Not sure where to start.

bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)December 17, 2012

I am in central Florida and want to try the vermicomposting thing. Right now I have a 25 foot worm bed under a run of rabbit cages and it does ok but the worms in it are? No idea just the native worms that showed up on their own. They are a spastic worm and have quite a hard body compared to red worms. Just in case anybody can ID them for me?

For the new bed I will use the composting redworms. Here is where I run in to problems as I don't know what to use or what would be best. First the bed.....I can make a 30 foot long by 3 or 4 foot wide bed 18 inches high. Does it need a bottom other than our native sand? It would be outside but somewhat protected from rain by an overhang. It would have a mister system on it on a timer to maintain moisture. The sand here drains well. OR I have 10 half blue barrels that have drainage holes in them I could use as the bins, or both.

Materials......I have 11 chickens that are free range but do have the manure from the nights when they are locked up. I have 23 ducks and they are also free range but have the night time manure. I have extra rabbit manure as well. Have egg shells. I have newspaper from myself and a neighbor. Have an unlimited, truckload after truckload of electric company trims from around the utility lines and that is mostly the small limbs and leaves and they have been run through their chipper of course. Also have a neighbor with horses. The horses are outside and graze days but at night are locked up so have the nightime manure and she feeds pure alfalfa hay so there is quite a bit of that in the mix but it is mostly urine soaked pine shavings. Far as the amount I would say I get about a shortbed pickup load a week.

Any ideas?

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 22:02

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Hi BR;

Welcome to the forum. What you describe, sounds like what most folks here would like to find under the tree come Christmas morning..25 foot worm bed, rabbit manure, horse manure, poultry manure (for composting only), loads of free mulch, etc.
But pictures, pictures, Please.. of your worm run with the cages above it, the barrels you're thinking to use, the outside place you're considering using and especially the worms you already have. These will help us to (possibly) identify the worms, as well as advise you on the best course of action. I am sure you'll have a slew of responses on this within a day or two.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 1:05AM
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What do you do with your kitchen scraps. I am wondering if you are going to purchase worms. I am wondering if your hard worms are just hard working and have not been luxuriating in a cruise ship environment. Do not want you to purchase what you already own. I am wondering if under the worms kitchen scraps and or bedding would be a nice addition.

So I am confused. With what you are already doing you probably have worms everywhere. Maybe you are already doing the vermicomposting thing just with out the cute little plastic $$$Container.

The wood chips would be good for a Back to Eden garden.

If your chickens or rabbits are not already using the newspaper or egg shell I can not see a need to do anything other than toss it onto the rabbit manure bin or under the chickens. Any old pine trees chop up and put under the night time chickens.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 3:44AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I will get you pictures today:) When I posted it was night here or would have had them already. I forgot goat manure mixed with hay but that is maybe a half truckload 4 times a year.


The kitchen scraps go to the poultry.

I am use to redworms from fishing and I am use to what we would call manure worms but these worms we have here are different. The body of the worm is very firm to the touch and when touched they whip their bodies back and forth in an S shape and I am not kidding actually bounce off the ground they whip so violently. I will post a picture of them.

I will look up back to Eden garden. The chips are free and delivered to the house and due to our sand I go through maybe 15 truckloads a year. I have a tractor with a front end loader so it makes it easy. I grow many 100's of fruiting plants trust me you don't want to see that list lol. I use a lot of the chips on those plants as well as on the veggie garden.

I guess what I am asking guidance on is a mix to use, I hope that uses the tree service chips. Like a 1 part wood chips to 2 parts blah...that sort of thing? The reason I am getting the redworms is I think they will offer more production. I will buy them but they are cheap as I know a person here in town that raises them under his rabbits just in the manure. I don't have enough rabbit manure though to do that with two full bins. He has 200 rabbits and I only have 6 plus their off spring. The reason I want the worms is the castings for my plants and to feed the worms back to the poultry.

I really appreciate the responses and questions as this is new to me and trying to learn. Pictures will be taken and posted this morning.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 8:14

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 8:04AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Here are the pictures.if you need more just ask.

First here are the native spastic worms.

