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waterlogged worm bin  RSS feed

 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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I live in a smallish condo in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. That's way north. Outside temps can dip as low as -50c in the winter and guess what? There are no worms in the poor soil here.
My girlfriend and I had a worm bin going under the kitchen table for 8 months and twice we had to empty it and start from scratch. Because we eat a mostly vegetable diet we produce a fair amount of compostable food waste. We can't compost outside.
Due (I think) to food volume, we were water-logging the bin; it would go anaerobic and start to emanate funk lines the reek was so bad.
I've read and re-read Worms Eat My Garbage and it holds no further answers for me.
We really want to divert as much of our waste-stream as possible.
So: how does one let the water, but not the stink, out?
 
Matthew Hammell
Posts: 5
Location: Australia, NSW
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I think it would work if you put some layers of dry carbon material such as straw in between each bucket you add to the bin
it would absorb moisture and also allow more air into it
 
Allan Babb
Posts: 63
Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
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Install a water faucet(tap, spigot, whatever you call it) to drain the worm juice. I'm unsure of your setup, but all commercial bins have a drain for the liquid(which you can use on the garden too). If you made your own worm bin, install a faucet on the lower section(or add a lower section just for drainage). You might have to tip the worm bin to get it all out. Also, do you have vent holes to allow oxygen in for the worms? Dead worms smell bad enough by themselves(never order worms in the middle of summer when you live on the gulf coast!).
 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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Thanks for the replies.

Matthew, defiantly a good suggestion. Unfortunately we had already been doing that, though using shredded cardboard instead of straw. (Straw being hard to come by up here. We also have no space to store a large amount of dried grass or what not, but I love reusing what would otherwise be recycling.) The bin was still half full of liquid after four months or so.

Allan. I will remember that worm ordering tip if I ever move that far South! We have a manufactured, purpose built, worm bin from our local recycler. Like the first one shown here: http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/wormcomposting.html Other people have had good luck with this, but they were using it more to farm worms than to reduce waste. What would you put the worm juice into? We live in a condo, no outside space. And our summer is only 2 months long (Zone 1 agriculture). I guess we could freezer it for 9 months of the year and put it on our small community garden plot come July. Somehow seems like an energy sink to me. Not to mention a freezer space hog.

Our waste output has doubled in volume (or more) since we stopped composting. Maybe I should just suck it up and put half of our vegetable waste into the landfill. At least the other half could feed worms.
 
Allan Babb
Posts: 63
Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
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Oh, so your problem is not only liquid building up, but you only get to use this stuff for 2 months out of the year. If you have any ground not covered in ice(small bit of lawn, maybe the community garden?), you could always pour it on there, but I see how storage can be an issue. I'd try to use a 5 gallon bucket to store the juice, just to see how much you get in a given period of time. The leachate(worm juice) will cause problems if not drained. I don't get a whole lot of worm juice, but then again, I'm not on a veg diet either and my worms get mostly coffee grounds(chickens get the veg).
 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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I would sooooo love some chickens, or a pig! I guess worms are a bit more condo sized though. ha!
If I can find a discrete place outside I could stash the 5 liter bucket and let nature do the freezing for me for half of the year, just top it off every two weeks or so. I'm a bit concerned about the pong that would waft out once it started to thaw!
I know this kills the gardeners out there, but I'd be happy to just tip all the castings and juice into the forest. The goal here is to keep stuff out of the garbage truck and methane belching landfill.
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
Posts: 1324
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I had a plastic worm bin like that and had the same problems you are having. I drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom and put the bin inside another bin so it can drain and it's much better. I'm still going to build a flow thru bin soon because I think they are the way to go, but for you, I think finding a way to drain off the excess water will fix your problem. If you don't have a garden or house plants you are trying to fertilize, just dump it outside on the ground somewhere.
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I am not a worm bin expert but it sounds to me like you need more "browns" in your mix, and cardboard isn't doing the job. If you don't have a place to store "browns", perhaps you can walk around your neighborhood, find someone who has a garden and compost pile, and ask them if they can save some browns for you? You could give them your finished compost in return.
 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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Thanks Todd and Dave for your responses.

