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Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

Posted by Worms4Tracy 9 CA (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 27, 12 at 3:07

Very excited about harvesting beautiful compost today - four FT composters (one 50-gallon Rubbermaid wheeled bin) and three funnel-shaped composters made out of fabric (a la Worm Inn). They were all getting so full that I was having a hard time fitting food in, so I decided to harvest. Here's a few tricks I learned.

In harvesting the Rubbermaid lidded FT, I found that the compost coming out the bottom was really, really wet and gloppy. It took quite a while to keep kicking the bin, twisting the blades at the bottom, and hand-scraping the stuff out, but all in all I got about 15-20 gallons of beautiful, rich, dark brown compost that was relatively free of eggs and worms.

Tip/Trick: In the past I've put that into an open, shallow bin to dry out a bit before I sieved it, but that was problematic for a couple reasons. First, it got real, real clumpy. Second, it took forever to dry out (4 + weeks). The lengthy drying time started to worry me because there were still worms in there and I was afraid they would starve. What I have tried - and it worked! - was to mix all that glop with a ton of dry bedding and let it sit for 48 hours. The dry bedding absorbed the bulk of the moisture (without drying out the worms) and within a couple of days it was dry enough to sieve. All the finished compost came out through the sieve, leaving perfectly dampened - and INOCULATED!! - bedding, the remaining worms (unharmed), cocoons, and unfinished food. I use this mixture to jump-start new bins.

For the fabric funnel FT composters, I noticed last time that it was hard to get the compost out because it was so dry and hard on the bottom and on the sides. It came out in hard clumps. This time, I noticed the bins were getting dry so I wet them down with a lot of water a couple of times last week. This week I noticed they were getting really full and heavy, so I decided to harvest. I opened the bottom and between 5-10 gallons of damp, fluffy compost came flowing out the bottom of each of the three funnels. I used my fist to sort of punch around the bottom/sides to loosen things up a bit, but it only took a few minutes and I had perfect compost ready to be sieved. I kinda reminded me of dry rolled oats flowing out of the bulk bins at supermarkets. Again, beautiful, fluffy, dark brown, rich, mostly worm- and cocoon-free, barely damp compost. I think that timing it by drenching down the compost (which loosened and separated it) and then letting it dry just enough before harvest really did the trick. This time I did it by accident, but next time I'll definitely try drenching the bin a week or so before harvest to shoot for the same results.

So in the next couple of days I'll run all of this compost (compost plus bedding filled two 45-gallon Rubbermaid tubs to overflowing) through my 1/8" mesh harvester and then probably start 3-4 new bins, which are desperately needed as all the bins I started this way in December are now squirming with worms and burning through food at an amazing rate.

Just thought I'd share what worked for me. I hope that people will take from this what works for them and let us know what other handy trick they've learned.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

Hehe, yeah the inns can be a bit tricky. I have a feeling that due to the size of your monster inns, it probably gets dryer at the sides and bottom compared to the active center and top as there's so much volume. With the regular inns, as you have to water more (like how kids get colder quicker than adults) and stuff in general is always closer to the top where the moisture is, it doesn't get so much that way. I've gotten those VC nuggets but always at the sides, bottom is always moist.

I've gone the other way, when it was a bit wet and it was a bit compacted and ending up a bit like toothpaste coming out. Have to hit that middle ground hehe. You can also squeeze them to get things flowing, takes quite a bit of strength though. As mine sits low, I put my knee into the side and pull it into that. Once the mass breaks it can really come out in a hurry though lol.

If you have a cloth hatch at the bottom of your inn, you can feel for moisture with your hand without opening it, if you want to try keeping it always a bit moist while the inn is running. Should feel cooler, touch of dampness and always have some give to it.

Happy to hear the home made inns worked out :)


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

Nice, Tracy.

What do you use as a food source for all those worms?


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

I add peat moss to help absorb some of the moisture. I don't have a FT yet, still using a plastic rubbermaid type tote. I push the finished compost to one half of the bin and mix with some peat moss. I then add new bedding and pumpkin puree to the other half of the bin to try and attract most of the worms away from the finished compost and peat moss. The peat moss makes the finished compost slightly acidic, which also helps draw the worms to the new bedding. Works pretty well as long as you don't mind using VC with peat moss. Takes about 2 weeks for the worms to migrate to the new bedding. As expected, there's always some worms remaining, but it does help.


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

compost1311: Do you use shredded newspaper/corr. cardb./cardb. at all?


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

Jerilynn, I use our own household scraps, plus the green waste from a local cafe that makes sandwiches and fruit cups, as well as from an Indian-Nepalese restaurant. I was also collecting from a cafe that would give me about 10 gallons of used coffee grounds every day, but that was causing issues, so now I'm down to just the two. Between the two of them, I get approximately 25 gallons and 50 pounds of food per day for the worms. These are composed of:

Cafe:
lots and lots of lettuce
tomatoes
onions
melon rinds
strawberry hulls
stale bread
coffee grounds and filters

Indian-Nepalese Restaurant:
lots and lots of onion and garlic peels
carrot peels
cucumber peels and cores
cooked chick peas and lentils
spiced cooked potatoes
cooked rice
bread dough
tomatoes
cilantro
other veggies


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

WOW! Very nice harvest. With the menu listed, them should be REAL happy worms....they eat better than me ;)

A couple of questions. I have a bunch of vc to dry out. What type of bedding did you mix in? Also, do you precompost all that food prior to feeding it?

Pete


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RE: Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned

Hi Pete -

The bedding I mixed in was a combination of straw and pine needles that came from the local Christmas tree lot when it closed down in December.

No, I do not compost all that food - I used to freeze all the food before I fed it to the the worms, but at this point my freezer just can't handle the volume. I've found that once a bin really gets going, the food breaks down at an accelerated rate. When I add the food to the bin, though I put it into a "pocket," I layer it or mix it loosely with the existing bin contents. I think (though I have no proof) that it inoculates the food with the microbes faster and so jump-starts the decomposition process.


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