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Worm Farm Questions

Posted by rozj NSW (My Page) on
Wed, Jan 2, 13 at 6:18

I was given my Christmas present early (in November :P). I got a three tier Worm Cafe (tumbleweed), a blanket and, a box of 500 worms. I set it up straight away and let the worms settle in the coconut fibre bedding for a few days before starting to add my kitchen scraps. My worm cafe lives outside in shade.
Overall everything is going well. I flush it out with a few litres of water once a week and collect and dilute the tea for my garden and it keeps the tray damp for the rest of the week. They seem efficient enough but I do want to get more worms.

I have a few questions though. I have put ice cream containers under each leg and fill them with water daily and yet I still seem to get ants in there. Not many at all but they're annoying me. I don't know if they're helping or hindering or if the worms are ok with them being in there. What else can I do to get rid of them or should I even bother?

I've noticed little black egg pods about the size of a pea but oval in shape. The ones I've found have all hatched so I'm not sure what has come out of them. Any ideas? Are they good or bad?

I also have quite a few tiny white mites in there. Once again, should I be getting rid of them or not worrying about them?

Lastly, I'm almost up to setting up my second tray. I'm thinking of using shredded newspaper and some of my dogs' fur mixed with the hessian they shake off their bed when getting comfortable. Should I also add some of the castings from the previous tray or some organic dirt? Or will the bedding mentioned and kitchen scraps be enough under the blanket to attract the worms to the second tray?

Looking forward to your replies! Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Worm Farm Questions

  • Posted by gerris2 Zone 7a Delaware (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 2, 13 at 7:47

The black pods may be worm cocoons, that's a good thing to have.

I think you can live with the mites. If they really bug maybe as an experiment you can try a light application of diatomaceous earth as an experiment to kill them. Mites are a part of the composting ecosystem, however.

You can try the shredded newspaper and dog fur in a part of the tray to see if the worms go for it?

Adding some soil is something folks recommend but I have not done it in my bin. The worms seemed to do fine without the soil or dirt.

It sounds like you're doing well and your worms are happy. The best advice I can give is to go slow on feeding them table scraps and to not overload their world with too much food.

Have fun and welcome!

Joseph


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

> I set it up straight away and let the worms settle in the coconut fibre
> bedding for a few days before starting to add my kitchen scraps.

You did that backwards, but at this point, it doesn't matter. For those setting up a new bin, food should go in a few days before the worms arrive.


> I flush it out with a few litres of water once a week and collect and
> dilute the tea

And the worms are OK with that? That isn't something I would recommend.

> I do want to get more worms.

If you do things right, the worms will increase on their own. You really shouldn't need to be buying more worms at this point.

> I have put ice cream containers under each leg and fill them with
> water daily and yet I still seem to get ants in there. Not many
> at all but they're annoying me. I don't know if they're helping
> or hindering or if the worms are ok with them being in there.
> What else can I do to get rid of them or should I even bother?

A few ants are mostly a nuisance to you, not the worms. Somewhere, buried deep in one of the worm forums is a formula for ant poison that can be put in shallow cans and placed in the bin, but I don't know where it is, and I can't remember the formula.

> I also have quite a few tiny white mites in there. Once again,
> should I be getting rid of them or not worrying about them?

Mites are normal in a worm bin. They are part of the decomposition process and nearly impossible to control.

> Lastly, I'm almost up to setting up my second tray. I'm thinking
> of using shredded newspaper and some of my dogs' fur mixed with
> the hessian they shake off their bed when getting comfortable.

Dog fur does not make good bedding. It breaks down far too slowly in the bin.

> Should I also add some of the castings from the previous tray

There is no need to do that. Just make sure the bottom of the upper tray rests directly on the surface of the bedding in the lower tray.

> or some organic dirt?

No.

> Or will the bedding mentioned and kitchen scraps be enough
> under the blanket to attract the worms to the second tray?

