Soil and Compost forum: My Worms Need Your Help

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Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Feb 26, 2018 1:47 AM CST
About a year ago, I bought this vermicomposter and 500 red composting worms from Uncle Jim's.

Thumb of 2018-02-26/MoonShadows/19eb6e

I set everything up as prescribed. I fed my worms the "recommended" kitchen scraps, but despite keeping them well-fed, the volume of castings never seemed to grow high enough to put on a second level. Last Fall, I decided to cull the castings that has accumulated, and re-filled the first box with a lot of shredded corrugated cardboard (I have a cross-cut shredder that handles cardboard well). Watching a few YouTube videos, I decided to start putting the scraps in my food processor before feeding them to the worms for two reasons: 1. The YouTube vids I was watching said the smaller you can break down the food, the easier and faster the worms can consume it. and 2. I was getting a lot of fruit flies in my kitchen, and the YouTube vids said to cover the food up with shredded paper or cardboard.

The result of all this for the past few months is a super thick, almost muddy tray. The worms are consuming the cardboard like crazy, and seem to be thriving, but the tray is one thick, wet lump of what is almost a thick mud. I get vey little worm tea from the drain, rather it seems like the shredded cardboard is holding most of this moisture. The moisture meter tops out at 100%, but this does not seems to be bothering the worms that much since there are a lot of them, but not so many that they are multiplying that much.

I was thinking off putting on a second tray, load it with fresh and dry shredded cardboard and food to try an coax the worms up to the second level, and than clean out the first tray of all the "mud", but what's to keep this 2nd tray from getting all gonked up like this first one?

Can anyone offer some advice as I'm sure my worms are probably not getting the best environment to thrive and I am not sure what to do at this point? Thanks! I tip my hat to you.



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Name: Joseph
Delaware USA (Zone 7a)
Morning Glories Adeniums Region: Delaware Salvias Composter Container Gardener
Garden Photography Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: United States of America
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Gerris2
Feb 26, 2018 6:48 AM CST
I use a homemade bin so am not familiar with the bin you're using and how worms behave in it. However, it may be good for you to put on rubber gloves, pick out the living worms and put the food you've given them in an outdoors compost pile to start over. It looks like you may have provided too much food for the population of worms you have. I would put in the tray more shredded paper or cardboard shreds as bedding. Then put a small amount of food in on corner; bury it in the bedding. Then let the worms finish that food before giving more food. As your worm population increases you can then increase food volume or frequency of feedings.

I wish you much success, don't give up.
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Feb 26, 2018 6:57 AM CST
Thanks, @Gerris2. I'll give that a try. I shredded a new supply of cardboard over the weekend in preparation.
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Aceparadis
Feb 26, 2018 10:21 AM CST
mix It around well, this will break it up and allow it to drain, you will see significant drainage after 24 hours, slowly start adding new cardboard daily and you have reached appropriate moisture levels.

What happens sometimes is water gets trapped, but when it's disturbed its allowed to drain again. If your bin starts smelling sour, you have to give it a really good solid mix and introduce new air. This isn't a serious problem whatsoever, happy worming.

Aceparadis
Feb 26, 2018 10:30 AM CST
You can also shine a light on your tower and expose the tray to light, the worms won't escape and the top layer will be allowed to dry, when dry mix and repeat.

If I'm leaving home for several days and can't attend to a overwet bin I cover the top with dry rice, the rice absorbs moisture quickly. Wild rice will sprout, but ultimately the excess moisture is absorbed, an introduction of brown soil mites will quickly prevent moulding in the bin.

Anouther solution is to split the bin temporarily add peat to both and let the worms break it down, recombine when room is available again.

