Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 EARTH DAY SPECIAL!!!

It is April and to those of us into conserving our precious planet's resources that means it is the time for Earth Day!  I am among those that think EVERY DAY is Earth Day but since it is actually written on the calendar I thought that we should have a Worm Fancy Special.... 

WORM FACTORY 360 plus $10 OFF 1 POUND OF WORMS (for local pick-up)
Includes FREE SHIPPING of Worm Factory 360!

Click the link below and we will ship your Worm Factory 360 to you for free.  Then when you receive the bin and have it set up, call or email us to schedule a day and time to pick-up your worms.  We have many FREE events throughout the Sacramento Area this spring and summer so we may even be able to coordinate a pickup near your neighborhood.

Happy Earth Day!!


Colors

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Light Sorting Worms


If you are operating a Rubbermaid type of worm bin (and not a vertically migrating system like a Worm Factory 360) you will eventually need to harvest your castings.  Once you have had a worm bin operating for several months all the paper products you used as bedding material will have disappeared and the bin will  look like it is full of dirt.  The dirt is all the worm castings (worm poop) that is so valuable for plants.  The big question becomes how do I harvest my castings.  There are two basic ways to harvest castings... a fast way and a slow way.  The slow way is to feed your worms in one corner of the bin and then several weeks later most of the worms will migrate over to the food.  This will allow you to scoop out the castings from the opposite side and replace them with some fresh bedding material.  This is all fine and good if you are not in a hurry but you may be like me and super busy, and since I only get a small window of time to work on projects I enjoy, I would like this process to happen much faster.  

The fast way is called harvesting by Light Sorting.  The idea is to take advantage of the worm's natural desire to dive away from light.  I have described this process over and over to folks and the premiss is very simple but I thought it would give folks more confidence if they just watched the process in a video.  So I put together a short 7 minute video to help new worm bin owners harvest their castings.

The video link is included below but it is also accessed directly on YouTube by searching for WormFancycom (just like our website without the 'dot').  I hope that it gives you the confidence to light sort your worms so you don't have to wait on lazy worms and can have your castings whenever YOU are ready for them.

Harvesting a Worm Bin

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter Worm Composting

Now that November is upon us and the temperatures are definitely dropping I have been taking measures to winterize our worms… and thought I would share some of the efforts so that perhaps more worm bins will stay alive and active over the winter. This brings up a very important distinction between just keeping your worms alive (keeping them above freezing) and actually having an active bin that continues to process food waste and create castings. Personally I want to keep all my bins active so that come spring we have lots of worms and castings for my own garden and for those of you that want to come and pick some up from us. That being said I will be focusing this posting on keeping the bins active with a temperature goal in the mid 70’s (Fahrenheit).

The easiest way to keep a worm bin active is to keep it inside. It is a constant temperature all year long, no need to cool in the summer or to heat in the winter. If the bin is kept well you won’t be overrun with insects and there will not be any unpleasant odors. Many people find unused corners of their houses that can fit a worm bin. My mother keeps her worm bin right next to her trash can in her kitchen and has never had a challenge. But perhaps keeping the bin in the house is not an option. For me I have far too many bins to bring them all in the house so I need to find other alternatives.

To keep your bin warm enough you will need to provide a heat source and insulation. If you just want to keep your bin alive insulation alone may be sufficient, but since I want to keep my bins active I need to find a heat source as well. A natural, microbial heat source is preferable. I have three large outside bins which I insulate with a layer of mulched leaves and a thick layer of shredded paper. I also cover the bins with plastic to keep the rain out and the heat in. It would be cool if I could have put the bins into the ground to provide additional insulation but we have an impossible hardpan so we are stuck with above ground bins and garden beds. The food you add will add heat but make sure you let the worms be your guide… they may be slowing down on their food consumption so the feeding frequency may decrease.

If the food and insulation doesn’t create enough heat you will need to look into alternative heat sources. For my inside bins I have several layers of Christmas lights on the rack. If you have just one bin you could set the bin on some bricks and put a wad of lights under the bin. You could drape a bin with lights. When I only had one bin I would put a heating pad under the bin for a few hours to get it warmed up. Monitor the temperature because if you have too many lights or a heating pad you can get the temperature way too hot. I have also placed sheets of plastic around our rack to hold in the heat we generate with the lights. This seems to keep the space in the 60’s without any challenge but our goal is the mid 70’s so now we have to get creative… More lights may be the option we go with eventually but for now we have been running a space heater while we are working on worm projects in the evening to get the temperature up.

