I received a small package of granulated pumice with my new worm bin 360. According to the directions, it's supposed to help the worms with digestive issues. ??? I talked to another worm "farmer" today who indicated that it might be better to add a little lime instead which would have a better granular size for the worms. Any experienced folk out there use either?
Thanks for that advice! Do I have to be picky about the sand? I have a bag of sand - the 80#-bag variety that us folks up north put in the back of our pickup trucks for added traction in the winter. I tore one open a few months ago for plant purposes but it would take me a very long time to use the rest of it. I've been reading conflicting info about the egg shells so haven't been confident enough until yesterday to add a couple (not crushed) to the bin. Some folks indicate that the worms like to nestle up in the egg shells and others maintain that the jagged edges are a bad thing for the worms. I do save all of my egg shells for the compost pile anyway so I can surely grind some up. Would save having to buy pumice or lime.
I may be a little crass when I state that I think we get a little too sensitive about the conditions worms live in.
I have seen pictures of worms living very well in jagged gravel, jagged wood chips, even soil with jagged pieces
of glass. I have even seen videos of worms living very well in a completely flooded environment in an aquaponics
I don't think worms care too much when it comes to their environment as long as it has the right moisture, food,
chemistry and temperature. They also don't like sunlight or any light for that matter.
We get into trouble when we try to project our feelings on to worms.
Having said this, I applaud you all for experimenting. Yes, you may kill some worms but, in the meantime you are
learning the basics of nature.
I hope you are involving any kids that may be around, so we can pass on what we learn.
Paul - appreciate any and all comments. Have only been at this for about 3 weeks, looking up how-tos and tips on the net and have seen opinions run the gamut. The main thing I've been concerned about is their food - not too much too often and heating it in the microwave to kill off fruit flies/gnats. Of course, I let the food cool down before feeding.
Paul, I read this thread after posting "My Bad". You could not be more right in how forgiving red wigglers can be. I don't think it's just the newby's who tend to fret too much about their worms either. Experimenting with vermicomposting is a terrific way to learn new things, and I'm always searching for new ideas to try out.
Cindy, in response to the lime vs pumice question:
Try to think of what things are for. The pumice was to add the small amount of the normally naturally found grit that worms need to help their stomach grind up the veggies we give them. The reason many of us use egg shell is that they are available and free. I usually rinse out the remaining slick stuff (albumin?) from the shell and the let them dry on a newspaper for a day or until I remember they are there. Then I can easily crush them up into the grit the worms need. Just mix it into some of the veggie stuff you are adding. The worms don't need much grit at all and I think it is reusable to the worms - passes through the worms and the gets re-ingested by another worm. (I know, you didn't really want to hear that did you?)
Paul - thanks for the advice on the egg shells. I keep all of mine for either the outdoor compost or for summer tomato plants so I have plenty. Guess you can't be too squeamish when you keep worms although I still wear a latex glove when digging around in the bedding. Can you tell I'm not a seasoned worm farmer? :) Since I added the pumice to the first tray during the initial setup, do I need to add more or just wait until I would set up successive trays? I generally use a mortar and pestle on the egg shells for gardening and get the shells pretty fine - very powdery. Sounds like I wouldn't need to take the grinding quite that far.
I did have a question that I was going to post. I've read that worms can digest up to 1/2 pound of food per day and was wondering what volume of worms would be required to do that. My one pound of worms sure isn't eating that much and doubt they will unless their population increases dramatically.
Thanks for all of the tips for this newbie!
Cindy, I too have heard some wild claims about how much food worms can consume, but there are so many variables in the ways people vermiculture, I would consider these pretty arbitrary statements. There is far too much attempting to quantify things in the process of vermicomposting. I have four indoor bins which I have maintained for years, and although much of what I do is similar, none of these are identical in production or activity. So I try to be careful when giving or accepting advice on this subject. I am never completely satisfied with statuesque, and the fun part is coming up with new ideas to try. There is always something new to be learned.
Thanks for your "take" on the rate of consumption. I think I'm currently feeding at most 1/4 lb every 3 or 4 days. I was wondering if it was the time of year or maybe a little chilly for them. They're in a heated garage where temps are around 60 (due to beer brewing) and I have been monitoring the temp inside the bin as well. Have discovered that they prefer sweet potato and potato peelings over plain spinach. It is kinda fun to see what gets gobbled up and what doesn't. And I have gnats/fruit flies (even though I nuke all food that gets added to the bin) as well as some little dark mites (?) that tend to move rather quickly. I think the gnats came from my plants potted with organic soils. The bin has been totally indoors so couldn't have picked up any pests from outside.
Cindy, it's impossible to be entirely free of insects and spiders which will gladly take advantage of our vermicompost systems. Even though I trench bury the blended peelings, etc., which I feed to the worms in my bins, there will be other critters which will take advantage of a friendly environment. Those dark mites, sometimes red, could indicate you are overfeeding or possibly your media is a bit too damp. Feeding will more than likely slow down in the winter months even if the bin temperatures in your garage stay around sixty degrees. I am not familiar with the vermicompost system you mentioned, but if it sits on a concrete floor., try adding a thick old rug underneath.
Hope you are adding the mashed grain to your vermicompost bin!
The 360 bin does have legs so the bin isn't sitting directly on the cement floor. I haven't been adding a lot of water - just wetting the newspapers on top every few days. The bin corners where I put the food is damper than in the middle where a lot of the bedding material (pretty fluffy) is but not to the point where I have any liquid draining out of the bottom of the bin.
Now you'll have to explain the addition of mashed grain - something I haven't read about yet.
Ah - are you referring to the grain mash from the beer-brewing? There wasn't much left after the cooking process. This is the first batch for DH, made from a kit. Should I be feeding the worms some type of grain on a regular basis? I currently have kamut, corn meal, oatmeal, bulgur wheat, and wheat and oat bran on hand if appropriate. I would prefer not having to get into buying worm chow (who would have thought?).
Why not feed it all Cindy. The only time I add anything to my worm bins other than kitchen or garden scraps, is when I want to collect some fishing worms from the outdoor bins. Other than red wigglers, the outdoor bins have Canadian and European night crawlers. If I soak the surface of the outdoor bins with water, add some dried corn meal or oat meal, cover with a piece of plywood, worms will come right to the surface.
Great tip about making the worm harvesting easier. Currently my worms aren't up to requiring all of my veggie scraps. I have some stashed in the freezer as a backup but a lot of the scraps still go to the compost pile. Just wasn't sure if there was a worm nutritional requirement for grains.
Worms will actually eat anything which was once living. It's just that some things don't go well with the vermiculture process weather indoor or outdoors. I know a number of people who store or process their worm food using a freezer. I'm sure it works just fine. I don't because I haven't any room in my freezers...all four of them! I do however, keep a number of five gallon buckets in the shed of vegetables which didn't get harvested prior to the fall frost. When I need some backup food to supplement the kitchen scraps, I bring a bucket in from the shed. After a couple of days I can chop the squash, cucumbers, etc. with a shovel and let them soak in their own juices. They get nice and mush which makes blending a lot simpler. Carrots, potatoes and that sort of thing only requires some water while thawing and they get soft and mushy as well. Just need to remember to keep the lid on the bucket.
Good tip about adding water to some of the root vegetable scraps since they stay a little drier even after defrosting. You're so right about keeping the lid on the bucket too. My house is already a haven for fruit flies/fungus gnats (don't know the difference) with all of the plants in the house.