Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
I am creating a new indoor worm bin, for vermiculture, fishing bait, and to feed my amphibians. I am planning on keeping them in stacked 50qt plastic bins. I am going to keep them in the basement. The problem is in the winter the temp is low 50's, and in the summer may creep to the high 60's-low 70's. Do I need to heat the worm bins somehow? I don't think adding 1000 is overdoing it to start correct? Looks like my biggest challenge is going to be to find enough newspaper to shred to use as substrate. We do not buy the newspaper at my house. Any ideas where I could buy bulk used newspaper?
Rick, the answers to your questions will depend on the species of worm you want to raise. With the temps you mention, I would suggest European nightcrawlers (E. hortensis). Unless you have a source for cheap 50 qt. bins, try 10 gal. totes @$3.50 ea. EH prefer slightly damper conditions, so don't drill any drainage holes. You can safely stack 3 or 4 of them.
I prefer using cardboard (brown with little printing) for bedding. Newsprint can clump unless you know how to handle it. Soak the cardboard overnight, gently wring, tear into 2-4" strips and drop into the bin in loose coils (not flat layers). Sprinkle in a handful of material from a compost bin or good garden soil. Mix in a couple of handfuls of kitchen scraps and let the bin "ripen" for 1-2 weeks before adding worms. If you have access to old leaves, EH love those.
If your main goal was to produce vermicompost, I'd suggest a full pound of EH in each bin. Since you probably want to raise larger worms, add 1/2 lbs. per bin. This will give them more space, which I've found results in larger worms. As usual, be sure not to overfeed. EH love cardboard, so the bedding is a very safe food for them.
Check this thread to read about "salt jelly" as a way to prevent worms from escaping the bin: http://vermicomposters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/new-euros-from-earth...
I agree with Andrew in terms of needing to know what species of worms you want to raise in order to better answer your questions. And, you may want to become informed about the invasive species concerns and management options, depending on where you live.
I raise Eisenia fetida/Eisenia andrei, aka Red Wigglers, and have found that they are quite tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, but if you want to have optimal reproduction and/or vermicomposting services you may want to move them somewhere warmer in the winter. That being said, mine continue to reproduce, albeit it at a slower rate, in my unheated basement space where the temps hover around 50 during the winter and high 60s/70s are about optimum for breeding and vermicomposting.
If you go with the plastic bin approach, try to get dark colored ones as most earthworms are sensitive to light. I'm not sure how big a 50 qt bin is but keep in mind that it is often easier to keep the habitat healthy with a larger bin, in contrast to very small bins.
The Eisenia's are also doing very well in my outdoor composting, vermicomposting bins and garden trenches. I am in southeastern Ohio and it's not unusual for the temps to drop down below 0 F but with a little attention to orientation, passive solar heating and insulation/thermal mass they are doing fine...still breeding, still vermicomposting. They also do fine when the hot thermophilic composting kicks in and/or when the summer temps get high...shaded, with carpeted sides to facilitate evaporative cooling as needed.
I also agree with Andrew about the clumping nature of shredded paper but I do find it has value as a complementary addition to my cardboard bedding mix, but it does take some attentive handling. I also prefer corrugated cardboard as the main ingredient though and there are reports that indicate cardboard also increases the reproductive rates, maybe it's the protein in the glue or just the nice habitat that the corrugations provide for them.
I shred all our junk mail, after the plasticine windows have been removed, and get big bags of shredded paper from various businesses/offices in our nearby city for free. I also use the shredded paper for mulch in the garden and in my humanure composting bins.
There are a variety of free rags, i.e. newspapers that we pick up from time to time for such purposes and you might be able to pick up some at a recycling center or newspaper operation.
Also, If you are raising Eisenia Fetida red wigglers I'd suggest you also give thought to your primary goals for each of your bins when thinking about stocking rates, moisture, temps, etc. But don't let all such details bog you down...remember it is all a learning experiment and should be fun.
Eisenia's are very forgiving; seems the only time folks loose them is when they over feed them.
I avoid this, and increase the microbial community in the food, by collecting my food scraps in 5 gal buckets and only mix it all up and feed when they've consumed most of what was given to them on the last feast day.
All of my lovelies receive a pretty gourmet mixture of food scraps with adequate protein to promote health, growth and reproduction...a bit of this and a bit of that all mixed up in the wheelbarrow prior to potluck time... however I do avoid anything with more than 12 % moisture content, like the catfish and/or dog food.
My bass absolutely love the red wigglers and it's nice to have a readily available supply as I like to go out on the dock in my pond every evening to hang out with them while tossing nice fat red wigglers or handfeeding them while the big catfish gobble up the catfish food with occasional huge slaps on the water!
Surprisingly, my chickens really don't seem very enthused about them.
So it all depends on your goals while also remembering that one of the funnest things, at least for me, involves the processes of experimentation.
I also suggest that you check out the continuous flow through group page here, if you haven't done so yet. The systems with the bars on the bottom, in contrast to the stack-able vertical migration systems, work really well for vermicomposting.
Good luck and have fun!
Where have you been hiding Kathy?
Well said! If you weren't married, I would be falling in love.
....... totally inappropriate post I know for all of the PC out there. It just brought the best in vermicomposting and fishing and real life living and eloquence and command of language, out in me.
Rick would do well to heed Kathy's response
Lawrence totally appropriate, I am sure Kathy would be flattered at your enthusiasm over her writing and interests. That is the sort of thing that I know flatters me, I would prefer someone fell in love with my mind or shared values and interests then have someone hoot at me out the window of a car because I am a blonde!
Kathy I would love to learn more about humanure, we have just bought some land and I am trying to convince DB that a composting toilet is a good idea and we could use the compost to boost the native habitat regeneration.
So much good stuff to read. Luckily I work for a corrugated manufacturer so a supply of corrugated ios not a problem. I will check on the glue containing protein. As far as I know I believe the glue is just plain starch which would just be a plain old carbohydrate. I am reading more before I jump in.