NokeStar GreenThumb
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Roanoke VA

Vermicomposting - Simple quetions

I am a newly wed within the past 8 months, bought our first home, and we are now starting our first vegetable garden! That's a lot of firsts there but it's exciting.

It started for me with my passion for salsa and the $8 or so I spend per week on the stuff, now I am growing everything needed to make great salsa to eat and store all winter long hopefully.

Since starting our garden I now would like to get into composting and vermicomposting. I have already started saving kitchen scraps and hope to start my worm bin within the next couple weeks. Here's my questions:

1. What is the best way to store your kitchen scraps if they are not going into the worm been immediately? If the food will be sitting for weeks because you have a stock pile do you freeze it or let it continue to rot on it's own before feeding it to the worms?

2. What is a good rule of thumb on how much to feed the worms? I plan on starting out with around 1000 of the little guys unless someone thinks this is too much for a newb.

3. I like to start a compost pile as well right now but don't get the newspaper and don't have any brown leaves on the ground yet obviously. I do have some cardboard but without enough browns for the compost is it better to just wait but still continue to stockpile kitchen scraps?

I'll stop there for now - Thanks in advance for any feedback!
Life's a garden, Dig It!

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

I've never done worm composting, so I will leave the worm questions for someone who has that kind of experience.

Re starting a regular pile now.. read the greens/ browns sticky at the top of this Forum for more thoughts on browns. Possibilities include: Shredded office paper, bring home your groceries in brown paper bags and tear those up, my kitchen scraps come with a fair amount of browns mixed in already, because coffee grounds go in with the filters, and every time I use a paper towel it goes in the compost bucket, use paper napkins and put those in, etc.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

i store my scraps for worms in a bokashi bucket. I keep two, and when the first bucket is full I use the second. When it is fully fermented I start feeding the worms a bit of bokashi every day, and when the bucket is empty the ther one is almost full and it starts again.

another option is a freezer, but that takes electricity.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

SkyKero
Cool Member
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:58 am
Location: Georgia

"another option is a freezer, but that takes electricity."

Actually the fuller your freezer is --the more efficient it is.

Just my 2cents.

Silvia

bobthewormgineer
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 5:59 pm
Location: Sherwood Oregon

I'm a newbie here too, but . . .

Hi fellow newbie! I've spent a little over a year now on a crash course on vermicomposting, so I'll take a shot at your questions.

1) Freeze it. This kills any fruit fly eggs. Fruit flies are your main enemy. Not that they actually hurt anything AFAIK, but they are extremely annoying and that's enough to make them the enemy.

2) How much to feed: this would be simple to answer if not for the fact that it all depends on how adapted to their environment they are. When fully settled into their bin and adapted to the food stream they are provided, they "can eat as much as their own weight daily". But you not only do not know just how "adapted" they are, once you put them in you don't even know how many worms you have, how many are adults, etc. So this rule of thumb is, to me, next to useless.

The best answer I've come up with is: "start slow, observe and react, then crank it up." To make sure it doesn't smell bad or create a fruit fly problem, do not overfeed. In fact, to me having those problems is the definition of overfeeding.

When you first start your worm bin, they are not going to be very well adapted to their environment at all. So your pound of worms is going to eat much less than a pound per day. Maybe a pound per week for the first week.

So stockpiling up your food in anticipation of getting your worm bin may not be the way to go, simply because you may be saving a lot of waste food for a long time. Then again, freezing is a great way to break down cell walls and get food ready for the worms. I'll leave it at that for you to apply to your situation.

Once you start to see food disappear and worm castings start to accumulate, you know that things are working and you can increase the amount and frequency of feeding. For the first several months, you need to let your observation of how the bin looks - is the food just sitting there, do you see lots of active worms around the food, etc. - guide how much you feed. Observe and react. Keep the food covered with bedding, and don't worry about the worms starving to death, especially if you think you might be over-feeding. You can leave a worm bin unfed for a week or two without any real problems.

If the idea is to recycle all your kitchen waste - and get rid of the stinky garbage can - you can continue to increase the feeding until they take it all. This is to me the goal.

3) Leaves and Newspaper: Bedding. Fallen leaves are actually not a good material for vermicomposting. They have low nutrition and get matted up easily, forming wads that just sit there in a worm bin. Leaves belong in a regular compost heap.

Newspaper strips are an amazingly good worm bedding. So is brown corrugated cardboard. Both need to be torn or cut into small pieces, which is of course much easier with the paper, but both actually are a low-grade food as well as bedding. I recommend finding a source for newspaper because one of the most important things for success is to make sure you keep a thick covering of damp shredded newspaper on top of the food.

But if you have cardboard and a utility knife and promise to be careful, cut it into strips and chunks so that it can still be fluffed up a bit when wet. In a new worm bin, it's a little harder to keep food buried with it, but you can have a successful worm bin using just cardboard as bedding.

