Newbie intro.

JLN123(6 KS)December 31, 2013

I am a newbie to vermicomposting and this forum. I have spent the last couple of weeks cruising through older posts here and other forums. I don't have any worms yet, just trying to do research first. I am interested in vermicomposting horse manure. We raise draft horses so I have an ample supply. I currently pile compost the manure for use in our Hoophouses to raise tomatoes. It seems that adding worms to the mix is the nest logical step in making a better compost.
I think that I want red wigglers but if anybody has a better suggestion please let me know.
Thanks, J.L.

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Everything about your situation seems ideal. I am so glad you have read up on the topic. Thus your first post included the exact information we need to give you hints and tips we think might be useful for you. "I am interested in vermicomposting horse manure. We raise draft horses so I have an ample supply." You have one of the most ideal situations I have heard of. "I currently pile compost the manure for use in our Hoophouses to raise tomatoes. It seems that adding worms to the mix is the nest logical step in making a better compost." Have you dug into the piles? I thought horse manure was pretty much almost born with red wigglers in it.

Horse manure and compost worms go together like peas and carrots.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 9:02PM
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JLN123(6 KS)

Everything that I have read says "Build compost and the worms will come" The worms here haven't read that!
Our soil here is very poor quality, red clay that had been farmed for wheat and heavily dosed with anhydrous. We have spent the last 13 years trying to rebuild the soil here. I do find some earth worms here now, at first there were NONE. I am thinking that better compost will speed the process? Besides it will give one more type of animal to tell all of my friends about.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 9:33PM
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What comes to mind then is windrows or even piles where the new feed material is placed next to the working material and the worms move over. Probably when two worms are introduced they should be fruitful and multiply. If you bought the 12 pack from the gas station at the start of fishing season you could use 10 for fishing.

Despite having the seemingly ideal set up you might benefit from or enjoy a kitchen scraps set up to get to know the worms. This would give you a secure population from which to populate various proof of concept prototypes to see which design modifications suit your exact needs. A cloth bag worm inn, a round can o worms, a square worm factory or any old container you already have kicking around either with holes drilled or even without should serve you well. One of those black, round plastic animal feed bowls that is chewed past useful would work.

I guess we would want to avoid purchasing 60 pounds of worms to dump onto a pile and then wonder where they all went two days later.

Do you compost kitchen scraps now? Do chickens scratch through the horse compost now? What is the bedding in with the horse manure?

In your situation if purchasing a lot of worms, a telephone call to the seller might let you know if the worms are presently grown in horse manure.

It would be great to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

It is great you are trying to bring life back to the soil.

As a side note I once sold a deli container labeled "100 reg wiggler worms" at an auction for $15.00. I actually put 200 in the container so the buyer would not be disappointed. The worms show real well at preview because they all go to the bottom of the container. Prospective bidders all pick up the container and flip it over. Oh the wiggling worm meat humanity greets them. Bidders put that number on their notes. Worms are live food for many pampered exotic pets. The container of worms was the only non microscopic live food at an auction that went on and on for 9 to 12 hours. The worms were at the 11th hour when many bidders had already left. Still the attention on the item woke up the auctioneer and the audience. Live food is a big deal because it improves health and breeding. I was glad I had taken the time to put something in the auction. I would have been just as happy bringing 15 containers and selling them for 50 cents each so everyone who wanted one could have some for their needs. This was an auction for tiny tropical fish. A video of the auction shows how much fun buying a pound of worms could be if we did it like my favorite song. I bet even chuckiebtoo would get in to the spirit of things and bid for a pound or two. To save time start at 1:50 to you won't want to stop listening.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 10:58PM
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you were able to bait the hook to get response to your post. I expect you will get much more from learned sources here.

You have that resource of all that horse manure and somehow, someway we have to get some worms into that.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:16PM
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JLN123(6 KS)

Windrow / Pile method is the goal in mind right now. I am going to do a container (kitchen scrap bin) as a backup / breeder bin.
I would love to be able to purchase 60 lbs of worms and turn them loose in my compost piles but realistically I am looking at maybe 2 lbs to go in a bin, then hopefully the increase into the compost piles.
I see that you read my Bio.(Great video by the way) Yes I am an auctioneer, we sell everything from cattle to coins, but I have never sold any worms. (yet)
I am sure that after New Years and the hangovers are past others will chime in and help with my predicament.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:58PM
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I actually don't see any reason to chime in. You already have good information to work with. I'll just repeat the recommendation that you start small and let your herd grow. That way if you make any mistakes (hard to do with horse manure as bedding/feed) you won't lose a huge investment. I think you will do fine.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:12AM
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This page was helpful to me in figuring out what worms I actually have: BTW, I am not connected with these guys.

Since you correctly expressed an interest in Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida), then you need to be aware of your worm source before you actually purchase. It is easy to get taken in or get a red worm order contaminated with P.excavatus. Bait shops will sell you the right worms but they tend to be expensive.

Most of us vermicomposters really don't care much about species so long as they do the job. However, we don't know what your plans might be for the future. in addition, the worms do behave differently.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 7:02AM
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When you get them can we have pictures? I think we are all excited.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 8:40AM
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Welcome to the forum JLN123!

I usually stay quiet on here, because most of the posts are regarding smaller indoor systems with which I have no experience. Outdoor, open-bottom bins and horse manure are right up my alley!

Let me first say that I live in a cool damp (normally) climate. This makes it easy to grow my herd. You will face challenges I did not.

Starting with a few pounds of bed-run red wigglers given to me 41/2 years ago,, my hobby took off when I began using some well aged horse manure. At first I slowly added it to my 3'x5' open bottom bin. At the same time I built 4 hot compost piles using lots of sb ucg, straw, and horse manure. As the piles cooled, the worms appeared. By the time I had been worming for one year the worm population was probably close to 40 lbs..

