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Vermiculture: Worm composting

 
Susan Monroe
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I am ruminating about creating an in-ground worm composting unit.  At this point, I am thinking a simple hole dug in the ground of the chicken pen (17x18', filled with shredded leaves, some rabbit manure and kitchen waste, and covered with a piece of plywood (possibly insulated).  Every so often, I could lift the lid and fork some wiggling protein to the chickens.

Reading about vermiculture, they say there are really only two kinds of worms you would want to use, Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellas.  Most informational sources says that collecting worms from the garden wouldn't work.

I have one of those black plastic garbage-can-sized composting bins.  A couple of weeks ago, I lifted it up, set it down right beside where it had been, and forked/shoveled the contents back into the bin.  About two-thirds of it was pretty well composted, and the rest was just kind of 'furry', but I didn't need it, so I just turned it and mixed it all together.

BUT there were a tremendous number of worms, MASSES of worms.  So what kind of worms were these?  They were red and earthworm-sized (not nightcrawlers).  Are these one of the two desirable kinds?  Or were these the kind that everyone seems to advise not using?

It just seems to me that if they crawled out of the ground and into the compost, they would be perfect for what I want them for.

Any thoughts?  Ideas? 

Sue




 
Leah Sattler
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I'm skeptical whenever there is advise involved that indicates you must buy something from someone. My grandmother always had a bin of worms in her garage for fishing. they were just worms she dug up in the garden. she fed the newspaper and some other scraps and we always had lots of  nice fat worms for when it was time to go fishing. I think the red wigglers can do well in  an almost no soil situation though so they may be best for some situtations. but if you dont over do the compost I'd bet regular old earth worms would be fine or at least worth a try.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I have some Oklahoma worm hunting experience. Used to work at a riding stable. They had a manure spreader which they used to spread the manure & used wood shavings on a short trail that ran thru a small, deciduous grove of trees.

After years of doing that, it became worm heaven! We used to get all of our fishing worms there, from what seemed to be an endless supply. Especially after a rain. When we were having a dry spell, it was much harder to find worms, if we could find any at all. I guess they went deep down into the compost to stay moist.

The areas where we found the most worms (and as you mentioned, Sue, MASSES of them), the ground was "layered" & moist. Loose, dry leaves on top of composting shavings, manure & composting leaf litter. The further you dug, the richer & darker the soil became. Somewhere, underneath it all was red clay, but the leaf layers, manure & shavings had gotten so deep, you never got to the clay. Much of the soil on the rest of the property was clay though.

Anyhoo, I don't understand why you couldn't duplicate the conditions you described, confine & raise the worms that already exist on your property. It's sure worth a try!

Maybe certain worms are recommended more than others because of temperature sensitivity. Sometimes, I buy worms from walmart & feed them to my koi as treats. I don't have a lot of worms in the sandy soil in my yard. The worms I buy have lasted in the fridge (in a little plastic tub) for weeks before they turn to mush. So perhaps the "recommended" worms that are ones that will survive in "salable" condition. They have a shelf life, so to speak & maybe backyard worms that are acclimated to natural conditions just don't "keep" in the fridge! 
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Good discussion. I'm about to restart a worm bin as well here at my condo and basically have to purchase worms because I don't have a good soil or compost source here.

In Mary Appelhof's book, "Worms Eat My Garbage," she said the Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus redworms are best because they process large amounts of organic material and reproduce quickly and in confinement. Is this the book you've been reading, Susan? It's a great guide. Any way, Ms. Appelhof goes on to explain that "to identify these species one would need to count the number of segments, identify the type of projection over the mouth, locate the position of the various openings for sexual organs, and identify the pattern for the setae (bristles) on each segment."

Also, I just watched a DVD on sepp holzer, and he raises four specific kinds of earthworms. One tunnels horizonatally at a certain level, one tunnels vertically, and I forget the other two that were briefly mentioned. It was amazing to hear how specifically one could apply earthworms!  Jeez. I wonder if the worms in an open compost bin might be a slightly different species that might not do as well in the closer confinement of a worm bin. Just a thought.

