Garden Lime

antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)July 29, 2010

I accidentally hot composted in one of my big basement bins. I had been trying the scoot-all-the-old-stuff-to-one-side method of harvesting and then put new food on the other. But with the garden producing like mad, I ended up having layers of wet food and bedding that got super hot.

Well, I took out most of it, but left what looked almost completely mush, and hoped the worms were OK. That was about a week ago. Since then the bin has been cooler, but the worms really haven't recovered. They hadn't moved into the new food, or been very active. They looked flabby, and sticky and... icky.

I wondered if the excess of food had made the bin acidic. I don't have a ph probe, but I do have a soil kit that tests samples, so I took three samples. They came out all in various, but widely ranging, acidic levels. The test is not very precise, you just match the color the sample turns to the color chart enclosed, and the approximations were 2.0, 4.0 and 6.0.

I had some Espoma brand garden lime (dolomite) for my tomato plants, and even though it is pelletized, it says it is the same type that is sometime recommended for worm bins. So, I added about a 3 tablespoons to a cup of water and stirred it up, then poured it over a small section of the bin.

About an hour later, I checked the bin, and lifted up the bedding under where I had poured the dolomite water. I could feel something squirming under my fingers through my gloves. When I looked, it appeared that every worm in the bin was in a ball right where I had poured the dolomite water.

So, I got Hubby to help me heft the bin outside, and mixed up 1/2 cup of dolomite to about 1/2 gallon of rain water, and poured it over the bin. Every visible worm immediately stopped moving and when prodded did not react at all.

I thought I had killed the whole batch!!

I then doused the whole bin with another gallon of plain rain water (all I had left) and the worms wiggled and looked fine right away. After most of the runoff had stopped, I checked the Ph in three samples again and got 7.0, 7.0, and 6.0.

The worms are looking much more vigorous, and have moved into the mushy food.

So, that was my adventure with garden lime.

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equinoxequinox

antoniab: I tried to get heat into my bin all winter and failed. How big is this big basement bin?

"I took out most" and put it into the outdoor compost bin?

"it says it is the same type that is sometime recommended for worm bins" No way?!? Surprised. All the very recent online advice says to never do this.

"3 tablespoons to a cup of water and stirred it up, then poured it over a small section of the bin." Reply same as above with more !!!'s and ???'s.

"every worm in the bin was in a ball right where I had poured the dolomite water." *eyes wide*

"1/2 cup of dolomite to about 1/2 gallon of rain water" Ahhhh. My head is about to blow off.

"Every visible worm immediately stopped moving and when prodded did not react at all. I thought I had killed the whole batch" Well of course. What did you expect. Everybody in the know, knows not to add lime to the bin.

"I then doused the whole bin with another gallon of plain rain water and the worms wiggled and looked fine right away." No way. All the experts say that is not supposed to work that way. Quick changes in pH are bad. Gradual, even evil, changes in pH are well handled.

I believe your experience. I'm glad you shared it. Eyes still wide. This report sort of makes the bin world less flat and more round.

This is the most shocking worm post I have ever read. This is not supposed to happen. Yet it did.

Intuition and close observation led you to do the right emergency procedure for the worms.

In your original test which areas of the bin were 2.0, which 4.0 and which 6.0?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 1:26AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

I tried to get heat into my bin all winter and failed. How big is this big basement bin?

It is a 27 gallon SuperBox (black with a yellow lid) that I bought at Lowe's.

" I took out most" and put it into the outdoor compost bin?

I put the extra into a new outdoor pre- rot bin, rather than my regular compost bin. The neighbors hate my regular compost. If they saw the rotted veggies there they would have coronaries. They care way too much about my compost.

says" it is the same type that is sometime recommended for worm bins" No way?!? Surprised. All the very recent online advice says to never do this.

http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormcomp61.html, dated 2009

http://www.wormswrangler.com dated 2008 (though with all the misspellings, I should have been leery,

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-composting/adding-egg-shells-to-your-worm-bin/

those are just a few. Many warned against the pellets, saying to get the powdered version. Mine was the powdered version, but "pelletized for ease of delivery". So I put it in water. Perhaps in hindsight, not a great idea.

3 tablespoons to a cup of water and stirred it up, then poured it over a small section of the bin." Reply same as above with more !!!'s and ???'s
I was going by measurements suggested on the package back for soil areas, and then using a tiny fraction of the recommended amount.

every worm in the bin was in a ball right where I had poured the dolomite water." *eyes wide*
Since I have perhaps 3 lbs of worms in that bin, I am guessing, that is an exaggeration. The ball of worms was the size of a baseball or so. Maybe a 1/2 lb. Since I have never had that happen - the worms ball like that before - other than when being light-harvested, I was pretty shocked.