Soon after, my wife decided to renew her childhood hobby and bought a huge gelding, I had to ramp-up.
I cleared an area and built a small paddock and shelter . I then selected a site away from the house, near the paddock under a stand of conifer for my new BIG wormery. It would get mostly winter sun and summer shade, along with the added benefit of being gopher free due to the dense root mass
Next. I used some moldy free hay bales and formed a rectangle 3 bales long and 1 bale wide. I added about 1" of damp manure. I dumped in some worms and castings full of cocoons.. I covered this pile with more loose, damp hay and some old scrap carpeting.
We acquired another horse and I had manure piled high near the new wormery, with lots of flies. So I just pitched the whole pile on top and let it overflow 1 side. I diverted a 12'x17' carpet from the landfill and covered the whole thing.
Carpet is an excellent worm bin cover. It breathes, lets rain in, keeps the bed dark and moist, keeps the MANY worm predators out, and is heavy enough not to blow away.

I began adding FRESH manure cleaned up every morning from the paddock. This had no bedding and was added directly on the pile in different spots by the wheelbarrow load. Just pull back a different corner of the carpet and dump. The manure was added before it dried out, so no water was needed. Horse manure is difficult to re-hydrate.The carpet stopped the flies from hatching!!

After about 1 year, I had worms galore! I had 6 different wormeries and probably 300 lbs of worms. I was able to keep up with the horses output with no smell or flies.ItI took about 10 days to turn horse manure into black bedrun full of worms.

Sad ending to the story. Last spring we sold the horses .My worms were starving so I sold a few truckloads of bed-run and the systems have declined significantly.... But I am left with many cubic yards of worm castings!

That's my long story... Hope it helps. You may want to check out sierrawormsolutions They have lots of great free info on outdoor bins and systems.

Good luck and happy new year! Pete

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:00PM
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JLN123(6 KS)

Thank all of you for the replies.
I have been trying to source some local worms but other that bait stores, there doesn't seem to be alot of wormers in south central KS. I am still working on where to order from.

Pete, sorry to hear that you lost your feed source. I would happily hook you up with a load of horse / donkey / goat manure, but I am afraid that the travel cost would be excessive. Thank you for the description, it sounds like you were doing what I want to do. As our produce business expands I need more and better compost. Please feel free to throw any other ideas that you think of at me.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Thanks for the offer JL. If you pay for the gas, I'll throw in some worms for the backhaul. Actually I can source all the manure I want very close, but recent back surgery has me down and the wife won't shovel it for me.

Like the others say, start small with a pound of worms and learn...... there is no substitute for experience. Maybe try a RM tote bin until things warm up some.

If I were you, in the spring I would fashion a bin out of scrap lumber or recycled fence posts or 2x4's, or bad hay bales or ??? about 4'x8x18-24""high. This should sit on the ground, or buried a little if you have high summer temps,. You should leave the bottom open, unless you have burrowing critter problems .If you do, line the bottom with hardware-cloth. This is VERY important to allow air flow, drainage, and worm "escape routes". Your worms will only use this to escape a bin that is too hot, cold, dry, or toxic.

Fill the bin about 6" deep with aged horse manure, Wet it real good, like wet cement. Make a lid to keep out the sun and various critters such as chickens, birds, squirrels, coons, ect. An old piece of plywood will work for now. Add a few pounds of worms in one spot in the middle, and cover with lots of spent hay, straw, or compost. This will help insulate and protect the herd.

I would recommend trying to buy some bed-run worms for the box. Bed-run is basically the top layer of an active worm bed. It should have worms of a variety of ages as well as lots of cocoons. The worms are shipped in the bedding/media they are grown in, not separated. Larger suppliers sell ljke this, and it is usually horse manure bedding I sold mine bulk for $5/gallon, which contained about 1/2 pound of worms/gallon. Any composting worms will work fine, it will just take a little longer

More to come later about increasing the population.....

This post was edited by mendopete on Thu, Jan 2, 14 at 14:09

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 1:56PM
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JLN123(6 KS)

Thanks Pete
What you describe is my current plan. I have a plastic bin ready and I am waiting for our weather to straighten out so I can order a couple of pounds of worms. If I can successfully keep them alive until spring some of them will go into an outdoor bin, then into the windrows.
Any other info. or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 4:02PM
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I hope everyone is surviving the cold OK.

I recall seeing a set-up on the net a few years ago that might fit your long-term needs better than a windrow.

Someone with a large hoop-house raised his worms/VC under the center walkway. They dug out an 18" -24" deep x 4' wide trench the length of the house. This trench was sectioned off into 4' x 8' beds. Then they framed up a series of 4' x 4' heavy duty plywood lids with hinges to walk on and access the worm bed.

It appeared to be a simple and easy to manage system, although it involved lots of hard work with shovels and wheelbarrows. They first filled the boxes with aged horse manure and added worms(about 1/2 lb./sq.' I think). After the worms were established and the manure level dropped 50%, they moved all the contents to one end and added new manure to fill the void. A few months later, the worms had finished the original feedstock and migrated laterally to the new feedstock. Then, the VC was shoveled out, new feedstock/manure was backfilled, and the process repeated.

This system had the advantage of being simple, producing the VC where you need it, and providing a safe year-round environment for the worms.

Start with one 4x8 box to breed your stock.

This post was edited by mendopete on Tue, Jan 7, 14 at 12:40

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 12:37PM
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    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:44PM
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That is it! Thank you for helping my somewhat foggy memory......... Great article

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 7:42PM
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