I have some thoughts on containers for worm bins, too. Back when I was in a home with a large garden, at first, I had just a compost pile. We buried our kitchen scraps in it. After a while, we shoveled into the pile and found a mama rat and a litter of about 8 babies bedded down in the warmth and food. We'd had rat problems and this was not fun to see. So, not long after that, my dear sister-in-law gifted us with a large, wooden worm bin, Mary Appelhof's book, and worms from her worm bin. We filled the compost pile with yard waste, and used the worm bin for kitchen waste. No more rats in either compost! That was a huge plus to me. I wonder if a hole in the ground would attract unwanted critters. Even though it might sound a bit city-fied, I do think there are advantages to using something with solid sides and just wee little drainage holes in the bottom.

I know someone who thinks worm bins are more work than their worth - why not just add your scraps to the regular compost or bury them or feed them to the chickens (or pigs)? That can make a boatload of sense if you have those options and it won't affect (encourage) the rodent populations. In a condo, I don't have those options, so it's a worm bin for me! I'm buying a cheap starter kit from www.azurestandard.com. Yea!
 
Susan Monroe
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I based my first worm bin (15 yrs ago) on Mary Appelhof's book. 

I already put my kitchen waste in the compost bin, but I was thinking of creating a source of clean protein for my chickens, as it's the most difficult to provide for them.  In the four years or so that I've had them, I seem to be running out of pest insects.  They spend a lot of time looking, but they don't seem to be finding much.

My biggest problem my old worm bin was the separating of the worms from the compost, which is very time-consuming using the methods I've read about.  So I'm thinking of a worm bin of a type I've never heard of before (that Sue, always trying to reinvent the wheel....).

Somewhere I read that earthworms basically live in the top six or seven inches of soil, barring excess heat, cold, rain or dryness.  I'm not totally certain this is really true, but...

I'm thinking of using three or four opaque plastic storage tubs, cutting out the bottoms but leaving a 1" bottom rim all around, and pop-riveting quarter-inch hardware cloth (wire mesh) to the rim.

I would put one lid on the ground, set the first bin in it to catch the worm tea, then add about six inches of moist bedding material, some worms, and bury food scraps in the bedding in a different place each time until I've gone through all the bedding.  Then add another six or eight inches of fresh bedding on top of the old, and repeating the adding of food scraps in holes back and forth through the bed.  Repeat until the bin is full. 

The top bin would have a layer of perforated cardboard on top of the bedding to repel fruit flies, and also have the bin lid (also perforated for ventilation) on top.

Then I would add the second mesh-bottomed bin directly on top of the contents of the first one (no lid), and start all over.  And then the same with the third one.

I am thinking/hoping that the worms in the bottom one, once they work through all the bedding and food, will migrate up through the wire mesh of the second bin and start feeding there, and then up into the third bin.

Then I could remove the bottom bin for use as compost, and it should be free of worms.

What do you think?  Does this sound feasible, or crazy?

Sue
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Wow, that sounds like a really cool idea! It sounds like it could work, because the worms do move around to the food horizontally and even vertically in worm bins. I just wonder if they will keep climbing vertically as you described - I don't know why not. (Though I'm reminded again by the worms Sepp kept!)

Oh, hey, here's a website that even recommends doing what you're doing, but only with drilled holes in the bottom of the bins - no wire mesh.

"When the first bin is full and there are no recognizable food scraps, place new bedding material in the second bin and place the bin directly on the compost surface of the first bin. Bury your food scraps to the bedding of the second bin. In one to two months, most of the worms will have moved to the second bin in search of food. Now the first bin will contain (almost) worm free vermicompost. (You can gently lift out any worms that might remain, and place them in the new bin, or put them into your garden!)" From http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/Easywormbin.htm
 
Susan Monroe
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THANKS!  I looked for something like that, and couldn't find a thing!  Okay, it's viable, then.  That's encouraging.

Sue
 
Ryan Lenz
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For some reason, my worms (red wrigglers) don't seem to be very good at moving out of their finished castings.  Actually, they even seem to prefer the older material....perhaps they're just not done with it yet?  I basically add food to the left or right side for about 3 weeks at a time, alternating back and forth.  The thought was that they'd clear out of the castings, but I end up putting a LOT of worms into my garden as I harvest their lovely product.  It doesn't work as I had planned, but the side effect (extra worms!) sure doesn't hurt anything.  They seem to reproduce fast enough to compensate for population drop.

