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Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

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Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  tiffanybrenner on 3/31/2012, 6:39 pm

Hi,

I've had my worm factory composter going for about 6 months. I started it with ~500 red wigglers. They are in a nice shaded spot in my back yard (I'm in San Diego, so temps are mild). I've kept it moist and I feed them veggies/fruit scraps regularly. I was concerned maybe I wasn't feeding them enough, but I'm guessing if they aren't eating everything I'm giving now, I'm feeding them plenty?

So after 6 months I would have expected that enough casting would have been created that it would be time put the 2nd level on. But as of now the 1st level isn't even 1/2 full. Also, not that I've counted the worms Smile , but I'm guessing they have reduced in numbers vs. grown.

Any initial thoughts? or info I should give you in order to help diagnose?

I am getting lots of worm tea!

Thanks!
-Tiffany

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 3/31/2012, 7:15 pm

Hey Tiffany! I'm just up the road!

What type of bedding do you have them in? Is it just the veggies?

I noticed mine (also wrigglers) are pretty packed into the bedding, so I added a new shelf yesterday. I filled it with just composted steer manure and moved the shredded newspapers from the other shelf to this one (there are a lot living in the newspapers, too).

I didn't add any food, because I've noticed they like manure (and damp newspaper) just fine by itself.

I've never had mine be big eaters of any veggies...I've never noticed them swarming to the food like ants on sugar. The seems to "go to the buffet" and "return to their table" so to speak.

In 2 mos your 500 would have been a thousand, and in 2 more months 2 thousand, and 2 more months 4 thousand. In one shelf, that would be pretty tight quarters, even if it's a big worm factory. Even if you don't have a lot of castings, I'd add a shelf. They don't like being only in their own waste.

Ideally, you don't get a lot of lechate from the bedding. Barely damp, not wet. Are they too wet?

Ava


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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  tiffanybrenner on 3/31/2012, 9:20 pm

Hi Ava - Thanks for all the info. I've never added any newspaper or manure. Sounds like I should? Where do I get manure? Just buy a bag for gardening and then periodically add some to the worm bin?

As far as bedding, I only have the original bedding the worm factory came with. Shredded paper/woody material. Never added anything else except the food scraps.

How about I add some paper, get some manure, get some more worms (??), add a shelf, and see how it goes?

And they definitely aren't too wet. Its just damp. I did notice that quite a few fall through the holes that drain into the bottom that collects the tea. Those drown. Not tons, but many.

Garden Grove - yep very familiar. I grew up in Irvine, went to CSUF.

Thanks for the tips!

-Tiffany

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  GWN on 3/31/2012, 10:05 pm

Hi there
I am sort of new to all of this as well
I started out with a lb of worms and for some reason they seemed to rapidly disappeared or so it seemed.
I am not sure what I did wrong but I started to add damp torn up paper and food occasionally, I have been given lots of advice here and I have followed all of it in a round about way.
I thought perhaps just putting food in occasionally and covering everything up with wet paper, would be my plan, and it seems to have worked.
After trying to "chill" a bit.... it has reestablished itself. SOmeone told me to take some moist oatmeal and put it on a piece of wet paper towel, I did that and just checked it a few days ago the the area was teeming with adolescent worms....
They take awhile to grow (about 90 days) so I think I am on the right track now and I think my worms are FINALLY multiplying.
I am getting SOME worm castings on the bottom layer and I crumpled up some paper near the spout so that they would not drown.
and since I left some paper there I have had none drown there.
I hope this helps, but I am just another hopeless beginner on this as well.
cheers

GWN

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  littlejo on 3/31/2012, 11:37 pm

First, you need to keep them from drowning. Put a piece of wood, or wadded up newspaper/cardboard in the area where there is water, to give them something to climb up on to keep from drowning.

Your bin may be too acidic for the worms. you can add some ground up egg shells. They will use them as grit to 'chew' their food for they have no teeth, and will help with the acidity. I use a coffee grinder, but, I used a spoon and a brick in the past.

