My new bin's first day

sk290October 31, 2009

Someone gave me a coffee container full of red worms today which forced me to get my new bin set up. I soaked the cardboard boxes overnight and tore it into small strips. It seemed a little too wet so I added some dry newspaper and cardboard and some soil.

I used a huge rubbermaid container only because I already had it (I think it's like 40 to 50 gal). The container is clear which I know they don't like so I lined up some of the cardboard on all sides to keep light out. I drilled lots of holes all around near the top, at the bottom of the container and on the lid.

There was a small piece of fruit in the coffee container so I didn't feed them because I've read that they need a little time to get settled. When I added everything (worms included) I sealed the box because I'm afraid to attract other animals (rodents, squirrel, gophers, ...). I put the container on the side of the house (always shaded). I plan on feeding them about a cup or two of food I've been saving for them all this week.

Did I do everything right? Is it okay to keep the lid on? I hope they grow into their huge bin quickly!

I also wanted to thank everyone in this forum for answering my dumb questions. What a bunch of nice people!


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aren't they though? congratulations on your new worm bin. I got so excited about getting my first one up I called people I know long distance!


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 1:34AM
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You did OK. Just a few comments:

I would add just a bit more food. The worms do need to settle in, but they will want something to eat, and whatever food you provide will take a few days to break down so they can eat it.

If you can get a handful or two of compost, that will get things going quickly.

I don't know what the temperatures are like where you live, but if the bin gets too cold, or too hot, the worms will slow down, and could possibly die.

I don't know how tightly you have sealed the bin, but the bin does need to breathe.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:48AM
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I went out to check on my new bin and things seemed to be okay (gauged by the lack of worms in the ground). I had used a large wet cardboard to cover everything (in addition to the container's top). I lifted the top and didn't see anything. I did bury the worms in the middle of the pile yesterday when I got them. The container did come with some compost with it. I fed them a cup of food I've been saving for them this week so I think it was a little decomposed. It had coffee grounds, tea bags, some apple and pear cores. Guess I'll check in 2 or 3 days to see if they've eaten it.

I live in Southern CA right at the coast. Temps these days range from mid to high 80's to low 50's. I don't think it ever gets lower than 40's. I would think that's okay for an outside bin. What do you guys think?

And finally, the lid. I did drill holes all around the top, bottom and top sides of the container but I'll just lay the top on instead of sealing it then.

I'm so tempted to go buy a pound of worms now since the container is so huge but I guess I'll wait to see how things come along.

Is that it? Was everything else I did right? It's funny. You read a lot about the process before hand but actually seeing the end product is never what you've envisioned in your mind.

Thanks a lot for your inputs! Have a wonderful day!!!


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 1:03PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Sandra your doing fine and its great to see some new people here
It is going to take a long while for them to grow into you big bin the nice thing about a big box is you can't ruin it as easy if something heats there will be plenty of room for worms to go

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 2:07PM
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I have no idea how big a coffee container is, but if you think your bin is too big for the amount of worms you have, you might want to make a partition in your bin. Just use a piece of cardboard placed vertical to devide the bin. Place everything to one side of it, put an empty box or folded cardboard to prevent the vertical cardboard from moving on the other side. Giving the worms smaller room to roam about, they will meet each other easier and start producing cocoons faster, hopefully.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 3:13PM
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It looks like you are doing everything right. Temps will be getting a little cold for them at night, but they will get through it. In the summer, you will have trouble keeping the bin cool enough.

The amount of food feels about right. It will take more than 2 or 3 days for the food to be eaten. It won't take long for you to get a feel for how much you can feed. Apple cores and pear cores go pretty fast, but even in my established bin, I never expect anything to be gone in less than 4 days.

As for buying more worms, it really depends on how patient you want to be. Worms have their own methods for increasing their numbers.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 5:24PM
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Sandra, I live on Southern California also and my worms slowed down last winter, but did just fine. Just give the worms you have some time and you'll have more than enough.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 7:32PM
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I checked on the worms today (left them alone for 2 whole days though!). Nobody had died or tried to run away. lol It doesn't look like they've eaten though...

By ...'my container is too big for the worms I have'... I mean something like 50 or 60 gal and less than 100 worms (I would guess). I'm shopping for a pound (or 1,000) to be added to the bin.

Thanks everyone for your help and encouragement. You are such an inspiration for us newbies!

Have a great one!