 I have tried several other options in the past that could work if you only had one bin to work with. When I had one bin outside and I wanted it to stay warm I put a glass juice jar filled with water in the middle of the bin and would replace the cool water with warm water every day. Even though I was a pretty die hard worm lover this got to be too much when the weather got particularly nasty. I decided to try an aquarium heater instead. It worked pretty good just keeping the water a constant temperature and the worms gathered in the area around the jar.

I hope some of these ideas help you find a winterizing option that works for your worm system.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How much food is too much food?



It has been a super long time since I have had the opportunity to add a new post to the website and when you wait this long it seems like the topic has to be extra special.  Over the last year it seems that the most common question I have gotten is how to feed their worms.  Clearly people are hearing the feeding caution so as not to over feed… but what exactly is too much food?  Or how do you know when to add more food? 

 There are many factors that influence how much a worm will eat and as a general rule, under ‘optimal conditions’ a worm will eat half its body weight per day.  However these optimal conditions can be quite illusive especially in a brand new bin.  A new bin may require additional moisture be added where an established bin may be too wet.  If it is hot or cold the worms will not be eating as much as they would if the temperatures were more moderate.  Then there is also the food that is being added to consider.  Is it nice wet mushy melon rinds or are we talking about carrot tops and potato pieces?  I am hoping the following will help the new vermicomposter feel confident feeding their new worm bin.

For this example I am going to assume you started your bin with 1 pound of red wigglers in a Rubbermaid type of bin.  If you started with more or less please modify the feeding volumes appropriately.  After you first add your worms to your new bin you may not need to feed them for 3 for 4 days.  When you set your bin up with layers of food and paper products then let it sit a few days you have pretty much spread out a huge banquet for your new friends.  It will take them a little while to catch up on the volume of food you gave them.  Like any of us, the worms are going to eat the best stuff first so the food scrapes that are harder to eat are going to be ignored until they get good and rotten.  Carrot tops are a perfect example.  Carrots are very dense so unless they are chopped very small it takes a lot more time to decay than something that is much softer.  Not that adding dense food is bad; it just takes longer to decay. 

Paper Pulled Back and Food Spread Out
Your first feeding after adding your worms should be fairly light.  I would suggest just one double handful of food or approximately two cups of food.  The idea is that we want to add more yummy stuff so that the worms just go easily from the buffet to their normal eating routine.  To feed the worms pull back the paper that is covering them and spread out the food as evenly as possible.  The idea is that there are no big clumps of food in one spot.  Since they are going to just be slurping off the edges, the more surface area we can give them the better.  After the food is spread out, cover it back up with the moistened paper and you are done.

Unrecognizable Food - Time to Feed
I would check on the worms in about 2 days to see how they are doing.  If the food is still recognizable then give them another day or so.  Remember they still have a lot of food choices so they may not jump right into the new food like they will when your bin is more mature.  

Two Week Old Bin - Just Turned Over
When the food doesn’t look like food anymore it is time to add more.  I would suggest that this is a good time to turn the bedding a little bit.  After you pull back the shredded paper mix up the bedding/worms/old food mixture a little bit.  This will give you an opportunity to check the moisture in the bin and add any if necessary.  Turning will also add oxygen and keep the material from getting too compact.  This is an aerobic process so air is good.  After turning the material add another double handful of food to the bin, spread it out and put the shredding paper back over the food.

Two Month Old Bin - Almost Time to Harvest
What is going to happen is that over the next few weeks you will see the bin material turn from just worms/food/paper to include a lot of castings that look like dirt.  You will also be able to feed the bin more food or feed it more frequently, whatever fits your schedule.  We feed our bins two heaping double hand full’s of food every 3 days but if you wanted to push it to four days it would likely be fine, the worms will just eat more of the shredded paper in your bin.   