1/2 cup of dolomite to about 1/2 gallon of rain water" Ahhhh. My head is about to blow off.

Sorry.

Every visible worm immediately stopped moving and when prodded did not react at all. I thought I had killed the whole batch" Well of course. What did you expect. Everybody in the know, knows not to add lime to the bin.

I was never one of the cool kids.
I then doused the whole bin with another gallon of plain rain water and the worms wiggled and looked fine right away." No way. All the experts say that is not supposed to work that way. Quick changes in pH are bad. Gradual, even evil, changes in pH are well handled.

Well, now I get to sit back and see if that population of worms die. yay.
sigh.
I seem to be really good at killing, or almost killing my worms.

your original test which areas of the bin were 2.0, which 4.0 and which 6.0?

I tested mostly composted areas at the top just under the bedding where the worms usually hang out but weren't, at the bottom and at the corner. Two of the place were where worms were. One was where worms usually were but weren't. I don't remember which place was which number of acidity.

Well, if they are all going to die, at least maybe they are all down there having end of the world sex and the cocoons will hatch out in a month or two.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 5:20AM
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randomz

Good on you! I have mentioned the same thing here a few times, as it has worked for me also. I guess now we see who pays attention heheheh...

If I feel the bin has been over fed, I just open the lid for about 10 minutes to get the worms to dive away from the light, sprinkle on some lime/dolomite then rinse through with a few litres of water.

Has worked well every time.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 5:31AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Randomz,
Good to know that maybe my worms will survive!

EQ, To hot compost in your bin, do the following:
Take a strawberry box, cardboard, one that holds lots of strawberries but has slots along the sides, and put it whole in your bin, because you want to see if the worms will process it whole, and since you will be filling it with stuff, they can get in through the slots. Then make mulberry jam and put the pulp in the box and a layer of bedding. Then add about 6 corn cobs, with minimal butter. You are on a diet. The corn cobs are critical. Later, they get so hot they fall apart. Then add a layer of bedding. Then watermelon rind and bedding. Then kohlrabi parings and bedding, smoosh that down and add some cucumbers that got too big and some more bedding. Be sure to cut the cukes in half. Put some instant oatmeal on there that you found in the cupboard. It has way too much sugar and you are on a diet. Add some cantaloupe. By now the box should be piled very high. Go camping for four days, with the lid on your bin.

If you start seeing condensation on the inside of your RM bin, assume all is well, and add more to the pile. In a week or so, you will wake to the smell of worms gently slow roasting.

it will generate enough heat to steam when you break it.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 5:59AM
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steamyb(7)

Did someone call?
Oh...
for heat change the recipe from 4C/1N to 1C/1N. That works for me. But don't do it now. It's high 90s in NC today and the wormits would cook.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 6:17AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Ha!
It was me that tortured the worms this time!
I will let you know how my mistake, er... experiment... pans out.

But the wormies are looking fat and sassy so far this morning.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 10:38AM
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equinoxequinox

antoniab: It appears you sailed your bin off of the edge of the world so to speak and survived. Maybe lime is not so evil. It was like reading a worm pirate adventure story with a good ending.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 12:45PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Well, the worms continue to look good, better even then the one in another bin that has still lots of food but has not over heated. I have threatened that bin with a minute amount of lime too, if the worms don't perk up.

I like the idea of a pirate worm adventure. Worms of the Caribbean, maybe?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 11:37PM
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equinoxequinox

Avast!

"At my old school we never" had pirate worms.

~ Phoebe

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 2:32AM
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cabogal(8)

This thread is very old but I'd like to clarify for future readers what type of 'garden lime' is safe and what type isn't safe to use in worm bins. Hopefully this will help save you some heartache and many worm lives....

Two types of garden lime are commonly sold. One is dolomite lime, and the other is calcium carbonate lime. Dolomite lime, which is what this person used, is not safe to use in worm bins. It is very high in magnesium and will kill your worms. The only garden lime you should use in your worm bin should be calcium carbonate lime.

If you need to make an emergency pH adjustment to your worm bin you can also use powdered or ground up eggshells. I dry my eggshells out in a 200-250 degree oven for 20-30 minutes then grind them into a powder with an old Krups coffee grinder until they are almost pure powder. The finer they are ground up the more effective they will be. If you are like me and don't buy enough eggs to have enough eggshells on hand for your bins, another good source of calcium you can use to lower pH is oyster shell flour. It is sold at farm and feed stores as a feed additive, often found near poultry feeds. Since it is used for feed stock it has to meet higher standards than anything agricultural that is intended only as a soil additive. I'd rather be safe than sorry and garden limes are mined and how many times do we find out that some garden additive has arsenic high amounts of some other metal in them?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 11:42PM
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