worms in a compost bin

Chicago, IL

Hello -
Just started a small compost bin (trash can with small air holes all over) in the city! I've got lots of extra shredded leaves, some vegetable matter, plant scraps, and am going to try to get coffee grounds. My question is whether (since it's a closed container in our paved back area) whether it would be useful to try to throw some red wigglers in there this summer as well.

Will it get too hot? Will they just get killed if I roll the can around to mix the compost? It seems as if most people either have a pile that gets worms anyway since it's outdoors and open, or is doing strict vermicomposting. I just wanted to get my compost done faster in the bin!
Thanks!

Glendale Heights, IL

Hey, subadoobie :-)

That's the same question I have. :-) I want to add some wiggles to my bokashi bucket and then keep the lid closed for the 2 weeks of fermentation. Any Ideas anyone?

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

In order for a compost pile to heat properly and make finished compost the pile should be aproximately four feet wide, any length and four feet high when you first make it.

Glendale Heights, IL

Thanks for the reply, however we both are still wondering if we can add some worms to the bucket? Thanks a bunch :-)

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

I think you should be approaching this from the worm peoples forum or the
bokashi folks forum. Composters may not know how to answer your questions. Sorry I answered thinking you were hoping to make compost. I see on second reading neither of you are making compost.

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

If your material in the can is kept moist and does not heat up the worms should be fine. But remember tthat the heat in the cans, especially in the sun could cook the poor things.Tumbling might make them dizzy and the rough materials tumbling could crush/scrape and bisect them. So it is probably best to treat it as a vermipost bin rather than a compost bin if you add the worms or keep it in the shade and turn it gently with a digging fork instead of rolling it around.

Glendale Heights, IL

Thanks, docgipe. I did not mean to be rude to you. Thanks for your help, though. I will go to the suggested forums and see what I can find out.

cheers, muggles915

mulege, Mexico

Do not put worms in your bokashi bucket unless you want to eat pickled worms.

katiebear

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

I thought those were "gummy" worms??? LOL

Chicago, IL

Thanks, zanymuse! I really like the idea of using some worms to speed things up. I can easily just fork things around gently (to make sure I've buried new donations, for example) and don't think the bin will get too hot - it's near the building and sun is also partly blocked by the porches and a car parked nearby. Looking forward to giving it a try...and if the worms don't seem happy or seem to decrease in numbers, I'll perform a rescue mission and let them go into the garden!

Glendale Heights, IL

I harvested some wigglies from my garden and placed them in a container with good soil and then I added some bokashi to it to feed. I have an "Oscar" fish who likes to eat earthworms. So I am keeping him happy and fertilize and nourish my garden both at the same time.

Thank you all very much for helping me out on my question about bokashi and wigglies. :-)

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

I have been curious about using a big trash can myself. I have read about it a lot on different sites and some people have had great results from it. It is slower than using a big pile that will heat up but does seem to work and provide the black gold we all yearn for ☺

Chicago, IL

In Chicago, a big pile isn't practical because of all the rats and such, needing no openings bigger than 1/4 inch, etc. (sigh)

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

You shouldn't have a problem with rats, since you don't want to use meat, grease or dairy in your bin. It's all natural stuff and you want to bury any kitchen wastes in the middle of the pile.

A trash can will work, just punch holes for drainage, add your stuff and a little soil and away ya go.....black gold!!!

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

I haven't had any rats in my pile but the raccoons hit it at night to grub on the worms.

Waaaay Down South, GA

This all sounds so so very interesting to me, but I can't help wondering if people in the city all decided to do this what would happen? I know I live in a populated area, but not nearly as large as some places. We all love to garden, though. I * know * this is indeed gold and a wonderful way of gardening but doesn't this cause horrible roaches and other pests especially in the south and closely populated areas? This is truly a curious question as I've been keeping up with this and many other threads. I've read about worm castings and that all facinates me, too. I garden mostly in containers and buy a * lot * of potting soil so I need a lot of gold! :)

Sorry I got so long winded. :)
~Susan

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

Susan, composting of meats and dairy products would cause pest problems anywhere city or country. Other than that it shouldn't have much effect if any on the pests. If your area is prone to rats then you would want to make certain that you pile is kept turned and moist so they are not going to want to nest in it. As for roaches, they prefer the inside life of walls and under cabinets to the outdoor location of a healthy compost bin.

What would happen, is back yards, front yards and side yards throughout the populated areas would be getting healthier soil and hardier plants. Water would be used more efficently and everyone wins.

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Amen, zany!

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Actually .... even composting those forbidden items wouldn't create chaos & mass panic.

If you have rats, you have rats. If you have roaches, you have roaches.

Heck, I pick up roadkill for my compost piles & our lots are only 90 feet wide. Yet, we are not overrun with rats & roaches.

My shoot-to-kill, mow-it-down neighbors have begun to comment on how few rodents & pests they have since I moved in with my 5 cats, 1 dog & umpteen compost piles. In fact, the neighbors also are pretty glad that they can toss their fish guts in my compost, pull the straw over and all is well. Apparently, their previous habit of double-bagging the fish carcasses & letting them await trash pickup in a week's worth of hot sun was a bit of a nuisance all around.

Apparently, the "pests" are thrilled to have my scraps & leave everything else alone.

Tallahassee, FL(Zone 8b)

Vermicompost your household garbage (less meat, dairy, and fat; you may also want to limit citrus to keep the vermicompost tub from getting too acid).

Put your yard trash, leaves, grass clippings and weeds in your compost pile.

A teashcan may not have enough mass to heat properly. As stated earlier, the pile needs to be at least 3 feet wide and 3 feet high.

