Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
HI guys, Life is funny.
In April, I set up two worm hotels (coir bedding) with one pound of purchased worms in each. They have never seemed happy. I moved them from the mud room (too hot?) to the back yard, north side of the house under the eaves so they didn't get direct rain, but it has been a wet, wet spring and the bedding often seemed too wet. I moved them finally to the basement where weather and wetness are steadier. Meanwhile, in my outdoor compost pile into which I added over 500 pounds of composted garden material (in 150 lb. weekend additions) from the local dump I have been seeing large groups of redworms. These guys clump around the vegetable/juicing leftovers that were too much for my two hotels and travel happily through the dark brown, finely ground compost. They seem to love the food the "captured" worms are somewhat indifferent to. I think I have to send the hotel worms to summer camp in the outdoor compost. What do you all think?
Nancy, it would help if you described your worm hotels in more detail. Size, bedding material, temps, etc. Photos would be even better. Certainly there's no harm in sending your indoor worms to outdoor summer camp, but they should be perfectly happy indoors if the conditions are right. I assume you'll want to keep the indoor bins going during the winter, so it's best to figure out why the worms are unhappy.
Hi, Rich and Andrew, Both replies have me thinking since I am new to vermicomposting, but not new to composting or to worms. I have 1 Worm Hotel 360, and 1 original worm hotel, both are plastic, and both have a possibility of 5 stories. I started 1 lb of worms in each, in a bed of coir. Newspaper was under the coir, to stop them from diving out of the worm bins. I added pulp from juicing (apple, celery, carrot and either kale or collards or cabbage or beets and beet greens) and covered the top food with dampened newpaper. When I found out that they really eat the microbes on the food, I added some soil and some partially rotted hay from my garden about one month into the experiment. I had more lively worms in the worm hotel, but also more "suicides" diving out of the bin.
At any given time, some of the worms seemed to be doing well (lively eating and clumping), and many others seemed lethargic or going off by themselves and away from the food. I added a lower bin to give them privacy - without going into the catchall bin where they drown and then added a third bin to the top with coir and the humus that seemed to please the outdoor worms. Some worms migrated up into this, and again, some seemed enthusastic, but this was a small minority of the 1 lb of worms I started with.
The temperatures have seemed to run from 70 to 78 degrees. The moisture on occasion was a lot, and I didn't like the way that the coir in the lower bins got dense. I periodically added shresdded newpaper to lighten and dry it, but this added bulk, and one tray sits on the lower bin, so then I needed to lift some out to an upper bin.
I think you might be right, Rich, that these were worms raised on manure as most of them were never very happy. At least in the outdoor compost, they will mingle with other worms, and hopefully, as you suggest, they will produce offspring who are happy with vegetable matter.
I plan to move them back indoors with a combination bedding of coir and the compost they will have been living in for the summer. The summer compost pile is about hip high, in the shade, so they have room to dive to cooler sections (or into the soil) during the hot days, and can come up again in the cool, moist evenings to feed.
Where did you purchase your original batches of worms for the Hotels? Some worm sellers ship a mixture of worm species, some of which tend to wander more than others. Some also ship less-than-healthy worms, but those should have died off by now.
Nothing you describe is out of the ordinary for a beginning vermicomposter. Since you started less than 2 months ago, it could very well be that your worm bin ecosystems are just progressing to a mature state. Your temps sound great!
I no longer own a stackable system, but I learned long ago to treat the leachate collection tray as simply a temporary holding cell for wandering worms. Throw a mixture of damp and dry egg cartons & cardboard chunks down there to soak up excess leachate (of which you hopefully don't have much) and provide worms with something to munch on. About once a month dump all that into the main feeding tray and replace with new bedding.
With the leachate tray set up like that, you would not need that "rescue" bin below the main feeding tray. After 2 months you should really have only one working/feeding tray. Some people use an extra tray on top just to store dry bedding, but that is not actively fed.
Again, the worms will almost certainly prefer living in an outdoor compost pile. The much larger volume will allow them to seek the conditions each prefers. I find my worms grow larger in the large outdoor bins. The downside would be protection against critters like moles & mice.
I got bins and WF in the house and compost bins with worms outside. They seem to work well.