Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
OK, we are operating on a shoestring budget. Cancel that... we can't afford shoestrings. We live in a small apartment.
Our current plan is to use brown paper bags and used coffee grounds for our starting mix. To keep it from molding before use, the coffee grounds were baked back to more or less dry. We have the square plastic coffee cans, and we plan to use them.
The current questions are:
How moist should we rehydrate to?
Whats the best way to go from more or less sterile to "able to feed worms"? At this point, I am thinking on rehydrating using water from the guppy tank....
Anything wrong with getting our starter worms from the bait shop? I know... little red wrigglers, not the refridgerated monsters.... Is there a cheaper way (we live in an apartment... they would get mad if I dug up the grounds looking for worms....) and my grandfathers compost heap is 2700 miles away... a bit too far to walk...
We are open to suggestions and ideas...
Welcome to the forum, Tony. Water from the guppy tank, especially if it has some algae, will work fine. In the future don't bother to dry the coffee grounds. The worms actually like it a little moldy. Many bait shops sell E. hortensis (European nightcrawlers) instead of E. fetida (red wigglers). The Euros are great composting worms as long as you can keep their environment below 80ºF. They're actually happiest at closer to 60º. Reds are much more tolerant of a wide range of bin temps. I listed some ideas for finding worms in this discussion:
Welcome, try Craig's List; there are some local people that sell worms at good prices.
Welcome aboard Tony.
Since you're on a tight budget, I wouldn't advise buying bait worms from WalMart or any place else. You'll end up paying about 10 cents per worm & it will take half an eternity to get your worm herd up & running. Your money would be better spent buying a pound of red worms from a reputable seller online. A pound of bed-run redworms can average 800 to 1200 worms depending on their size.
I have gotten some GREAT worms from redwormcomposting.com
Other worm-heads here will be happy to suggest dealers in your area who have a good reputation.
I have bought worms from Uncle Jim's worm farm...(WON"T do that again!)
Don't stress over moldy grounds or other rotten food stuffs...God put those worms here to take care of it. The worms like the rotten stuff. Just make sure you have plenty of fresh bedding available at all times.
Guppy juice is full of great microbes. Use it to your heart's content
I worry that 800 worms would displace the foodsource. The kids and I, after coaching the 7 year old on proper lip quivering and pouting technique, convinced my wife to let us have enough space for 2 coffee cans to grow in.
The more research I do, the more I think the "worm-heads" around here have all decided the internet is evil, and disconnected themselves. Ah well... If I had a vehicle, I would just drive out of town and look for a horse stable... I'm sure I could dig up some worms there. I would just sneak a dig or 2 here, but it is all new construction and freshly rolled out grass... I doubt there is a healthy worm population available without trespassing...
you bring up a point that worries me. "the scenario always winds up in over feeding and killing all the worms".
The setup we currently have is a few coffee cans half filled with old coffee grounds and a few balled up pieces of brown paper, baked dry, and then remoistened with sludgewater from the guppy tank. We were going to add veggie scraps like the wilted outer leaves of cabbage, the crusts from my son's PB&J sandwiches, etc... If overfeeding is possible, then our plan probably would.
How does one avoid overfeeding?
Also, due to the rather small size of our operation, I am worried about getting too many worms to start with. I doubt the ground around here has had time to build up enough food for any extra worms to survive (the ground was bare for almost a year, and grass that was rolled over it hasn't been there long enough to get mowed yet).
How many full sized worms could comfortably work a coffee can sized container?
Tony, get a big bucket. I started with a kitty litter container. At least you will have enough area to put something. But be aware. A handful of material is enough to feed a beginning bin for weeks.
Since you have kids, my advice is to learn as much as you can first and THEN convince your wife you are going to teach them about ecology.
Then you set up a big enough system to work. That does not mean you have to show them how it consumes ALL your garbage. Just that they consume some of it.
As the worm biomass grows so will your waste consumption.
I used to sell alot of aquariums when I had my pet store by explaining to parents that if a kid or anybody TRULY understood the biology of what was going on in a simple fish tank, they would have the basis of an introduction-level college biology course.
I started this hobby/endeavor/ now compulsion on a shoestring myself. I was interested but did NOT want to spend any money to test it out.
I started my Europeans with 32 individuals from Walmart. I looked up the supplier and saw they were hortensis. I had to ask around for red wigglers but found a place in town that sold alot..mainly to people who fished for bream. I got a pack of 55 individuals.
Now that being said, there are 2 other factors that played a part in my worm-growing enterprise. First I enjoy starting with almost nothing and developing something out of it. I am not one of those immediate satisfaction type of individuals that has to start out big or not at all.
I have raised pet finches, cockatiels etc and then a few years later exhibition quality budgies. (Which I later gave up due to lack of time.) I also bought a pet store and bred some of the snakes etc.
I learned early on that anybody can keep an animal. But to keep an exotic and get it to breed means you have learned its biology. Not that worms are an exotic...they are the OPPOSITE. Almost a complete no-brainer to keep and breed. However to maximize performance takes a little knowledge and planning.
But back to my original stand, I love breeding/raising animals and plants and increasing their numbers from a small number into a workable, usable number.
For me it is personal satisfaction..for others it is probably frustrating to start small.