Ryan
 
                            
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Chiming in late to the party here…

We've been using a homemade worm bin for a year now.  We didn't set up multiple chambers in it but that is optimal for getting them to "clear out" of their old space.  What we do is just go in and screen out the worms.  We shake the material over a screen into another container and the good stuff falls through the screen leaving MOST of the red wigglers on the screen.  Those just get put back in the bin to work some more.  The ones that are dropped into the finished compost just go into the ground with the rest of the compost.

Let me say this:  we have a TON of red wigglers in our soil now!  LOL  Our idea was to create more useable soil in our plot behind our townhouse since, in the building of these, so much topsoil is simply thrown out.  These little guys do one HECK of a job at eating away at the plant material and "stuff" in our soil turning it into rich, black soil.  Gotta love that.

About the buried box, I can't see much difference between that idea and the green cone composters.  They have a basket at the bottom and always ends up filled with worms.  If you had something similar to this, you really should be able to harvest some for your chickens.  What a cool idea.  Going to have to ask our chicken friends more about that one.
 
Ryan Lenz
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I know a commercial worm farmer who puts his finished compost on a screen in a layer about 5" thick, then places a bright light above it.  The worms head down through the screen and drop onto the table beneath, where they are whisked away back into their bin.  Works like a charm, but not exactly the easiest way...

Ryan
 
                            
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Worms HATE the light!  We have just stuck our hands down in there and waited for them to wiggle their way between our fingers before.  You're right, does take a little while but it is effective.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Jocelyn, did you ever get your worms from Azure?  I tried twice to order from them, through our local coop, and both times the order didn't come.  I guess they were having a hard time getting enough to fill all their orders (which in a way is a good thing, as it means more people are making worm bins).  I'm going to have to find a different source, as I really want to get my bin started.

Kathleen
 
Susan Monroe
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Kathleen, you're in OR, aren't you?

Try this place:  http://www.wiserwormfarm.com/ ; They're the worm tea/worm source in Olympia, WA.

Sue
 
Ryan Lenz
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Kathleen-
I know of a source in Mcminnville, OR:  www.wegotworms4u.com 

Ryan
 
                            
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Last time we called, they still had worms here: http://www.waltsorganic.com/   They are located in Ballard.  They aren't always easy to get ahold of so call ahead to make sure they still have worms for sale and that they will actually be there.  Great folks though…
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Thanks, everyone!  Yes, I'm in Oregon, and when I get a chance (home computer is deceased at the moment, so I'm typing from work), I need to add that to my information.

I'll check these out, and hopefully will be able to get some worms!

Kathleen
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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You know, I haven't ordered them from Azure yet, dang it! And yes, Azure requires a minimum of $550 (I think) in combined orders in order to make a "drop." Or, you can have them ship to you UPS if nothing needs refrigeration.

Several years ago I ordered from www.wormwoman.com - a great source. They also have coir if you need starter bedding. I had descendants of those worms until about a year ago when I had to get rid of the old box I was using as a worm bin.

Good luck, Kathleen!
 
                              
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We simply made wood boxes as our worm bins (we put legs on them so the feet can sit in containers of water or mineral oil to keep the ants out of the bins!!!)

We are doing a sort of cheap method of stacking or layering.  We start with the bedding and food in the bin as normal but once we start getting a nice layer in the bottom, we place a piece of screen over the bottom layer (big enough so once there is a good layer of stuff on top, two people can grab the edges of the screen and lift the top layer out.  Then we can harvest from the bottom and then dump everything from the screen back into the bin and place the screen over top and start a new top layer.

I too notice that the worms like to hang out in the castings for a very long time.  Ya know, finished worm castings are kinda nice to handle, I suppose I might be tempted to roll around in them if I had enough so I guess I can't blame the worms for enjoying them so much. 

Here is what I've been thinking about doing to make separating more of the worms a little easier.
Set up a temp bin or something with some moist bedding and a sprinkling of corn meal or other special treats for the worms.  Lay a screen or burlap layer over that temp bin and place the finished castings to be sorted on top in a not too thick layer.  Place under bright light in a situation so ants can't invade.  Allow some time for worms to burrow down to the layer of fresh bedding and treats.  Put finished castings in appropriate container for use and repeat steps till most of the worms are in the new bedding and only a few slow or really small worms and cocoons are gonna be sent out into the garden.
Will have to let you know how well this works once I try it.

