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Organic Gardening: coir for new worm bed?

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Forum: Organic GardeningReplies: 27, Views: 178
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Longwood, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 1, 2011
10:24 AM

Post #8831718

Our first break from the heat of summer, and I am excited about getting a new worm bin set up. I have a pound of Eisenias ordered. I am thinking of using coir. Does anyone have instructions or tips on using coir this way? (I made my worm bin from a Rubbermaid 10-gal Roughneck.) I had a bin working for a year once before, but I used newspaper strips for bedding in that one. I get food scraps from only one person.
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

October 1, 2011
3:44 PM

Post #8831986

good for u dirtdigger!!! ya.. next week here were to get fall showing up..
its been a great extended summer here.. :)
i have used coco coir..its pricey.. some get good deals on peat..
im pretty cheap..LOL ..i use cardboard boxes..while im watching some tv show..i haul out
a couple and tear them into strips.. i think they work alittle better than newspaper. my 4 bins
also rubbermaid tubs..i have 37 gal ones.. my worms devour the cardboard down great.
if u do want to use coir..its a great bedding.. i do use coco coir in my tropical plant beds outside..
and where ever i have coir..the worms are really they obviously love it..
for me..its just a bit pricey to use as bedding..
good luck to ya !!
Bozeman, MT

October 6, 2011
11:32 AM

Post #8838400

I only started with worms this past summer (thanks to mraider!) and I have used both peat and coir so far. The coir seems to dry out more quickly and be coarser and scratchier. I don't know if this bothers the worms or not. :-)

The peat has worked beautifully. The only thing I didn't like about it was having to rinse it first to remove the excess acidity.

I didn't rinse the coir at all which was nice.

I think I will try some shredded newspaper and cardboard at some point as well.
Longwood, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 7, 2011
9:57 PM

Post #8840384

Rinsing peat does not sound like fun. My coir doesn't seem too scratchy... It does have some long fibers.

It is the second day for the worms in their new home. I put a sheet of corrugated cardboard on the bottom of the bin, and then a layer of little pieces of cardboard made from shredding a bunch of toilet paper tubes (I don't like to throw anything away, and I actually ran them through my shredder), then lots of coir, and now some strips of used coffee filters on top, with some more sheets of corrugated cardboard on top (everything dampened with rain water). I agree that worms like cardboard, and the cardboard does a good job of keeping the moisture from evaporating, as well as soaking up too much moisture. I think the strips on top will make it easy to cover newly added foodstuff.

I am lucky that there is a hydroponics store nearby that also sells good products for us dirt growers, and many organic products. I just bought the big (11 lb) block of compressed coir there, and have only used a little so far, so I get to experiment with it in my potting soil too.
Helena, MT

October 8, 2011
1:11 AM

Post #8840445

I agree with you digger, soaking and draining peat moss is a bit tedious, but I still like the end product for my seed starting and potting mixes.

I would like to make a couple of suggestions about saving cardboard for worm media. Leave the card board boxes somewhere other than in the house. The glue used to cement cardboard boxes together harbors silver fish eggs and even cock roach eggs which can quickly infect your home if left indoors. And, if you use the composted media as rapidly as I do you need to make periodic replacement of that media. If you like cardboard take it outside and water it with a hose or wait for it to rain. Once softened it can be easily mixed with your existing media without going trhough your shredder...just a thought!

Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

October 9, 2011
1:56 PM

Post #8842259

i agree with morgan.. ive not had trouble with any house pests.. but ive been thinking i should leave the boxes outside..where i can
get to them easily in winter.. good idea morgan.. should do well with resources there in FL.
i glean alot from several places here.. we gardeners are so resoursful..
ive changed my garden soil amendments over the yrs.. and now on my potted plants..
i need to harvest my castings this next week..and get going again on new tubs..
my tropical plants love the addition of castings to their soil..
good luck to ya dirt digger !!!
Longwood, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 10, 2011
4:59 PM

Post #8844002

The main pest inside here is Palmetto bugs and I can't stand them. I have been converting from cardboard box storage to plastic containers. Thanks for the reminder. Next I need to replace the income tax box I mostly recycle the cardboard, and any kept that I plan to use is out in the garage. I've never been to Montana, but Utah has a special place in my heart because I lived there in the mountains for two years in the '80's. I thought it was paradise.
Helena, MT