If you ever need additional help please feel free to email us at wormfancy@live.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do It Yourself Worm Bin

Worm Fancy has now had a few years of growing worms in Rubbermaid bins (check out the 'About Us' tab for pictures) and we have come up with a design that has been working very well. We want you to be successful so here is our design. Granted if we were rich enough to grow our worms in a whole bunch of Worm Factory 360's we would! So I still strongly promote the stacking systems for their ease of use and low maintenance... but for those of you out there that are limited in funds or you would rather re-purpose some of the materials you already have here are the DIY Bin Construction Instructions.

Materials needed:
• Drill
• 7/32 Drill Bit (or similar)
• Gorilla Tape (Not Duct Tape)
• Rubbing Alcohol
• Weed Block Filter Barrier
• Two 14 Gallon Dark Plastic Storage Bins

Step#1 - Prepare the Bottom Bin
• Wipe areas that you will be adhering tape and filter barrier to with rubbing alcohol.
• Choose one of the bins to be the bottom and drill two parallel sets of holes. Measure from the bottom of the bin 2” and drill the 1st row of holes.
• Then drill the next row ½ inch above the 1st row. Repeat on the other side. (No filter barrier is needed on this bin.)
• The bottom bin is done.

Step #2 - Ready the Top Bin
• Take the second bin & drill 2 rows of parallel holes at the top of the bin. Measure from the top of the bin 2 inches down & drill your 1st set of holes.
• Measure ½ in below that 1st row & drill the 2nd row of holes. Repeat on the other side of bin.
• On the base of the bin drill holes at the lowest point on the bottom to ensure good drainage. Space evenly about ¾ inch to 1 inch apart. You can also place holes down the center.
• Take one of the lids & drill 2 rows of holes around the lid. Space them evenly about ½ inch to ¾ inch apart.



Step #3 - Filter Paper on the Inside
• Measure & cut filter barrier to cover the holes on the sides & bottom of the top bin. The fabric will help keep the worms and vermicompost in and flies out.
• Secure the barrier with gorilla tape or water resistant tape to finish the bin.
• Repeat this same process for the lid.



Step #4 - Stack the Bins
• Take the bin marked bottom and place 2 bricks or blocks of wood in the bottom of the bin.
• Take the other bin that has the filter barrier placed over the hole & set it inside the bottom bin.
• You are now ready to prepare you bins for your worms.

Now it is time to prepare the bedding for your worms.

Step #1 - Worm Bin Lasagna
• When your bin is built you will make alternating layers of 1 to 2-inches moistened bedding (cut up card board, shredded newspaper, shredded bills, ripped up toilet paper rolls or paper egg cartons) then a thin layer of kitchen scraps.
• It is good to sprinkle one tablespoon of soil from your yard in one of the food layers to add some microbes and add a little grit for the worms.
• Make about three alternating layers so you have about 4 to 6 inches material in the bottom of the bin.
• Cover the top layer of food waste with about 4 inches of shredded moistened newspaper.

Step #2 - Wait, Wait, Wait
• Once this is all together put the lid on the bin and let it sit for 3 to 5 days. You could add worms right away but it goes a long way to improving the composting process if you can let it sit for a few days before adding worms. When the worms arrive there will be lots of food ready to eat. They will feel so at home it will be like putting mints on their pillows.

Step #4 - Tossing the Worm Bedding Salad
• When you open the bin after it has sit, it will stink and there may be some mold. This is exactly what you want to happen.
• Take off the top layer of newspaper and mix up the layers below and probably add more water so it will be moist like a wrung out sponge.

Step #5 - Ready set Worms!
• Now you are ready for worms. Go to the Worm Fancy products page and order your worms, send us an email (WormFancy@live.com) or give us a call at 916-560-8023 to get a pound of worms.
• You will put the worms on the mixed up layer of bedding and food.
• They will probably be in a clump so gently pull them apart into smaller clumps.

Step #6 - Give 'em the Light Treatment
• The worms will move away from light so keep a light (NOT direct sunlight) on them till they disappear into the mix . Either do this step outside or under an overhead light.
• Leave them in the light for at least an hour to make sure there is no confusion where home is.
• Return all the moistened shredded newspaper on top of the worm bedding, replace the lid and you are done.