On a side note about worms, Aquaponic flood and drain gravel beds seem to be a wonderful place for composting worms.  To harvest some I usually just stick a flower pot of compost down into a gravel bed where it will stay moist and usually get a hand full of worms migrating up into the compost (apparently the worms still like compost better than fish poop.)
 
                          
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Hi all

To sort worms from castings I just tip them onto a table in semishade worms dont like light so they move to the centre of the pile. just slowly drag castings away from pile and eventualy you'll have a ball of worms to replace back into system

on a more unusual note i was googling worm farm-dog droppings for a friend, they do exist, so i thought why not people poo? i have no running water on property at this time, and was using short drop as long drop wouln't work during my wet season it would fill with water and overflow raw sewarage everywhere, and am yet to build composting toilet (do have the plans), constant cleaning of short drop receptical is not the most plesant job, the fruit tree compost bin is loving it, so after seeing this dog poo thing i made a new worm farm to trial as toilet for my self and it seems to be working like a charm, idont sort these worms as above they just go straight into the permanent compost in orchard. one day i will be normal and live in a house again but for now the bus, bush shower and outdoor worm dunny will do

Cheers

Bird
 
                              
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I can say that the Humanure sawdust bucket toilet does work just fine and emptying the buckets into a compost bin really isn't as unpleasant a job as many make it out to be.  I do live in a house with a water toilet and septic system and prefer to use the sawdust toilet to reduce the amount of water we waste.

Anyway, I have now tried a version of my screen separating method on the worms in the bin and I'm never going back to the scraping the top of the pile till I get a ball of worms method again.

New method.
Start a worm bin as normal until ya start getting a pretty good amount of castings that would be good for harvest.
In second bin, make a nice bedding and food layer in bottom (or on top of screen if you want to lift it out with a partner later)  In the second bin place screen over the bedding/food layers.
Place almost finished castings with worms on top.  Worms will move down into the new food much quicker than they will move up.
Once the top layer of castings is relatively worm free, dump screen full of castings into bucket to spread in garden or whatever.

This seems to work really easy and doesn't require me bending over a pile of castings scraping off the top layer for hours to get the worms to move down.  Perhaps it could take days for the worms to move down into the new food and bedding but I don't need to supervise.  This method is easiest with multiple bins to alternate with but could be managed in a single bin by lifting the contents out and setting aside for a few minutes while placing in new bedding and feed before laying the screen in and spreading the almost finished castings over the top.  This also lets the castings dry out a little as the worms move down so the castings to be spread in the garden are not so sticky as ones direct from the bottom of a worm bin.
 
Colin Thomas
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I have been meaning to give the whole Vermiculture thing a go, and when I do I will keep you all up to date on how it is going. I am still building our food dehydrator but the worm thing should be next because it is getting cold here so the compost will be slowing down and I need a way to compost our kitchen scraps.

Colin
 
                    
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We just got a "Can O' Worms" Worm composter from the second hand store, we've never done vermiculture before.
Has anyone used this particular brand of Worm composter before

We are open to advise & comments, Thanks D
 
Pete Shield
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Hi,
I'm new here and I would like to ask a few questions about Vermiculture.

Context: I am in the process of getting 2.17 hectares certified organic so I can start producing a range of aromatic herbs- to sell in local markets, dry and possibly make into essential oils, perfume waters etc. I am based in the High Corbieres of Languedoc, France.

To do this I will need a supply of planting quality soil.

Which brings me back worms. I was thinking that building a few large wormeries might help me produce the quantity I need. 

Now obviously the kitchen waste isn't really going to be enough to feed the number of wrigglers I will need. However I do have access to almost unlimited quantities of llama manure- they may look cute but my goodness they pass a lot of stuff-  and cattle manure from a certified organic farm.

Can I feed  my worms on this? I am kinda thinking that I may need to let the manure rest for a while to dilute the urine. Is there anything else I need to do/think about/avoid like the plague?

Does anyone have any experience of this sort of thing?