This is the spot where the new worm bed will be located. The bed will be along the white wall and buried with just a few inches above ground level. It is in a fenced off area so the ducks and chickens will not have access. This area is actually a pretty big mist bed where plants go that have just been replanted. It is pretty much pure shade and has over head misters. The black pipe you see are what the misters are connected too. The pipe coming down the wall will be over the worm bed and will mist the bed several times a day. I can change the misters to keep the bed more or less wet.

The mulch.

The chicken coop. It is elevated as you can see and probably odd to those in colder regions but here it is only needed to keep the birds cool. The ducks have their own 20x10 house.

The blue barrels. They are just 55 gallon barrels cut in half. They were under the rabbit pen to catch the manure before the worm bed was placed there.

The current worm bed under the rabbit cages.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Ideas? No. Thoughts? A few.

What you are doing is pretty large scale compared to what most of us here do. It really isn't a place to start. It is a place for a well established wormer to grow into.

The sand surrounding your bins may be OK. The worms will prefer the food-rich environment inside the bin and will stay put.

In Florida, the manure worms (I am assuming PEs) may do as well or better than EFs. They are prolific breeders, and they tolerate heat better than EFs.

You have a LOT of nitrogen available to you, and very little carbon, except in forms that do not break down readily. This could be a problem. I would check on C:N ratios of the various manures that you have available to you and see if you need to find another source of carbon. Horse manure is fine by itself, and I have heard of people VCing rabbit manure with no additional carbon. Chicken and duck may be another matter. Considering how these tend to heat up, you may want to pre-compost them, mixed with SOME sort of carbon source, before feeding them to the worms.

Trimmings from the electric company probably make better mulch than worm food. It takes too long for wood chips to break down in the worm bin.

If your native worms are doing the job, you are in good shape. If you need to buy worms, the rule of thumb is 1 lb for every 2 square feet of surface area. You may need to take out a second mortgage on your house to buy that many worms. If your friend can provide them, take what you can and let them grow into the space you have for them. This may take a couple of years, depending on how many worms you start with.

Once you get established, I think you will be in great shape. You are building a worm paradise.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:16AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


What would you suggest as forms of carbon that break down more rapidly?

The wood chips here due to the heat, moisture and very long growing season seem to go fast. The mulch I put around my fruit trees each winter. In fact just did it yesterday and you can see it around the plum trees in the picture of the mulch pile. 10" of mulch is gone by late summer, well not gone but is soil. I don't know if you would consider that fast break down though.

My native worms are ok I guess but they seem to take a long time to reproduce or perhaps I am just being impatient since you said years. I started by electroshocking the worms up and adding them to the bins. but there was probably only 1000???? put in that long bin I showed.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:46AM
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The wood chips are breaking down faster than I would have expected. Carbon in large amounts can be tough. The things small scale VCers use (shredded paper, etc) don't generally come in large amounts. Use the wood chips, if that is what you have. Sawdust might be better. Or dry leaves. Or some sort of paper waste. If the horses are bedded in straw, grab that with the manure.

The native worms are probably not the best suited for VC. They are probably soil dwelling worms, rather than surface/litter dwelling worms. Get what you can from your friend. The worms will expand. The only reason I am estimating a couple of years is the large amount of volume you want to fill with worms. They should grow pretty quickly in the conditions you are giving them. EFs and PEs both reproduce quickly. But the growth is logarithmic, which means that it will seem slow at first.

1000 worms will take a long time to fill a bin as large as the one under your rabbits. If you have soil dwelling worms, they may never fill it. I can't tell how wide the bin is, but I would guess that 1000 EFs would take almost 2 years to fill just that bin. Once you get to that point, you could take 1/4 of your worms out to start another bin, and in a couple of months you would be back to full capacity. A lot will depend on how many worms you are able to start with.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 12:37PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Thank you that helps a lot.

It is warm here and humid. The trees each have their own spray head so the chips never dry out though have never seen a worm in the chips not that I looked very hard.

The worms in the bins are defiantly soil dwelling. The sand under the manure bins is pretty wet and if you shock it dozens of worms come straight out of the sand. Even the worms in the bin if I pull the hay back and the manure there are no worms in it but are instead in the "soil" under the hay/manure. I will do as you advised and get the manure worms.

The bin in the picture is 3' wide or so.