I'll try nesting the bin inside another so there is more drainage. Isn't the gick (sorry, the leachate) that dribbles through still pretty rank though? I guess I'll find out!
Unfortunetly none of the neighbours have compost to gather carbon matter from. Small-scale composting doesn't work well at -30c so most composting done up here is industrial. I guess I could pay some company to drive to my place, pick-up my waste and industrially compost it (an added heat, constant tumble process). But I'll try to give these little wrigglers a fair shot before I do that. I'll try to find a source for browns... just need to think harder.
Also unfortunate (for this purpose) is that there is just no open ground to pour this stuff on. We've had hard freeze up with snow cover for over a month already. I could just pour it on a snow bank, but I live in a semi urban area. We've struggled with houseplants in that even our most southern facing window only gets a couple hours of sun in the winter, and that is mostly blocked by buildings and mountains.
It's just very hard to get stuff to grow up here! Maybe the magical worm gick (diluted) will coax the houseplants through the worst of winter.
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I would think that a bag of leaves, old sticks/stems, dry grass clippings, wood shavings (e.g. horse bedding), half rotten firewood, etc. stored in the garage should suffice. Surely you can find something like that? You could walk along roadsides and pull dead weed stems. If there are any plants around at all, there will be browns.

I am assuming the worms are working indoors, but you could certainly make an outdoor compost pile (which does not need worms). It would of course only be "active" in the warmer months. If you turn it when the weather is warm, it will decompose really fast (I have done it in 2 weeks by turning every day). Everything you add in the winter would stay frozen (I assume), and thus would not stink. Once everything thaws, get out your pitchfork and start turning it. Just be sure to add both greens and browns to your pile. e.g. have a pile of browns next to your compost pile, and when you dump your kitchen scraps, throw a thin layer of browns on top to keep it looking nice and to discourage scavengers.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I'm from rather temperate climes, so -50c is waaay beyond my capacity to envision!
Paper of whatever type you're comfortable with is delicious to worms
Apologies if I've missed it, but could you pour leachate into plastic bottles and line them up somewhere outside till spring?
What I really recommend is looking into 'bokashi' composting if you haven't already: it's ideal for indoor spaces and at worst smells kind of like a pickle factory if you leave it too long...
I've seen people use two old 10 litre paint buckets with drilled in one, and something in the bottom of the other to create a leachate collector.
I'd get a collection and assuming there is somewhere outside to stash stuff, line them up...
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
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Hey, Chris...

What purpose had you in mind when first considering starting the vermicomposting...?

I also use a coupla Rubbermaid bins nested together, the bottom fully intact with 4 'risers' to lift the upper bin up and let it breathe and drain any excessive moisture (leachate). My upper bin is lidded and has air holes surrounding just below the lid and drainage holes in the bottom. Sometimes, as I notice condensation forming on the underside of the lid, I know that I need to drain off and empty the leachate as it's building up, or if I don't have enough time I'll add some more dry shredded newspaper to the upper bin, to absorb a bit and 'buy me some time'. Of course, it's not the answer, just a bandaid, but a way the vermicompost can be managed...

Another thought, would be the Bokashi method, but you are still going to have to have space for your 'working bucket/container' and your 'in-process fermentation bucket/container' and your 'finished fermented bucket/container' thru the winter til you can empty and bury into your or someone's garden. If you don't have the end outlet, why go to all the effort of doing either...???

Another option, that might work for you is Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSF), which can eat huge quantities down to near nothing, you don't get compost out of this process, you only get waste removal and increased larvae numbers. But, if you or others have chickens it can be a very nice hi-protien supplement. This time of year may not be the best time for you to start with these, unless there is somoone local that has BSF already. But, next year you could order some and begin your project...
 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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There is a local plant, Labrador Tea, that I collect for food (well, tea). It's a bit astringent but it's one of the few hebacious plants that can be found here in the winter. I'll just have to dig down into the snow to find it. Other plants that are readily available in winter are spruce (needles and twigs) and aspen (bark and twigs). Do you think these woody additions will help at all? Perhaps at least to airate?

Thank you for the suggestion of bokashi. The proccess sounds awesome, but is there a way to do it with out the outside inputs? I've done some lacto fermentation and I have live sourdough on hand.

My goal is to reduce my waste stream 90% by weight. Ironic, in that achieving this is causing one of my problems; with less and less cardboard/paper product being used the less and less "brown" I have on hand.
Totaly agreed that if I can find a way to repourpose the worm castings/ bokashi sludge them it ceases to be waste.

