Help!! Worms dying in new 'Worm Factory'
I hope members of this forum will excuse the excessive length of this posting; I felt that if I sought advice for my problem, I needed to provide as much information about it as possible.
For some years, a compost tumbler in my rear garden served as a worm bin for me. Although the material never heated up and ookedÃ (probably a bad brown/green mix Ã the components were mainly kitchen scraps) it proved to be an ideal worm habitat, hosting what I would conservatively estimate were around 7-10 thousand red worms. The problem with the system, however, was that the tumbler had very poor drainage, so the worm castings and decomposed food scraps collected in the bottom as a saturated Ãsludge,Ã almost impossible to dry out enough to put through a screen for use as a top dressing on my perennial beds. It was also very difficult to separate out the worms, who seemed to like hanging out in the sludge.
To address this issue, about a month ago I bought a 5-tray ÃWorm Factory.Ã In the bottom tray, along with the dampened sheets of newspaper the instructions called for, I made a bedding layer of damp shredded newspaper, mixed with the coir, also dampened, which came with the kit. Over that, I spread a 2-inch layer of the sludge from the tumbler, with a very generous worm population, but no new kitchen scraps. In the next two trays, I did the same, except using just damp shredded newspaper for the bedding layers.
About ten days ago, I added another tray, and this time, in addition to bedding layers, added the contents of my kitchen compost bucket Ã about 30 cubic inches of food scraps, but no worms or sludge from the tumbler.
Initially, things seemed great; within two days, many worms had migrated up from the lowers trays and were burrowing around in the new top tray, and they seemed active and healthy. Three days ago, however, I checked the tray and noticed that the worms seemed almost completely to have lost their vigor, that many of them seemed to be turning from red to grayish/white, and that many of them were clearly dead. In each day since, the problem has been worse; this morning, there were almost no live worms left in the newest tray. In the trays below it, where tumbler sludge and worms but no new food had been introduced, the worms still remaining seemed fine Ã actively wiggling, good color, etc. It is only in the new top tray that the problem seems to be manifested.
(I should add that otherwise, the system seems to work well; today I removed the original bottom tray, and spread the contents on a sheet of plastic. Although still wetter than I would prefer, everything, including most of the shredded newspaper, had decomposed, and, of the many, many worms I had originally put there, only about thirty remained; the rest had presumably migrated upward to the trays above).
Can anybody diagnose what I am doing wrong? The food scraps in the ÃbadÃ tray are about the same mix of ingredients as those I had been putting into the tumbler all along, so I canÃt see how that would have caused the problem.
I would be really, REALLY appreciative if someone can help me identify and correct this problem.
Thanks in advance