The horses are bedded in pine shavings..I wish they were bedded in hay but no such luck.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 1:27PM
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Welcome to the forum bamboo rabbit. This is a GREAT first post. It is kinda like a test question for a vermicomposting class final :)

I am an outdoor vermicomposter in zone 9Ca. You have the potential to create a lot of compost and castings.
What are your goals? ie: sell worms? create vermicompost for garden and orchard? sell compost? ect.. Hobby or profession?
How much vermicompost do you want to produce in a day/week/month/ or year?
Is that wormbed under the rabbit cages active? how long since it was used? What is it currently filled with?
Do you currently do traditional compost piles? If not spend some time on the soil/compost/mulch forum. You could/should compost those chips with manures, let it cool and feed it to worms. A tractor would save the back. Wood chips take a little longer to break down than most worm-farmers want to wait so many avoid them. But worms love them and they trap air in the bed. You could sift larger chucks out

I have poor vision and can not ID your worm. I have never ID'ed mine either. I believe most of my herd is native red "manure" worms. They breed and compost my horse and chiken manure quickly. I have about 250sq' of wormbed active. My worms are not as large as yours, but are hard and do a fine "breakdance" when exposed to light. LOL

If you find worms in the compost or manure piles, they are probably composting worms. Those shocked up from deep are likely burrowing worms, better served in the garden.

I have a few ideas for you depending on your goals and how hard you want to work.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 3:03PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


Lets see.....Yes I have a tractor with a front end loader. Not sure how I could exist without it. I get maybe 15 truckloads of chips a year delivered but could get more if I wanted them.

My goals are castings for the many hundreds of fruiting plants I grow and compost to enrich the white sugar sand I live on. The chips help a ton but always looking for new ways to do things. The other purpose and the main purpose of the worms is chicken and duck feed. Have no plans to sell any worms or anything. Almost all of the produce I grow here aside from what the wife and I can eat and the well fed neighbors goes to local churches and food pantries.

I can't answer how much castings I want as I am unsure. Same goes with compost but I am sure I could use all I could produce.

The wormbed is active with the native worms but it sure is not full. If you take a pitchfork down in to the soil you will see maybe 25 worms per fork. It is filled with torn newspaper, cardboard and the top layer is hay and goat manure and of course the rabbits are constantly making their deposits. It has existed since midsummer I guess.

The horse manure is new...that one has me unsure as the pile is probably 90% urine soaked pine shavings and the remaining 10% is actual manure and alfalfa stems.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Tue, Dec 18, 12 at 16:05

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 3:59PM
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tulips101(5a sterling il.)

I was wondering if it would hurt anything if i cosolidated 4 of my tube they each have a little over 1000 red wigglers in then 2 are 10 gallon totes and 2 are 14 gallon totes i was thinking about putting the 10 gallon ones in with the 14 gallon totes. I just would not be able to put all the beddding together or i think it may be to deep of bedding. I would like a opinion if it would be possible you people on this forum have alot more experiance tham i do. Thank you.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 4:14PM
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You can build a bottomless worm bed. All 3 of my beds are open bottom. Two beds have hardware cloth down to prevent mole or gopher intrusion.
A consideration is how are you going to harvest worms for your fowl. I currently have 6 free range chickens and they love to follow me pushing my wheelbarrow of fresh horse manure down to the wormbed. The bed is on top of the ground and covered with a re-purposed 12'x19' carpet. Not many folks use carpet like this, but the fellow who taught me how and gave me a little starter bucket of worms and bedrun, had a 45'x15' wormbed. Anyway it keeps critters out and worms dark and damp, and working on top. When I pull it back to feed, the chickens go nuts. I let them have at it for a few minutes while I dump and spread. I did not allow this until I fully expanded. I use very fresh pure (no bedding) horse manure in this bed and it turns black and unrecognizable in 10 days Also no odor or flies with the carpet method.
You may want to build some type of sifter or worm separator. Lots of ideas on you-tube.
I use a simple method of harvest. I only top-feed my worms and they tend o stay in the top 8" of the bed. I use a pitchfork to remove this 8" and set it aside. All the rest below is dug up and put in a wheelbarrow. I then replace the top 8. I used to sift this material but now I use as is. Dump it on your garden beds and let the chickens spread it looking for dinner!
You could take all that organic matter and compost it first Pretty easy really with a loader. I would probably spread most of the chips as mulch. After your compost cools, use some in the garden an feed some to your worms.

