raqigirlNovember 5, 2009

We live in the Sierra foothills of Northern California, amongst towering pines, firs, cedars and oak trees. Because our earth is hard clay and rock, and because of limited sun, most of our gardening is done on our back deck and our house plants. The reason we became interested in vermicomposting was to reduce the amount of waste we put into the landfill.

I've had my Gusanito 3-tray Worm Farm for about 7 weeks. I filled it with about 2 pounds of worms from a local supplier, The Worm Farm,

Because of temperature extremes here (28F to 105F) we've decided to keep the worm farm in the office, just off the kitchen.

In the beginning I over fed. Isn't that what we all do? About 3 weeks into running the bin I sorted through all the food, bedding, worms castings, etc, discarding all the extra food and then didn't feed for about 3 weeks. Now I've begun feeding again, only a bit more conservatively. The mite problem that had developed because of too much food seems to be more under control. And, the odor is gone.

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raqigirl: welcome to the worm-world.
Looks like you know about vermicomposting already; good job.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 4:43PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Welcome, raqigirl. Yes, many of us do make the mistake of overfeeding - even when we know better. You've probably come across the various theoretical numbers: 2 lbs. of worms can eat 1 lb. food each day, 2 sq. ft. of bin area can accommodate 2 lbs. of food each week, etc. Of course "real life" is often different. You have enough worms to theoretically process 7 lbs. per week. However, your Gusanito bin only has 1.77 sq. ft. of area and can theoretically only process 1.77 lbs. of food each week. I suspect the reality will be somewhere in between those 2 numbers.

I recently started keeping a wormless bin - basically a pre-composting bin. I throw scraps in it each day and let it "cook" in partial sun. Every 3-4 days I pick out scraps that are most cooked and put a 1" layer on half (side A) of my worm bin. 3-4 days later I feed the other half (side B). Before continuing the cycle, I check to make sure the food in side A has mostly been consumed. If not, I wait a couple of days before feeding again. Meanwhile, the wormless bin just accumulates scraps.

If you haven't already noticed, there are many different methods & systems for vermicomposting. :-) It sounds like you're off to a good start. One final thought: I've never heard of worms that starved to death, but I have heard of worms dying from too much food.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 6:21PM
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Anyone intentionally overfeed just to see what happens? I have a worm factory and just to see what would happen I have one tray (three "normal" trays going below this one) that I have filled with nothing but 2" of cut up pieces of Jack-O-Lantern. Partly because I want to see what happens and partly because I have more pumpkin than I have room in the freezer.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 9:34PM
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When I overfed, the bin started to smell and I was being over-run by mites. They were literally falling out of the bin. ICK!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 2:29PM
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I never worry about "overfeeding" - I put all of our kitchen scraps in there no matter what. If we're on vacation for 2-3 weeks, they get nothing; during cantaloupe season they get buried. These are not pets, they exist to turn my garbage into soil.

I have a 3-tier flow-through system and I add scraps to the top 2 tiers. The bottom bin is always full and that's the most mature stuff, the one where I remove castings periodically. I figure that if they don't like the conditions in the bin they're in, they can go elsewhere. They can go to the top for fresh food or to the bottom to escape the heat.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 6:06PM
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The danger with over feeding in a closed system, is that conditions can get very toxic very fast. Too much protein (nitrogen rich material) is converted to ammonia, and this, being a gas, can spread throughout the bin. In a large, open system, like a large flow through or outdoors worm pit, it's less likely to be a problem as there's usually somewhere in the bin in which the conditions are sweet. And if there isn't the worms can escape the bin altogether. A can-o-worms or stacking system is half way between a closed and flow through system, but it's not huge so be careful!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 10:46AM
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