Wondering if I'll ever have enough worms

smalltowngalJuly 26, 2010

Ok, how long did it take you until you felt like you had enough worms? I keep on debating whether or not to order 5 lbs. but I figure even if I do, it will take a while for them to get use to a new environment and reproduce so I mine as well wait for mine to multiple. I'm just sad now that I'm starting to pick all this food from the garden and I can only put maybe 5% of my food scraps in my systems. Canning season will be coming up soon and I'll be dumping 5 gallon buckets of apple cores, pear peelings, tomato tops, etc. in my outdoor compost pile. How sad.

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Holy smokes Gal, don't order 5 pounds of worms unless you know exactly what you are going to do when they arrive. That's a lot of worms. I re-started from scratch early Dec. last year with I pound. That's about 1000 red wigglers. I now have 3 COWs with 3 trays each going and judging from appearances I would estimate that I have 6000 or more worms. I'm going to give some away pretty soon if I can find someone to take them.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 11:50AM
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Don't diss the outdoor compost pile, it does a different thing but it's no less beneficial. Your ideal number of worms are the ones you can feed day in and day out. If you have enough worms for a once yearly bounty of food, you'll have too many for the rest of the year.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 12:05PM
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It's really 9 months of the year that I have a lot of food waste from the garden since in the spring you get lettuce stems, carrot peelings and pea pods. In the summer I can a lot of berries for jams but fall definately has the most. I'm hoping on putting in a root cellar this fall so to store hardy vegetables and then some apples separate from them. I know I'll have some go bad while storing so I'd have those to throw in for the worms in the spring before the garden gets going.

My outdoor compost bin will never be completely ignored where I do have chickens so their droppings and bedding gets thrown in along with some grass clippings and the occasional weeds.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 12:57PM
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Two years. And in the mean time I did not have 5 pounds of worms threatening to die or crawl. The mortalities and walkabouts were much smaller.

Your 5% figure is interesting. BSFL have a food to compost conversion rate of 100% in 5% out. They would turn the bounty into just the right amount for the worms. And their population would naturally be at the largest each year right when you need them.

There is also bokashi. This would put a cover on that 5 gallon bucket and you could use it in the winter when food is low for the worms. Not quite sure the method of feeding bokashi to worms in a bin.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 1:01PM
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I cringe at the thought of spending so much money to get rid of your garbage when you already have a compost pile. Be patient, let your worms multiply and feed them what they will eat. Harvest the castings for your garden. Excess goes in the compost. You can always bring in some 1/2 done compost to feed the worms..

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 4:12PM
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Ditto! Feed the worms what they'll eat and use that outdoor pile to your heart's desire! Just think if you have a bad crop season (and I hope you never do) what will you feed those wee beasties if you had 5 lbs of them. Outdoor piles make great compost! You're doing WAY more than most people so don't feel bad.
I've heard chickens like broccoli, if you're growing any of that see if they'll snack on it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:15PM
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I produce more than enough food now to feed 5 lbs. of worms. I at least want to get to the point where I don't have to go out to the compost pile in the winter time. I'm starting to thing we produce a lot more food scraps than the average family and there are only 4 of us. I just took out a 1 gallon bucket, that was almost full, out to the compost pile. That is just everyday waste. I still need to chop up a bunch of summer squash and put it in the freezer.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 6:23PM
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How many and what type of bins do you have? How many worms do you think you have now? How long have you had them?

If you have enough to split, I have found that they will breed to fill the new spaces.

Just a thought.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 8:09PM
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"don't have to go out to the compost pile in the winter time." That icy, cold walk is why I have worms inside.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:05PM
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It is a shame that we can not buy patience.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 9:42PM
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I haven't had the worms for that long so I know I should wait but it's still tempting. The bins were started a little before Mother's day.

I have a stack able wooden bin system that has 1/2-3/4 of a pound in it. I also have a large rubbermaid bin with the drilled holes in it and I'm guessing around a 1/2 lb. in it but it's hard to know. That's the bin that I almost killed off a couple times but I was able to salvage around 150 cocoons along with maybe 150 worms. It looks like all the cocoons I saved have started hatching because I have a ton of young and baby worms. I pealed back a piece of melon and had around 30 young worms trying to feed on it.

