Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
I am very very new to the worm world. WOW!!! What a world. I may never see my mother again!!! I just start doing this for the first time on Aug. 19, 2013. I have so many questions and I have done so much research and still have not had all my questions answered. So let's start here. I have read that "worm tea" will last anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours AFTER YOU MAKE IT. Big scale if you ask me. What I would like to know is how long is the liquid good for BEFORE YOU TURN IT INTO WORM TEA? I have a bin that collects the liquid in the bottom.
Hi Teresa. I don't make the "tea" myself, but since no one else has answered you yet, I'll go.
The liquid that drains from your worm bin is called "leachate". It's a common misconception that that is "worm tea" itself. It is not, nor is it the source for worm tea. Properly, worm tea (also known as "VC tea") is made from finished vermicompost. You take a sample of the VC, high in worm castings, put it in a jar with a small amount of molasses, dilute with pure water, and aerate it for some period of time -- maybe 24 hours. I am unclear on the specifics, since I don't do this myself.
As for the leachate, in my opinion you can simply dump it in your garden somewhere. That's what I do. However, I must also disclose that some people think their leachate is toxic and unhealthy for plants and/or vegetable growing. That fear is not borne out by my experience -- my plants seem to have a positive response to leachate, if anything. Anyway, there are varying opinions on it.
Did that help you at all?
I understand that the "tea" is what is made from the VC. I am just so new at this, that I didn't know that it was called leachate. So here is what I am trying to find out. I need to know how long I can keep the leachate in a jar before it goes bad BEFORE I MAKE TEA OUT OF IT.
I live in the mountains. When winter hits, we get so much snow in our yard that the "tea" will not help me because I don't get to see our yard, or our garden until late spring. So what I would like to do is collect the leachate in the jar(s) throughout the winter and use it in the spring to make the "tea" when the snow melts. But will it still be good?
We bought a large compost bin to put the soil in and keep it in that, so I am not really worried about the soil that I will be collecting. Or should I be?
Well, what I was trying to say was that people usually don't use leachate at all. Unless, like me, they dump it on the ground. The compost from the bin is what has real value. It has value as a direct soil amendment, and as a source for worm tea.
Storing that VC (which you referred to as "soil") is a topic discussed on other threads like this one, which I think you've already discovered.
So if it were me, I would not store the leachate in a jar, or at all. (If you do store and use the leachate anyway, you're entering new territory! Let us know what happens!) I would discard it and think about how I would store the VC. But, to summarize that topic quickly, you want to try to prevent it from freezing, or from drying out, and you must also keep it ventilated so it can breathe. Think of it as a living thing, which it is, actually.
Oh, and how long can you store the compost? Well, sounds like you have no choice but to store it for several months, right? I think it will retain some value over that time, if you store it properly.
Thank you. I was starting to get a little confused. I saw a video where this guy actually took the leachate and made the tea from it. So being a newbe, that is what I thought you were suppose to do with it. I did not realize that you were actually suppose to dump it. I did also see some videos where people were using the VC and making the tea from that also. But thanks to you, things are clearing up a lot. I think that I watched too many videos on how to raise worms from too many different people with too many different opinions and I just started getting confused. I have to say, I got the best advise from you. The cloud has lifted and things are making sense now. Thank you.
Hehe, to be honest, you will get a lot of conflicting opinions anywhere you go, here too. But at least the people here are generally polite and want to help. :-)
Taking good care of worms can be tough at first. It can be hard to figure out what to expect, and how to understand what is happening in your bin. Is it normal, or is it going wrong? But you'll get it down after several months, generally -- read what others have to say, be attentive to changes in your bin, figure out how to apply what you learn to what you see... More art than science, in my opinion.
I will make sure that it stays moist, but not wet and keep you updated. All I can do is hope that maybe some cocoons get into it so that when they hatch, they will help me out in the compost bin also.
The liquid that you collect from the bottom of your bin is not a good source for making worm tea. In my opinion unless you collect the leachate daily and use it pretty much immediately. Stagnant water sitting in the bottom of your bin will take very little time to become anaerobic and not good for your plants.
As you said yourself, brewed worm tea is only good for a small amount of time, the leachate in the bottom of your bin is similar. It is likely that very fresh leachate, has good qualities similar to a worm tea, but once the good microorganisms die, bad bacteria can take over, and it's effectiveness will be lessened or it could even have negative effects.
Just an opinion for ya, good luck!
Yup, and I would have chimed in sooner, but work has a bad habit of occupying too many hours, dangit!
IMHO, the best plan is to make sure a bin stays moist enough for the worms to be really active and eating well, but not so moist that any leachate collects. If you can achieve that balance, it seems to me that you are keeping the best stuff in the compost, not "flushing" it out to collect in the bottom, and if you choose to make tea, follow the advice here of those that do, with the VC itself.
In all honesty, I do have to add that I check the bottom once a week, and there are always worms down there, all sizes but mostly adult, and there is usually a very small very wet puddle of castings around and under the spout. The puddle isn't wet enough to pour (and I've never had enough to use the spout), but is wet enough to stick very well to the bottom. I have yet to figure out the attraction for the worms, since it's not a large number, but about half of the worms that are there are in the puddle. I have devoted a very cheap, thin silicone spatula to gently scrape the bottom clean, into the active tray. But they always go back.
And A-P, thanks for that link! I've been looking for something like that, just didn't know the right search terms, I guess.
Oh, Teresa, do you have houseplants? They benefit from the VC as well as outdoor plants do, you know. Mine have tripled in size in the time I've been feeding them with it. I started in Oct 2012, so I must have gotten some fertilizer somewhere around January. They get some once a month. I even have a "rescue" orchid that sprouts one or two new roots every time I feed it with VC mixed in some water. I have high hopes it will actually bloom this year!
Thank you for everyones help. I hear a lot about the worms falling into the collector tray from several people. What if I were to put a mesh or a window screen on the bottom tray so the liquid can still go through but the worms can't. I really hate to see them fall into something that could or will harm them.
In my experience, if they want to get out, they will. Window screen, they could get through. They'll exit from under the lid even when it's closed. And you have ventilation holes too (right?).
Eventually you'll get the bin into a state where they mostly won't want to leave it. Until then, (in my opinion,) just have a rescue plan for escapees. Under my RM bin I have a catch-basin with a shallow pool of water, about 1 cm deep. The basin has steep tall dry sides, so if they think about climbing it, they'll usually end up dropping back into the water. The bin stands on feet in the water puddle, so the puddle has lots of surface area and stays oxygenated so that submerged worms can still breathe (yes, they can breathe under water if the water has oxygen). The pool doubles as a moat, a barrier to ants and predators. The pool of course gets corrupted with leachate over time, and could also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so I check it every so often for worms, then dump it in the garden and put in fresh water.