    Bookmark   November 4, 2009 at 12:50AM
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If you're concerned about the bin being too big try feeding in one corner. Then at the next feeding just put the food six inches or so away from the last time. This will keep the general population of the worms massed near to each other.

There is not a worm mating call (never heard one yet) so the only way they find each other is to actually physically bump into one another and (not to sure of the actual process) decide to go for it. If they're together in a smaller space there may be more likelihood of this happening.

Then again you can just do nothing and wait ... it will happen. You're going to find you can learn there are good practices to have but the bin in general is very forgiving and can rebound from a little neglect or impatience.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 9:11PM
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...'worm mating call'... that is hilarious!!! I'm not concerned per se. It's more like being impatient. It's been almost a week now. Why don't I have compost yet? :D I know, I'm learning... I'm learning...


    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 1:59AM
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"It's been almost a week now. Why don't I have compost yet?"

He HE He. With a hundred worms you probably have a thousand little worm castings hiding in there somewhere. ;')

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Really? Does it happen that fast? I think I've read somewhere that it takes about 3 months for them to hatch (is that the right term?).

Also, how often do you guys 'fluff' the bedding? And how do you do that without sticking your hands in it? I was wondering if I could use a tool such as a metal rake but didn't want to hurt the worms...

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 12:23PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

no fluffing needed acually recomended not to dig to much at all

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 6:53PM
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It was the end of the first month today for my new bin. Yeah! I didn't kill them all~ was so excited about that. But went in and discovered that some of the onion peel is not processed, so I guess they don't like onion peel. However all the leaf litter I had thrown in the first day along with the newspaper shreddings was mostly gone. All red oak leaves, so I guess they liked that. Most if not all of the banana peels are gone, the one I threw in two weeks ago, and the partial one which came with the squirm. That's good to know, too.

So, due to the bedding being used a lot, I threw in another equal amount of newspaper shreds and red oak leaf litter, the paper soggy to mix with the leaves. I will feed again tomorrow when I can see better how many worms I am looking at when I uncover the bedding, as I really do not wish to overfeed. However, they seem to be enjoying the leaves, and there was a lot of black rich compost in the bin. I expect they have been working pretty hard on that. I have been adding about a tablespoon of kitchen waste a week, and wonder now if I can add two, but again, will have to go look-see.

I also kept the bin tipped onto one corner, in order to sort of keep the worms available to one another. It's not hard to do, as the container they are sitting on doesn't really fit, tipping it into that container allows a deep corner of bedding and keeps them more or less corraled in about one fourth the ten gallon bin. From what I have read here that's important, as it allows them to find one another more readily. It also allows waste liquid to go down to the bottom in the corner, and gets it out of the way. I am still looking for a container to put the bin onto in order to capture the liquid when it comes out, and there are holes in the bottom. So far I haven't lost any worms to wanderlust or other animals, though, (keeping my fingers crossed, we have skunks AND raccoons!)

I did notice something. On another thread someone was commenting on fudge in the bin. I noticed this as well, and my bin is only a month old. Some of the dirt was made into a ball of hard dirt, and some of the newpaper shredding was too. I broke them up and left them in the bin, and would have thought I just needed to moisten the bin a bit more, except that it was in two different mediums. I had added several scoops of good compost, sand and soil to the newspaper and leaf litter in the initial fill, as per instructions, there weren't any hard chunks then.

Maybe this is from another type of insect? or perhaps a result of the worms feeding in a particular area? I can't imagine them being near these, as they were both bone dry.


At any rate, I am very happy so far. If the spreadsheet by Maurader works out accurately, I have about doubled the initial adult population! which adds up to about 22, so far, but still~plus the babies have grown up in the last month, and I suspect that I have had some cocoons hatch too. We will see, I am not going to do a full scale count, but will hope to actually see about twenty or so full sized worms. This, I think could support my idea of a doubled adult population, and justify feeding a bit more. I also thinking pre-processing the food is going to help with the feeding, too. Since I had some moldy zuchinni, I threw that into the processing mix, as per this group's instructions, and will hope for the best!


    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Worms are OK with onion peels, but they take a long time to break down. With as few worms as you have, maybe the onion peels aren't a good idea for a while.

Adding the bedding was probably the right thing to do.

I would not think that your population would double in one month. That is awfully fast.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 2:38AM
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Onion peels and any other underground parts of plants will naturally resist decay in the compost. They're OK but as sbryce says they take more time. If that's an issue try chopping these items up a bit, this increases the surface area for bacteria to colonize and break down the material.

