Hooray! I have a happy bin!

melenkoleeDecember 22, 2009

Just did a nice thorough rustling of the bin today (after about 6 weeks of *mostly* hands off...dang that's hard to do!) and found not only happy worms chomping away at food corners and bedding, but tons of babies and cocoons! (right word? all i know is it means more babies...) I got brave a couple weeks ago and dumped instead of 1 cup of pre-frozen veggies, a total of 3 cups of veggies in one corner and about a cup of gone-over spring mix in another corner. Thought for a couple days I'd over-done it, but it turns out that broccoli WILL stink for a couple days, but it was only noticeable when I actually stuck my nose in the bin (yeah, that happens every few days, but I don't touch...much...). With the exception of the cherry tomato skins, IT IS ALL GONE! I'm pleased to report that my beginning stash of about 1000 worms in an 18 gallon tote seems to have MAGNIFIED in size! Every handful I lifted was squirming with wormy happiness, with worms of all sizes and babies to be! I know to you "old-schoolers" (don't be offended, it's meant with great respect) are probably thinking I'm silly, but it's really cool that our little project is doing so well. We have you experienced folks to thank for it!

Now I'm faced with a dilemma. Should I add more bedding and kitchen waste, or should i get another bin drilled to stack on top, let them finish the bottom and start encouraging them to migrate up? I'd say the bottom half of 6" is processed (nice and fluffy!), with another 3" of cardboard/newspaper bedding on top. Or should I stop feeding for awhile, let them get a better lead on the remaining bedding and THEN start the upper bin? I'd rather not have to sift chunks of bedding out of finished castings - at this point it looks like a laborious task. I *could* take off the top layer of bedding and move it to an upper bin, but not feed until they finish the nearly processed goods, right?

I'm totally geeking out at the idea of my first harvest! The way things are going, the kitchen waste produced by just my son and I is going to have a hard time keeping up with the worms' diet! Glad we have a "pre-composter" that we started at the same time as the bin :)

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Katxena(z7 MD)

Congratulations! It's so cool when a worm bin works out. It sounds like yours is operating beautifully.

I'll leave it to others who are more experienced with your type of bin (I have a Worm Factory) to answer your questions, but I wanted to share a bit of your excitement. Worms rock!!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:20AM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

I always enjoy hearing people get pumped up about their squirms. Congrats on your success. Although you can add a 2nd bin now if you choose, it also wouldn't hurt to get a bit more depth. 6 weeks is still pretty early in the progression of a stackable bin system. Either way you'll have worms in both levels for quite some time.

Good decision to pre-compost. Keep up the good work.

Andrew in Berkeley

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:42AM
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Keep in mind that as material is composted it's volume shrinks (worms eat some, bacteria and microbes eat some, water leaches out or evaporates, etc.) so the amount of material you see there today (assuming you don't add more) will be less as time goes on. Also, by adding another bin you may "split the herd" and have half in one and half in the other. The total amount they will eat is the same but it might appear that each bin has slowed down some. Personal preference really, both ideas you mentioned can work. There are good practices and bad practices that you should learn / read about, but there is also a pretty wide margin for error.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:15AM
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The bin has actually been up and running since August, I've just managed to stop digging around in it on a daily basis for the past 6 weeks, lol...

There is still plenty of space in there for them, so maybe I need to just give it another 3 months or so and then work on getting everyone to move to an upper bin. I can sift out some castings for my house plants if I really get antsy. I was just amazed to see that after such a relatively short period of time, they'd turned half the bedding into black gold, AND kept up with what by all rights could have been an over-feeding!

Also, we started the worm bin at the same time as a few other "free turtle food" experiments that went horribly wrong. Apparently I have no skills at keeping slugs, breeding wax worms and keeping crickets alive long enough to get Sheldon's attention. Oh well, you don't learn if you don't try right?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 8:40AM
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I have a system that is similar to yours. Unless you want to have finished castings in time for spring planting, I would add more bedding to this bin. I harvest when the bedding is about 8 inches high, and most of it has been pretty thoroughly worked. That means stop feeding for a couple of weeks, then add another bin on top. The longer you allow for the worms to move up, the better your castings will be and the fewer worms you have to sort out. I would allow 3 months for the worms to migrate up. In that time, pretty much anything in the lower bin will be eaten, and almost all of the worms will have moved up.

In 3 months time, the volume in the lower bin will be about 1/2 of what it is now. The castings in the lower bin will be very wet, since all of the leachate from the upper bin will run through the lower bin.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 9:46AM
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    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 2:54PM
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Ya know, everybody talks about getting leachate, and my drilled bin is on top of a solid bin just in case...but I've never had a drop! The bedding stays moist, but not enough to squeeze any excess out and I mist maybe once or twice a week if the upper bedding seems dry.

Have I just found the right balance, or should I expect some amount of leachate?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 3:49PM
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My guess is that you have found the right balance. Or maybe you are running just a bit dry.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 4:43PM
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Melenkolee, I believe you have found the holy grail of plastic bin wormery-ing! (well, by goal anyway! lol)

I try to manage my plastic bins to have almost no liquid coming out by adding the required amount of dry bedding material at feeding time (if required based on moisture content).

Nice job!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 6:23PM
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Thanks! And let me add, my happy bin is the result of searching and reading every thread on this forum for months before even starting, which has helped me to avoid many of the common newbie mistakes. I hope the recent "drama?" "distraction?" lets up soon. The party seems to have plenty of information to provide, but unfortunately chosen to use impolite methods. I am new, and feel my posts are made after much research. Sometimes direct verification from the experts is more reassuring than anything and I hope this person can understand this and either exhibit better manners or move along.

And that's all I have to say about that :)

Happy worming!!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 7:21PM
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