The bedding and kitchen scraps will be enough.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Did you add a drop or two of liquid detergent to the water for the bin's legs? That will break the surface tension of the water and the ants will/should drown.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

I agree with all of the above. My two cents:

"I flush it out with a few litres of water once a week and collect and dilute the tea" Although some sites online refer to what drips out of the bottom of a vermicompost bin as worm tea it is actually leachate and may or may not be good for plants. A few posters follow the regimine of adding a lot of extra water and collecting it. Some even use this as a method of harvesting. I am sure they will chime in. It works well for them in their system. Technically what many here mean when they refer to worm tea is a different product. Vermicastings are placed into good water and aerated for 8 to 48 hours. This is thought to increase the good living things in the castings many, many times. This is strained and sprayed onto foliage. Very effective results is said to occur. This is maybe getting the most bang for the buck out of our valuable vermicastings. Just wanted to let you know the two versions of the word tea you may run into on the board. Most feel that practically the definition of a well running bin is that no leachate ever drains out of the bottom of the vermicompost bin despite having drains or holes in the bottom. Others use what may happen to drain to fall onto shredded cardboard or other dry bedding. This preseeds the bedding with bacteria. This bedding can then be used when starting a new layer or bin and fresh bedding is placed ready to catch more drips. That is more than I wanted to say and probably more than you wanted to hear. People have different definitions of "worm tea".

"I do want to get more worms." Match this up with "Overall everything is going well." Read through the archives. Everybody starts out doing well with the bin. Everybody wants more worms. Everybody feeds well. Everybody on the board (except a few) has had the whole bin die. Dead worms smell real bad. Better to have a small amount die then a large amount.

"I have put ice cream containers" With four legs thus four haagen dazs flavors to choose from I would be there too. :-) Try spinach containers. The idea is to not have the ants nest in there. Unknown if that would actually be a good thing.

"little black egg pods about the size of a pea but oval in shape". I do not know. "The ones I've found have all hatched" *makes scrunched up face* "so I'm not sure what has come out of them" Me either. "Any ideas?" None I want to scare you with. "Are they good or bad?" I want to know, too. *face still scrunched up*

"I also have quite a few tiny white mites in there. Once again, should I be getting rid of them or not worrying about them?" You should be learning to love them because they are doing a lot of work for you. They are your minions. Select a proper name for them to refer to you by. -Oh great one who provides food.- -One who lifts the lid daily and lets in the light- -One most handsome or beautiful as the case may be-.

"Lastly, I'm almost up to setting up my second tray. I'm thinking of using shredded newspaper and some of my dogs' fur mixed with the hessian" By hessian I take it you mean the cloth not the barley midge. Use only the amount of hair you want to see in the finished castings. Do not sell me vermicastings with hair in. Maybe a good use for the hair is to let it go into the woodsy area of your property. I always hope birds use hair for nests. It may be just a wishful dream of mine. Many, many, many vermicomposters use shredded newspapers in their bins. It is what most all of us started out using. At least it is better than office paper. *cough* ducking so the shredded office paper constituent can not get me with their spit balls. Some of us are huge fans of cardboard coffee trays and egg cartons. Others of us like cardboard. Cardboard can by the way mean waaaaaay various things to various people. I wish they would specify exactly which type of cardboard they mean when posting. Corrugated cardboard has the advantage of all those way fantastic, super handy, valuable, air holes. Plus it has a stability which does not collapse letting in air. Shirt cardboard is another type. Some is printed such as cereal boxes. When people say they shred cardboard in their shredders I an always unsure which type of cardboard they mean. Apparently corrugated cardboard can shred in a home shredder. Magazines I do not think I have ever heard anybody say they use this for their special vintage vermicompost. Vermicompost is a bit like fine wine in many respects. Heavy metal and slick unfriendly to taste pages is probably the reason. I mean which would you rather eat?

Actually it is not the worms that eat these things. For the most part it is the microbes. Then the worms eat the microbes. Just sayin.

"some organic dirt?" Do you live in Antarctica and own a refrigerator? *raises eyebrow* Don't let anybody tell you organic dirt is anything better than you can find in the most wild area of your own back yard or nature walk area. Any non contaminated, wild, foresty, full of life area is where you want to get your spoonful of soil from. Look for the area with the most things happening. Look for an area with bugs. You want the unseen microbes that are there. Do not keep the soil in a hot car in a plastic bag. Soil is a living substance much as vermicastings are. This is the mother ferment you are inoculating your brew of carefully chosen ingredients with.

"under the blanket" Stage right, to Linus: We're not going to pay a lot when we need to replace that, right?