Please remember the worms will be adjusting to the new environment for a few days and you just provided them with lots of yummy food so you don't need to feed them right away. After they have adjusted for approximately 3 days you can start feeding them every other day or every 3 days. Watch the amount of food you add, it is way easier to overfeed than underfeed. If what you have added previously has not been mostly eaten, wait a day or so to feed again. Your worm population will grow to accommodate the food supply so be patient and eventually they will keep up with the kitchen scraps like champs.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Wormy Reflection on 2010

As we say good bye to 2010 I can’t help but reflect on our first year in business. We met a lot of new people that were very very cool. There were some rather unusual folks, like the lady that suggested that mucus from worms was good for the skin… um… ya… interesting. But with very few exceptions the people we met were either gardeners after the ‘Black Gold’ or people looking to live greener. There were lots of parents with their kids starting the next generation on composting and we got to see lots of kids in class rooms totally excited about having worms at school. We loved working with the Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento Utilities, Cal EPA and the many green teams out there looking to make a difference in their work place, home and school.

Worm Fancy has been working with Sacramento Utilities doing vermicomposting education at their FREE composting seminars and one of the facts we learned was that about 45% of residential waste is food waste. I was interested in knowing was how many pounds of food waste we (our Worm Fancy clients) helped to divert from the landfill in 2010. Now I know that not all of our worms survived but if I assume that the number of worms that multiplied replaced the number of worms that were sacrificed I could come up with a ball park figure. So, not including the herd that lives in my garage and eats about four 5-gallon buckets of food a week, I estimated that our new Worm Fancy worm parents diverted close to 15,000 pounds of food from the landfill. I think we have made a decent start.
I would like to share with you a few of the most common mistakes that I have seen new vermicomposters make so perhaps anyone that reads this will have a head start and miss some of the pit falls.

Most Common Vermicomposting Mistakes:
  • By far the biggest error that new worm mommies and daddies make is over feeding. It is difficult to underfeed your bin but SO easy to over feed, particularly when you are first getting your bin started. Rule of thumb is that if the food you fed hasn’t been mostly consumed (covered with worms or castings) then hold off on more food. There are many factors that affect the productivity of your bin, temperature and moisture being big ones, so don’t just assume your bin will process a set volume of food. Your worm population will grow to meet the demand but until then be mindful of the volume of food you feed.
  • Not enough drainage is the number two thing that we have seen. If you are using a manufactured bin they generally have plenty of drainage… this challenge is more for the Do-It-Yourself bin made out of Rubbermaid type of containers. These containers are great, we use them very successfully, but the design is important. Not enough holes in the bottom is the most common mistake. These rubber bins hold a lot of moisture so if you don’t have enough drainage you will have a swamp in your bin. If you need a copy of our DIY bin instructions please email us at WormFancy@live.com and we will be happy to get you started on the right foot.
  • Finally the ultimate misconception…. do NOT fill your bin with dirt. When people order worms I like to ask what kind of bin they are using. This has saved countless worms from their being sent to their doom. If someone mentions dirt I know it is time for an intervention. Composting worms are not soil worms. I understand people have seen worm bins that are mature and it looks like they are full of dirt… but what they are seeing are lots of castings which look and smell like soil so the confusion is understandable. People have asked if they can add worms to their compost pile... This is fine if it is a ‘cold’ pile, but DO NOT add them to a tumbling composter or stackable composter. It will get too hot and the worms that don’t escape will die.

From all of here at Worm Fancy we wish you a happy and prosperous 2011... And keep on composting!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keeping Worms Alive in High Temperatures

We just got through our first triple digit days of the summer and our losses were fairly significant despite our initial efforts to keep our bins cool. We were not alone in our losses; I received several calls from other folks in the Sacramento area that have lost the worms in their bins due to the heat. I thought that it would be important to share some of the lessons learned so that those of you with outside bins can keep your worm populations alive this summer.

What happened…

I took off on Friday to visit some family and when I came back on Saturday I noticed that my garden was drooping despite the fact that the soaker hose had been running all night and all morning. That was my first clue that there could be a problem. I denied the situation a little longer so I could get dinner ready and put the kids to bed. Well once the angels were asleep I went to check the herd in the garage… It wasn’t a pretty sight.

The bin temperatures were in the 100’s and the worms were climbing out. Some of them made it to the floor and were dried up and others were huddled up together on the lids of bins below them. Many of the new bins that only had a few inches of castings were dry so we had to add water and mix in some ice cubes. The bins with thicker casting levels and lots of wet paper bedding on top of the worms and castings did much better.

