Thinking of starting a bin in my basement

TrpnBils(6B)December 3, 2013

So is vermicomposting really as easy as everyone here says it is? I want to get a bin started in my basement to try to generate something I can add to my garden in Spring. It seems easy enough until I find these pages that start throwing out all kinds of ratios about how much green to how much brown and if you get it out of that strict ratio it will make your house stink and it'll be overrun with flies. I'm a relatively intelligent guy, so I think I could get this figured out, but if it's that finicky and that much of a pain in the butt to need constant attention I'd rather stick to my outside compost pile when the weather warms up again. At least out there if it starts stinking and attracts wildlife I don't have to deal with it in my house...

That said, I'd probably be looking at a "nested container" type of bin so I wouldn't have to have a drip pan underneath that might also attract flies or my dog to it. It's just my wife and I, so for two people would 1000 worms in a roughly 18x36x12" bin be an appropriate starting point? We have a huge pile of damp raked and shredded leaves outside right now where my normal compost pile would sit (I put all the compost in my garden and tilled it under about two weeks ago). I'd probably use that as my bedding to start out...should I be concerned with waiting a few weeks to add worms in case the bedding heats up, or should that cycle be basically done since the leaves have been sitting damp for awhile now anyway. Our basement sits at around 60-65 degrees most of the time....any issue there?

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Hard? Perhaps. Most of us killed our first batch of worms. I did. But it is also easy. Worms are very forgiving. It is as much an art as it is a science. It all depends on how quickly you get a feel for the art of it.

The ratios are important, but you don't need to get too picky about them. The ratios are where much of the art comes in. The best rule of thumb is not to overdo the nitrogen until you get a feel for things. You will eventually figure out how much the worms eat.

1000 worms for two people is about right, assuming you are not strict vegetarians who produce a lot of kitchen scraps. Things will go slowly at first. As the bin gets established, and the worm population grows, they will handle the food better. Just watch your bin and see how fast the food is disappearing. You may not be able to feed them all of your scraps at first.

The leaves will make excellent bedding. They will also have creepy crawlies in them. critters in the bin are inevitable. Some will play nice. Some will be a pain. Many will be some of both.

Whether you need to wait for the leaves to heat up and cool down is part of the art. I can't tell over the internet whether they are past the heating stage. You may want to pay it safe.

60-65 degrees should be OK. Things will slow down if it gets much cooler than that. But the bin temperature may not be the same as the room temperature. The bin may be just a tad warmer.

Start slow and small. Grow from there. You are less likely to make mistakes that way. I got too ambitious with my first bin. 1000 worms in a bin the size you plan on is a good way to start.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 8:17PM
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Sounds good - I'll give this a shot. We're not vegetarians so we don't produce a ton of food scraps that could be composted (or much other food scraps for that matter). Aside from the potential heat from the leaves, is there any reason to let the bin "get settled" before adding the worms if I were to use something like shredded cardboard or something else that's not going to get hot?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 9:04PM
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Worms live and feed in microbially active organic materials. That means they are decomposing. If you use "clean" bedding, such as cardboard or paper, you may want to give your bin a chance to establish a micro-herd before introducing the worms. Feed the bin some kitchen scraps a few days, or even a week or two, before you add the worms. Bury it in the bedding so that if it does go funky on you, the bedding will hold down the smells. Avoid foods with strong odors (onion, broccoli) at first. I actually recommend bringing in some decomposing organic matter (your leaves) to add to the bin to help get it going. Horse manure or partially completed compost work best.

Your bin will attract critters. Some people like to avoid the critters by only using "clean" bedding and food. The worst critters are fruit flies and fungus gnats, but they are a food problem, not a bedding problem.

Once you have your worms, patience will be your best tool. Grow the bin environment slowly. Don't overfeed. If you have plenty of bedding, manage the moisture, don't overfeed, and introduce new or questionable foods slowly, it is hard to make a big mistake.

I killed my first batch of worms by trying to do too much too soon. I almost killed my second batch by feeding too much rice all at once. After my bins were well established (I had 3 bins at one time), I could feed them almost anything, and the worms would eat it right up. I had a few occasional smells, but they only lasted a few days. I had learned the art of how much to feed them and which foods should only be fed in small amounts.

Take your time. You will catch on, and do well.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 12:15AM
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I can't recommend basement bins because I have no basement, but I can tell you that the information sbryce is giving is all right on.

One thing.....stacking bin systems can be home-made with a couple of sterilite's.


Patience, Moderation, Diversity

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 6:18AM
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Yeah the stacked sterelite bins were what I was figuring on doing just for simplicity. I'm assuming I can help hold down smells by adding some dry bedding on top of the food when I put it in? (I think I read that somewhere on this forum...I'm up to about page 6 in old posts) On the other hand, this will be going in the same room as our cat's litter box so I can't imagine it being any worse than anything he does in there....

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 7:57AM
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I started out about a year ago with about 1000 worms in an 18 gallon sterelite container in the basement. I'm not very smart and I didn't kill them off yet. I initially got 3 containers, drilled air/migration holes in two of them and left the third for them to nest in. Added a couple spaces (scrap wood) in the bottom of the base just in case I had too much moisture. If you don't have the worms yet, I would definately get the bins set up at least a few days prior. When I started mine, it was way too wet and had to let it air out for a bit.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 2:55PM
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If you aren't overfeeding, there will be no smell from the bins.

If you can put up with cat litter boxes, you wouldn't have any probs even if you overfed.......which could be a potential problem.


Patience, Moderation, Diversity

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 6:02PM
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The bins may have some smell right after you feed them. It should be no worse than the cat litter. Burying the food under some bedding helps a lot. A lot depends on what and how you feed the worms. If you dump in three pounds of broccoli stems and onion peels, you will have some smells for a few days.

As Chuckiebtoo says, don't overfeed, and don't go overboard on anything new or unusual.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Im also fairly new but I have a couple of bins going in a walkin closet. Usually there is not a bad smell , just remember to add bedding like shredded paper cardboard to cover the new added food. I like to run my veggie and fruit material thru a juicer and save the pulp in another container for a few days then feed it to them. Right after adding this there will always be a slight smell but very soon goes away. One of the strongest smells I have had was after adding fresh cantaloupe. Watermellon seems to be a better melon to add. there is slight smell but not strong from it.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 4:47PM
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