You could also turn those blue barrels into nice systems if you can keep in total shade. It takes very little sun to overheat plastic bins. The more worm systems you start the better. If one system goes bad you have backups. Start small, and learn while they grow. Patience is required!

I hope this ramble helps.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 7:53PM
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tulips I have no experience with small plastic-tote systems. Maybe start a new thread and you will get feedback.

Good luck

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 7:57PM
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bamboo rabbit: Maybe a good way to use your vermicastings for "many hundreds of fruiting plants" is brewing vermicasting tea in a 55 gallon barrel.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 3:45AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I guess I am kind of putting the cart before the horse as I still have not figured out how to raise the worms yet:)

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 7:42AM
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tulips101(5a sterling il.)

I asked a question and was told i should start a new thread and i dont know how to do that so i wanted to know if i would not get any replys anyway.I think the totes work very well in my basement at leaste im still finding out about raaising worms and this is a big help i mainly wanted to know how many red wigglers i can put into a 10 and 14 gallon tote i like these size because there easy for me to manage. Thank you just wanting to learn.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 8:50AM
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Hi bambo rabbit; The worm you have in the pic is probibly a Alabama Jumper (Amynthus Gracilus). They are native to the region you live in. They like organic material that is in the composting mode(lots of microb activity). The only drawback is they breed slower than true composting worms. You might try African Nightcrawlers(Eudrilus eugeniae). This species breeds much faster. It also displays similar behavior to light and disturbances.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 9:05AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


To start a new thread click on the post a message button that the red arrow in the picture is pointing to. It is at the top of the page. Write the threads subject then ask your question and post..easy as can be.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 9:07AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I think you got it, thank you. I googled them and I would be willing to bet you nailed it. These things are so fast and jumpy they are kind of hard to catch as they whipsaw back and forth and literally bounce across the ground.

I will look up the African nightcrawlers. Heck maybe I will try a few different species each in their own barrel and see which do best.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 9:16AM
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Hey Pete;

You wrote: "I use very fresh pure (no bedding) horse manure in this bed and it turns black and unrecognizable in 10 days"
So how do you get around the problem of Worming medicine given to horses, which would kill off your worms. In just about every post I've ever seen on using horse manure (though a great feedstock for worms), they caution against using fresh horse manure, and recommend letting it stand in the open air for at least a month, to allow time for the medicine to dissipate, before using it as feed.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 11:49PM
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Depends on the drug. Ivermectin isn't a worry. I'm not sure about the others, but I'm guessing that they breakdown rather quickly after they leave the horse.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vermicomposting and Horse Manure

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 1:18AM
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bamboo rabbit: Lots of good stuff was posted thus far.

Regarding high Carbon materials. Shredded Newspaper and shredded cardboard are good choices. You can goole composting C:N ratio materials (or something like that and get lots more info. Here's the data from one such site. (I have no idea how to format it, but I think you can follow.)

Sandy loam (fine)




Food scraps


Alfalfa hay


Grass clippings


Rotted manure


Sandy loam (coarse)


Vegetable trimmings


Oak leaves


Leaves, varies from

35:1 to 85:1

Peat moss


Corn stalks




Pine needles

60:1 to 110:1

Farm manure


Alder sawdust


Sawdust weathered 3 years




Douglas fir bark


Sawdust weathered 2 months


Here is a link that might be useful: C:N ratios

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 1:25AM
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tulips101(5a sterling il.)

I was wondering if there are other people that use small totes lie 10 nd 14 gallon totes to raise red wigglers and european night crawlers.I have mine in my basement and was wondering if i should leave lids on all the time or take them of during the day.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 9:07AM
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tulips101(5a sterling il.)

I have been buying my worms that are 3 to 4 days shippin i was wondering if anyone know where ther is a place to buy my worms.I live in northern il. about 50 miles fron Rockford.I worry till they get here safe i know its silly but im really starting to get into this worm raisig im retired and this sure is a good hobby and fishing supplys.please let me know if there are any close i couldnt find any online thank you.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 9:46AM
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Hey bamboo rabbit, I want to make a few more suggestions to help you get started.

