doubling up

drumorganDecember 16, 2010

When do you have enough worms to split them into two containers?

For example, if you start with a rubbermaid box and the worms are in the bottom, and you slowly fill it up to the top with food and they convert it al to castings. When you start a new container, will you have enough for two containers then? Or, will you only have enough to restart one new one?

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We can't tell for sure without looking at your bin, but if you are harvesting your bin, there is a very good probability that there are enough worms to start a new bin.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 4:28PM
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When I harvested my tote the first time (at 4 months), I got 40 pounds of castings and made 4 totes out of the worms. I gave away 3 and kept one.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 6:42AM
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Very cool. If that happens to me, I can get my yard filled up in no time. With four kids, we have more garbage than one little bin of worms can handle.

What size tote are you using?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 2:34PM
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To maximize worm reproduction, you want about .5 to 1 lb of worms per square foot of surface area in your bin. (For flow through, you don't need as much surface area.)

I'm betting if you're ready to harvest, you can at least double. If you have the really deep RM bins, you might not want to wait until they're full unless you have lots of holes at the bottom. It's important to have enough oxygen throughout the VC.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 4:21PM
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I started with 1 pound in an 18 gallon tote. I would advise harvesting every 3-4 months and splitting at that time. If you wait for the tote to be full, it will be a 2 day harvest (light-pile) which is not fun. Smaller harvests are more fun. Now I have a Box O'Rot ( that is harvested every week. I do a quick light-pile separation on the table and the VC goes into a Barrel O'Babies so the cocoons can hatch. Wurmz iz e-z!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 9:06AM
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Box O'Rot and Barrel O'Babies sound like more fun than a Barrel O'Monkeys.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 6:18PM
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They are.
I have simplified my vermicomposting efforts by cutting back to just 2 worm habitats, the 4'X3'X2' deep 'Box O'Rot' and a 55 gallon flow-thru 'Barrel O'Babies'. I have tried to maintain a stable environment for the worms in the Box O'Rot with the addition of a thermostatically controlled rope light heater. In this way, my worms work year-round and the landfill is consistently deprived of my trash.
The Box O'Rot is fed once a week. To make room for the feeding, I pull about 12" X 24" X 6" of the oldest material from the Box O'Rot. This material will be light-pile harvested with the recognizable materials, worms and cocoons (at least what I see) being returned to the Box O'Rot. The worms' food comes from a scrap bucket under the sink (which provides the nitrogen part) and a paper grocery bag that catches junk mail and napkins, etc. (this provides the carbon part). I operate the Box O'Rot on a lateral circular feeding method. Food is added progressively around the box (layered- paper first, then VC, then scraps, then VC, from the bottom up) and the worms follow when they are ready. I have added a divider board in the center of the box so the worms can't take a short cut to get to the newest food. Sheets of plastic are placed on top of the most recent feedings to slow evaporation and allow the worms to 'work' the top material.
The quickly harvested material removed for the last feeding goes into the 'Barrel O'Babies' for 'finishing'. I use the flow-thru as a hatchery and nursery to allow the missed cocoons time to hatch and the babies time to grow. A plastic sheet that covers the contents of the flow thru is always wet and littered with the worms' travels. This flow-thru is never 'fed' but is a worm habitat with approximately 20 gallons of VC with worms.

In the spring, I will start up the 5 gallon buckets again for the farmer's market. My son and I will probably be at the Earth Day Fair at Wake Forest University again this year.
More fun than a barrel of monkeys!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 10:59PM
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I too recently have morphed to a similar system. Mine is smaller but the principals are the same as yours. You described it very well. The first container (Box O'Rot)I put food and bedding pretty much as it arrives with no processing or making smaller of food or bedding. Out of the bottom I harvest and put into a basket with large holes that is shaken. What stays in the basket goes back on top. What falls out I put into (Barrel O'Babbies) a second container. Worms stay in which ever material they divided into. The second container is also a flow through. Worms that are in the second containers harvest would go into the first container. I have not seen a cocoon in ages. I am hoping I will again in the spring. I think our systems are addressing issues such as some material takes longer to process than others. And we want to see what the material looks like half way in the process so we can judge if the process is working the way we expect.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 10:34AM
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It is interesting how adaptable the worms are to the different systems that are in the world of vermiculture. I remember the first harvest so vividly because I was amazed at how many worms were there. I had read 'Worms Eat My Garbage' but did not know anyone who had worms. I found a local worm farmer and bought some worms. He argued that the worms would not do well in a tote. I sure am glad I followed the books instructions and not his. Of course that system has changed over the years into what we are doing now. That is part of the process also. Every household needs worm composting for landfill reduction and natural fertilizer production. Wurmz iz e-z!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 10:12AM
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