Aceparadis
Mar 1, 2018 6:39 AM CST
Moon, it's been a few days. How is the bin going? What have you done with it?
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Mar 2, 2018 12:45 AM CST
The bin doesn't smell sour; it has no smell at all. It is just very thick and wet. I was hesitant to stir it up for fear of damaging worms. What I did was add a second layer to the tower with all dry shredded cardboard. I place a small amount of food in the middle of this second layer. Nothing happened the first day or two, but this morning when I checked on them, there were a lot of them on top of the first layer starting to migrate up to the second layer.
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Name: Gardener Bob
Wedgefield, SC (Zone 8a)
Vermiculture Vegetable Grower Region: South Carolina Greenhouse Garden Photography
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GardenerBob
Mar 9, 2018 11:15 AM CST
Jim, when I started vermicomposting I did the very same thing. Was shredding newspaper and cardboard and I ended up with the very same problem. It is extremely difficult to harvest also. I use two 17 gal bins for my worms. I researched some more and have switched to using screened peat moss in my bins. I run the peat thru 1/8" hardware cloth and then fill a 5 gal bucket about 2/3rds full then fill the rest with water and let it set for two days. On harvest day I spread out a tarp on the ground, dump a bin on it, seperate the pile into 4 smaller piles and let the worms settle to the bottom of each pile. Then I begin picking up the worm compost and filling a big planter tray I use for my elevated bins. I then clean and wash each worm bin and put in 2.5 gals of fresh damp peat in each one and put the worms in each bin and start over. I place cut pieces of cardboard on top of the peat moss. I feed them pureed vegetable scraps every fri and every other fri I add 2.5 gals of fresh damp peat to my bins. The pureed scraps are quickly devoured by the worms and makes harvesting really easy cause I have no wet paper/cardboard to pick out. I harvest my castings every 2 months. My last harvest I got 18 gallons of worm castings/compost. It harvests really easy and once I separate my worms from it I take the remains and run them thru the screening process again and fill 5 gallon buckets with the screened worm castings/compost and mix it with my soil mix for my elevated planters. It is working very well for me and my plants are loving it.

Thumb of 2018-03-09/GardenerBob/ddf1d5


Thumb of 2018-03-09/GardenerBob/68490d

[Last edited by GardenerBob - Mar 9, 2018 11:48 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1655752 (8)
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Mar 9, 2018 1:58 PM CST
Wow, @GardenerBob ...thanks for taking the time to explain all that! I think I will move to the peat moss. I was also think of using coir. The shredded cardboard is broken down pretty quickly, but it holds so much moisture. On a positive note, most of my worms have moved up into the top bin, so it should make it easier to go through the bottom bin, now. I have to check my peat moss supply I have out in the shed.

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[Last edited by MoonShadows - Mar 9, 2018 1:59 PM (+)]
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Name: Gardener Bob
Wedgefield, SC (Zone 8a)
Vermiculture Vegetable Grower Region: South Carolina Greenhouse Garden Photography
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GardenerBob
Mar 9, 2018 2:52 PM CST
oh, after dumping the contents of the bin, rinse the bin and save the water/compost that comes out of it. just use it to feed your plants
Cleveland, Ohio (Zone 5b)
Photo Contest Winner: 2017
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Lucichar
Mar 9, 2018 3:23 PM CST
I was always told to put in a little sand or ground up egg shells with the bedding mixture for their gizzards. Is this correct?
Name: Gardener Bob
Wedgefield, SC (Zone 8a)
Vermiculture Vegetable Grower Region: South Carolina Greenhouse Garden Photography
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GardenerBob
Mar 9, 2018 4:03 PM CST
yes, egg shells, coffee grounds, or sand
[Last edited by GardenerBob - Mar 9, 2018 4:04 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1655955 (12)
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Mar 11, 2018 11:35 AM CST
@GardenerBob I just screened a 5 gallon bucket of peat and added some water to make it moist. I also made a new batch of pureed food. Tomorrow, I will dump out what I have, separate what I have, and return the worms to the composter filler with the screened peat, some food on top, and a thinner layer of shredded cardboard. I'll keep you up to speed here or in the other forum we both post in. Thanks for the insight.
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Name: Gardener Bob
Wedgefield, SC (Zone 8a)
Vermiculture Vegetable Grower Region: South Carolina Greenhouse Garden Photography
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GardenerBob
Mar 11, 2018 12:34 PM CST
MoonShadows said:@GardenerBob I just screened a 5 gallon bucket of peat and added some water to make it moist. I also made a new batch of pureed food. Tomorrow, I will dump out what I have, separate what I have, and return the worms to the composter filler with the screened peat, some food on top, and a thinner layer of shredded cardboard. I'll keep you up to speed here or in the other forum we both post in. Thanks for the insight.


Your Welcome! I tip my hat to you.
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
Image
MoonShadows
Mar 11, 2018 1:11 PM CST
Bob, when you puree the food, do you bother to drain the water out before you feed them or store it? I usually let it stand in a strainer for a while to drain the water...but that was because the bedding has been so wet. Perhaps that does not happen with the peat.
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Name: Gardener Bob
Wedgefield, SC (Zone 8a)
Vermiculture Vegetable Grower Region: South Carolina Greenhouse Garden Photography
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GardenerBob
Mar 11, 2018 2:38 PM CST
MoonShadows said:Bob, when you puree the food, do you bother to drain the water out before you feed them or store it? I usually let it stand in a strainer for a while to drain the water...but that was because the bedding has been so wet. Perhaps that does not happen with the peat.


I use apx 1/2 cup water per blender load and just dump it directly into the peat mix

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