Return to the Vermicomposting Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Chop, freeze, or precompost?

Posted by iLoveLawn none (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 15:20

Lately I've been concerned with how I'm feeding my worms. My concern is that the food I'm putting in isn't rotten or precomposted in any way. I'm worried about overheating or causing a string of pearls/protein poisoning since bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow on this food before my worms eat it. I know people will say "worms don't actually eat the food they eat the protezoa and bacteria that grows on it", but believe me, my worms are actually eating the fresh food I drop in. With the way I feed, there are no visible signs of food left after 24-48 hours.

I've been blending the fresh food scraps, then pouring them in ice cube trays and freezing them. Then I just drop them on the top of my flow-through bin, I don't bury them.

How do you feed your worms? Do you pre-compost or let food rot before feeding? Is pre-composting necessary in the long term for successful worm bins?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I compost large quantities of food scraps, chicken manure and garden waste, so I precompost them in a large outdoor bin. The stuff in the bin is covered with shredded cardboard to keep down the fruit flies. After a few weeks I put the broken down stuff, cardboard and all, into the worm bins.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

That's awesome. I wish I could do some outdoor precomposting like that, but I don't have the outdoor bin and I don't really want one.

Maybe I'll make a pile in my backyard and not tell me wife :-).


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

The reason I started vermicomposting last century was that I was maybe the worst cold composter who ever lived. So, of course, I have no really viable compost pile to use in my worm bins.

That being said, I've become really productive when letting my worms do the composting. What they are composting (eating) are fresh...or previously frozen...fruits and veggies.

Fresh ones are those soft enough to cooperate with the palate of the wormies, and pre-frozen stuff is for when I needed to store things for awhile (ie Thanksgiving pumpkins)

Freezing un-decomposed stuff will cause it to break down faster when thawed.

I've never had any problems getting worm-ready palatable worm grub to them, and me thinks a lot of the worrying about them finding something to sink their gums into is way overblown, and a toothless arguement.

Chuckiebtoo


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

Each method is suitable for some food types. Melons for instance contain such high % water they disappear quickly and leave little behind to heat the bin. Potatos,carrots and apple peels are partialy composted or frozen then composted. Leafy veggs beinfit from freezing and chopping but don't gain much from composting. I occasional start a worm bin by placing worms in a 2/3rds full 55 gallon barrel of incomplete compost that started out soley for compost. I guess what I am trying to say is I don't know which works best because I never seem to do anything the same way twice. LOL


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

iLovelawn - I'm not clear, is there a problem? Your worms seem to be happy and well-fed. Are you actaully having any overheating problems?

If it's working keep doing it. Just keep giving enough bedding, and don't add so much at once that it causes a problem. (How will you know? When it causes a problem...)


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

"My concern is that the food I'm putting in isn't rotten or precomposted in any way. I'm worried about overheating or causing a string of pearls/protein poisoning since bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow on this food before my worms eat it."

Armored - my bins are only 3 and 2 months old and I'm new to vermicomposting. After reading about protein poisoning I want to make sure my method of feeding isn't going to harm my worms in the long run.

Thanks for the responses everyone.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

"My concern is that the food I'm putting in isn't rotten or precomposted in any way. I'm worried about overheating or causing a string of pearls/protein poisoning since bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow on this food before my worms eat it."

Armored - my bins are only 3 and 2 months old and I'm new to vermicomposting. After reading about protein poisoning I want to make sure my method of feeding isn't going to harm my worms in the long run.

Thanks for the responses everyone.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

@iLoveLawn: " With the way I feed, there are no visible signs of food left after 24-48 hours."

Sorry I wasn't clear - with this situation, I don't think you should have a problem. Most issues come up when food is there for a longer period of time - and certainly when the worms aren't eating the stuff. That said, making sure they have enough bedding (hint: too much is almost impossible), not feeding right away after the food is 'gone' (as there might be residues that haven't been fully processed and are not noticeable) should help avoid problems. But it sounds lke what you're doing is working.