I would guess that it all is too wet. I never have any excess liquid, but, I add paper/cardboard to soak up the moisture from wet food. The castings (I know they are making some!) may be mixing with the liquid and going down the spigot.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  GWN on 4/1/2012, 10:52 am

oh the one thing I did that really seemed to help, was to add some sand.
I have some sterile sand (I do not think it would need to be) but I read that they do not have teeth and so they need something to help them break down food (not sure how it works) but to use either finely ground up egg shells or sand.
Everything seemed to turn around for me once I put some sand in my farm

GWN

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 4/3/2012, 11:52 am

HARUMPH!

My idea was a major failure. The result: Sudden Worm Death!

Saturday was the new tray. Sunday they were making a vortex...all moving in the same direction in a circle in the bed. It was weird to see! And a lot of them were moving away. I left the lid open (and in the light) to encourage them to dig in.

I added some rotten veggies found in the fridge, and the big ones went right to it. The little ones seemed to dig in to the bedding.

Monday there were only a few escapees. The circle was not moving as much. I gave them a light coating of the bedding.

Monday night I checked them to find a faint smell of ammonia. Not good. Any worm bodies visible were dark and not as shiny as usual. There were 3 escapees...2 in the basin, one in lid. I put the two in the basin into the bedding.

I looked as soon as I got up this morning, and I saw ONE live worm, probably the one from the lid last night. The rest, if they have any shine are VERY skinny. I looked at the wrotten veggies...the ones there are the right color, but they are disingrating.

So sad.

The good news is there are eggs are in the old bedding. Now it is time to move the new bedding (aged steer manure & compost) to the garden and wait for the eggs to hatch.

I can only think there was something in the manure that really disagreed with them.

The worms I bought were in manure and compost. They go through a radical adjustment with different bedding. I thought I'd go back to the 'original' bedding because they didn't seem to like the bedding I had.

Maybe the manure needed to air out? Be prepped?

Anyone know organic chemistry well?

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 4/3/2012, 12:28 pm

@tiffanybrenner wrote:Hi Ava - Thanks for all the info. I've never added any newspaper or manure. Sounds like I should? Where do I get manure? Just buy a bag for gardening and then periodically add some to the worm bin?

As far as bedding, I only have the original bedding the worm factory came with. Shredded paper/woody material. Never added anything else except the food scraps.

How about I add some paper, get some manure, get some more worms (??), add a shelf, and see how it goes?

And they definitely aren't too wet. Its just damp. I did notice that quite a few fall through the holes that drain into the bottom that collects the tea. Those drown. Not tons, but many.

-Tiffany

Hi Tiffany. You'll find as it gets warmer you'll need damp newspaper on top of the bedding to keep them cool. We tear the dull print flyers that come in the mail into strips (they have a grain that they will tear along...across I think). I also use paper from my printer. We tear them, soak them, squeeze them out, and put them on top of the bedding, filling the gap between the tray and the lid.

How much bedding do you need? Depends on how many worms you want, as they will fill the area they to have to live in. And they eat their bedding! If your tray is full of bedding, and the worms have room, you're probably fine for a while.

If they like their bedding, try to stay with the same thing. Is it coconut coir? Is it peat moss? Call the place that supplied it and ask.

If you want to try steer manure (which is so cheap!), I'd put it in a tray (but NOT on the unit), get it wet, let it air, get it damp, and then add it to the unit (everything I didn't do). See if they move to it. If they go to it, you're golden. If not...at least they are still alive!

Ava

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 4/3/2012, 1:23 pm

Except for reviving the dead worms, I've reversed the process. I put the old bedding back in the tray, put the damp newspapers on top (and found about 10 living worms) and put it back on the system. And it's heavy...that's one reason I wanted to change the bedding! That tray weighs about 30 lbs.

They LOVE newspaper...they get into every fold imaginable...even if its been twisted!

Now to chill like GWN and let them do their thing.