The wooden container I add 1-2 cups of food a week to it. It seems almost that the worms prefer the cardboard to food I put in there. The rubbermaid container I put 3-5 cups a week depending on what it is. Melon disappears quickly but apple seems to stay around a bit longer. They seem opposite of the other worms and prefer the food over the bedding. It does have some newspaper in it though where the other bin is strictly cardboard and some leaves the system came with.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 10:10PM
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I too have a wood stackable tray system that I started in early May with a pound of worms. They have now spread out through four trays, with one being the least populated.

And I have found that my worms can be picky eaters as well. I always have to have some fruit mixed in with what I feed them. But once I figured that out, each tray eats a mason jar of processed food a week. They might even eat more, but I haven't tried that just yet.

Sounds like you could do with maybe a pound of worms for each of your bins. Are they getting enough grit? What do you use for that?

And this might be a little on the high maintenance side, but I have found that some of the fruit I process makes a lot of juice. I freeze that juice and then either use it to wet down bedding or to saturate food that is more on the veggie side. It seems to inspire them to clean their plates.

Other than veggies and fruit what are you feeding them? Maybe there's something in there they really don't care for. Some people here have been able to feed their worms onions, mine won't touch them. Mine don't even like kale unless it's been soaked in watermelon juice. Ah the lengths we'll go to for the little beasties.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 5:33AM
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Hi! Thought I'd chime in here :-)

I thought the same as you (Am I ever gonna have enough?).

Within a year (actually about 9 months) I have. I worm-i-fy about 4 kgs of kitchen scraps plus paper and cardboard every week.

What I did:
I have a Reln Worm Factory (you know, 3 trays etc) stocked with about 3000 reds (bought). Way too slow.

So I got 10 x 10 gallon totes (no holes / drainage), fully filled with torn up cardboard, wet them down real good (let it soak for a couple of days). Pour off free water. Place in about 2 cups of blended kitchen scraps and a handful off the compost heat, and allow to sit for about a week.

Once this is done, you can add the worms. My first two bins got exactly 100 mature worms from my WF (counted the lil' buggers). I didn't feed again for about 2 months, then about half a cup of blended scraps again. 1 month later, 1 cup. 1 month later, 2 cups etc.

I started the next two bins about a month later, and then up to 10 in total about 2 months after that.

The first two bins were sorted at 9 months, for about 2 lbs of biomass each. I gave them both away for free. LOL.

Every couple of months, I tip a bin up a few inches, move the material to one end and soak up the leechate with a sponge. Always add dried bread and dry cardboard.

I now worm-i-fy all of my kitchen scraps, and I still have the WF!

Give it a try. It will only cost you a couple of hundred worms from your wooden bin, and a couple of bucks in totes.

I have posted pics of my setup here somewhere a few pages back. See if you can find them.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:42AM
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I started last November with about 200 worms. At last count (early June) I had around 3,000.
So the problem is not about having 5-lbs (5,000) worms.
The problem is: what're you going to do in 3-6 months when you may be seeing 10,000-20,000 or more.

You may not have to worry about the long icy walk to the compost bin. At that point, the worms will have taken over your house (you wouldn't want them to freeze by being outside, would you?) and you'll be living out in the barn, so actually it'll be just a short walk to the compost bin.

A worm will consume half of its body weight per day, so 20 lbs. of worms would mean 10 lbs. of food per day.

It's always best to start small and while your worms multiply, you can work out other sources of supply for those times of the year when your food and garden waste may not be enough to feed your squirm (as in 'a squirm of worms').


    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 7:18PM
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I added a tray to my wooden stacking system and will put a couple adults in it soon. I'm just starting to see some older cocoons and a couple baby worms so hopefully that system will start taking off soon.

I think I'm going to try and start a second RB system in a month. I have a ton of baby and young worms in it and I want them to get to reproductive stage first before I put them in a new place. I have some underipe orangelo, DH mistaken it for a squash, and threw it in and they're going nuts over it. It's kind of a gross, sloppy mess and they're all on top of each other but they seem happy.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 11:29AM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

You could put some of your food waste in the freezer to give to the worms when your population has grown, and also for the wintertime when you don't have garden waste.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 2:46AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)


No, you will never have enough worms.
I want more.