The next morning as we were facing another 100+ day we put a sandwich bag of ice or a frozen bottle of water on top of the wet paper bedding in each bin. I checked the temperatures in the bins about 3 pm and they were almost 90 degrees and the ice was totally melted. We switched out the ice packs and this got them through the afternoon heat.

Thoughts for your outside bins…

If you keep your bin outside and the forecast is predicting temperatures in the high 90’s or 100’s I would suggest putting some ice in a baggie (so you are not adding excess water to your bin) or a frozen water bottle on top of your bedding in the morning and replacing it in the afternoon on particularly hot days. Since heat rises, the area under your frozen package will stay at a reasonably comfortable temperature for the worms. The worms will gather toward the center of the bin and away from the hot walls. A little prevention will be worth your time… TRUST ME… you do NOT want to open your bin and get a blast of dead worm smell. It is right up there with dead fish smell. Good Luck!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Use Worm Tea For Big Healthy Plants

I have read many articles promoting the use of Vermicompost Tea or Worm Tea on plants and seedlings but up until recently I had not used it myself. This is the second season that I have been using vermicompost in my garden and the results last year were amazing so it was obvious to me that I would be using it again… and since we have so much of the stuff it is rather convenient. My green beans were so healthy last season I was picking beans all the way into November/December when we finally had our first freeze. However it wasn’t until my coworker Matt took home a bag of our fine grade castings to help out his struggling seedlings did I get a firsthand account of how quickly worm tea can work on your plants. Here is his email to me:

Dear Kate,
I'm so glad I bought some worm castings from you. My vegetable starts were looking really bad. They were really starting to yellow and I thought my squash starts were getting powdery mildew already. Well I made up a couple batches of worm casting tea and sprayed my plants down pretty heavily for a couple days and my plants came back from the brink of death and within a week had new leaves forming. Yay! I also used the tea after I transplanted my pole bean starts into my garden. They did not fare well after I moved them but a couple doses of worm casting tea and they bounced right back. I've used other organic fertilizers before and they work well enough but not as quickly as the worm tea does. I saw results within a couple days on some pretty sad looking plants. I'll definitely be getting more casting from you.
Thanks
Matt

This season I wanted to sprout my own plants with vermicompost but I couldn’t find seeds for the yellow squash variety I wanted so I decided to just buy some plants. Once I had my plants home I decided to plant the garden and the difference between the growth rates in the plants germinated with vermicompost vs. the store bought plants is so obvious this picture says it all.



The zucchini on the left was planted the same week I bought the yellow squash on the right. The zucchini is greener and so much bigger despite being weeks younger. No more pony packs for me, there is obviously no comparison.



So now I have this big happy zucchini and this struggling yellow squash. I did give it some vermicompost when it was planted but it clearly needed more help.

I decided to brew some Worm Tea and see if I could get these guys growing. I sent my husband to the pet store for an aquarium pump, an air stone and some tubing so for less than $15 I have a worm tea brewer.



I filled a 5-gallon bucket with 2 gallons of water and put ½ cup vermicompost in an old nylon and started bubbling the mixture. My friend Matt just pours the vermicompost in the water but I was planning on using my sprayer (not a watering can) to apply the worm tea so I didn’t want to clog it with any undissolved vermicompost. I let it bubble overnight, about 10 hours, stirring it occasionally. Then on May 16, 2010 I sprayed it on my plants.




I started with some very unhappy strawberries plants that were given to me by a neighbor. I was pretty sure that half of them were going to die so in my mind giving them some Worm Tea was just a courtesy prior to putting them in the compost pile. Then I did the garden plants… I sprayed all the leaves as well as putting a little on the root area.

Fast forward two weeks and the difference in the plant health is obvious. My strawberries have tons of new growth and my yellow squash is almost bushy. I have committed to using worm tea every two weeks to keep these guys on the fast track to huge growth.


Friday, May 7, 2010

What to do about Fruit Flies

I would have to say that fruit flies are the most common bug that finds a worm bin. As with most of the 'bin creatures' they don't bother the worms, just us. Left unchecked a fruit fly population can get out of hand and you will have to call in air traffic control just to feed your worms! Fortunately there are several things you can do to cut down a fruit fly population quickly.