In my case I don't really pre-compost either but it's a big bin and I'm in no rush.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

As long as you are not overfeeding, you should be OK regardless in what shape or form the worm food is. If in doubt, better underfeed, and have lots of bedding. If they start chomping down the bedding, you'll know you can add your kitchen scraps. Just make sure the bin(s) are never dry or overly wet.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

To be honest bin #2 and #3 behave as I described, They are awesome and attack anything I put on top.

Bin #1, on the other hand, is acting strange. Worms are staying toward the middle/bottom and no matter what I put on top, they won't come and eat it. I've put melon on top and they still choose to stay down. I've added more bedding a month ago - about 100% more bedding of a mixture of peat moss and cardboard, now today I added more bedding on top of dry aged horse manure. I think I overfed the bin #1 a couple months ago. But I also didn't top feed bin #1, I would dig down and drop in whole pieces of fresh scraps - which I now understand releases a lot of heat as they break down.

So, from what I have gathered from reading posts on this forum, I think I have either A) caused an anaerobic environment in bin #1 by overfeeding, or B) overheated the bin by letting fresh food decay buried deep, or C) (why I originally posted this topic) is gave them protein poisoning by feeding fresh scraps.

I've ruled out option C, and leaning more towards A and B. I don't want what happened to bin #1 to happen to my awesome bins #2 and #3.

Do you think bin #1 is salvageable?


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I'm not entirely certain what's happening with your first bin, but I don't see why it shouldn't be salvageable. If the worms there are still alive and active, probably just needs to be left alone for a while (after what you've already done, and maybe 'turning' it a bit to get air at any nasty pockets if there are any). If they're fed bedding and kept wet, they'll eventually straighten it out. Personally I think adding some regualr dry leaves from the yard might also help - I figure that's close to their natural habitat. Maybe add a handful of the good vermicompost from the other bins - possibly the bacterial herd there is more balanced.

But mainly if the problem compared to the other bins was you putting in whole foods before, time should take care of it. Another simple thought: maybe they're hanging out down below near your buried food because it's now rotted enough to be attractive to them.

Anyway, good you have two other bins that are working well.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I think Armoured's explaination of why #1 activity differs from the others is likly correct. The buried food's availability is extended and cached at a higher % compared to food more exposed to air. I suspect material can contain far more worm nutirent than the eye can see. I believe most of us agree that different bactarias are active depending on moisture and air available. Food in bedding is probibly consumed by arobic decomposition faster than food buried deeper. Assuming that is true,how are we to know at time of material hearvest what % is the result of cold composting and % resulting from worms? I also agree about actions that will eventualy result in #1 looking closer to the others. I don't usualy fret over unexpected results but try and learn from them. If the 3 bins started with equal number of worms,A.How does population compare now? B. How does vermicompost production compare? The important consideration is wherther a change would help.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

Never bury food. Cover it with shredded paper, but don't bury it. Disaster happens if you're not feeding at the rate the worms eat it.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

chuckie - I know that now. There is a lot of poor information out there about how to vermicompost and unfortunately I probably got the "bury your food" instruction from YouTube or some other source - not this forum of course!

klem1 - "A.How does population compare now? B. How does vermicompost production compare? The important consideration is wherther a change would help."

A - I think the population of bin #1 has gone down, BUT I don't see any dead worms so it might be my imagination. I do notice eggs.

B - Bin #1 is about 1 month older than the other two. It has produced a lot of castings, but they are stuck against clumped up newspaper - bedding I'm not a fan of anymore. Bin #2 and #3 are both made with peat moss and finely shredded cardboard, and it's impossible for me to distinguish between bedding and castings.

I just checked on Bin #1 because I added 2 inches of dry aged horse manure, hoping it will draw the worms up. And I think it has! I think aged horse manure will be my go-to bedding from now on - amazing stuff.

