Thursday, February 5, 2015

Adventures in Vermicomposting, Ch 2

While digging around in the worm bin today, I noticed fewer worms to the top of the bin. I kept digging and found them gathered near the bottom of the bin which seemed too wet to me, and also had a bit of rotting odor. I couldn't find anything obviously wrong, but I did note that things were a bit compacted and there were castings through the whole box. There was also very little identifiable food scraps and no identifiable paper bedding, mostly just castings, grass clippings, and crunched leaves. Well then, I had only one idea: my very industrious worms had worked their way through all the food and bedding I'd offered and were in need of fresh food and bedding. It still seems a little crazy to me to think that after only two months my starter colony have composted an entire box of materials, but maybe they have. (If you are a veteran worm owner, please throw in your two cents here, I'm very curious.) This is what it looks like.

Just in case that's true, I turned and aerated the compost, and scooched it all to one half of the box leaving a whole corner empty.

I made a trip outside to the recycle bin and pulled a couple newspaper flyers and a small corrugated cardboard box out then tore them up into appropriately sized pieces. I was already in the process of a water vacuum and change for the goldfish, so, once again, I used the dirty water to wet most of the new bedding.

I put some dry cardboard pieces in the bottom to soak up any excess moisture, then layered in the wet bedding, some produce scraps and used coffee grounds, another layer of wet bedding, the old filter from my fish tank (this part is an experiment to see if the worms find anything edible on the filter and since it's loaded with good microorganisms, I figured, why not), another layer of wet bedding, a thin layer of dry bedding and some more used coffee grounds on top for good measure. I figure, this way, if the worms migrate to the fresh side of the bin, they must be done with the old side and I can begin removing the vermicompost.

You see, I want this colony to GROW! My crazy, wild, ambitious hope is that one day, in the not so distant future, I'll be able to move my starter colony that has outgrown its bin to a Worm Inn Mega. Then, I'll be able to vermicompost 100% of my kitchen scraps and maybe my neighbors too, and maybe even some spoiled produce from the supermarket! It's overly ambitious I know. But dreaming about the big stuff motivates me to do the little stuff really well. Anyways, I'll keep you posted!

Update 2/6/14:

Tonight I checked my worm bin and found the smell to be even worse and there was several ounces of water that pooled in a corner when I checked it. The worms were also not in any of the fresh bedding, not even near it. So, I poured off the excess and then dumped all the contents of the bin into a bucket several times larger so I could give the bin a good look see. I found the bedding to be too wet and there were very few springtails and only saw a dozen or so worms. There were lots of the tiny white worms though. Further research has led me to believe that 1) the bedding was too wet [a recent problem], 2) the white worms are called pot worms and their presence indicates that, 3) the bin is too acidic [probably a result of too many coffee grounds.]

Somewhere, can't remember where, I read that red wigglers like an environment that is to the acidic range of the ph scale. I have just learned that is unequivocally NOT TRUE. They like the middle to very slightly alkaline side of the scale.

To solve these problems, I have already added and mixed in a good bit of dry newspaper. I am about to go boil a bunch of eggs so I can use the calcium that composes the eggshells to raise the ph of the bed. I plan on boiling the eggs, drying the shells and pulverizing them to a powder then mixing them in with the bedding. Tomorrow, I'll check to make sure there is no excess moisture, and then I will leave my worms alone for a week to allow them to recover from all this handling. Next weekend, I will feed them some aged scraps that's been run through the food processor, top it off with some dry bedding and then leave the poor things alone for two more weeks. So, I hope to report back in about a month that the worms are happy and healthy.


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