adding bedding? too hot for worms?

jadeite(6/7)July 31, 2012

I'm 3 months into composting with worms, so please bear with me while I ask more ignorant questions. I keep seeing posts about adding bedding with food, and you can never have too much bedding. Is this literally true?

I have a 3-bin RM system. I added the third bin a month ago when the second (middle) seemed to have a good amount of compost. I started the third bin with lots of damp corrugated cardboard, and food scraps. Some worms have migrated upwards, but not nearly enough. The bottom bin is still loaded with worms - I guess there is enough food for them to live on. I've added more food to the top bin, together with more cardboard, but the bin seems to be very full. Should I wait until the bedding is consumed before adding any more food? Or should I just start harvesting the compost out of the middle bin and put the worms into the top bin.

Another question: I know heat is bad for the worms, and I live in New Mexico where it's regularly in the 90s. The bins are on a shaded patio where it's probably abour 85 at most, falling into the 60s and 70s from evening to about noon the next day. Should I try to cool the bins down, or is this a comfortable temperature for them?

Thanks,

Cheryl

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colin3

Great questions. Bedding can't hurt, though beyond a certain point it might not help you much. One of its virtues is aeration, which is why coir and (undampened) corrugated cardboard are so helpful. It gives worms more options for places to hang out.

If you have a substantial amount of unconsumed food, you may just have to wait. It can take six months or more for worm numbers to increase to the point of full production. Or if the bottom bin seems done, you can separate out its compost and dump the worms back in the top, giving you a new bin to work with.

I'd suggest using a thermometer to monitor the actual temperature of the compost, because it can get quite a bit hotter than the ambient temperature. It sounds like you're OK, though. Shade is good and closeness to any shaded thermal mass, like the ground, will help keep the bin temperature down.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 3:07PM
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sbryce_gw

Comments:

1) Adding bedding is almost always a good idea. About the only time I wouldn't is when I planned to harvest soon. In your system, when you plan to harvest soon, just add bedding to the top bin, and not the one you want to harvest. I added bedding with every feeding.

2) There will always be worms in the lower bin. They are still finding some kind of food value in there. It could take 2 or 3 months before most of your worms migrate up. By then the lower bin will be very well processed.

3) Worms don't like temps above 80 F. Temps above 90 F are harmful to them. Your situation is borderline.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:26PM
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jadeite(6/7)

Thank you both. So more bedding it is. I was surprised when I checked the bottom bin at how many worms there were, and how lively they seem. I thought then that perhaps it was cooler and that's why they were staying low.

I'll start putting in ice packs to cool down the top bin. It only seems warm around mid-afternoon, but I wasn't sure what the temperature range should be. The bins are next to the house on a stone patio in the shade, about 10 feet from the closest sunlight.

So far I don't see any dead worms, though I have yet to see anything like a worm egg. There are lots of tiny worms, which I assume are newborn, but none of the little yellow eggs I've seen in pictures. I'm starting to wonder if I have red wigglers....

Cheryl

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:44PM
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colin3

The eggs darken quickly, to blend in with the soil. If you sort through some of the well-advanced compost looking for roundish slightly shiny objects, you'll find them.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 2:25PM
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jadeite(6/7)

Ooohh, I didn't realize the color changed (duh!). All the pictures show tiny yellow eggs looking just like miniature lemons. I wondered where the little worms were coming from.

Thanks again,
Cheryl

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 3:09PM
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