1) The first thing you can do is cut back on your feeding. Very often I find that bins have been overfed causing a surplus of food that worms have not been able to keep up with. If you hold off for a few days and let the worms catch up there will be less food for the flies to be attracted to.

2) A second thing you can do is add more moist shredded paper to the bin (like another 4 to 6 inches). This will reduce the 'fly zone' so the adult flies can't find a mate and they will have to dig a lot deeper to find the food, if they find it at all.

3) Third you can add a 'flytrap' to the bin. After you put in the paper you can make a flytrap out of a small jar or cup of any kind. I have used baby food jars, yogurt containers or an old coffee mug. Fill the jar 3/4 full of apple cider vinegar and add a drop of dish soap. Put this into a corner of the bin, nested in the paper, and the flies will go in and never come out. If you make two traps you could put one in the bin and one on top so any adults flying around outside of the bin will get caught. This would also work if you find you have fruit flies in your house.

4) The last thing you can do is physical removal... smash the adults you see crawling, let them out and shoo them away from the bin and the food or pull out the vacuum and suck them up. Their life cycle is so short that if you cut off their food and breeding with the extra paper and open the bin twice a day to let the adults out and smash what you can you will seriously cut down the population in just a few days.

To keep them away make sure the worms are keeping up with the food you are giving them. If the food you are adding to the bin isn't almost completely gone in 3 days or so hold back some food so they can catch up and there won't be so much temptation for fruit flies. Also make sure you are burying the worm's food under plenty of moistened paper.

If you have a tray system all of this advise could work for you with possibly one more trick. Tray systems generally don’t have much open space above the feeding area like a bin type of system. If you have a tray system try placing a sheet of moistened paper over the food. Since with tray systems adding 4 to 6 inches of shredded paper is not an option one impenetrable layer could help a lot.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions

Worm Fancy gets many emails and phone calls about getting started in vermicomposting and I thought it would be helpful to put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How do you get started?


This is by far the most common question I get. Many people are interested in vermicomposting but they just don’t know where to start. I would say that if you are reading this you are absolutely starting at the right spot… research. I started vermicomposting with very little knowledge and lots of excitement. I knew the basics about giving worms a moist home and some food, but that was about all I knew. So I suggest you read through the next few questions and get yourself comfortable with the basics of getting started.

Where should you keep worms?


Worms can be raised on a small or large scale, depending on your goals. If you are trying to manage food scraps for yourself or your family, a small 12 to 20 gallon worm bin should be adequate. Bins can be made of just about any material such as plastic, wood or canvas. The bin should be dark and opaque, and it should have a lid, drainage and aeration holes. When choosing a bin more surface area is better than a deep one. Worms will do better in a 14-gallon Rubbermaid bin than in a 5-gallon bucket. Worm Fancy can help you design your own bin out of whatever material you would prefer or provide you with bins to purchase.

For best results you will want to ‘set up’ your bin before you get your worms. One way to ensure that your new bin takes off successfully is to mix a decent quantity of waste material in with fresh moistened bedding, then simply letting the bin sit for a week or so before adding the worms. I know this can be a challenge for those people anxious to get started, but it will go a long way in terms of ensuring your success.

If you are trying to manage larger amounts of organic materials or produce large amounts of worms or vermicompost, worms can be managed in low-mounded rows, in large compost piles or even in large municipal type systems. The same principals to worm survival apply in the large-scale system as in the small system. Large systems allow worms to move out of an area that may be too dry, too hot or too anything, into a more hospitable area so they can be easier to maintain.

What will worms eat?

Worms will eat a wide variety of organic materials such as paper, manure, fruit and vegetable waste, grains, coffee grounds, and ground yard wastes. While worms will eat meat and dairy products, it is best not to feed these materials or oily foods to worms, due to potential odor and pest problems. Worms will consume limited amounts of citrus wastes, but limonene, a chemical compound found in citrus, is toxic to worms, so it is best to limit or avoid feeding them this material.

Most people think that worms feed directly on the waste material added to the bin. In a sense they do, but more specifically they are eating up the microbes that form on the rotting material. If you throw in a bunch of fresh carrot peelings the worms won’t be able to start processing the material until sufficient microbial colonization has occurred.

