I tried to start this cheaply and now am not sure what worms I have and if it will work.
For the worms I went to the local big box outdoor store and bought three tubs of "Jumbo Pan Fish Worms". I just used a ID flow chart at opalexplorenature.org and think I may have ended up with Eisenia veneta not Eisenia fetida. These worms are distinctly striped.
I set up my bin in this manner:
A few hand fulls of 1:1 peat and crushed leafs from my potato tower.
A handfull of nearly finished (cold) compost in hopes of high microbe counts.
A hand full of shreaded paper.
Some sand / fine crushed stone.
Some two season old wet straw which is rather broken down.
Several hand fulls of dry and crushed leafs.
Sprayed with water and mixed such that it was moist but not quite dripping when squeezed.
Do you gurus expect a problem with the unidentified striped worms?
Is there a reason to use paper and cardboard for bedding when I will have lots of leafs available this season?
The local big box stores, like Walmart, buy from the cheapest source. I have no idea what kind of worms they sold last week. Many of the Vermicomposters use red wigglers AND regularly (every several days) put any kitchen vegetative scraps like celery, green peppers, cabbage, used coffee grounds for the worms to feed on. Actually, as I understand it, the worms eat the organisms that eat the decaying vegetative scraps. No meat or animal feces!
It seems to me that you are mixing up regular composting with vermicomposting. I suggest you spend a few hours reading about both [different] subjects here on Daves Garden.
I don't think you will need to undo your compost pile, just add some more torn up newspaper and some kitchen vegetable scraps and after a couple of weeks either buy red worms from the mail order places that are talked about or, as I did, look for local red worms in rural stores being sold for fish bait . You don't need many, I started with about 25 redworms and now have thousands 3 years later. It's really not hard. Use red worms, not nightcrawlers!
Although I am a newbie too, here is what I think I know:
You have to have the right kind of worms for a bin. In my area, the worms you find native in your garden have to live in the ground and won't survive in a bin. And the red worms I have in my bin probably wouldn't make it outside through the winter. Some people think it's wrong to have non-native worms, but this is how I roll. :-)
You should ask on craigslist for some starter red worms from someone in your area. See if you can get some for free. They reproduce so fast that someone might be willing to give you some. If you have to pay, and you don't need a lot right away, just buy a few.
I can't tell that there's any real problem with the stuff you have in your bin. I think that all of the things you mentioned, except for the straw, are things I have seen mentioned as being put into a worm bin. The idea is to have it light and fluffy so they can move around and get air. And to have it moist and dark.
I feed mine kitchen scraps because that is the whole reason I got them in the first place. I have an outside compost pile for things like straw, grass, leaves, etc. I have more kitchen scraps than my worms can keep up with. But as far as I know, bin worms like to eat pretty much any kind of plant material (leaves, straw, grass, weeds).
My 3 ingredient recipe is quite simple. I call it lasagne as it is 3 layers. 1) 4" of shredded paper. 2) 3" of horse manure. 3) 2" of plain ole' dirt...that has sand in it.
That's it. Once you start adding the kitchen scraps, it will start getting microbally complex. It amazes me how the worms digest the shredded paper. After a few months, all there is left is rich, black vermicompost.
The red worms that composters use generally live on the top 3 to 12" of the compost.
I have at times put earthworms that I have dug up in my worm bin. When I dug into the
bin a few months later, I didn't find a single large worm. They need a different environment
than we can give them in a worm bin.
The outdoor bins have different temperature, moisture and other components that attract
the larger worms. It is possible to raise the larger worms if you study the environment that
large worms live in. I also believe that the large worms don't eat as much compost as the
If you want to have an effective bin of worms that will eat your household scraps, go with
the red worms. The experience is well worth it.
Well after a month I divided my worm population in half this weekend. Half still in the bucket I've had going and half into a worm inn. I have been feeding with a layered mix of cardboard (shredded and soaked in rainwater), partially finished compost bin organic matter, and kitchen scraps. These worms seem to be thriving as of when I destroyed the bin yesterday.
The worms were significantly larger. I found some cocoons. And what I have been feeding the bins is broken down.
I have been eating though redwormcomposting.com and yesterday looked at my worms and the pics in his "buy worms" page and have concluded I have European night crawlers.
