Tedi
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Location: Barcelona, Spain

Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

Hi,
I've just killed some hundred of worms :(

I had quite a big chunk of worms in a vermicomposter in my flat where I was adding some vegetables from time to time. Suddenly it started to smell bad and when checking the compost I couldn't find any worm.

Since I live in a flat I took all the liquid from the old compost and left it in the back of the vermicomposter hoping that I could later recover it when I grew some new worms. I order some new red worms and left them in the upper part of the vermicomposter for a week without adding any other food than what it came with them.

A couple of days ago I started adding a bit of the old compost next to the worms so they could decide to jump if they liked. Some of them started to do so. Yesterday after making sure that everything was fine with them I decided to put a bit of the old compost under the new compost with the worms. But today after coming back from work I saw that there were no worms at all :( I could just find a couple of them (from hundreds) and they were dead.

I've seen the old compost contains some flies and small white worms (maybe the flies ones) which may have something to do. So far I understood it's better to throw all the old compost away and start from scratch although I wanted to avoid this since cleaning it in a flat it's probably not the best idea unless I want my girlfriend to kick my ass.

I just wanted to hear opinions from the community about what could have caused the problem so I can avoid it in the future. I have to admit I feel bad about killing animals even if it's by accident.

Thanks

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JC's Garden
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Location: Moultrie, GA Planting Zone 8, Sunset Zone 31

Re: Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

Let me see if I have this right. Your worms died in the old compost, which stunk but shouldn't. You saved old liquid and old compost to start the new worms in? How much liquid? How much meat and dairy did the old compost have?

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grrlgeek
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Re: Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

I think that a goal that you might strive for in the next go-round, is to regularly remove the "old" (aka finished) vermicompost and the "old" liquid (aka worm tea) and feed that to your plants.

On an ongoing basis - as you remove the finished goods, give the worms fresh, new, moist, bedding to continually move into. You can get them to move to the fresh area by placing their food in that section. That also makes it easier to harvest the castings. The bedding should be moist, but there shouldn't be a lot of "liquid" in it. That should be draining down to a catch pan or reservoir depending on your setup. You can siphon that off on a regular basis. The bin shouldn't smell bad, and it's probably too wet if it does.

I don't know how much you were feeding them, but depending on the size of the colony (colony? is that the right term for an assemblage of worms?), consider feeding them regularly and possibly more often than "from time to time." When they run out of food, they will finally eat their bedding. When that is gone, they don't eat the "compost." All that is, is their castings, and no one, not even a worm, wants to live in, or eat, their own poop. They will then try to find a way out, and failing that if your bin is secure, they will die from lack of food.

Good luck and keep us updated on how you are progressing.
Zone - USDA 8b / Sunset 11

Tedi
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Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:13 pm
Location: Barcelona, Spain

Re: Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

Hi

Thanks both for your answers. Sorry I wasn't very clear with my "setup". Let me try to explain it better :)

When I say the old compost I mean the waste that was still being composted (i.e. the compost wasn't ready to be used yet). I did remove the liquids from the old waste and threw them away (didn't use them on the new compost), so just saved the old waste that was half-composted. Also the old mixture didn't contain any meat nor dairy.

I'm using this vermicomposter:

Image

And this is what I had on each of the trays was:

Lower one (compost tea container): nothing; removed all the liquid.
Middle ones: waste half composted that smelled bad.
Upper one: new red worms with their own mixture of compost+waste.

So when I added just just a small quantity of the old waste into the new worms, this seem to have killed them. The mixture was around 1/4 of old waste and 3/4 of worms+compost+waste (what originally came with the worms).

Thanks again.

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applestar
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Re: Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

That does sound like some kind of disease or parasites developed in your old mix.

Maybe it would be best to clean out and sterilize (I use peroxide -- be sure to wear gloves and rinse immediately if you get any on your skin THAT INCLUDES WHEN YOU TAKE THE GLOVES OFF), then start over with fresh bedding and worms.

I think the old stuff could be used for outdoor plants -- maybe stick with ornamentals and trees/shrubs, not edibles.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Tedi
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Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:13 pm
Location: Barcelona, Spain

Re: Worms dying after mixing them with old compost

Thanks. I'll start it clean then.



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