"to attract the worms to the second tray?" If you figure out how to get that to happen let us know. Title the post "Eurika!" Those of us who have tray systems (not I) have as of yet not purchased any of those new fangled "reading worms". Those are the worms that read and most importantly follow the directions that come with the commercial $$ tray systems. Not that their cousins in the homemade tray systems read any better. Until that happens we have discovered many different methods of how not to get the worms to climb up into the second tray. Many of us vermicomposters have however excelled in "How to get our worms to crawl down into the drain tray and drown."

Looking forward to your replies!


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

  • Posted by gerris2 Zone 7a Delaware (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 7:37

I bet we have you very confused by now. Hahahaha


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

The worms WILL crawl up. They will. Most of them will. There will always be a few stragglers who, for some unknown reason, prefer to stay in the lower tray.

As for cardboard, anything that resembles cardboard and is not printed with a slick finish. Mostly corrugated. It will go through your paper shredder if the shredder is strong enough, and you rip it into narrowish strips. Weaker shredders will eventually burn out.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

eq-eq: all true except maybe this:
""Actually it is not the worms that eat these things. For the most part it is the microbes. Then the worms eat the microbes. Just sayin.""
Here's a wonderful video to watch >> http://vermicomposters.ning.com/video/worms-at-the-trough
As a personal experience, at one time I didn't add food scraps to a bin because I was going to harvest the VC and covered the bin just with the several layers of soaked newspaper sheets. After about 2 weeks or so I found a lot of castings in the colour of newspaper pulp. I am sure those were worms castings although of a different colour as the usual but they're of the same shape, lol.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

  • Posted by rozj none (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 15:50

Oh my! Confused? That's an understatement! So I've read in other places the worms eat hair and fur! Using it as bedding I thought would give it the most time to be eaten! Maybe not...

Please also don't think that I'm drowning my worms! The water drains right out and the moisture left behind is good to keep in damp so I don't have to spray it during the week.

I actually live on the Central Coast of NSW Australia. Plenty of bush and water around.

I had hopes of my little cafe consuming all of my household scraps (including those from my fur babies but limited to hair only). Hence the reason for getting more worms.

It is quite a little Eco system in there and to be honest I'm quite proud of it! Although some of you are causing me doubts. Thank you for your ideas and I've definitely taken them on board confusion and all!


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

  • Posted by gerris2 Zone 7a Delaware (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 17:05

Don't give up, that's the important thing.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Posted by rozj none (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 3, 13 at 15:50

Oh my! Confused? That's an understatement! So I've read in other places the worms eat hair and fur! Using it as bedding I thought would give it the most time to be eaten! Maybe not...
---------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------

Worms do eat hair and fur and feathers.....eventually. The thing is that most of us don't want to wait long enough for 'eventually' to happen. If you use any of that stuff, it's considered food, not bedding. Bedding is composed of high carbon materials, food is composed of high nitrogen materials. Fur, hair, feathers are high nitrogen, hence food.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

"drowning my worms" worms can live underwater as long as that water has a high enough oxygen content.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

I too am rooting for the "little Eco system".

"So I've read in other places the worms eat hair and fur!" Stop hanging around those "other places". Ask them for their scientific journal links. I can not read this with out thinking that most people use mega shampoo and chemicals on their hair. If the hair donor uses non chemical hair cleaners on hair and pets then fine. Use it. Chances of that are less than one in 1,000. Hair will take waaaaay longer to breakdown than many things in a worm bin. It is unappetizing to see. Pulling a radish out of the ground two months from now may also unearth a hair ball wrapped around it. My family uses no chemical stronger than vinegar on our never ever even cut, many since since birth, even the boys and men, hair. No dye, curl, straighten, highlight, ever. This is hair with zero chemicals and we still do not use it in the worm bin.

I am also not a fan of the vacuum cleaner bag or dryer lint due to polyester or non natural fiber material being used in the bin unless a natural fiber not a polyester carpet.

Some plastic bags are claimed to be biodegradeable. I think that only means the plastic breaks down into wee tiny pieces. Not good for the wee beasties.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

I'm glad I found this post! I'm about to start my first worm farm. This has been quite informative and a little entertaining too.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

MMM - 10 days in and our worms don't seem to want to eat our scraps.
We bought a Worm Cafe, with about 1000 worms (I think). Followed the instructions transferring them in their bed and adding the bedding block (after soaking and breaking up), plus some slightly damp newspaper over the top. The worms seem happy enough, although I can't actually see that many of them to be fair. Feeding them vegetables to date, plus some egg shells - nothing controversial. Is it possible they are still happily munching the food they came with? Is it possible that we just didn't get as many worms as we should have. FYI - the Cafe is in the shade, it is winter in Sydney, but I would imagine the coldest it gets to at night would be about 10C/50F - which I presume is mild by some standards. Any thoughts?