October 12, 2011
9:13 PM

Post #8847019

digger, a lot of people use worm castings to either make 'tea' or to mix with other items to make 'tea'. I'm with Dave on the use castings directly as a mulch, using as much as I can spare at any given time. I collect probably 60 or more gallons of the stuff yearly and it is never enough. In addition I compost manures and lots of garden refuse with worms in two large outdoor bins. This material goes into holes for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. The pumpkins get a little parts.
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

October 13, 2011
5:26 PM

Post #8848026

i even use castings during winter.. in transplanting tiny plants into own pots..
also i repot up my amarylis bulbs..and i add a good cup of castings to the soil..
after a summer of same soil..the plants seem to appreciate the added boost from the
i think about putting together another ( or 2) new worm bins.. i have 4..but for sure.. always
seems like some place to add the castings..
and what places charge for castings.. WOW.. its not fertilizer.. LOL
hows fall going up there in MT morgan???
ive been digging out my tropicals now.. oh my aching back..LOL
question is where am i going to put all these canna tubers.. LOL
the boys and i dug one of many spots where i have them in gardens..and i ended up
with 2 big wheel barrows full of canna tubers..
i think i may have a gardening problem.. LOL
guess we all do.. not such a bad habit i guess..
good luck to ya dirt digger!!!!!!
Helena, MT

October 13, 2011
9:14 PM

Post #8848244

Fall is holding in there. I just returned from eight days in Colorado where I dropped off groceries to the kids and the weather there was great too. I spent the day taking down tomato cages and harvested another three five gallon buckets of tomatoes which have to be cleaned, boiled and processed tonight. Wife is gone for a couple of weeks helping her oldest son move to KC, so I will have to freeze the pulp and store the juice. The ratio of pulp to juices has been running about 1:4 so I'm going to be drinking lots of TJ for the next couple of weeks. Still have bean vines to remove and tilling before adding the composted cow manure and re-tilling. Hope the weather holds a little longer. The forecast for this winter are looking pretty grim. Apparently the temperature of the Pacific currents which help keep our winters from being too severe and dropping. My outdoor compost bins probably will freeze solid if it's as bad as they say it will be. Like you, I may have to add another indoor bin or two. I have quite a bit of green and rotten tomatoes to remove from the garden which make great worm food along with rotted cukes, squash, potatoes and apples which have been culled after the frosts. I even save the corn cobs for grinding after they dry. We had to freeze most of the corn off the cob this year due to lack of space in our four freezers. If my wife buys another freezer I think I will skip a year of gardening and go fishing instead. Not!

I tried something last year to keep the outdoor compost bins from totally freezing and the worms did fine. I added a hot water faucet next to the cold water faucet next to one bin under the deck. On sunny days I add warm water to the surface of the bins and give it a stir. I have a cover over the bin, but topping the surface of the bin with straw helps to keep the top from freezing solid.

The dug down raised bed has three glass window panes covering the bin and I lay black plastic over the surface. Instead of scraping the snow off the window panes this year I plan to add a plastic tarp which can be removed when the sun shines. This bin is deep enough that the worms can go down to escape the extreme cold.

I plan to use another dug down raised bed to raise some winter cut and come again leaf lettuce. Figured I start with a one foot layer of fresh horse manure with some hay and wood chip fines mixed in. The next layer will be the well aged cow manure with wood chip fines mixed in. Since I only need about a third of the bed for lettuce I cover 2/3's with a heavy, black plastic trash bag to maintain warmth. Then cover the entire bin with three more glass window panes and a tarp, just like the worm bin. The aged cow manure actually comes from the worm bin next to it, so in theory it is another worm bin as well.

Next season all the dug down raised beds will contain worms which I will cultivate with the fresh horse manure. Sort of like French Intensive Gardening. Red worms do really well in the bins with horse manure or cow manure for their media. Add a little garden refuse, ground corn cobs, etc., and they really do well.

Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

October 14, 2011
5:10 PM

Post #8849219

morgan..i saw that this upcomming yr we are to have a new elnino.. which affects utah some.. i guess "they" are figuring
our friends in texas will suffer another yr like this one..i sure hope not..i feel for real farmers/ranchers there.. i saw pics of
fields and fields..just dust.. :( really fell for them..
its hard enough to farm/ranch and possibly have a back to back really bad yr.. sigh
ive kicked around idea you do ..of outside worm bin.. i have plenty of space..i have to fix a set up where wormies dont freeze
in jan...
im trying a mulching on some of my more semi tender tropicals this winter.. really heavy mulching..covering with tarps to
keep moisture out..and not rot the plants/roots.. ? nothing ventured...
i make a cold frame most yrs..i did this last spring.. feb i think.. and had lettuce in march.. :)
i have collected some good sized plexiglass.. mostly free.. thats me.. free and im all over it..LOL
ive got to go get some straw bales.. i like to wait after halloween.. most times people want to give them away..
again.. right up my alley.. free.. :)
hope you dont have to cold a winter comming up... you have high heat prices up there.. did u say???

October 14, 2011
5:50 PM

Post #8849265

I've been watching this thread with interest, especially because of the reference to using coconut coir. I get a lot of coconuts which end up being thrown in a corner but end up sprouting. If worms really like the coir maybe I should break them up and use them for worm food. Don't know whether they'd like the 'meat' in the nut, and there is the hard shell that surrounds it. Maybe the bits of shell could be picked out of the vermicompost afterwards. Or just left in it and crushed up a bit more. Probably worth a bit of experimenting.
Longwood, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 15, 2011
8:02 AM

Post #8849740

Too many coconuts! That is an interesting problem. Do you have other compostables to add to the coconut corner? Would it be too much work to cut the coconuts in half or quarters before sending to the corner?

I wonder how the coir was 'harvested' to create the big block I purchased.

Yes, this is an interesting forum because of the experts who help here. I am always interested in their experiments and answers. Yes, you know I mean you.

October 16, 2011
6:33 PM

Post #8851690

Yes, there's plenty of leaves, grass, etc. Usually I just throw the coconuts aside until I get time to do something about them. So now I've got a few piles with 50 - 60 small coconuts growing together, LOL. If they were doing some road construction nearby I could borrow one of their rollers. Car or tractor weight won't do it, so the only real option is an axe. If it's good worm food then it's worth the effort.

The coir is the husk of the coconuts. Coconuts are mainly used for copra production. The husks are a by product. They would be shredded by machine and then packed into bales. A few years back I was in Papua New Guinea and got a look around one of the copra processing plants in Madang. The coconuts were brought in from the surrounding region/islands without their husks on. So locally it would be a very tedious job removing the husks manually, I assume, as it would be done on a village level. I should do the "green" thing and extract bio-diesel from mine and use the by products to feed worms (as if I don't have more than enough to do already).

The person who owned my place before I bought it used to throw the coconuts into a swamp on the property. The husks would rot away and then there'd be hundreds of these 'monkey faces' staring up at you from the swamp. It took quite a lot of years before all of those eventually rotted, LOL.
Helena, MT

October 18, 2011
4:18 AM

Post #8853654

tropicbreeze, 'rule of thumb', worms will eat anything once living, however it is best to stay away from meat and dairy products which will go rancid in your worm or compost bin(s). I also avoid some citrus rinds like lemon or lime which is highly acedic. Vines from tomatoes, beans, potatoes; corn stalks; and onion parts all go to the rock pile for composting lasagna style. As long as you can grind husks or shells like corn, coconuts, melon rinds, and that sort of thing you can worm compost these items either indoors or outdoors. Just remember to keep your outdoor worm compost bins moist. Adding warm water when possible to my outdoor bins really helps, and remember to stir them with a pitch fork or potato fork whenever possible.

Dave, I had planned to use a raised bed or two for lettuce starting this week, however it has been raining steadily and haven't had a chance to work the beds. I have given thought to tossing some leaf lettuce seed onto the bed with aged cow manure. I have lots of left over wood chip fines which I can blend into the surface layer to loosen it up some. The wood chips/aged cow manure worked really great in my leaf lettuce raised bed this spring, so I don't see any problems with using that particular bin for the fall/winter leaf lettuce. Using a double cover of window panes (day time) and tarp (night time) should extend the growing time. I have seen volunteer leaf lettuce grow right into the winter months and even sprout in very early spring in raise bed media even without a cover, so who knows how long you could grow cut and come again leaf lettuce with a little attention.

I started the growing season this spring using heavy, black plastic trash bags under the glass window panes to heat the surface of the growing media and it worked really well. I'm thinking about using less space per raised bed and several of the trash bags to add extra heat. The other trick is to use a layer of fresh manure and straw beneath the growing media (French Intensive Gardening). I have some fresh horse manure just a couple of doors away!!!