I did heavily wet down the manure and put some old but not moldy turnip greens on top. It will be interesting to see if they move into it eventually.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  llama momma on 4/3/2012, 1:59 pm

Random thoughts - With so many variables like moisture, pH, bedding, foods, oxygen levels, temperature - I guess we still end up having to pave our own way to success no matter how much we read or try to help each other. If I could do things over I would have counted and weighed the batch of worms that arrived in the box. I have no idea what I started with even though I paid for a thousand red wigglers. From what I'm seeing, I can't imagine there is that many in the bin.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 4/3/2012, 3:06 pm

It's a mild 70* day today, but sunny. Checked the temps on both trays...85 in the front, 75 in the back. Black does absorbs all the sunlight!

No need to stress the few that are left. Tucked the unit under the BBQ's shade to cool it off.

Need to put up latices on the patio cover, and see if that corner can get a bit more shade. [But my patio roses are about to bloom!]

Balance...balance....

@LM...reading your thread I thought about how you checked them daily. I did that too, until I read how they don't like vibration (so no singing to them, LOL!). And I noticed I could feel the vibrations from the main street through the walls...they probably can too. Poor stressed out wormies! Another reason to run!

"Ah city life!" Where's Ava Gabor's hat throw when you need it?

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  llama momma on 4/3/2012, 3:35 pm

@AvaDGardner wrote:
....@LM...reading your thread I thought about how you checked them daily. I did that too, until I read how they don't like vibration

Yeah you are right! Here I thought I was being good by keeping them far away from the washer and dryer vibrations, while not really considering the banging around I did myself opening and closing the lid, poking around etc.! Trying to find problems so I could try to fix them asap. I've promised myself to handle the bin less as I gain knowledge and confidence.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  GWN on 4/3/2012, 4:03 pm

Hi AVA

So sorry for your loss Sad

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  littlejo on 4/3/2012, 9:08 pm

There are several trays, right?

I'd put all that 'heavy' stuff in 1 tray, and put new 'damp only' paper in the other tray. Find the few worms, and add to the tray with the paper. Since there are just a few worms, feed just a little bit. Put the rest of the scraps in the compost bin.

Leave the 'heavy' bin alone for a week to see if any worm babies hatch.

For your info: food scraps + manure gets you a 'hot' compost, which the worms cannot handle. The worms will eat both food scraps and manure, but, don't mix them together in your bin, or you will cook your worms.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  AvaDGardner on 4/3/2012, 9:42 pm

Thanks GWN. I'm going for LM's approach...the old bedding (with eggs) and damp papers (and eggs) are back in, they are in shade, and I'm leaving them alone. 10 'elders' and lots of babies...let's see what happens in a month!

Okay...so maybe I'll check in 2 weeks! Wink

Thanks LJ...I've not used manure as bedding before. I know that's what they were in when I bought them.

This isn't the first time sudden death has happened. The first year with worms we had major fires a little south of here. We had a lot of ash in the air, the sky was red all day (we pretended we were on Mars), and it was really hot with such a thick blanket in the air. With weeks over 100 they were gone.

There's a HUGE avocado tree at the garden throwing LOTS of shade...I wish I could put them there!

DH asked if I had revived them (can you imagine? mouth to mouth? Defibulators?) No babe, they're gone. I told him about the temps inside the box when it was only 70 outside, and why I moved them. He promised to get the patio cover latices up this week.

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Re: Worm Bin not producing fast enough?

Post  GWN on 4/3/2012, 10:15 pm

No babe, they're gone.
I know it is hard, but you just have to move on.
I have decided to move my worm tower out to my greenhouse.
THEY are just making too much of a mess to have them in the bathroom any more!!!
I figure my greenhouse, I keep at least a few degrees above freezing all the time, so it is time...
I also have one of those automatic vents, so it does not get too hot either.
You know I think it was you who told me that shredded office paper would be a good thing for my worm bin, and I think it really is, it has more substance than the newspaper and they seem to like it.
It is SOOOO hard to wait for the next generation to grow up, but.... eventually it happens...

cheers

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