But, check back with me again next year.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 10:40AM
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Hehe. I think when I can in the fall and have a ton of waste, I'm just going to add it to an outdoor compost pile. I figure by the time spring comes around, I should have some extra worms to throw in the pile. I'm hoping by next winter I will have enough worms that I won't have to go outside. They definately eating more than they were a couple weeks ago.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 11:55AM
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Wow a family of 4 that likes fresh foods I am buy my self now and eat fresh fruits and vegetables all winter. every thing seems to have a skin or core. Last year I started with 2000 worms that I ordered online In October 09.
They have grown into 2 recycle bins full. 24inch by 18 inch by 12 inch just packed with worms. Now I have my doubts about them keeping up with my winter needs they are having trouble keeping up now and most trimmings go into the compost pile. They are outside in a nice warm (not hot) spot. I see no way for them to keep up in my chilly basement. I am trying out some euro's now In hopes that they will be more active in the cooler temperatures of non-
summer. They sure do multiply I don't think you need to buy more lol

Curt P.S.Hate the winter compost trip. I could not find the pile last winter

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:13PM
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Yikes- careful! Really depends on how big your bin(s) are & how much you'll feed. I have a very large tray-type bin that I keep indoors (4 trays). We are only two people, and don't actually produce that much worm food. I constantly have extra in the freezer. I bought 1 lb. of worms to start, and my population exploded very quickly, so much so that I started having an overpopulation problem. Worms were escaping from the bin due to overcrowding (had eliminated all other possible problems). Had to give A LOT of worms away. Right now I have a very small population (due to a sad mishap; boo), but I have no doubts that the population has already started growing again (as I'm seeing more younger (smaller) worms), and will be a strong vibrant community in a reasonable amount of time.

Yes, you need more worms to compost more food, but a pound or two of worms will reproduce quickly & exponentially in the right conditions; so I highly recommend not overbuying! I highly suggest under-buying, using your outdoor heap for scraps that you can't use initially so as to not overfeed in the beginning, and let your population grow on it's own; once that has happened you'll have PLENTY of worms to process all your scraps. They'll probably also be better adjusted to your particular bin environment that way too.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 9:18AM
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"Enough?" What is this word, please? -G-

I started with a pound and a half of EF, in two different settings. These days, I have mixed worms in uncountable numbers (they're too busy propagating to answer roll call!), but still feel like I could use a few pounds more. Worms in the planters, worms in the compost, worms in the wormeries where I put them, I've seen worms in the grubbery, even! But if I had more worms, I could set up more self-contained wormeries in odd corners and have more vermicompost come spring...

I think it's an addiction, and sorry to say, you seem to be showing the signs, too.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 11:52AM
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I do not have anywhere near enough worms, but I am thinking shortly I will hit a limit on the number of bins I have room for (at least indoors). Yesterday my wife watched as I sorted compost and placed them on different parts of the patio.

I just said they are different types of worms and different worms. She just gave me look but did not say anything. (Guess I got the woman trained at something, if only I could expand that....)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 2:18PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Well, in theory, DSF, "enough" is when your worms can process all the appropriate kitchen scraps you generate. I hit that point some time ago, shared worms with family to start their worm bins, scrounged food scraps from friends and now am nearing the point I have to visit horse stables or my friendly neighborhood cafe for more food for the squirm. Yet I'm still considering getting some Euros. What can I say? I can "see" you nodding your head in empathy.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 2:43PM
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Andrew--with you on the curiosity! Just now, I'm trying to figure out what the third worm in my yard-waste bin is...and how it'd feel about being slightly more contained with a bunch of its cousins, assuming I could find them. And don't get me started on the bog-worms. -G-

But your math doesn't work here any better than it seems to for you: my situation's different from some folks. Worms aren't necessary to process my kitchen waste at all; bokashi plus composting or planter-finishing would work just fine for that. (Though the bokashi was the reason I bought worms this time 'round, it was mostly just to see which post-bucket techniques worked best for me.) I want the vermicompost to help me _generate_ food waste, as a by-product of growing food.

So my metric would have to be "enough"=all the vermicompost I can use. And with friends who've started volunteering corners of their patios and the odd square foot of lawn, I'm not sure that's a real figure.

Enough=all the vermicompost I have the time to use? That might turn out to me the most limiting factor. Worms are not my life.

Buckets, maybe, but not worms.


Here is a link that might be useful: bokashislope

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 9:16PM
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