Before the worm bin died my ladyfriend and I sent about 1 shopping bag of wasted material to the landfill per month (including kitty litter), but we do have a substancial amount of recyling that I'd like to reduce in volume as well. Our waste stream has doubled in size and tripled in weight since the wormies died.
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
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Chris Sturgeon wrote:There is a local plant, Labrador Tea, that I collect for food (well, tea). It's a bit astringent but it's one of the few hebacious plants that can be found here in the winter. I'll just have to dig down into the snow to find it. Other plants that are readily available in winter are spruce (needles and twigs) and aspen (bark and twigs). Do you think these woody additions will help at all? Perhaps at least to airate?

Thank you for the suggestion of bokashi. The proccess sounds awesome, but is there a way to do it with out the outside inputs? I've done some lacto fermentation and I have live sourdough on hand.

My goal is to reduce my waste stream 90% by weight. Ironic, in that achieving this is causing one of my problems; with less and less cardboard/paper product being used the less and less "brown" I have on hand.
Totaly agreed that if I can find a way to repourpose the worm castings/ bokashi sludge them it ceases to be waste.

Before the worm bin died my ladyfriend and I sent about 1 shopping bag of wasted material to the landfill per month (including kitty litter), but we do have a substancial amount of recyling that I'd like to reduce in volume as well. Our waste stream has doubled in size and tripled in weight since the wormies died.


I don't think those plants would help you too much, the dense cellulose will take a long time to breakdown, the worms are very good at areation, we just have to not let their home become too moist. that's our obligation as caretakers...

You can make your own EM, I know there's a thread on Permies, here's anothe selection, since you know about lacto-fermentation and probably have some of the ingredients you most of the way there...and, don't forget to experiment and play the 'mad scientist', you never know what you can discover and learn...


Extreme Bokashi - make your own innoculant

Here's a method called Newspaper Bokashi. You start with the water you wash rice with, ferment it with milk, give your newspaper a bath in the potion, and dry the newspaper. The newspaper is innoculated with your microbes. You then use the bokashi bucket, layering your kitchen scraps with the newspaper instead of bran.

http://bokashicomposting.com/

COLLECTING WILD LACTOBACILLUS
Combine 1 part rice to 2 parts water. Shake or stir vigorously. Drain. The water will be cloudy. Lightly cover it. (Canning jar and ring to hold a coffee filter, cheesecloth or piece of paper towel should work) Air should be able to move in and out. The liquid should fill only 1/4 to 1/2 of the jar. Need a LOT of air exposure. Place in a cool dark place for 4 - 8 days. It should smell somewhat sour. Strain out any particles.

PURIFYING THE LACTOBACILLUS
Put the ricewater in a larger container. Add 10 parts milk or skim milk. Cover lightly, ferment for 14 days. Most of he solids should float to the top, leaving a yellowish liquid. Strain off the solids. This is your purified lactobacillus serum. (Don't you feel like a real scientist now?)

INNOCULATING YOUR NEWSPAPER
Take 1 part serum, 1 part molasses and 6 parts water. Soak newspapers, then drain. Put the newspaper in ziplock bags, squeeze air out and ferment for 10 days to 2 weeks. Remove newspaper, separate the layers and lay them out to dry.

#2

Yogurt shortcut
________________________________________
If you make yogurt and/or kefir, you can skip the first 2 steps. Use the live active yogurt/kefir whey that you get when you make yogurt cheese as your lactobacillus serum. Continue from there...

Instead of newspaper any fine particulated carbon material can work, bran, leaves, sawdust, woodchips, etc. there is a new cat litter out that is made of corn particles/fiber, looks interesting, runs about .83/lb. at WalMart...


 
Allan Ewan
Posts: 5
Location: North
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sounds like you need a couple of nested bin systems

the last bunch i bought cost under 30 bucks for four rubbermaids. iirc we got them from the great canadian stupid store.