I think I need to move to red worms but will have to find a cheap way to do it short of craigslist.
Since you don't want to use Craigslist, you can telephone your county agricultural extension agent and ask for help locating redworms for a vermicomposting project. Look his number up under county government. Many states' ag extension services are encouraging the recycle of kitchen garbage in this way. Specifically tell him/her that you can't pay for mail order redworms and would he/she ask someone already doing vermicomposting [in your county] to help you . Ag Extension Service people are there to help you if they can.
Here is the short story of me, a newbie. I started my 1st worm bin July, 2013. So far, so good. Still going strong. I live in SoCal, the weather is mild. Even the coldest day (so far) has not been close to freezing. I have a nice 3-tier vermicompost bin that I got from the Costa Mesa Sanitation District for $25. I specifically wanted Alabama Jumpers to slowly release into my CLAY yard. It's been an amazing adventure. My 1st order of Jumpers came. I was SO THRILLED I placed a 2nd order, from the same company. 2nd order turned out to be 1/2 Night Crawlers. I didn't know the difference at the time, I do now. As I learned more about "bins" I knew I needed to locate some "bin worms". Jumpers are not the best worms for captive breeding. I just kept hunting on the www and found that the City of Costa Mesa, for a fee, provides Garden Plots to residents. I called and explained to a WONDERFUL lady on the phone. In less than an hour I got an email from a SUPER woman that GAVE me 1/4 pound of mixed Red and Blue Worms (Blues do better in the heat). So, far I have to say I've been THRILLED with the entire experience. I have the 3 tier bin for vermicomposting with Reds and Blues. I have a VERY DEEP bucket that I keep hand-picked Alabama Jumpers in. And another smaller bucket that has Jumpers and Nightcrawlers, mixed. Each bin has a different mix of what I think the worms will do best with. The Jumper bucket gets more leaves, clay dirt and sand. They get "some" coffee grounds + blended veggie scraps, NOT MUCH, mostly leaves for them. The Jumper/Nightcrawlers get leaves with organic compost mix and sand, I give this bin a LOT of coffee grounds, and a bit of blended veggie scraps. The triple-decker is where most of the veggie scraps and shredded paper go. Starting in the Summer, I've also been prepping our TERRIBLE CLAY yard. I add blended kitchen scraps, papers, leaves, chopped up plants, anything I can get my hubby to agree with to the dirt. I bury everything just under the surface and put the dirt back on top of the hole. I started in one corner, then just kept moving across the yard, then kept moving in rows. Over the last month, as I dig new holes to feed the clay, making it ready for worm transplants, I HAVE actually dug up some Jumpers. What THRILL that has been. We moved into this home in May. Not a single worm in sight. Just this terrible clay. Impossible to dig. As bad, as bad soil can be. Plants just struggle to survive. Every 2 to 3 weeks I transplant several worms from each of the 3 bins into targeted areas of the places I've been burying "stuff" for the worms to eat in the yard. Each time I add more stuff to the soil a few weeks ahead of putting worms into that area. Now, about 7 months later, we have WORMS all over the place in our yard. It's a KICK to see them. The Jumpers are so fun when I dig up one or two of them. They are acrobats, then they nose down and in seconds disappear from sight. The reds/blues stay in huddles and don't seem to venture so far. But I KNOW they are helping the soil too. It has been one of the most rewarding things I've done in 30+ years, watching this dead and barren yard, void of worms simply come to life. I have to say I did a LOT of study. http://www.redwormcomposting.com has been a wonderful site. I've studied the various worm types we have. And I've done my best to give them the best possible captive homes I can provide. I add food to the yard weeks before putting worms in each location. They can't survive with no food, and it takes awhile for the "stuff" I bury to turn into effective worm food. They don't cross-breed, but they all seem to be co-habitate just fine. And we have LOTS of babies all over too.That is truly the proof that the plan is working. WE LOVE our fat and chubby squirmy kids. BEST OF LUCK TO ALL!!!!
delightful message! Maybe you should keep notes and in a year or so write a book. I may start some worms at my little S. Florida house as it is all sand - no clay. Anyhow, I have always "liked" earthworms since I was 5 or so yrs old (I'm 76 now)