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Compost Failure

Hi all! I posted yesterday to ask about the sludge in my tumbler... But I also have questions about the boarder line sludge in my worm bin. It is getting there, but taking a really long time. I am constantly adding things from the kitchen to the bin. Is it that they are having trouble keeping up? I have let them go with what they had for nearly 8 weeks now and it sure doesn't look like dirt in there to me. I have been adding straw as a brown and started them off with a bed of shredded paper.

I am doing the worms in an effort to avoid the back-up in my tumbler. (which I now realize I was not adhering to my own plan) And I understand that they can get a bit cold and sluggish in the winter, but they are in my basement...

Am I doing something wrong with my worms as well? How long should this be taking? I am getting worried that I am a compost failure...

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Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:13 pm

I do have holes. It is draining nicely...

Super Green Thumb
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Where does the liquid go? Do you have a collecting tray? If so, how often do you empty the collecting tray? Worms cannot thrive when the liquid waste accumulates; an invasive flying gnat (not sure of which specific kind) proliferates and worms don't reproduce as well or move as quickly or eat as well as they do without the presence of the leachate.

If there is leachate present in your collecting tray, pour it into a watering can or two and dilute it 9:1 with water (the resulting solution will be 10% worm leachate) and use it as a fertilizing water for your plants. Good for any plant: shrub, veggie, flower, whatnot. Empty the collecting tray weekly until you learn how often it's needed, then do it that frequently. This is a great way of using worm waste as fertilizer even before the worm castings are ready for harvesting.

If there is no collecting tray, what's happening with the leachate? Pls. let me know.

Do you have red wigglers, Eisenia foetida? These are the ones you need; no others need apply.

Re. straw: if you've read Mary Appelhof's Worms Eat My Garbage, you've probably seen that she doesn't ever recommend straw for vermicomposting. Shredded newspaper--yes. Shredded leaves--yes. Unfortunately for Appelhof (and for us), she died just about the time coconut coir was becoming available for gardeners, but some vermicomposters have had success either using coir 100% for worm bedding or mixing it with newspaper for bedding.

Why no straw? :arrow: E. foetida are "litter dwellers" in their natural habitats; they live between layers of...ah...stuff (including horse manure, so you can understand why I'm calling some of their natural habitats stuff rather than another short word starting with S :wink: ). They do not make burrows, like earthworms do; they do not dig holes/little caves in fruit or other soft objects. The shredded paper or leaves provide layers between which the worms can live, mate, lay eggs, and hatch said eggs. Without these layers, no worm population will thrive, much less grow.

If you've had these worms for eight weeks, they're just getting started. Dark brown or black flecks should be visible on the newspaper bedding. No finished worm castings will be ready yet, but read up on harvesting methods so that you'll be prepared with a plan and equipment when the castings are ready. There are some detailed discussions here at THG about vermicomposting; some of them I've participated in, so you can find them by using the search phrases "worm composting" and "vermicomposting," one at a time, with my name--all lower-cased cynthia_h--as the author. That will bring up a bunch, and many of them have embedded links to take you to even more discussions.

Hope this helps. :D Happy worm composting!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Super Green Thumb
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Cynthia did a great, informative post for you. I would just second that getting to worm castings is a slow process, takes patience.

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