  1. Add about 12" of compost or aged manure to each blue 1/2 barrel (placed in the shade). Water this very well and let it sit for a week or so. I like to use breathable "topper" for a lid to help keep in moisture and keep out critters and light. Old carpet, old blankets from the dog house, or burlap work well. Sometimes I mulch the bed heavy with straw or spoiled hay, and then cover this with something like old fence wire to keep the chickens, birds, woodrats, skunks, coons, dogs, cats, and other animals out. An old piece of scrap plywood also works.
  2. Go get some worms from that guy selling from his rabbit run. If you can, buy bedrun. This means you will get worms + their own bedding. It's basically a shovel full from the top of an active wormbed. This should get you off to a great start as it should contain both mature and immature worms, along with cocoons. Maybe put a couple gallons (or about 1 lb of worms) in each barrel. If you just buy worms, a pound of worm mass equals about 1 cup.
    3)After you get each tub going, you should not need to feed for a month or two. Just check on them once in awhile, and keep them damp. When the material in the tub shrinks and turns black, you should start weekly top-feedings. You could feed compost, aged manure, fresh rabbit poop, kitchen scraps, or..... Just feed a little at a time until it gets up to full speed. Observe the worms and bed when you feed
    and you will soon learn what they like.
  3. Worms can tolerate a wide range of moisture levels in a outdoor system. As long as your barrels are well drained you can water them all you want. Just remember any water that goes out the bottom of an outdoor system is lost nutrients from diluted castings. I learned that lesson last year, when I did not harvest the area that I begun my windrow for 18 months and let the rain(40") flow. When I harvested, the tree roots were nearly as thick as a potted plant. The cypress forest is looking great though! Also I do not worry about worms escaping out the bottom. They will not leave unless they need to.
    By springtime you should have all your barrels full. Lessons will be learned and you will have plenty of worms to spread around in your other worm systems. Maybe have a compost windrow ready to be inoculated with your new squirm!

I really like the looks of your rabbit cage wormbed. I was thinking of building something similar. Maybe add some bedrun redworms to it also.

About horse manure. I use fresh and pure, picked up from our paddock and deposited in a wormbed daily. De-wormer is shortlived from what I have read. But if I give the horse deworming meds, I simply compost it's manure for a few days, and not feed it to my worms. Horse manure does not heat up here (mild cool summers) unless it is mixed with bedding, like the stuff you got from the stalls. Hot composting manure reduces pothogens and kills the hay seeds in horse manure, But once it dries out it is hard to rewet for the worms. I add no water, and putting in the bed daily greatly reduces odors and flies! I let the worms take care of the pathogens (some studies suggest this) and pull the few sprouts that show up.

Larry and Shaul, it is great to see you guys up on the board and posting! I have enjoyed reading your posts in the past and look forward to more.

I hope this is useful. Just a rainy day ramble from the northern California coast Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 1:42PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I just started the compost pile today....I layered horse manure and pine bedding with woodchips and poultry manure a few times and watered well. Will see if it heats up but I think it should ........but for now I have no aged compost or aged manure......I have a lot of fresh rabbit manure? I have newspaper? I have a shredder. I do have rich sandy soil. The bins will have mist heads on a timer so should stay damp. Can I use the ingredients above to get the worms started while I wait for the compost?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 6:05PM
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Wow, great job with the new pile! How big is it? You need mass for it to get hot. Hopefully you made a BIG heap. I love composting and notice that native redworms, sometimes many, just show up and take over as the pile cools. I have also seen them up in quite warm compost when turning the pile. The pre-composting in a hot pile should only take 3-4 weeks.

Compost or aged horse manure make great bedding. It is also food for them. Generally a safe starting medium. I have read fresh rabbit manure would make great topfeed, I would not use as bedding. I do not use newsprint due to clumping. I much prefer thick corrugated cardboard or straw.. Leaves are also great. Cardboard is another great topper.

It is up to you, but I would wait for the compost before spending to much. Lots of ways to start, but worms don't like their environment and feedstock changing much.

Also, I do not live in a hot area, but I do not, or very rarely water my worms. Make sure you have LOTS of big drainage holes in the bottom of those barrels. And just to be clear, soil is not usually added to worm bins, just organic matter.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 7:52PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


The pile is pushing 5 feet tall and probably 15 feet across, is that big enough?