As far as the "fudge" goes, pure or mostly castings when wet can compact together resembling fudge and when dried out can cake together. I wouldn't worry too much if you are keeping moisture in check.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 9:15AM
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sbryce~I have been trying to figure out how to answer you, so went back to Maurader's spreadsheet.
Let us say I began with 42 worms (that's approximately what I began with). There were all sorts of sizes, but I had about 15 adults, I think, those that could be of reproductive size, anyway. Let us continue with a possible loss of 4 old worms, so I am now down to 38, but~ of the remaining worms (38 minus the 11 remaining adults) over half of those will be of reproductive age at the end of first month, (at least I think so!) So lets add 1/2 X 27 worms to the 11 remaining adults, and I think my breeding population has close to doubled.

I don't think my entire population doubles until after about four months, but the adult population has. Which is what I'm talking about. What I felt I needed to do was give the worms more bedding without giving them too much more space, as I want them to reproduce, so have to keep them fairly close together.

rom.calgary.ab ~your explanation is about as good as it gets, I think, ref 'fudge'. Thanks!


    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 6:00PM
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Glad to hear you're having a go at the calc and observing what happens. I found it added a whole new level of interest to my worm wrangling.

Ah well, bottom line is a worm's gonna do what a worm's gonna do, and no amount of counting or playing romantic music is going to speed up the process. All you can do is provided the best environment you can, and let nature manage the rest


    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 8:38PM
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mine seem to do well on ACDC and Def Leppard ... that's why we get along.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 11:03PM
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Be warned! Doubling population is great at first, but eventually you will have to do something with the excess worms. Either build more bins and be sure you can feed them or make sure to line up a recipient of worms (free or paying customer). It's better not to wait until you need to do something with them to start the planning. I haven't seen this spreadsheet, but once worms start reproducing and if you have an ideal environment for them, you will experience phenomenal explosions in population. I find myself sometimes purposely neglecting to sort out the cocoons from castings just because I don't have a plan for the multitude of live worms they will eventually yield. I just cover the castings with compost from outside to encourage worm production in my raised garden beds. The cocoons will overwinter if they are under compost and hatch in the spring. It's like gardening in a worm pit, only I don't winterize to save the adult worms. I always say that raised garden beds should be treated like worm bins with plants in them. . .

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 9:49AM
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I thought that red worms could not survive in the ground so doing this would kill them, wouldn't it?

In any case, how many is too many? How do you know when it's time to split the bin or reduce the numbers of worms you have in a bin?


    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 3:32PM
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I would imagine a huge population would be a terrific burden, actually. I aim to get about two thousand worms, or enough to eat the 2.5 to 3 lbs kitchen waste we produce every week.
I have a readymade destination for a population beyond two bins, though, at least the first one. My daughter and her husband are wrangling babies at the moment, but in about two to three years they will be able to tolerate the additional burden of a worm bin, I think, and let the boys take care of kitchen waste to the worms. Won't that be fun?

But they live in Austin, which is attempting to be very green indeed. I don' imagine any problems with their getting a bin already prepped as a Christmas present!

After that, it's sort of a problem but it will take almost three years to get there, I think. I mean~ after all, I only have maybe twenty adults at the moment!

What I am aiming for is a two bin system, and think I can achieve that with care within two years. I do need to go ahead and pre-purchase a second ten gallon bin, though, in order that they match.

I am still considering buying another forty worms, as well, it doesn't really make that much difference at the other end of population, and it means more food consumed at this end. Which, overall, is why I have the bin in the first place, to take care of kitchen waste and landfill use, right? I would also like to add some genetic diversity, I think. I don't know that it matters, but it could add some increased benefits in the long run to add different genes from time to time.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 5:29PM
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I went in last night for a midnight foray to view worms, and now have some observations to make and assumptions I have to change.

I had assumed I had received several juveniles when I received my quart of compost and worms, but now have to revise my figures of breeding adults upwards. First, on the size of the worms...I had thought that three inches was a good sized juvenile. Now, after observing the worms last night, my adults seem to be starting at around three inches in length, and can increase in size up to about four inches and a quarter, at best. Perhaps they continue to grow in length as they get older? Most of my adults were short and fat! not at all what I had thought to see.

