight & hand-torn) are a good addition to the leaves.

I wouldn't worry about the smell. It's probably something from your spray bottle. Have you tried a different sprayer? Or how about a basic watering can?

How many pounds of worms do you have? How many pounds of food are you feeding each week? Do you pre-compost the food scraps? What is the temperature of the bedding?


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 2:56AM
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OK - it seems like it's going alright then in the bin. That's a relief.

I will try a different sprayer. It's true that I changed not long ago.

I started with 1 lbs of worms a month ago. Who knows how many there are now...

The bin is in the basement, so it's rather cool, but the husband will not have them come upstairs. So the bedding is at 64F right now. I'm hoping it'll get a little warmer as it gets into summer...

I don't know how much food I give them in a week. I always put it in the corners. So once in a while I check if there's anything left and restock if it looks low. But I may restock less often now and wait until everything is really gone.

The food scraps are usually pre-composted a bit, only because I usually take them out of the kitchen pail that we have for the big outdoor composter.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 12:55PM
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I had thought I ruled out the sprayer but not so: I just tried the old sprayer I used before. And no smell. Thanks for the suggestion. Sometimes the obvious does not come to mind...

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 1:06PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

64F is good for Euros, but a little cool for Reds. They look like Euros to me, but people often get a mix of species. What did you order?

It's always wiser to be conservative with feeding in a new bin. The worms will eat the bedding if it's moist enough, so they can't starve. You can always rotate the location. That way you can add 1 cup of the mushiest scraps every few days. Your bin could be divided into 6 zones, so it would be ~2 weeks before you feed the same zone again.

Once your bin is more mature and you have more worms, you can either increase the amount of each feeding or reduce the frequency of feeding.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 1:11PM
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They are supposed to be red wrigglers. So I heard optimal temperature is 70-80F? I mentioned this to the hubbie, but to no avail... ;) So anyway, they have to make it through the shoulder season. The heat is off already but the basement has not warmed up yet from the sun. In the winter the basement is warmer from the furnace activity.

I will stop feeding for a while and I will take your advice on dividing it into 6 zones instead of 4.

I did not understand this:
"Once your bin is more mature and you have more worms, you can either increase the amount of each feeding or reduce the frequency of feeding."
Why reduce the frequency of feeding if there are more worms?

Thanks for all the help everyone!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 1:22PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Sorry for the confusing statement. I started to write "reduce the number of days between feedings" and decided to stick in the word "frequency". I didn't edit "reduce" to "increase".

E. hortensis (Euros) are fatter and longer (5-7" mature) than E. fetida (red wigglers 3-4" mature). Some EF do have that very prominent stripe pattern, but I usually see those in EH. My EF tend to be a pretty even, dark red. The size is really the distinguishing feature: Euros are much bigger. This photo (not mine) is fuzzy, but it shows the relative size and coloring.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 3:25PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

The worms probably aren't in the center of the bin because it's too dry. Worms need a fairly moist environment. It's more moist in the corners, so that's where they are.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 9:02AM
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wonderpets(7 TN)

I'd say they aren't there because there is more to eat in the corners....

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 10:26PM
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Looks very well fed to me.

If you still have the smell problem, just stop feeding for a few weeks, and then have a look. You'd be surprised.

Looks good though, too much food if anything.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 5:50PM
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