Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
I've been vermicomposting for a little over 3 years and have been frustrated a number of times. I have had die off's from overheating the bin with carbs (beans specifically), or moving them out for a day because of a squeamish friend and then forgetting about them for 2 weeks (DRY!!!), but aside from an occasional yearly catastrophe, I just haven't seen the kind of growth in numbers that many have experienced. I have well run flow throughs (when I don't forget about them), but it seems my doubling time has been more than 8 months. (Very rough estimate). Conventional wisdom from a couple of sources has a well runs system with good access to air doubling every 3-4 months.
A number of years ago, there was a discussion about pesticides on banana peels. I scoffed. I finally got so frustrated with the slow growth, I decided it couldn't hurt to throw out the banana peels (large numbers), and see if it made a difference. About a month after discontinuing the banana peels, I was digging around and found gazillions of babies and adolescents. It was hard to find the adults for all the smaller ones, though I know they're there. I think I'm finally headed towards the exponential increase in numbers that theoretically should happen once these guys mature.
I recommend that anyone trying banana peels in a smaller bin like my tall kitchen flow through's thinks of not putting them in the bin unless they were organic. Larry could put a ton of banana peels in one corner and still have worms multiplying well in 90% of his bin. 2-3 peels can cover most of the surface area of my bins. I also limit orange peels to oranges that have started to go bad and I'm putting the whole thing in.
I'm really excited about the idea that I might be able to start another bin in a few months. I'm not going to increase the size of the container because I like the fact that I can lift the bins on to my work table and harvest the bottom of the FT from a seated position with my hands (no garden fork needed. When inspecting the top, I can put the FT on the floor and sit and dig through it easily.
3 years ago I started with 3 oz. Taking 4 months as a doubling time, and perfect conditions etc, I should now have more than 3,500 lbs of worms. Clearly I don't expect that to happen, but I doubt I have more than 2 lbs. right now. Let's say that after my last die off well over a year ago, I had 5 oz. left, even with that, a year and 4 months later I should have had 39 lbs. I'm not hoping for that, but getting up to about 10 lbs would be a dream! It may now happen. (Can you tell I'm excited? I sure hope I've finally figured out the problem!)
if you have a zester, you can grate off the zest of the citrus and then put it in the bin. I've read that it's the oils in the zest that the worms avoid.
Paul and Wormwood, let us know what happens in a month or two.
Steamy, I now have mixed bins with PEs and EFs. Of course, with the babies, It's really hard to tell the difference and I don't try, so I don't know if the explosion is mixed or not. I will in a month or two. Peter B (above) posted pics and says he can tell the difference, but I don't feel confident until I see the clitella.
I put my banana peels in my bucket of rot when they turn black and mushy I put some in the bins. I get my peels from work and I rince all the fruits and vegetables I prep in a cleaning solution for fruits and vegies. The only time I had any dye offs of worms is when I mixed uncooked oat meal with fresh vegetables and put them in my WF. By the next day it smelled rotten and was warm to the touch. I fished it out dumped it in my out side bins. I was new to this so I was checking them ever day, ok ok 3 or 4 times a day.
Now that Im in to this about 4 months I only check on them once a day. Can't help it LOL Dr. Stemyb says I have Obsesive Worm Disorder. OWD
Larry that would help a lot of people who are just starting out vermicomposting and those who have been at it a while. Need to show what an unhealthy bin would look like. Only on a much smaller scale. Maybe a bin the size of a shoe box or something. If you feed them pineapple I could you see you saying Now fokes imagin if this was a a larger system. All those worms even a pound is at least $25 to $30 would be dead. Good luck with it. :-)
My bins have looked healthy even with banana peels. It's just there's not a lot of babies. Also, I'm sure that different companies or regions of the world use differernt chemicals to keep bugs at bay. We'll see if Larry's worms have the same experience mine did. Be sure to set up a control, a bin that's 'identical' but gets some other food instead of banana peels, has the same number of worms to start with etc. This way you can say something like 'there were half the # of babies produced' vs. It looked like a lot fewer babies were produced than I expected.'
I've though of scraping out the inside of the banana peel and using that, but decided I'll have to be completely out of food for the worms before I'm willing to do that! Maybe some other day.
Apple seeds have cyanide in them. I remember stopping at a yard sale where some poor hamster's gear was for sale and the children were all red-eyed. They had fed their pet a quartered apple and not known they needed to take the seeds out. Not that my worms (EFs) will eat seeds! They seem to have some sort of detante treaty with seeds. They'll eat nearly anything else though!
On banana peels, you-all must have better grocery stores than mine. I don't use them on my indoor bins because they bring in fruit flies which then multiply like crazy and roam the whole house.
I was noticing that when I start moving my worms to a new bin, they tend to get busy laying eggs, and someone (Garbage Guru? Steamb?) mentioned that every time he changes the worms' conditions, they go nuts making babies. So maybe your bins are actually TOO stable and normal? (Except that one time when you forgot the poor little devils; just don't tell your squeamish friend next time she/he visits, eh?) My idea is, try changing things fairly often, every three weeks or so.
I got a pound of EFs from Bentley up in Canada two springs ago, and though I don't have any tonnage of worms (I'm a bit neglectful sometimes myself), I do have four 40-gallon Rubbermaid tubs just jammed with worms. I'm using a trick I got from a composting report from Indonesia or somewhere exotic. They layer horse manure and leaves, sprinkled to be just dampened through, for a week to 10 days, outdoors. That way, the pile heats up but cools down again. THEN they put them into their worm bins. That's what I'm doing for bedding AND food, and then when I get a notion to, I add other things--a nice glut of pumpkins after Halloween, that kind of thing. Sorry, rambling....
Try adding a fair amount of powdered egg shells. My worms devour them! I crush mine with a hand made wooden mortar & pestle. It's great stress relief & good exercise as well. They powdered egg shells are usually gone within 48 hours