What I had previously considered juveniles were adults. The juveniles I observed last night seem to be downwards of the three inches, and the smallest I saw last night was just over an inch long. I am judging the age of the worm on the lack of part which creates the cocoon, the clitellum.
If it's clitellum was visible in any way, the worm was three inches long or greater, and was in the actual process or had just completed the process of reproduction.

Now~ I did not go into more than about a third of the bin last night, wanting to leave most of the worms unmolested, mainly just wanting to make an estimate for feeding purposes. I discovered that all but two of the fifteen worms over 3" in length had egg cocoons, the two which didn't were good sized and had apparently either not begun breeding or had just shed their cocoon. Every other adult worm had a cocoon of some sort, though, and one was so obviously 'pregnant' I was surprised it hadn't shed it's cocoon. Some were actually in the process of shedding theirs, even though the cocoon was smaller than the one's I saw which was simply huge. On every adult I saw but one there was an outline of a cocoon sac, even if it was flat against the worm, and that was only on one of them. Perhaps it had just shed it's sac, or was beginning a new one, I was uncertain of this.

Observations? That even though I had just added another quart of newspaper shreddings, and another double handful of red oak leaf litter to the top of the previous bedding, worms were now in the top layer and munching away. In the lower part of the compost, while there were about two thirds of the worms I had observed, most were in the middle layer. All but a very small amount of leaf litter from the initial bedding was consumed, about half the newspaper from the initial bedding was not identifiable, and the dark compost matter in the bin had increased considerably from the two trowelfuls of potting soil and sand I had thrown in with the initial bedding. The only food left I saw was a shred of banana peel and the onion skin, and this was from Saturday when I had made up new bedding for the bin!

I am not up to spotting cocoons in the dark by flashlight yet, (hope I can be soon!) but out of the twenty five worms I saw in the third of the compost, I had fifteen adults, of which 13 were actually in the process of reproducing. This is far greater in numbers than I had initially anticipated!

I need to continue adding soggy newspaper shreddings to the leaf litter I add to the bin. The worms need and enjoy the excess moisture, the leaf litter is way too dry to use only that. Even with soggy newspaper mixed in thoroughly the leaf litter was very dry.

I am going to increase feedings to the bin as a result of what I saw. First, with the breeding population having such a good time reproducing, they obviously need more food. Secondly, I can't be feeding them enough if the leaf litter has been consumed that quickly by that few a number of worms. Remember, I only had about forty to begin with, and only about ten were larger than 3". I will have to take the increased feedings slowly, but imagine that having seen such a population explosion within the last month, (at least a third greater than what went into the bin, and a much increased adult population than what I had initially believed) they are going to need the food to support themselves.

It does mean I was correct in tipping the bin and increasing the bedding amounts slowly enough to support the worms finding one another for reproduction.

Very interesting~these little critters are more entertaining than I would have imagined!


    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 11:02AM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Gina, it's good to see newbies excited about worms. :-) They certainly are entertaining - wait until you see the babies. Congratulations on the impending baby boom.

You might want to check the link below and see if any vermicomposters near you have extra worms to share. Enter your zip code and then zoom in the map to find the pink dots nearest you. Click on them and the members will state if they have worms to share.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 12:13PM
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I expect it will get quieter (and slower) soon, with colder weather coming, but I AM excited as I made a commitment over a year ago to try to reduce our landfill here, at least by composting kitchen and yard waste. I finally feel I have been able to start that commitment.
Since I really don't want to lose them, and I try always to behave with respect to the animal kingdom, per se, I am trying very hard not to do anything too stupid, or that I can't take back.

It's a real plus it's been fun, too!


Ps, tried very hard to get anywhere with the vermicomposting group yesterday, signing up etc but can't send mail to other members, or see anything going on, in spite of a membership. Is there someway to make sense out the website, or make it easier to use?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 9:43PM
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The Vermicomposting site is a little more complicated than most forums. It's built on a social network base. So it will take a while to learn all the in's and outs. But there is a lot more to check out.

To contact someone you can send email or click on their name and it will take you to their home page. Partway down the page you will find a box to type into. Some of the members have their email and home pages set up so they have to approve comments on their pages. So your comments won't show up until they approve them.

To post a 'New Discussion' go to your page (My Page) and scroll down to The 'My Discussions' box and click +Start Discussion.

To add comments on any Discussion or Blog just click the title and it will take you to the page. There you will find a box to type into. Or you can click any "Reply to this" under a comment and your comment will appear under that comment.

There is a lot more to the site but i think this will get you started.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 1:15AM
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