This post was edited by iLoveLawn on Thu, Sep 19, 13 at 12:19


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

Good to hear everything is back on track. And the best thing to come out of this was that the problem was worked out by he who had the origional question with a little incouragment from fellow wormers.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

""Bin #2 and #3 are both made with peat moss and finely shredded cardboard"" Just curious,why did you use peat moss? I can understand if you have it around the house/garden anyway. Shredded newspaper and torn cardboard/corrugated CB is perfect worm bedding and now you have an even better one, horse manure.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I wouldn't quite say the problem is worked out - but i appreciate the few responses.

Otis - I disagree. I know a lot of people love newspaper but for me it has clumped and made for a chunky worm bin. I'll never use it again. Cardboard has worked great, especially now that I put it through a paper shredder and cross shred it.

I used peat moss because it's good bedding - it's cheap, retains moisture, resists compaction, easy to work with, easy for worms to eat and move through, etc. It's also a good soil amendment when mixed with compost for topdressing my lawn or with my potting soil, which is what I want to do with my VC once my production levels get high enough. But you're right, PM is not the best. It's pretty acidic, and has very little microbial activity, and I don't plan on having it be the majority of my bedding. It is about 50/50 PM and cardboard in my bins #2 and #3, but future ones will probably be less PM, more cardboard and manure.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I also find dead leaves, run through (or over by) a mower, are pretty darn good. A little grass and greens gets in there so can heat up at first, hence use in moderation (unless a big bin). Also can 'mat' if done in excess, but turning works fine. Worms seem to like it fine.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

iLoveLawn: When I started wormfarming, my newspaper bedding were clumping too. After some observing and tweeking, now they don't clump anymore. At the beginning, I used a Worm Factory and I followed some advice to moisten the shredded newspaper. In my case it was the small size of the bin that couldn't handle enough shredded newspaper bedding, or any other bedding, If I remember correctly, the actual "working" height of the WF is about 5" or 6". The newspaper clumped when it got too wet. And I really watched to minimize wet worm food .
Today, I use several RMs and a 2x4 ft. wooden bin. I always add the NP and CB dry. If the bin needs moisture, I do 1 pass with the garden hose on "mist" setting. Whenever I remember, I go back after a few hours, fluff it a bit and do another pass. Once I figured out how much water it can take until it starts to clump, I even use it in my 3 gal. bins and still no clumping there. If I have to choose to BUY bedding, I rather use coco coir. To dry a bin that is too wet, coco coir works real fast. For this purpose I also used saw dust pellets that I p/u at a pet store when they change the bedding of their small animal cages.
I still have 1/2 bag of peat moss sitting in the shed and I still didn't put it in the worm bin. I can use peat moss for my planters if I need to, but I can't use newspaper for that purpose. That's why the worms get all the newspaper and cb.and with proper water"management" , they won't clump. Just my 2¢.
And my to answer ""Chop, freeze, or precompost"", I do pre-rot, no room in the freezer.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

That's going to be my issue in the end...freezer space. I already have a big bowl of food cubes in there that last me about a week. If I increase my number of bins any more I'm going to take over my freezer or have to get a separate worm food freezer - a little overkill.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

My experience with shredded paper (not newspaper in my case but office paper) is like Otis' - I got less clumping when I just added it on top as a buffer layer - which was what I partly wanted it for anyway, to reduce flies. Over time it absorbed enough water and became worm food, bit by bit. There was still some clumping but not much, and it would break down quickly when re-exposed to air.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

I have a WF 360. I feed my worms, "Pulp" from my juicer, mixed with some crushed eggshells for grit. I put a once in even layer over the existing surface, then shredded paper. Works fine. During Summers is the only time I freeze the pulp to try and keep the temps down. If you have as much pulp as I do, because I juice everyday, you;re bound to have to freeze it. It'll melt over night, and cause no problems. Either way, I never exceed an inch layer because it WILL heat up. I feed them every 3 days.


 o
RE: Chop, freeze, or precompost?

From what I understand, you don't want it too acidic or white worms will start to take over.

I just nuke veggie/fruit scraps and toss them in when it's cooled. Seems to be working for me. But I'm rather new at this.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Vermicomposting Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here