Worms may survive in a "cold" "static' pile. They may also find it easier to leave if it's not to their liking...

Chicago, IL

Well, a followup -

I've gotten some worms and they've been in the bin for about a week. They all disappeared further in there (it was very hot here so I think they were trying to stay cool - found a few down the sides near some air holes). Anyhow, the ones I can see are moving around and very shiny, so hopefully this is OK for them so far. I was wondering if I can still gently turn my compost or if it is going to be traumatic to them! It gets kind of compacted down at the bottom of the bin and I'd like to aerate a bit...but not if it hurts them. I did put in a pound of worms so hopefully there are enough to be happy and multiply over time...any thoughts on leaving them alone or mixing?

Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

I think I'd wait a while and let the worms aerate it for a couple weeks. They should tunnel through it all and take care of the compaction problem all on theiw own. If not you might try a gentle roll or two. The worms should figure out which way is up again in a few hours so long as they are not crushed... but they may be a bit dizzy and suffer from hangovers.

LOL but then again, I don't really know and you seem to be the first to try this so let us know what you do and if it works. I'll be watching to decide if I should copy you!

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Hey Zany, they'll just be dizzy, unless she's adding booze to the mix. Hmmmmmmmmm, happy, happy worms! LOL They love bokashi stuff, the one's in our worm bin are huge! I should be able to get casting very soon. I'm so pleased. And the compost bins are loaded. We've had to ask our landscaping friend to stop dropping clippings for awhile so we can catch up. I'm having some med issues which leaves my poor DH to do it all. Never a dull moment!

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

If the worms are doing well, you'll see eggs in the mix -- little clusters of translucent orbs, about the size of those little glass beads or coriander seeds.

Paris, TN

scudadoobie the worms will do all the mixing for you but it wont hurt to roll them around a bit i vermicompost in 50 gallon drums and occasionally hand mix mine just to get a peek at my worms and their progress oh and dont forget to keep them moist

Chicago, IL

Well, the worms are still alive but they are really way out along the sides of the bin and I don't see that many of them. Deep inside the trash can, it was quite hot! Not sure if that is my compost getting hot, versus just our hot weather...but it certainly felt a lot hotter deep inside all the leaves etc. than at the surface. I was surprised because I thought the volume was too small to get that happening. I'd put in a sprinkling of bone meal and a couple bags of Starbucks grounds (about 10 pounds). Anyhow, I got the worms because I assumed my compost would never get hot, but I'll just have to keep a close eye on them. Thanks for your suggestions, everyone!

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

If your bin is to hot you need browns......leaves, straw, paper to cool it down. Your coffee grounds are a nitrogen bearing waste and therefore will serve to make your bin hotter. The same to a lesser degree is true of bonemeal.

Chicago, IL

Well, I guess it was good for me to save more bags of leaves from last fall, then...!

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

Anyone reading and responding is pulling for you. It is not rocket science. Years ago my early efforts also went astray. A year of playing with your inputs and moisture management will pull your through..You are doing fine in my opinion.

Humble, TX

I just wanted to let you know that I am trying composting in a trash can too. I saw another DG friend with plastic trash cans filled with rich dark stuff that had lots of worms on top. She cut out the bottom of the trash can and put the bottom of the trash can 3-4" under the soil line. She keeps a lid on it to keep out the critters. She uses a lot of shreaded paper from work in her trash/compost cans. Mine probably has a little too much green, and some strange larva, but it is a work in progress. I will let you know how it looks in a few months.
Tabitha

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Amen, docgipe. You learn by experience and he's right it's not rocket science. Don't make it harder than it is :)

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Tabitha, any larva, strange or otherwise, are just more helpers in the breakdown process. Good luck!

Humble, TX

I would feel better if I knew these were not roach larva. I have seen over 4 dozen of them along with 3-4 big roaches sitting on top of the bin. Roaches don't bother me if they are outside, but I wouldn't want them breeding so close to the house. Sorry the picture is a little blurry. These guys move fast!

Thumbnail by madrid2000
Scotia, CA(Zone 9b)

I don't know what they are but they are not roaches like any I have ever seen.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Roaches don't MAKE larva. They hatch directly into the nymph stage, which looks much like the adult.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Black soldier fly larvae?

Karen

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

I have had these larva as long as I have been making compost in various piles and containers over the years. These and others are benificials a natural part of the process. What they eat becomes their manure to make what they eat into dark rich finished compost or humus. By the time the pile or container batch is absolutely finished there will be no larva or adults present. If there are your pile is not yet fully converted to finished compost.

Humble, TX

Thanks everyone for making me feel better! I can rest at ease knowing I am not breeding roaches. It is a lot easier for me to compost in a trash can off the back porch than to walk across the yard to the back corner compost. We will see how it goes.

NORTH CENTRAL, PA(Zone 5a)

I have found that my kitchen door compost conainer is not large enough to heat and finish like a large pile. It sometimes get unballanced and stinks at which point a shovel full of garden soil or finely ground browns will solve the problem in a day or two. The rotting mass needs ballanced biological life and food to work without odor. I do not turn or otherwise aeriate the container which could also help keep the pile from being unballanced. My container becomes half full of finished compost in a year or so. At that point I use it and start over.

Central Texas, TX(Zone 8b)

Great thread. In the past I have seen roaches in my compost pile. I think it was because the leaves were matted up and not producing much heat thus allowing a breeding ground for them. The other day I was removing some compost and I saw some what appeared to be brown roaches or water bugs that I hadn't seen around before. I killed them with the shovel. I don't know if it's because I haven't turned the pile or what.

As far as worms in the compost bin or bokashi it will kill them.

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