Because worms have no teeth, they need some type of grit in their bedding that they can swallow and use in their gizzard to grind food, much like birds do with small stones. A little soil or sand will work. You can also put some eggshells in a blender (with a little water) and then add the liquid to your bin.

What is the bedding for?

More important to what will they eat is what will they live in. Worms will eat the bedding but it is also material that the worms will burrow into for protection and comfort. Some great materials for bedding include shredded cardboard, shredded newspaper, aged straw, coconut coir and fall leaves. They can also live in peat moss although I don’t recommend the use of this material since it is not harvested in a sustainable or environmentally friendly manner. Just about any paper product will be fine in your bin, although you will want to avoid waxed boxes or glossy paper. The bedding will need to be moistened but not wet. The ideal moisture level would be similar to that of a wrung out sponge.

Will the summer heat kill my worms?

Worms can survive a wide variety of temperatures, but they thrive best at temperatures between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (13–25 degrees Celsius). If you keep your worms in the house you don’t need to worry too much. However if you are thinking about putting your bin in the garage or have an outside application you may want to think about a shady spot. I have had bins at 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer and the worms have survived although they were certainly stressed. We recommend placing a frozen water bottle on top of the bedding.  Keep the bottle cap closed so you are not adding too much extra water to the bin.  You can also freeze your kitchen scraps before adding them to the bin so that it will keep the bin cool when the temperature outside is particularly warm. Worms will migrate to the area in the bin that has the most comfortable temperature.

The winter cold is another thing to consider if your bin is outside. If you are in an area where it freezes you will want to think about ways to keep your bin warm and protected during the winter months.  We drape Christmas lights over or under the bins to create a warm (and festive) area for the worms.

Worms are amazingly resilient. With a little precaution and care they will do just fine in all weather conditions.

What about other creatures in the bin?

Other creatures will find your bin even if it is kept inside. You may find different kinds of mites, springtails, pot worms (small white worms often mistaken as baby red worms), and an occasional fungus gnat. These organisms generally stay in the bin, live in harmony with the worms and cause little problems. Consistently burying the food in the bedding will minimize the attraction of unwanted species.

If a bin is kept outside, the number of organisms that find their way into a bin increases greatly. Slugs and snails, ants, spiders, soldier fly larvae, fruit flies, pill bugs, centipedes, even frogs, salamanders and some small rodents have found their way into outdoor worm bins. Rarely will more than three or four of these cohabitants occupy a bin. Most do not hinder the functioning of a bin, and they are not bothersome.

Worms raised in worm beds can also attract predators such as birds and moles. Birds can be deterred in traditional ways such as placing scarecrows near the beds, or the beds can be covered with cardboard or other material. Moles can breed quickly and can eat a lot of worms. They can be deterred either by raising the worms on a cement pad, or placing a wooden, wire or plastic barrier several inches into the soil around the beds. The barrier should stick out of the soil an inch or two to prevent the moles from finding a way over it.

Finding other creatures in you bins can be surprising, and worrisome to the new vermicomposter. Most of the other creatures do their part in the decomposition process and in most cases are harmless to the worms. A diverse ecosystem is a sign of a healthy ecosystem; so don’t worry when you start to see some new additions to your bin. Generally the only time to worry is when the population of another species gets so large that it begins to compete with the worms. Rest assured this doesn't happen very often when feeding normal kitchen scraps to a small system. If you are ever concerned about the ‘health’ of your bin please call or email Worm Fancy and we will help you with your challenge.
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Brenda says...

Worm Fancy is the greatest place to get your worms in the Sacramento area. They have the best customer service!

Doug and Tammy, Yuba City

Tammy and I would just like to thank you for your professionalism and patience in answering all our questions about vermiculture. We are very interested in the difference it will make in our garden this year. Even our son will be using the new Worm Factory 360 in his science fair project that compares plants with and without worm castings. We're already noticing the better health with it. Our time with you was pleasant and we will be sure to return! Thank you again and we'll keep you posted. composted. :D

Scott R. from Sacramento

I picked my worms today and it sure looks like a lot more than 2 pounds worth. I ordered a pound from another vendor and you gave me 5 times more than they did.