Thanks in advance

Pete
 
tel jetson
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Dianne Keast wrote:
We just got a "Can O' Worms" Worm composter from the second hand store, we've never done vermiculture before.
Has anyone used this particular brand of Worm composter before

We are open to advise & comments, Thanks D


I bought a Worm Factory for my apartment, which is similar to the Can o' Worms, but square instead of round.  the trays are also a bit smaller.  worked pretty well for the last year or so.  there were some occasional fruit fly issues, but there are plenty of ways to solve that problem or avoid it altogether.

Pete Shield wrote:
Does anyone have any experience of this sort of thing?


my experience is that piles of horse manure frequently host huge populations of worms.  llama and cattle manure are obviously going to be different, but I think you'll be able to make it work.

my guess is that you'll have to add quite a bit of bulk carbon to the cattle manure, to absorb moisture and improve gas exchange for the worms and balance the carbon and nitrogen.  shouldn't be too much trouble so long as you've got suitable material around.

I don't have any experience with llamas or their manure, but my suspicion is that llama manure would be less work than cattle manure.  if it's mixed with bedding already, it may be just fine for the worms as it is.

haven't browsed it much, but a fellow worm enthusiast spoke highly of this website.  it may have some information about worms and manure.
 
Pete Shield
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tel jetson wrote:
Imy guess is that you'll have to add quite a bit of bulk carbon to the cattle manure, to absorb moisture and improve gas exchange for the worms and balance the carbon and nitrogen.  shouldn't be too much trouble so long as you've got suitable material around.


Thanks Tel
Carbon, any suggestions? Soot, potash (Have lots of that from the woodburner) charcoal ground up a  bit?
 
tel jetson
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Pete Shield wrote:
Thanks Tel
Carbon, any suggestions? Soot, potash (Have lots of that from the woodburner) charcoal ground up a  bit?


I don't think your pot ash will have much carbon left in it, but it would certainly sweeten up the cattle manure in reasonable quantities.  it would also add minerals to your finished compost.  too much will cause trouble, though.

charcoal could work.  easier options might be wood or brush chips if that sort of thing is available.  waste straw could work.  grain hulls or chaff.  saw dust from a furniture factory.  denim scraps from blue a jean factory.  it's all about finding and making use of a local waste stream, which you're already doing by using the manure.
 
                    
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Thanks tel jetson  for sharing. We will give the can-o-worms a try!
 
                        
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@pete, check out "biochar."  It's charcoal used as a soil amendment and has much to say for it (far beyond humic acid and humus).  You can make it out of any ligno-cellulosic biomass -- straw, hay, woodchips, knapweed.  So much to say about it, that I don't know where to start.  Message me if you're interested and I'll send you links.  I don't know, though, how many biochar types have been worm-tested.  Hmmm. 
 
                        
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Anyone out there aware of a good composter worm species available in the Missoula-to-Kalispell area?
 
travis laduke
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I started a worm bin out of like 20 worms from a friends compost bin. It took a long while to get going, but now they can eat almost all our scraps. I used a cheap storage bin from pic n save and it lets way too much light in, but I just keep it full to the top with ripped up newspaper.
 
Travis Philp
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Pete Shield wrote:
Which brings me back worms. I was thinking that building a few large wormeries might help me produce the quantity I need. 

I do have access to almost unlimited quantities of llama manure-  and cattle manure from a certified organic farm.

Can I feed  my worms on this?


I don't have first hand experience but two farmers I know have lots of red wiggler worms in their raw manure piles. One guy has donkeys and cows, and he doesn't mix in any carbon except for the barn sweepings and a top mulch of hay on the pile to keep weeds down.

The other guy has a horse manure pile and I haven't seen it but I'm guessing it has stable sweepings in it as well, though these are likely soaked with urine and liquid poop. His worms do so well for him that he makes a business selling his worm castings.
 
Pete Shield
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Rickster wrote:
@pete, check out "biochar."  It's charcoal used as a soil amendment and has much to say for it (far beyond humic acid and humus).   You can make it out of any ligno-cellulosic biomass -- straw, hay, woodchips, knapweed.  So much to say about it, that I don't know where to start.   Message me if you're interested and I'll send you links.  I don't know, though, how many biochar types have been worm-tested.  Hmmm. 