30-40 1/4 holes in the bottom of the top bin works jut fine to drain off the leachate. drill some holes in the one lid and you're set.

i try to keep my bins on the dry side but i have the luxury of processing capacity. if i find leachate/puddling in the catchment bins i'll pour it into the top of another bin. if i have a serious problem with moisture in a bin i'll stick some newspaper in the catchment bin to absorb the excess liquid/moisture in the bin. *a couple of sheets of newspaper on top of the first bin will regulate bin moisture as well

it sure sounds like you need a 2nd bin system to keep up with the food-stock your are producing. two rubbermaid bin systems mean ? (1000 worms = 1/2 lb of waste per day as a rule of thumb) 2000 worms = 1lb waste per day. a rubbermaid is more like 1.5x1ft. but 1/2lb per 1000 worms is an ideal anyway.

you are in tough for good browns this time of year. the best are dead/decaying leaves. they already have a bunch of good microorganisms to bring to the 'table'. the ground is kinda hard right now but if you find a big old willow i'll bet you'll find a pile of dead/decaying leaves under the snow. my guess is you should be able to peel up a few layers of frozen leaf material from underneath that grandaddy willow. i used to use cardboard as bedding until i tried dead/decaying leaves. it's so much easier using leaves.

anyway - just some thoughts from a fellow vermiculturalist north of 60
 
Nancy Sinclaire
Posts: 30
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With a smallish condo with -50's and mostly vegetarian diet you have a lot of difficult things to manage vermicomposting wize. Your going to need a bigger bin. Maybe one the size of the kitchen table it is under presently. The reason is the volume of material you are wanting to vermicompost. You need surface area. Yes you need to add more browns but there is only so much can fit into one bin. Storing vermicompost drippings does not improve them. Your goal should be to not have any drippings. Because you seem way serious about vermicomposting your kitchen waste as evidenced by your trying over again twice and because of your unique situation of condo, thus not a lot of access to land, and massive cold I suggest one of those cloth vermicomposting systems. The reasons being the cloth breaths. Thus the system drys out. It is like an upside down pyramid. Each side breaths thus can be considered a top. This increases the surface area without increasing the floor space. Each of the 4 sides will work like the top. Also it sounds like you need OPB's Other People's Browns. Have a set location for volunteers to put their egg cartons and coffee trays. Seed it with a few nice clean ones. When you visit people ask if they have any. You will have what it is I want.

Is there a way to reduce kitchen waste by maybe keeping trimmings to make a stock? Then the vegetables will be strained out, squeezed for all their goodness to feed people and reduced in volume.

Bokashi is another good idea. Even if the worm thing does work out you may want to try bokashi just as a fun thing to do. Maybe use it for when you know you will have 5 gallons of kitchen waste all at once like pumpkin season, marathon canning session, fermenting vegetable preparation day, day of spend brew waste and cider squeezing. Clean out the refrigerator day. Maybe a two gallon bokashi would take those 6 days a year in the middle of winter and take the peeks off of the food additions to the worm bin.

A bit of hard wood charcoal might help keep the bin sweet.

You mentioned cat litter. I am not a fan of cat litter in bins but if your main aim is to reduce your waste stream, and you are not using the resultant vermicompost (helping the forest is still a very good thing to do) then maybe look at a natural cat litter made of newspaper or whatever they use. This could then be added to the bin. This would also move the amount of waste further towards your goal.
 
Chris Sturgeon
Posts: 91
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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Wow. So many good suggestions here! I had not heard of cloth bins before and bokashi appeals to the experimenter in me. Thank you all. I'm going to research into what will work best for me and post pictures as soon as I have something up and running. Thanks.
 
Willy Walker
Posts: 101
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
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chicken fungi hugelkultur
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Just for an idea of whats going on in my worm bin..

I have the worm factory 360. I have had it going for 4 or 5 months now. I started with a pound of worms. I have been seeing little ones for a while now, so who knows how many I have squirming around. The thing is, I only feed them like once a week and when I do, its about 1/2 lb. to 1 lb. of food. Not very much... I feed them my juice remains, it is for the most part dry. When I start a new tray I use brown leaves, shredded newspaper and food. I do add coffee grounds from time to time and I do spray the top bin with water some times during feeding. I have not gotten any juice. There are no smells. I keep the two top trays full of shredded newspaper to stop the white fly. I have purchased more trays btw.

I know I didn't offer any suggestions for you. I wanted to just let you know what was going on in my bin. I couldn't imagine feeding them all my scraps. Good luck to you. And don't feel bad about feeding the forest, but have you ever thought about selling it? Before my bin, I was buying the stuff on line at a high cost.

 
Ben Shuetrim
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Don't give up on the worms!
Keep the bin well drained by having a hose or similar connected to the outlet tap and going into a plastic bottle or other. Avoid any 'browns' that aren't soft newspaper types otherwise they will take forever to break down and will just take up valuable space.

I only use paper for use as a thick cover and moisture retainer for the worm bed. They tend to eat away at the underside of the paper when they feel the urge.

