pre compost vs rotting food

iLoveLawnJune 12, 2013

I'm a week into vermicomposting with 500 worms in a flow through system. I fed them once already, with fresh scraps.

I'm wondering how exactly people here feed their worms. I know there's a difference between precomposting and just letting food rot, but I started vermicomposting so I wouldn't have to thermocompost - which I understand is how you precompost and the worms finish it off.

If I dont want to precompost, is setting my worm food aside to rot for a week or so before feeding beneficial? Or is it either feed fresh food scraps or precompost?

Forgive me if this topic has been covered recently but my searches didn't come up with much.

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The truth is: the worms don't eat the food. The bacteria eat the food and the worms eat the bacteria. The worms (having Very, Very small mouths and No teeth) can only ingest / slurp the food after it's been broken down to a very soft / liquid-ey state, so some sort of preparation will always be beneficial. While some may add food directly, many pre-prep it in some way. Here are some of the known options: Chopping the food in a food processor or blender (this exposes more surface area for the bacteria to work on), Sealing the food scraps in a plastic bag / pail / bucket / container for a week or two (to help the bacteria get started), Freezing & Thawing (the freezing/thawing action breaks down cell structure and leaves the end product much softer), Hot composting (as you mentioned) with the worms processing the finished compost, and finally Bokashi. There may be other methods as well, but these are the ones most talked about.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 12:52AM
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I have always wondered why people want to pre-rot their worm food. The best way to get your worm food to decompose is to put it in the bin. If you set your food aside to pre-rot for a week, you will be left with a stinky mess that I would not want to feed to my worms. Anaerobic decomposition creates volatile organic compounds, which can be toxic to your worms.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:03AM
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Third country reporting for duty.

My preference is first for humans to use the food to the best of their ability. This may include using items for soup stock to get all of the goodness out for people as possible. If done then:

Second the scraps should be feed to any farm animals to supplement their diet. Goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens. If none then:

BSFL can be fed and the larva harvested to feed farm animals or raising fish. If none then:

Scraps can be fed to worms. If none then:

Scraps into compost pile or bokashi.

I am fine with feeding the compost pile or bokashi to the worms.

Other info:

Add food directly: advantage is all the benefits including fluids are used by the bin. Also there is always some food available for the worms in various states. Disadvantage is chunks take a long time to break down. Bad things may or may not but most likely will happen. It has to us. It continues to happen to us. Those of us who have stopped having it happen have taken one of these other approaches and are still worming today, years later, and with much success later, to tell about it.

Chopping the food in a food processor or blender: Not that some do not have great success with this method but it uses electricity which when one is raising worms there seems to be a sort of law against using electricity or money for the worms. Fines are large. Hand grinder is preferable but that takes time which there is also a fine for.

Sealing the food scraps in a plastic bag / pail / bucket / container for a week or two: Bad things happen. Things that worms do not like. It turns garbage into toxic waste. Some do have great success this way. It certainly gets rot started. But try to get the process to change back over to aerobic before feeding it to the worms. Magic School Bus episode on Decomposition the "Rot Squad". 25 minute video.

Freezing & Thawing: The negative is that unless one lives in Alaska or it is winter it still uses electricity. There are a lot of benefits. Is it better for a city dweller to freeze and vermicompost or toss into the garbage? Perhaps freeze just to feel better about the whole thing and get on started on the soil life path.

Hot composting: I have read that a lot of stuff is lost to the air. But better than a sour bin. Plus for many of us our bin would have to be bigger than our house to vermicompost even well regulated kitchen scraps.

Bokashi: I'm good with that. Especially using a local waste product that is free. Perhaps learn the process using traditional materials.

There may be other methods as well, but these are the ones most talked about.: Yeah, once their heads are spinning around it is hard for digestion to take place.

This is a compilation of what "search" would have found if it could but it can not yet. Computer 0, Human brain 1.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:45AM
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If you're a hands-on wormer, you don't wanna be hands-on with decomposing asparagus....or even brussels sprouts...or cabbage. Hell, those things are hard enough to deal with fresh.

Some foods need "aging" and/or processing. Put yourself in the worms' shoes. Imagine yourself trying to eat raw carrots without your partials in...without a knife and fork....or hands....lying in a pile of decomposing "bedding" the dark...with lots of others just like you trying to get that same little morsel of grub...all the while getting more and more irritated because that guy keeps poking that WonderStickTM around looking for who knows what....with a squirm of your relatives in various stages of natures' favorite pastime.

What would you eat? The cantaloupe, or the raw, hard turnip?


    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 7:53AM
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Thanks for the great responses. This has saved me hours of Google searches.

Equinox quote - "Disadvantage is chunks take a long time to break down. Bad things may or may not but most likely will happen."

I added a small unprocessed chunk of avocado peel to see if they can get through it at all, but I"m not expecting much. The rest of the food (lettuce, avocado, cucumber, UCG) I blended up into a mush. I liked how it looked and I think the worms are liking it.

Like most new vermicomposters I'm impatient and want to see that black gold ASAP, so anything I can do to jump-start the process I will.

I tried blending up a rotten peach and rotten banana yesterday and put it in a container. Within hours it turned jet black and is totally watery - I don't think I want to feed that to my worms. Perhaps, if the food is hard - like carrots - I'll chop it then freeze it as a way to feed my worms from now on. But I think the rotten peach and banana didn't need further processing - they are gross now.

I've heard people say "don't let your bin get anaerobic". Does this happen because of the kind of food being put in has been sitting in a closed container without oxygen? or is an anaerobic bin happen because of excess moister in general?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 9:42AM
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Your worms will probably be all over the peach/banana.

Anaerobic conditions in the bin are caused by too much moisture, which, in turn, is generally caused by overfeeding. Food sitting too long in a closed container has also gone anaerobic. Sometimes you can toss it in the bin, and the worms will clean it up in a few days. If it stinks like a sewer pipe, I won't feed it to my worms.

A bin can go anaerobic from using the wrong bedding. Wet newspaper tends to clump, which will add to the problem. That is why a lot of us like cardboard bedding. Feeding the wrong thing can be a problem as well. I had some bugs get into some rice, so I tossed the whole thing in my bin. Big mistake!

But usually it is overfeeding.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Anaerobic means "without oxygen". Bacteria are either aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic thrive in (relatively) oxygen rich environments while anaerobic thrive in oxygen poor (or devoid) environments.
Aerobic bacteria are helpful and even required for vermicomposting - anaerobic completely halt the process. Both the worms and the bacteria have to have enough oxygen to breath and process the waste.
Aerobic conditions can be caused by many things, food and/or bedding compaction, excess moisture filling any potential air pockets, etc.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 1:54PM
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DO NOT let your scraps rot in a sealed plastic bag. This will beget anaerobic decomposition which will produce nasty toxins that can hurt your worms. THE BEST way to prepare your scraps for the bin is to chop them finely, then freeze and unthaw them. This will not pre-rot your scraps, but it will make them super soft and mushy, the perfect consistency for your worms. A few days in the bin and you'll have worms all over them. I've found that thawing scraps in direct sunlight is by far the best way. It does the job surprisingly quickly, and brings the scraps to a natural, lukewarm temperature. The way I figure it, sun-warmed scraps most closely resemble what the worms might stumble across in nature. Also, freezing and thawing is a no-brainer for storage. I have a freezer shelf full with ziploc baggies of pre-weighed scraps ready to defrost whenever I need them.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 10:42PM
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