Another bedding material is coconut coir. This is a sustainable product, but you want to properly source it. If, like most do these days, the producers soak it in fresh water before drying and cutting into bricks, it is an excellent bedding. It isn't free, but is affordable.

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

SkyKero wrote:"another option is a freezer, but that takes electricity."

Actually the fuller your freezer is --the more efficient it is.

Just my 2cents.

Silvia
Thats the thing my freezer is full I would have to get another one. :P
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

User avatar
lj in ny
Full Member
Posts: 44
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:00 pm
Location: Z 5b-6a WNY

I found this site really helpful when I started my vermicompost bin:

https://www.redwormcomposting.com/

I ordered my worms from that site too and was very happy with their service-the worms arrived in great shape. I keep my scraps in the freezer.
"If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork." Masanobu Fukuoka

"Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." Horace

https://apottersgarden.blogspot.com

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28181
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

About starting a new outdoor compost pile -- easiest would be to get a bale of STRAW (not hay) for browns. As noted, check the Greens and Browns sticky. I'm pretty sure I mentioned I use the TP/PT tubes and any other pressed paper products like egg cartons and fast food trays. I don't use newspaper except the weekly ads, but if you wanted to, couldn't you get day-old papers from a convenience store? When I need extra, I ask DH to ask at the office, since people come in with the morning paper and toss them after reading them.

NokeStar GreenThumb
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Roanoke VA

Thanks for all the informative responses!

To clear my situation up, I have a chest freezer which sits almost empty all the time so it's wide open for me to use for freezing food scraps. I figure I'll let the scraps rot for a week or two and then freeze them until I get set up. I already bought my rubbermaid container and drilled holes in it (1/8" holes - 20 on top, 20 on the sides, and 6 on bottom. I have started to fill it with cut up cardboard but I got tired of cutting it after an hour so I will finish with newspaper. It's a 17 gallon container and looks very similar to the blue ones on the "how to" you tube videos floating around this site. I'm assuming this can handle 1000 worms.

As far as my outside compost I will start with newspaper, my dad still gets it and tosses it in the trash each day so I will now recycle it for him!

One other question I have is about plant clippings. I went out and trimmed a bunch of perennials yesterday and tossed them into my kitchen scrap bin. Are fresh plant clippings bad to mix in with a vermicompost? Should I have let them dry first? They will be rotting along with all the other stuff in there for a week or two.


Thanks!
Life's a garden, Dig It!

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

I'm not a worm expert myself. But I seem to remember some people saying you don't need to start with that many worms. They multiply very quickly when being fed good. So starting off with maybe half would be good. It would save some money in the beginning plus you are just getting started so it's better to start off smaller and work up.

Toil you are the worm man does that sound right?

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Yes, they do multiply, but feeding them very well can easily become feeding them too much. You'll know when you've hit "too much" b/c the worm bin will start to develop an odor of acidity or other unpleasantness. It can be easily remedied by adding more bedding.

Newspaper and cardboard need to be wet when put into the worm bin. I usually keep a 5-gallon bucket of water available when adding bedding, so that I can let the bedding soak up water. Dry newspaper/cardboard is very UNfriendly to worm bodies. :(

Your future "worm habitat" sounds terrific! :)

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

Kelly_Guy
Full Member
Posts: 26
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:16 am
Location: Louisiana

I started with a 1/2 pound, which I believe is supposed to be around 500 worms (not sure though). They have multiplied nicely as far as I can tell. I also did the blue storage containers. My wife has collected them over the years, so there were extras.

You really want two containers, holes drilled identically in each. If the bin is inside the house like mine, you want another larger container to put the bins in to catch any leaking water (though that has not been a problem for me). Having two containers helps with the harvest. When the bedding has broken down in the first container (which is on top sitting in the empty 2nd container) and you have a nice amount of compost, take the container from the bottom and start over again. Make a bedding for it and start putting the food in that container, and that now sits on top/inside of the first container that contains the worms and compost. Take any large chunks of cardboard or solids left from the 1st container and put them in the 2nd container. The worms will migrate up into the one on top where the food is through the holes you drilled in the bottom. After several weeks or a month of putting food in the top one, the vast majority of worms are now in the top container. Harvest the bottom container of the compost. Any worm stragglers or worm sacks you can put in the top container, or keep in the compost and add them to your garden. Repeat again in a few months or so.

I am new at this myself, but it seems to be working for me so far. I should harvest my first container in a few weeks as the worms are currently migrating up. I throw several moist handfuls of peat moss in the container when making the bedding. A very small handful of garden soil for grit is good to start with also.