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

A few observations:

First, if you want to start a new discussion, it is really better to start a new thread rather than piggy back on one that is almost 2 years old.

Second, 50F is cold. This could be slowing things down.

Third, it takes a while for a worm bin to get established. Think months. 10 days is not long enough for things to really get going, especially in 50F temperatures. You need a very healthy microherd, and this does not happen overnight. Well, it COULD happen overnight, but if you do that, your bin will heat up and kill your worms. Temps should be warming up soon, and your microherd will grow. Give it time.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Thanks sbryce - point taken about the old thread.
Yep, 50F is cold. Last night it got down to 12C/54C, and days are only getting to 17C/63F - but as you suggest temps will go up soon.
From the above thread it just sounded like most people had their worms chomping away immediately - so good to hear that my little family are probably doing OK.
Cheers for your help.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Welcome Aussie from Oz!

I have only limited experience, but that experience is in Alaska, so I am 'sensitive' to temperature issues with worms.

As sbryce pointed out, the PRIMARY issue is really just TIME. Even at an ideal temp of 70F/21C, I would expect it to take monthS - PLURAL - for "things" to get "cooking" worm-wise in your bins. (My bins are at 72F and it was AT LEAST 3 months before they started showing signs of "increase".) I have found that reported "doubling" times AND how much compost worms - like Eisenia fetida - eat per unit time are GREATLY exaggerated by those who would part one from one's money.

"Keep on truckin' " as we used to say in the '60s when we were encouraging people to stick with something.

I have only one 'thing' to add: others with far more experience than I recommend "LEAVE THEM ALONE". I would add my limited-experience voice to theirs in that recommendation.

Paul


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

So glad to find this site; new to blogging, so please excuse any errors. I am in Detroit and am planning an outdoor worm farm. I have an area 4x4 ft, using 2x2 at a time. I have cinderblocks 8" high, have dug down in the ground 3-4" deep. Making a bed of newspapers and cardboard. Plan on adding newspaper, cardboard, leaves, grass clippings to keep my worms warm. Is this a realistic plan to keep my worms alive all winter?


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Wow! Quite the project mittengirl.

I would recommend that you copy your post above, and start a new thread. That way people here can, 1) address your issues specifically, and 2) FIND your thread to respond to it,

Here is a thread I started about an outdoor worm farm. http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/verm/msg0515144216774.html?27 From it you may find connections with other folks here at the vermicomposting forum.

I THINK your setup will keep worms alive over winter, but you are far enough north that maybe only actual doing will reveal reality.

Paul


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Gidday Paul
Worming in Alaska? Wow! I can imagine the time you must spend just knitting all the little critters scarves, let alone finding them tucker! Well done!
Thanks for your input. I will, as you say, leave them alone and keep on truckin!


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Mittengirl:

See Design an Outdoor Bin thread. Consider copying & pasting your post there. We're trying for some coherence without being bossy.

My outdoor bin is an experiment.

Paul and Mendopete have posted reports on their outdoor bins.
You might try searching for their posts, also. Try "Worm Cage Success " in the search box (bottom of page).

If we can figure out how to do it, we'll write a "Mother Lode" thread and keep it high on the list. It may have a subject such as opinions from experience for beginners.


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RE: Worm Farm Questions

Redrhino, you have been given very good advice. Sydney climate is similar to mine. Things slow in the winter and will pick up soon. Veggie scraps need to age a little before the worms get in them. Keep your bin out of the sun, as plastic bins heat up quite quickly.

Mittengirl, I am a pc dummy. Don't know how to cut and paste.You will do fine here. Go the main gardenweb vermicomposting page and click on "post a new message". It is above the word vermicomposting. Ask your questions.
Your worm farm sounds interesting. Please tell us more and you will get better responses. Please include when you plan to start, if your bin is already built, sun or shade, lid?, how many worms you will start with and your goals.
Established, deep beds are overwintered in cold climates.

Welcome to the forum. Good luck and happy wormin'

Pete


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