On the rabbit manure...I thought people raised the worms directly under the rabbit pens?

So just dried leaves that have been shredded with like a lawn mower would work well?

The misters don't put out a lot of water just keep the humidity high and the surface damp. But I will be sure to take your advice and make sure I am not adding too much water.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Thu, Dec 20, 12 at 20:29

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 8:27PM
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That pile is plenty big. Nice to have a tractor! If you mixed it good and got it damp enough, you should feel the heat in a few days.

Rabbit manure dropping into an established open bottom wormbed is quite different than starting a new closed-in system with no escape route, a bin with just paper and fresh manure for bedding. I am just trying to be safe with my advice.

I don't have many leaves to use, but they are said to be great high-carbon bedding. Dried and shredded sounds good. I would certainly use them. Also they are a great addition to the compost pile.

It might be wise to practice with some worms in a plastic bucket. Like your barrels only smaller.

I know this may be confusing at first. Outdoor open-bottom vermicomposting in zone 9 should be EZ! Once established, they are tough and forgiving.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 9:24PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I put my hand in the pile today and it is pretty hot. On the bedding I also have an almost full bucket of coffee grounds, can I use those?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 12:57PM
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Coffee grounds should be thought of as food, not bedding. They are high in nitrogen.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 9:02PM
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Hi Pete;

You wrote: "Larry and Shaul, it is great to see you guys up on the board and posting! I have enjoyed reading your posts in the past and look forward to more".
Thanks for your words of encouragement. This thread has been a great learning experience and I for one, have benefited by it.
Now, whenever I hear someone talking about moisture levels in a bin, and saying that 'it should be no wetter than a wrung-out sponge' or that 'you should only be able to squeeze 2 or 3 drops from it'; well naturally, it can only be about a closed system with no drainage (like what I myself have), because in an open system or in a bin with holes in the bottom, the moisture levels would self-regulate as the excess liquid drained away. Now when I make my oft-heard statement that 'EF's can live in up to 90% moisture' here's where I get my sources:
This is a link to the website of Jorge Dominguez, a research scientist in the field of Earthworm Biology.
At the site, under the heading 'Publications', can be found articles (many of them viewable), dating back to 1995.
In the Journal: Soil Zoology for Sustainable Development in the 21st Century S.H. Shakir Hanna and W.Z.A. Mikhail, eds, Cairo 2004... he published an article entitled 'Vermicomposting Organic Wastes - a Review'.
Here is the Title page:

  1. Vermicomposting Organic Wastes: A Review
    Jorge Dominguez1 and Clive A. Edwards2
    'Departamento de Ecoloxia e Bioloxia Animal, Universidade de Vigo, E-36200 Spain 2Soil Ecology Laboratory, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
    The importance of biological processes in the management of organic wastes has been widely recognized and this Chapter deals with one of the most efficient methods for converting solid organic materials into environmentally-friendly useful and valuable products. Vermicomposting is an accelerated process of bio-oxidation and stabilization of organic wastes involving interactions between earthworms and microorganisms. Earthworms, the main characters of this process, are described briefly, showing how these animals can be important organic waste decomposers and converters. The different earthworm species that are suitable for vermicomposting have quite different requirements for their optimal development, growth and productivity in organic wastes and we review the life cycles of these species and the general requirements of ideal vermicomposting earthworm species. Vermicomposting is a complex biological and ecological process and to illustrate some of the important physical, chemical and biological transformations occurring during it, we present a case study. Although earthworms are critical for the process, in vermicomposting, complex interactions between the organic matter, microorganisms, earthworms and other soil invertebrates result in the fragmentation, bio-oxidation and stabilization of organic matter. The vermicomposting system sustains complex food webs, and at the same time, modifies different chemical forms of several nutrient elements into inorganic compounds readily available to plants, which are important for nutrient dynamics.