Kelly

P.S. I see you put 6 holes on the bottom. You might should drill a few more on the bottom for migration if you do end up stacking like I described. I know some people just spread some newspaper or plastic out and dump the entire container and sort through it when they harvest.
Last edited by Kelly_Guy on Thu May 20, 2010 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

NokeStar GreenThumb wrote:Thanks for all the informative responses!

To clear my situation up, I have a chest freezer which sits almost empty all the time so it's wide open for me to use for freezing food scraps. I figure I'll let the scraps rot for a week or two and then freeze them until I get set up. I already bought my rubbermaid container and drilled holes in it (1/8" holes - 20 on top, 20 on the sides, and 6 on bottom. I have started to fill it with cut up cardboard but I got tired of cutting it after an hour so I will finish with newspaper. It's a 17 gallon container and looks very similar to the blue ones on the "how to" you tube videos floating around this site. I'm assuming this can handle 1000 worms.

As far as my outside compost I will start with newspaper, my dad still gets it and tosses it in the trash each day so I will now recycle it for him!

One other question I have is about plant clippings. I went out and trimmed a bunch of perennials yesterday and tossed them into my kitchen scrap bin. Are fresh plant clippings bad to mix in with a vermicompost? Should I have let them dry first? They will be rotting along with all the other stuff in there for a week or two.


Thanks!

consider drying your plants scraps sometimes. And consider partially drying too. My observation is that the most efficient worm bins have no runoff. You can control runoff by using dryer foods. If you have to water your bin once in a while then the trick is working for you.

On top of that, when you dry plant material you can crumble it easily and sprinkle on the surface. This drives worms to ecstasy!

Start with as many worms as you can get/afford. You can start with less, but population growth is what it is, and the higher you start the faster things move. I started with one, and when I started adding more bins I would put a whole lotta worms in the bin along with compost.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

zookprqn
Full Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:46 am
Location: Mountainburg, AR

Vermicomposting

I have spent most of my morning reading your posts and looking at sites referenced. I can't believe all the helpful information I've gotten! Thank you all so much! Can't wait to get started!
A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.

NokeStar GreenThumb
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Roanoke VA

I have now ordered 1lb of worms from the recommended site above and expect them to be delivered this thurs/friday.

I have set my bin up with a combination of damp newspaper shreds and cardboard. I have also buried a cup or so of food clippings/coffee grains/coffee filters, spread out evenly and then covered that with more bedding and a handful of top soil. I read that it is good to let everything sit for a week or so to settle before placing the worms in.

Here goes nothing! I am pretty excited I have to admit
Life's a garden, Dig It!

sustainlife
Newly Registered
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:48 pm
Location: Texas - Zone 9

I recommend putting your scraps in a fridge not a freezer. A freezer will slow down the decaying process too much to cycle in food if you have an established bin. Depending on your waste production (mine consists of two people cooking meals everyday) the refrigerator will allow enough time to delay one bucket, while decaying the next. Remember that the worms do not eat the scraps themselves, they feed on the bacteria from the waste.

Do you harvest the castings to make a tea?
Jared

www.jaredanderin.com -
<b>Grassroots with Jared and Erin</b>

NokeStar GreenThumb
Full Member
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: Roanoke VA

I just received my worms yesterday! I was actually a little disappointing/frustrated because I wasn't expecting them until today or tomorrow. Because they came a day early they had to sit in the blazing sun (about 90 degrees) for hours inside a less than ideal environment. Needless to say when I took them out they were very slow and sluggish but have seemed to bounce back now and are now at least moving away from the light, when exposed, fairly quickly and look more healthy. Some are even crowding around wads of used paper towels soaked in coffee grains so I guess all is well to this point.

As far as my food I never took the "freezing" suggestion meaning that I should keep the scraps in the freezer. What I do is leave it at room temp in a rubbermaid bin. If flies ever become an issue I simply freeze it for 24hrs or so just to rid the problem or at least kill off the larvae, then it's right back to room temp where it can continue breaking down.

I'm pretty excited about everything. I am going to look into a flow through system as I can already see the huge perks in having one over the dump and sort method I am currently going to have to use. First I just need to be patient though and let these guys get adjusted.

Thanks a ton for any advice to this point!
Life's a garden, Dig It!

Joyfirst
Green Thumb
Posts: 361
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:45 pm
Location: Southern California

I seem to have more worms in my regular compost than in my worm bin. They eat very slow -maybe I am doing something wrong?

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

if you stimulate the microbes in that bin they will reproduce more and so will the worms that eat them. I find population is relative to how much I can feed without screwing up the system. When it's really cooking, they eat fast. Ground up food, wheat bran, dried leaves ground up, maybe a teaspoon of molases in a gallon of water, and water it if it isn't already too wet. And of course, bokashi compost if you have some. The point is you process things before feeding.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

Return to “Composting Forum”