Build your worm pops up by only adding really fast rotting, soft fruits/veg's for a while and then when it's cranking add slower rotting foods that the higher population will handle. If the stink factor comes on it is for two possible reasons; Too much food being added and the worms can't consume the rotting specimen or; The bin is too acidic due to cranking worm fest and requires a sprinkling of any type of powdered Lime to raise pH and get things going again.

Hope you keep the bin!
Ps just get rid of that worm leachate any old way. Really your main focus is on composting your waste which will take place. Sometimes you just have to get one waste stream sorted before worrying about everything else; ie give the leachate away, pour it on a nearby lawn-garden-tree etc whatever just don't let it hang in the bottom of the bin or it will just make you want to throw that bin right out!
Good luck,
Ben
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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You need to put some holes in the working worm bin and elevated it over a container to catch the draining liquid.
The liquid that drains out of the worm bin is trash, dont save it. Only save the worm poop/manure/soil.
The worm eat about 1/2 their weight in food/trash per day.
So if you are making 2lbs of scrap each day you will 4lbs of worms. Go ahead get some more.
Try and keep the bins shallow, the worms mainly eat in only the top 6 inches.
You might have to get two shallow bins that are not stacked but completely separate.

 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 307
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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S Bengi wrote:
The liquid that drains out of the worm bin is trash, dont save it. Only save the worm poop/manure/soil.


Seriously? I've always heard that the worm "tea" is high in nutrients and nitrogen and a great liquid fertilizer. I use it mainly on my potted plants.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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It anaerobic (bad bacteria and bad metabolites).
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-questions/using-worm-bin-leachate/

The worm manure filled with good aerobic bacteria added to water and sugar/honey/molasses and a air stone to prevent bad bacteria is GOOD. WORM TEA
The liquid that flows out of a out a balance low oxygen, bad blah, blah.... is not good its BAD. WORM LEACHATE.

WORM TEA and WORM LEACHATE are two different things.
 
Claire Skerry
Posts: 28
Location: Converse, Texas
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I've a question on the worm bin front.

Recently I've moved to an area with ants that attacked my tiny worm bucket. I was able to save only five of the poor guys, though they soon gave up on the living thing...

Is there a way to keep the ants out of the bucket so that the worms could have another go at it? I'm skeptical about doing a moat since West Nile virus was an issue here last year. Though I daydreamed up a tiny pond with fish and ducks that would eat the larva and I could have a little stepping stone path to the shrine of worms that would lay in the middle. A bit much for a rental place though... Also, I've had mixed reviews of dichotomous earth due to varying humidity, etc. from online bloggers that have experimented. Also, I have tried hanging the bucket, but if I get into it much it will get to heavy for where I can hang it. I think the ants might wise up and go down the rope, too.

Right now we have this horrid chemical stuff that our landlord gave us, that knocks out the colony by having this bait stuff that they carry down to the queen and it kills her. Then they just move and I step in their new colony while I mow the lawn..

So is there a method of just letting them have a tiny spot maybe in the flower garden to themselves so they don't move and a way to keep them out of my worm bin without having the threat of WNV? Kind of stumped..

Thank you!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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You can build the moat and then throw in a few mosquito fish. they will eat the mosquito larvae.
You could also try the Vaseline trick,if your worm bin has legs.
 
Ben Shuetrim
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Claire~

I have had this exact problem before...

The ants come due to the contents being a little on the dry side and also being too acidic.

The solution; Keep the worm bin a little more moist and secondly, buy yourself some cheap builders lime or dolomite lime from the hardware and give it an even little sprinkle over the feeding surface of your worm bin. This will bring up the pH a little, help remove any smells and make the worms happier and hungrier. Pretty sure you'll need to get another load of worms though because five aint' gonna eat much


I was informed by a great neighbour of mine who used to work part time as a kid with a commercial worm farm, this does work.

Hope it helps,
Ben
 
Claire Skerry
Posts: 28
Location: Converse, Texas
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Ben-

Oh good! I'd been avoiding dumping my french press's grounds in with the worms because I thought I'd drown the little guys. I'll give the lime bit a go as well.

Thank you!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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They also like crushed/powdered egg shells.
It so true that if the bin is moist the ants will go to dryer places.
The worms do like it moist just dont get it too wet.
If you start having drainage and the worms are trying to excape/on the lid, then adjust accordingly.
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