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Soil and Composting: worms in a compost bin

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scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

April 28, 2008
10:43 PM

Post #4878829

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!
muggles915
Glendale Heights, IL

April 30, 2008
10:00 PM

Post #4888701

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?
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 30, 2008
10:11 PM

Post #4888744

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.
muggles915
Glendale Heights, IL

April 30, 2008
10:25 PM

Post #4888794

Thanks for the reply, however we both are still wondering if we can add some worms to the bucket? Thanks a bunch :-)
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 30, 2008
10:47 PM

Post #4888884

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.
Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 1, 2008
2:40 AM

Post #4890023

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.
muggles915
Glendale Heights, IL

May 1, 2008
2:48 AM

Post #4890065

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
katiebear
mulege
Mexico

May 1, 2008
3:10 AM

Post #4890169

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

katiebear
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

May 1, 2008
10:14 AM

Post #4890740

I thought those were "gummy" worms??? LOL
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

May 1, 2008
1:24 PM

Post #4891283

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!
muggles915
Glendale Heights, IL

May 1, 2008
3:43 PM

Post #4891912

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. :-)

Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 1, 2008
5:23 PM

Post #4892303

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 ☺
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

May 1, 2008
11:41 PM

Post #4893671

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)
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

May 2, 2008
12:17 AM

Post #4893835

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!!!
Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 2, 2008
1:09 AM

Post #4894078

I haven't had any rats in my pile but the raccoons hit it at night to grub on the worms.
IO1
Waaaay Down South, GA

May 5, 2008
7:01 PM

Post #4910251

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
Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

May 5, 2008
10:30 PM

Post #4911184

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.
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

May 5, 2008
10:40 PM

Post #4911220

Amen, zany!
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

May 7, 2008
2:29 AM

Post #4917093

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.

ecschroeder
Tallahassee, FL
(Zone 8b)

May 12, 2008
2:21 PM

Post #4940423

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...
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

June 10, 2008
10:24 PM

Post #5084331

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?
Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

June 11, 2008
12:26 AM

Post #5084800

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!
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

June 11, 2008
2:38 PM

Post #5087237

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!
brigidlily
Lumberton, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 11, 2008
6:55 PM

Post #5088499

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.
fieldsems
Paris, TN

June 14, 2008
7:32 PM

Post #5103978

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
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

June 15, 2008
2:28 AM

Post #5105448

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!
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

June 15, 2008
5:07 PM

Post #5107696

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.
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

June 15, 2008
10:58 PM

Post #5108872

Well, I guess it was good for me to save more bags of leaves from last fall, then...!
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

June 15, 2008
11:06 PM

Post #5108893

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.
madrid2000
Humble, TX

June 30, 2008
6:49 PM

Post #5183269

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
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

July 1, 2008
9:33 AM

Post #5186412

Amen, docgipe. You learn by experience and he's right it's not rocket science. Don't make it harder than it is :)
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 1, 2008
6:17 PM

Post #5188525

Tabitha, any larva, strange or otherwise, are just more helpers in the breakdown process. Good luck!
madrid2000
Humble, TX

July 1, 2008
7:19 PM

Post #5188870

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
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Zanymuse
Scotia, CA
(Zone 9b)

July 1, 2008
8:19 PM

Post #5189120

I don't know what they are but they are not roaches like any I have ever seen.
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 1, 2008
9:03 PM

Post #5189287

Roaches don't MAKE larva. They hatch directly into the nymph stage, which looks much like the adult.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

July 1, 2008
9:36 PM

Post #5189419

Black soldier fly larvae?

Karen
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 2, 2008
1:45 AM

Post #5190446

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.
madrid2000
Humble, TX

July 2, 2008
1:51 AM

Post #5190484

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.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 2, 2008
2:07 AM

Post #5190605

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.
Dean_W
Central Texas, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
8:30 PM

Post #5319085

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.
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
9:03 PM

Post #5319195

Are you sure they're roaches? I wouldn't kill anything in my compost. If they're in the compost, they're happy there rather than in your kitchen, correct?

I threw some regular nightcrawlers into the big black trash can that i use for compost in the winter because it's right by the back door. i'm hoping that its size & situation will allow them to live through the winter. poor little earthworms. they are my little science experiment.
Dean_W
Central Texas, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
9:29 PM

Post #5319331

summerkid, yes, your probally right about the bugs. But I don't want any in the house. LOL!!!