On pg. 11 of the article (pg. 379 of the Journal), under the heading 'Moisture' it reads:
Moisture Content
There is a relationship between the moisture content in organic wastes and the growth rate of earthworms. In vermicomposting systems, the optimum range of moisture contents has been reported to be between 50 to 90 %.
E. fetida can survive in moisture ranges between 50 and 90 % (Edwards 1988, and Sims and Gerard 1985), but grows more rapidly between 80 and 90 % in animal wastes (Edwards 1988). Reinecke and Venter(1985) reported that the optimum moisture content for E. fetida was above 70 % in cow manure, but E. andrei cultured in pig manure grew and matured best between 65 and 90% moisture content, with 85 % being the optimum (Figure 4) (Dominguez and Edwards1997). According to Reinecke and Venter (1985), it seems likely that a lowering of the growth rate due to low moisture conditions can also retard sexual development so that earthworms of the same age could develop clitella at different times under different moisture conditions.

I would suggest reading the entire article, it is quite enlightening.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:27AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Food rich bedding poor.......

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Great job on that compost pile. I am sure it will be excellent for worms and your garden. With your material and a tractor you should keep on composting more piles.

As for coffee grounds, I get big bags from a local coffee house, filters and all. I use in my compost, my garden beds in the winter or feed worms with it. I treat it more as a food I topfeed with rather than bedding. It will heat up some. Until you get your bed established, you should precompost most everything. Starting a new system is hard and where most mistakes are made. You will have LOTS of bedding when your compost is done.

Remember, patience is key! Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:09PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I will keep making the piles, had two more truckloads of woodchips delivered yesterday. I will make them in layers as I get the horse manure.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:31PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

The pile is smoking this cold morning so must be heating up.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 9:51AM
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Get a compost thermometer and take it's temperature. One reading in the middle, other readings around the periphery.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:08PM
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That is why you need to establish a wormbed before adding too much uncomposted material. If you had a in-ground wormbed below this pile, the worms would simply go down and cool off until The pile cools a little. If this heat was generated in a smaller plastic closed-in system, the worms would cook or leave.

I love my new compost thermometer. When your pile starts to cool you should mix it up again and add water if needed. This gets the stuff around the edges mixed in and cooking too. After that when it cools it is worm food! Look under your pile when you are done for native volunteers.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:00PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Jerilyn & Pete,

Will look for a compost thermometer.....must be pretty darn long if it reaches the center of the pile.

Will pick up another truck load of horse bedding/manure tomorrow. I assume I don't add it to this pile but instead start a new pile with it.

This post was edited by bamboo_rabbit on Sun, Dec 23, 12 at 14:50

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 2:21PM
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Here's a 20.3 inch one at Amazon for $9.47. Measures from 30F to 200F

Here is a link that might be useful: Cheap Compost Thermometer

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:25PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

I picked up a digital probe thermometer and the pile reads 128.2 degrees. I can't get all the way to the center but pulled back some material and stuck the probe in as deep as I could. I know I want 150 degrees so the pile is not hot enough...any way to make it hotter?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 8:39AM
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Piss on it ? LOL.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:09PM
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Ok, bamboo_rabbit, I'm confused, in the original post you said you had a 25 foot worm bed under a run of rabbit cages.

What is the temperature of that?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 11:07PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


What is confusing? I will measure it but would imagine it is just ground temp as there are not many worms in it. They are just the native worms which I guess are Alabama jumpers.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 7:27AM
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tulips101(5a sterling il.)

I have a ph meter but keeps staying at 7 i think its off is there a way to test them i tryed distilled water and it was 7 and only moved a hair for vinager. Could someone tell me a acurate meter that dont cost a arm and leg.Even if you know the brand and not the price that would help alot thank you.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:52PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


The wormbed temp is 65.4

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 5:53PM
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""distilled water and it was 7 and only moved a hair for vinager."" Yes, same here, even less than a hair. So I don't bother anymore. I bought it when I still had orchids.
You could try to get litmus paper or that aquarium kit. But trust me, once you've been vermicomposting a bit longer, you can make do w/o it.
In my case, if I have lots of mites >>> too wet & prolly too acidic >>> add crushed/powdered eggshells & bedding. If the eggshells still show after a week or so, >>> pH is fine, just too wet. I don't spend $$$ on stuff I or the worms don't really need.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 6:29PM
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This thread is fascinating reading. I'm going to clip it.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 8:11AM
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"mendopete: I love my new compost thermometer." This is a great new tool for the vernmicomposter. As we have vermicomposters who measure this aspect of vermicomposting add posts to the forum we will learn tons. Maybe the old thymers instinctively knew what we need to use tools to double check.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 3:02AM
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