Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums

Even if I don't have a steady garden, I'm used to check Gayla Trail's webpage yougrowgirl. The first time I ever saw a vermicomposting bin was, when I was checking her tutorials. Since then, some years have passed, I moved to my appartment with my boyfriend, where I'm free to experiment in gardening and recycling ideas.

When I saw the worm bin bag of Amy Youngs we decided to start to vermicomposting, but it took a while until we could find all the materials. One useful comment was to use a laundry bag construction instead of wood. Ikea-Antonius stand: 5,5euros. Searching recycled polyester felt was no less difficult than looking for a teletransportation unit. We gave up, looked for other alternatives like heavy duty disposal bag (available only in white and a horrible yellow), garbage bag (to cover around the white bag). Finally we spotted a fabric store where they sell (normal) polyester felt, the same colour on instructables, a very beautiful violet. (5 euros/meter) Shoelaces and lace stops costs another few euros, but maybe you can find this on your teenager clothes. To be sure we've bought 2 meters and headed to the only house we could have found a sewing machine: my boyfriends mom! After having my first sewing machine lessons, and countless help, we finished one double layered bag and sewed another smaller one with the rest of the fabric.

After a shallow search on internet, I decided to buy worms from a bait shop. (2,5 euros for a container as big as a womans punch) Today I know that there is a EF store in nord Italy and I can order 5000 worms for 60euros + cargo. It's a huge amount but it seems like I'll share the rest.

To start my vermicomposter I've bought two containers, I guess with less than 50 worms. They seem like mature, healthy EFs. Check the pictures and tell me if I'm right. I've just started on 8th of may. I've let them wait for one day with only newspaper bedding and then fed them a mix of veggie, rotten apple and tomatoe. 11th of may tomatoe peels and 15th of may 3 banana peels. Only the first mix seems unrecognizable now, tomatoe skins and the green tops are still there, without any fleshy part. Banana peels became an unrecognizable black stuff, doesn't stink but I can feel that they are still intact.

I'm afraid of overfeeding after having seen the photos of protein poisoning, as I have a very few amount of worms. Since then I did just spread tap water everyday. If I add too much, it drips to the container under the bag, no need to fear of making them drown. To see if they are ok, I play a lot in the bag. But this way all the bedding and compost are so mixed, I'm afraid i have to wait to harvest that they finish eating also the bedding.

After reading some articles and seeing that the newspaper gets intact, I decided to add shredded egg carton. And maybe it's time to add a bit of salad now. Just a little bit for a 50 worms colony.

My only concern is that there are new guys in town now, white and red mites and springtails, I guess. Just because I've read somewhere that this is their normal habitat, I don't panic (until any of you say to panic)!

click pics to see full resolution:

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Comment by Susan B on May 21, 2009 at 11:24am
I'm not really sure about the photos, but most of the critters in your bin help with the decomposition of the food. The worms eat bacteria, they don't directly eat the food. My local worm guru calls them 'residents in good standing.' I draw the line at flying things (they take their food out of the bin) and centipedes.

I live in Hawaii where we're constantly fighting cockroaches. I haven't had any problems in my bin at all!! I did have a problem on my couch where I sit to eat, but not the bin.

When the bin dries a little, you'll have fewer mites. In the mean time, don't worry about them. I've got LOTs of springtails and pillbugs and things that look like black ladybugs but don't fly.

So, who's winning? Io or Jupiter? My money is on Jupiter. (Buy Jupiter ;-)
Comment by Kayla on May 21, 2009 at 6:37pm
50 worms can eat approx .025 lbs of food (and bedding) every day in ideal conditions. So you fed them probably a full lb on the 8th and again fed them on the 11th you fed them another 3 banana peels...that's maybe .75lbs....I would slow down the feeding, so you don't overfeed!
Depending on your water system, I wouldn't add tap water. The chemicals in there can be quite nasty to the worms, and they probably don't need the extra water, water running through your bin might wash some of the good stuff out. The food you add will add moisture especially in a bin as small as yours.
Don't worry about the worms. They've survived a very long time without humans, so you don't need to "play a lot in the bag"....just let them do their thing and try to avoid checking on them too often (easier said than done!!)
Comment by io_vs_jupiter on May 22, 2009 at 12:05am
Ok then I guess I'm not panicking because I see one or two fruit flies at most every other day. No other scary things, cockroaches or centipedes.
At the moment wins Jupiter at you guessed. Io means "I" in italian, and is the name of a goddess Isis in egyptian mythology, a girl seduced by Zeus, gets trapped by Hera, runs away from her guardian Cyclops, through Corno D'oro, Bosphorus, (Istanbul) to Asia Minor, and then to Egypt and becomes the mother of Osiris. On her way to Egypt she gets to know different gods and semigods. I like her story.

The bin bag dries a lot, the newspaper pieces dry and stick together and it's never more than a couple of drops that fall from the bin bag, so I'm not worried about washing good stuff out, but as you say maybe they don't need extra water. I'll leave them to their fate for a couple of days.

I want to add some worms, and I have two options. Someone I've found on Freecycle composts in the garden and said she has the same type of worms, but they might be also earthworms. This would be free and experimental, and I can add like 50 other worms. Or I can order from a vermicomposting company 5000 worms at least for about 70 euro (more than 100 USD I guess). I don't need that much worms but I can share them. I'm still thinking for which one to go.

Thank you for advices!
Comment by Kayla on May 22, 2009 at 10:47am
If you're going to add water, maybe try letting it sit for a day or two to let some of the chlorine evaporate? Its what I do to my fish tanks. Then add it in a little at a time. You could also go buy a big watermelon and enjoy the yummy stuff and toss the rinds in, there's lots of water in those!!!
Good luck!!


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