Rick, have e-mailed you for those links- thanks for that looks a great idea
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Pete Shield, we have a small 1 hectar forest (for the non-europeans 2.4 acres ) in Germany which we use only for coppicing firewood. We never run out of carbon rich material for composting or mulch, we simply use the twigs and branches from the cut trees for it.

Maybe you can adjust this idea to your needs and reserve a little bit of your land for fast growing bushes or trees, which are okay with coppicing, e.g. hazelnut, birch or willow, to provide you with woodchips for your worm bins. I bet you can mow your bushes and trees in a two year cycle to provide you with large enough twigs.
 
Pete Shield
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Dunkelheit wrote:
Pete Shield, we have a small 1 hectar forest (for the non-europeans 2.4 acres ) in Germany which we use only for coppicing firewood. We never run out of carbon rich material for composting or mulch, we simply use the twigs and branches from the cut trees for it.




Thanks Dunkelheit, I forgot to mention that surrounding my little plot I have 25 hectares of green and white oak which I chop for firewood. Some of the chips get mulched for green mulch(BRF-Bois ramel fragmente in French), some gets left to dry and then chipped for use in the dry loos, but much gets unused.

So can I chip that, add it to the animal manure and feed the lot to the worms? Aren't the chips a bit big?

Thanks

Pete
 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
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Glad to help, Pete. The woodchips aren't for the worms to eat (they will eat the woodchips when they degrade anyway) but like tel jetson perfectly said "to absorb moisture and improve gas exchange for the worms and balance the carbon and nitrogen". Plain simple: To make the manure in the bins more suitable for worms to live in.
 
                        
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Location: Northern Rockies
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@ Pete:  I'll return your e-mail asap.  I'm a bit in overload right now, but I will get to it.  Re. the extra chips.... perfect for biochar.
 
Pete Shield
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Location: Maisons, Languedoc, France
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Rickster wrote:
@ Pete:  I'll return your e-mail asap.  I'm a bit in overload right now, but I will get to it.  Re. the extra chips.... perfect for biochar.


Much appreciated Rickster
 
                                      
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Have run indoor and outdoor worm composting off and on for 50 years..it just isn't very
complicated.  1.) Don't let them get too dry or too wet.  2.) Feed them.

Outside, under the chicken roost or under the rabbit cages, I build and place an open box
frame. I use 1" by 10" or 12" boards, with hardware cloth nailed to both sides.  (This keeps
the chickens and ducks from eating every worm.)  Just lay the box on the ground, the dropped manure will draw worms, or you can add new worms.  Once in a while, dig some up and either transplant to new areas or go fishing!
This system will slow down in the winter and that is when you move a bunch of "wormy
dirt" to a heated area and continue.
Back in the day we got wooden grape crates, for free, at the grocery store and stacked the worms on the back porch, lined the bottom crate with plastic and shredded newspaper to catch excess moisture. The worm crates had shredded newspaper and yard dirt. We fed them kitchen scraps and let them do their thing. 
The light trick works very well and is so easy.  Lay out a piece of plywood or an old sheet.
Pile some damp, torn newspaper with cornmeal sprinkled on it into the middle, covered with something that blocks light, like a thick piece of cardboard,  then gently shake/spread the worms and castings in a THIN pile up against two sides of the damp papers.  Turn on the light/s and wait.
Come back in 15 minutes and scoop up the castings dirt with a dust pan or big spoon.
The worms should have moved to the damp, dark under the cardboard and you then put the "wormy" newspaper and some soil back in your wormhouse area.
Do not let the castings dry out.....you are making compost,  but do you realize that the castings soil is FULL of worm eggs and little tiny worms?  When you take them to the
garden, BURY them a little, so they won't dry out and they can hatch and grow.
Also know that nightcrawlers are a problem, as they usually crawl out of any container.  You can feed and dig them where they want to be, but they like to be "free-range".
 
Tyler Ludens
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I have a question regarding worm composting and internal parasites.

Is treating manure with worms sufficient to kill internal parasites such as tapeworms, pin worms, etc?

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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I like the idea of "catch-and-release" vermiculture, a term coined by authors Barbara Pleasant & Deborah L. Martin.

In your situation, I might put a worm tower by a heavy-feeding perennial (or several, if appropriate), and use mulch and/or plywood to draw detritovores into range of the chickens every now and again. If it's cold, you could use a walking compost heap for the same purpose.
 
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