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How many worms to start with?

Posted by benamarq CO (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 14, 12 at 12:33

I just started worm composting this week and was given a handful of worms from a local vermicomposter.

My worm system:
- home made 10 gallon bin with holes in the bottom and sides
- bedding comes up about 5 inches and is a mix of shredded paper and cardboard
- stored in the basement

My questions:
1) I know that worms will multiply to consume the amount of food provided - but since I just started out with a handful, do I need to wait a certain amount of time before I add food? Say there are 30ish worms in the bucket - do i need to see more like 100+ before I start adding my food scraps? If the bins start to smell, then my husband gives my vermicomposting the boot.

2) Is there an easier way to search this forum? When I search up top, it gives me matches in all the forums rather than just this one.(I'm hoping to find answers since I'm sure my questions have come up before many times.)

3) I read that over-checking your worms was not ideal. How often do you check the moisture levels?

Thanks for the help!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: How many worms to start with?

1) Even though you have very few worms, the ones you have need to eat. Just make sure you feed very small amounts. Be careful what you feed them, and keep it well buried. Avoid foods that you know will stink when they decompose, like onions. The bin should not smell. It will take a long time before your 30 worms fill the bin--about 1 1/2 years.

2) Go to the main page for this forum. There is a search link on the left below the dark green bar. Use that link. The search box at the top of the page the link takes you to allows you to search just this forum.

3) Checking once a day won't hurt them. I wouldn't let them go for more than a few days, because you don't want the bin to dry out. Since you won't be feeding them very much food, you can't expect moisture from the food to keep the bin moist.

RE: How many worms to start with?

Welcome to the world of worms Benamarq!
1) I started a mini-bin on May 1st in addition to my larger bin with only 10 adult worms in a 40 oz clear plastic jar and by June 1 st, I had 20 more worms in varying stages of development plus many cocoons. Those 30+ worms are still only being fed a tiny bit of food which was previously frozen. Ex: a sq. inch of watermelon or banana peel. When that has almost disappeared, then I add another piece. I have never smelled any bad odors except when allowing too much water to stand, so add more dry bedding (a dry piece of cardboard pushed down along the side will wick up the excess and the worms just love to hang out there) or use a turkey baster to get the excess if you see that happening. Adding too much food will lead to bad odors, too. So, I find that covering the food with a damp piece of cardboard in my larger flo-thru bin allows me to see how much progress the worms are making and I often see several hanging out there. It doesn't sound as if you should have any problems with too much moisture since you have holes in the bottom. Just remember that the worms will eventually eat the bedding and really only eat the microbes that help the food decay.
2) I just read a previous page of the previous Q&A each day, but most of the members here are very patient with new "wormers" questions if you give enough information as you have. Patience is something you need a lot of when you take up this hobby :)
3) I have found that the worms really like the wettest part of the bin the most, but too much water left standing is more of a problem. Generally, the food you add releases water as it decomposes, so you don't usually have to add water in a covered bin, but if you feel that it's too dry, add some day old water with a spray bottle. Is yours covered or open? Also, what is the temperature of the basement where the worms are kept? Ideally, worms do best in the same temperatures that we like, but very damp and totally dark.
PS...I still check mine daily, mainly to see how much food is left or if there are any bad odors. I try not to feed them strong smelling vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, onions or garlic either as I have heard that those will lead to a stinky bin.

RE: How many worms to start with?

thanks for the info! i've got the worms in the basement and right now it stays around 65-70 degrees (even on super hot days). i put a few pieces of spinach in one bucket along with an apple core. so far there isn't too much of a smell - but i may remove some stuff since it sounds like they have plenty to snack on.

more questions:
1) do you think i should get/buy more worms? our outside compost needs to cook so i need to stop feeding it, so i was wanting to get the worm bin to a good capacity.

2) i heard that if we banana peels might have a lot of pesticides and could mess with the worms. thoughts?


RE: How many worms to start with?

I wouldn't remove anything. I think what you have done is fine.

1) If you want to get the bin working well, you will need more worms. You can get more, or wait for the ones you have to reproduce. I would get more.

You have an outdoor compost bin? Compost from the outdoor bin is excellent food for the worms, and it will not smell (assuming the compost is well broken down). Grab a big handful of that and toss it in your worm bin. The worms will be very happy.

2) I have heard that too, but I have not had any problems. What banana peels do have is tough fibers that do not break down quickly.

RE: How many worms to start with?

"a handful of worms from a local vermicomposter" Contact the local vermicomposter and give them an update on how well your worms are doing and how much enjoyment you are getting from vermicomposting. There can be much to be gained by both parties by this sharing. And there might be a couple more handfulls of worms for you. The reason they gave a starter of a handfull is because most people kill their first bunch. Better a handfull dead than a pound. This vermicomposter may have given away a hundred handfuls of worms to a hundred people. You may be the first person to let them know how the worms fared after leaving the love and safety of his or her bins. They may be very glad to hear from you. Or they may be just starting out themselves and of worked up to a pound and of just given away 20% of their favorite worms to you.

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