Good luck with your nightcrawlers. All of my worms died. I was trying to raise them in buckets. I give up on them. I do have alot of them in the garden though.
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 25, 2008
9:33 PM

Post #5319347

nightcrawlers are high maintenance redworms are best used for this method
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
9:39 PM

Post #5319375

I thought the redworms were high maintenance. I've killed all of the ones I tried to work with, which was somewhat traumatizing. So I thought the 'crawlers could care for themselves.

Not true, huh?
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 25, 2008
10:30 PM

Post #5319537

I have had my redworms for about 1 1/2 years with no problems they pretty much maintain themselves
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
10:56 PM

Post #5319624

But not outside, right? That's where my "winter" compost receptacle is.
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 25, 2008
11:07 PM

Post #5319664

oh yeah mine are outside I have them in a portable shed in 55 gallon drums cut in half. In the winter I put in a wood stove for freezing nights and even forgot to heat them a time or two and they made it just fine they are very hardy worms. they don't need overhead lights like the nightcrawlers do
summerkid
Rose Lodge, OR
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
11:32 PM

Post #5319760

Hmmm ... this is just the big barrel outside my back door that I through scraps in through the winter months. Maybe just leave the worms out of it?
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 25, 2008
11:41 PM

Post #5319786

If you have worms I would use them they turn your scraps into compost in no time they really are super easy to take care of and worth it the castings are great I use the castings instead of potting soil
Dean_W
Central Texas, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 26, 2008
12:05 AM

Post #5319884

So castings are okay to use instead of potting soil, huh? Do you mix perlite or anything else with it?
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 26, 2008
12:55 AM

Post #5320109

perlite works good because the castings do tend to dry out quicker than potting soil does so yes I mix in a little perlite and this mix has worked better than any potting soil I have used so are you thinking of vermicomposting?
Dean_W
Central Texas, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 26, 2008
1:05 AM

Post #5320157

No, because I tried it before an it was an utter failure. I do have some bags of castings though I could reserve for my most loved plants.
fieldsems
Paris, TN

July 26, 2008
1:36 AM

Post #5320345

definately use them they are great
katiebear
mulege
Mexico

July 26, 2008
2:12 AM

Post #5320523

Bokashi might work better in your back door container.

Check out the threads on it.

katiebear
terichris
Naples, FL
(Zone 10a)

July 27, 2008
1:33 AM

Post #5324905

I have been trying to "compost" in a giant plastic storage bin on my back patio. I drilled tons of holes in it & continue to layer veg scraps,grass clippings, coffee & weeds. I just stir it around with a hoe avery other day. If it stinks I add a little dirt. **** So, at what point do I add it to my plants? ****

Thank you for putting all of the links together for the clueless. You have to start somewhere!
dguimo
Pioneer, CA

July 27, 2008
9:08 PM

Post #5328630

I have 4 compost bins going that are full of red worms, I mean thousands of them. I put all of the normal things in there that you use for compost and the worms are thriving. The bins are outside all year, even covered with snow in the winter. The worms just crawl under the soil if they get too hot or cold. When the compost is "finished" I sift it and just move the worms to another bin. They seem to be happy and healthy.
scubadoobie
Chicago, IL

July 27, 2008
10:47 PM

Post #5329082

OK, so here's a little followup question prompted by terichris:

I decided to cool down my bin with more 'browns' because I felt bad for the worms. Currently it is a slightly warm bin with chopped leaves, kitchen scraps, and a fair number of worms that are looking pretty healthy The overall volume of material continues to decrease, and the whole thing is very heavy, so I imagine there must be some decomposition and settling although I roll it around from time to time. (I think I might do real vermicomposting indoors over winter and make a hot bin next summer...)

But the real question for now is when I can use some of this and how best to tell if it is partly 'done' (I'm always adding new material). Should I just sift it and use the small particles? Or can I just put a bunch of it down on my beds where it can be mixed in next spring? I will be getting a lot more shredded leaves this fall and am not sure whether to keep the current material in the bin or store the leaves there for next spring...thanks!

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