Ain't gardening fun! It's strange how ideas just pop into your head a 2:30 in the A.M. when responding to DG threads...

I just finished processing three five gallon buckets of caged tomatoes into chili sauce and tomato juice. I still have two more buckets of green to partially ripened tomatoes to go. Even though the spring garden season is about at an end, and I am exhausted from the harvest, I am getting excited about the winter gardening projects I have in mind. Last winter was my first attempt at gardening indoors and I plan to do even more this winter. All I need to do is boot my wife's indoor plants out of the way. Only so much south window space to go around. Guess I already know who will win that contest. Ah Well...worth a try. There is always fluorescent lights...
Long Beach, CA

November 28, 2011
6:53 PM

Post #8909606

I like the coir! It soaks up the extra water put into the bin when I give them melon!
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

December 4, 2011
9:36 AM

Post #8915927

anytime i get a good amout of melon rinds and add to my bins..i can hear the worms singing down in the
basement..LOL :)
i have to change out my 4 bins soon.. they are overdue..i tend to let it go longer than i should..
i could get more castings if i were more attentive.. sigh..
winter is here in utah.. brrrr..its $%^*(# cold out there...
got the gardens put to bed though.. yea !!!
i collected over 300 bags of leaves this yr.. most will be for composting next
spring..and i do add some shredded leaves to bins over winter.. worms seem to like it..
i just have to be careful with amount.. leaves tend to warm up the bins..dont want to cook
my good buddies in there...
already buying seeds for nest yr.. never know if could be shortage on seed so dont want
to get caught short..
Helena, MT

December 4, 2011
10:32 AM

Post #8915980

Dave, why are you changing out your beds? I do a 10-15% change out when I feed the bins, removing the driest material from the surface and replacing with new media. I don't remember the last time I completely changed out an entire bin.

I just purchased nine packets of seed for winter gardening in my straw bale cold frame inside my hoop house. I was looking on line when I saw a reference to for a particular seed purchase I wanted to buy. The prices were about half what I was seeing in the seed catalogs and the shipping was even free for a couple of packages. My total purchase price was under $20. I would have paid that much in shipping costs alone if I had purchased these seeds from the catalogs I was looking at. Shocked me too when I received the seed in the mail box three days later from three different sources. I don't think I have ever seen anyone mention this method of buying small quantities of seed before.

Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

December 4, 2011
4:27 PM

Post #8916314

morgan..i took your advice last yr..and started all my tomatoes from seed.. i bought them on
ebay..and got great deals.. along with actually getting the plants i nursery mix ups..
i also bought some sunzilla sunflower seeds.. i guess they are some of the tallest..and biggest flower head of
big sunflowers.. hope so...
ya.when i change out bins.. i take out probably 80% of the mix.. i have presoaked bedding ready to go in..
guess its just what ive gotten use to.. LOL
ive been checking into new grow lights for this yr.. ive seen these LED lights..but i dont know if they really do
put out the light plants need..i see price wise..theres high end ones..and low end.. not sure about them..
compact low energy use ones seem a maybe..?? not sure yet.. open to ideas...
Long Beach, CA

December 4, 2011
6:01 PM

Post #8916448

tropicalnut777, you are tooo funny!! ".i can hear the worms singing down in the basement..LOL :)"
Helena, MT

December 4, 2011
9:10 PM

Post #8916729

Dave, the light thing is a bit off the subject here, but I too have been having a delima with this. I have collected over 50 pages of information on lighting and I'm more confused than ever about the differences in light fixture prices. I recently purchased a HydroFarm, four, 22-inch bulb grow light fixture from Amazon at a healthy price..I could have purchase two four foot units from Lowes for about the same price. I'm still using the fat bulb units on my PVC grow stand, which will no longer be available after the first of the year. Figuring these el chepo shop units would be obsolete without a ballast change, I purchased several cases of soft white and high intensity bulbs which would last me a number of years. I purchased two, 22-inch soft white bulbs to replace two of the four high intensity bulbs which came with the HydroFarm unit at the same prices as one case of 10, 4ft fat bulbs. So if you have any of the soon to be obsolete fixtures Dave, you might want to check into picking up a contractor's case or two of bulbs while they are still out there.

Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

December 5, 2011
7:32 AM

Post #8917072

yep morgan..i agree.. my shop lights are old..inexpensive so im probably going
route of high effic lights..saves $$ ,ect..
lol rhapsody..yea.. singing..:) LOL mmm.i have to wonder.. if those melon peels fermented
and ive got a bunch of drunk worms in those bins??? OMG ..LOL
my worms fav food.. definately melon peels..then coffee grounds.. but i dont overdue on coffee grounds
even though..some caffiene.. mmm maybe i could get them to work even harder composting if i get
them all hyped up on coffee???? thoughts??? LOL kidding... :)
i see my source on coir is keeping same price as last yr.. yea!!!
unless you are on east/west coast.. my best find is US orchid supply out of oxnard,CA for price..
they are kind to me on the shipping..but runs about same as what the coir cost me.. sigh..
havin a real cold snap here in utah.. brrrrrr


Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL
(Zone 9b)

January 1, 2012
5:21 PM

Post #8950524

Morgan, with only several times experience, I have found that I don't have good luck with "contractor florescent tubes". They seem to expire in about a year as opposed to "never" [so far] for the name brand tubes like GE or Sylvania. The good ones do cost more but I don't like climbing stepladders. The ones I didn't have good luck with are the green ended tubes at Home Depot. I personally would never buy a contractor case of them unless I, like contractors, simply needed to show the customer that the lights work for a few weeks.
Helena, MT

January 4, 2012
12:34 AM

Post #8953839

The T-12's I purchased were Sylvania brand. I don't know if what your calling contractor florescent tubes pbryley are the same thing. I used these tubes last season and they performed well enough for my germination process, however I don't use the same set of bulbs more than one season. I replace them with new bulbs the next year and keep the old bulbs for my vermicomposting and house lights. The two recycled bulbs I have over my indoor vermicompost bins have lasted two years now, but they never get turned off. Possibly using these bulbs on a timer has an effect on life expectancy.


Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL
(Zone 9b)

January 9, 2012
6:17 AM

Post #8960245

As I said, "with only several times experience". I just would never buy them again - if you use a lot of tubes, it could be a money problem. For me, i just buy maybe one every year so I can afford to indulge my prejudice.
Helena, MT

January 10, 2012
2:16 AM

Post #8961529

pbyrley...I'm a bit confused by the term contractor bulbs here. I was referring to the multi-packs which hold ten to thirty bulbs, and the choices are variable. I have only used the 6100K or soft white bulbs, but there are a number of other choices as well. Could be you got a bad lot too. I have seen bulbs with the end tines broken or loose on some of the cheaper ones which were individually wrapped with a flimsy piece of cardboard and open on the ends. There is some real junk being sold these days, and a lot of it comes from China. I have tried to avoid anything made in China, but that is becoming almost impossible with some products.
Provo, UT
(Zone 5a)

January 12, 2012
6:21 PM

Post #8965425

saving out castings here.. getting ready for starting seeds.. LOL
well actually over a month away..but still.. :)
hopefully will have around 30 gal by time i start tomatoes..
morgan.. ??? u use only castings for your seedling soil dont ya???
last yr i made mix of coir,perlite,peat,and castings.. it stayed light..drained well..
im thinking of going a bit heavier on the castings this yr..
probably will buy some coir in next couple weeks..
i like it for potting mix additive..
i need to get to lowes/home depot..and see if they have anything on clearance...
last yr a friend of mine got several bags of perlite at lowes for like $5 a big bag..
was a steal!!!
Helena, MT

January 15, 2012
12:57 AM

Post #8968200

Not always Dave. Some of the time it is necessary to use a 50:50 mix of my spent media with soaked and drained peat moss. Only because I don't have enough of the spent media, which is what I am doing right now. I have gone through more than five gallons of this spent media in the last few days, and I have only about seven gallons left. Although I add to this saved volume regularly, I go though it at an amaizing rate.

Yesterday I planted two packages of onion seed in a couple of those COSTCO roasted chicken containers. I incorporated both items mentioned above and about 25% composted cow manure this time. I will be doing four more of these over the next couple of weeks after I find out if this mixture will work.

One thing I should point out is when using spent vermicompost for germinating, I wet the media in various ways, using 1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of warm water. This helps prevent dampening off during the germination process. I even pre-soak the larger seeds overnight in this solution. I germinate seed on a heat mat, and seedsgenerally spout in half the suggested time using this method.

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