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What is the advantage of having a dedicated, closed off worm bin as opposed to a compost pile?  RSS feed

 
dan long
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If I have a compost pile that is full of worms, is it not accomplishing the same thing that a worm farm would?

If there is plenty to eat in this pile and at least part of it is cool enough for the worms to live in, would they still find a reason to leave the pile?

 
Michael Cox
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I would say the main benefit is one of control. In a managed worm farm your can be pretty certain that your waste will be broken down quickly by the worms and not become a magnet for vermin etc... If putting food scraps into a compost heap outdoors they take longer to break down and may not get up to temperature for ages, depending on quantities of wastes, weather, ratio of green/brown etc... If you have time and space then the compost heap would be fine and easier to manage. If space is limited (such as indoors in a flat or small kitchen) then the worm bin would work well.

From the worm bin you do get the castings (high fertility) and possibly a harvest of worms themselves for feed to chickens or fish. Chickens can harvest worms from compost for themselves.

Another alternative, depending on your climate, is black soldier fly larvae for consuming food scraps.
 
mick mclaughlin
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I can definitely see the benefits of having both!

I like worm bins for household waste, I think they do a much more effective job of turning scraps in to gold.

I like compost as a work horse. Producing larger amounts of semi-precious material.

And, I don't like to dig too much when I wanta go fishing.
 
Myron Weber
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I suppose there are pros and cons to both, but honestly for me it's more of a personal preference and partly driven by my setting. I don't compost much of my green/woody material - I use it as mulch and let it compost the slow, natural way. A small amount of my green waste becomes filler in the worm bin. But I'm in an urban environment with limited space and I'm trying to generate as much of my mulch on site as possible. So it's handy to have a worm bin a few steps outside the kitchen for scraps, generating very good compost in a contained space, and using the rest of my green waste for mulch.

If you are in a different setting without those priorities, and you prefer the pile approach, go for it.
 
Zach Muller
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I am with Myron on this. I too am in an urban setting so A majority of kitchen scraps go into a worm bin indoors where it is processed into fertilizer. My outdoor compost "pile" gets a few scraps here and there, but is mainly used as a centralized place to throw things out for the chooks to scratch through so worms would be a no go.

One thing I did find out when I had an outdoor worm bin was that BSFL will show up if you keep the lid off, in this case they out competed the worms. They eat much more quickly than worms. Next season, food scraps permitting, I hope to have a BSFL bin overflowing into the chicken tractors outside and a worm bin inside doing its thing.
 
Isaac Bickford
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For me, it's a difference of scale. To build a good compost pile, you really need a lot of material. A small family who is processing mainly kitchen scraps is probably not going to be generating enough material to ever build a hot pile. As a result, a smaller-scale technique is possible. At this scale, options I like are worms, black soldier flies, or burying in the garden.
 
Michael Cox
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Zach Muller wrote:I am with Myron on this. I too am in an urban setting so A majority of kitchen scraps go into a worm bin indoors where it is processed into fertilizer. My outdoor compost "pile" gets a few scraps here and there, but is mainly used as a centralized place to throw things out for the chooks to scratch through so worms would be a no go.

One thing I did find out when I had an outdoor worm bin was that BSFL will show up if you keep the lid off, in this case they out competed the worms. They eat much more quickly than worms. Next season, food scraps permitting, I hope to have a BSFL bin overflowing into the chicken tractors outside and a worm bin inside doing its thing.


If you have chickens and are in a region that supports BSF why would you also have an indoor worm bin? Surely the best use of food scraps is to return them to the chickens as feed (either directly or via BSF) so they can feed you eggs in return. What value do you see in a second competing system (one which appears at first glance to have less useful products?)
 
Myron Weber
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Zach Muller wrote:One thing I did find out when I had an outdoor worm bin was that BSFL will show up if you keep the lid off, in this case they out competed the worms. They eat much more quickly than worms. Next season, food scraps permitting, I hope to have a BSFL bin overflowing into the chicken tractors outside and a worm bin inside doing its thing.

I've seen a lot of worm growers say that BSFL out compete the worms - I haven't found that to be the case. Yes, they compete, but not in a way that causes any harm. My worms slow down in the summer heat, so having the BSFL kick in seems useful. My worms have never had a problem bouncing back when the BSFL slowed down at the end of the hot season. And I read somewhere that BSFL castings still have plenty of nutrients for worms - don't know if it's true.
 
Zach Muller
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Michael Cox wrote:
If you have chickens and are in a region that supports BSF why would you also have an indoor worm bin? Surely the best use of food scraps is to return them to the chickens as feed (either directly or via BSF) so they can feed you eggs in return. What value do you see in a second competing system (one which appears at first glance to have less useful products?)


My reasoning on this is primarily experimental but to further explain. I used to have my system set up like you said, all scraps went to the chicken area to supplement their food, it was nice and simple. Once I got the worm bin going the chickens did not get as many snacks, but they still have plenty of bugs and plants to eat, still producing good eggs. The main reason i got the worms was for brewing compost tea. Using one bottle of molasses I can multiply the small amount of castings I get into gallons of good micro organisms. Sure it takes some extra inputs, but it is for research and experiments.
As for bsf, I have a whole new plan for spring, collecting road kill and rotting left overs and making a rotting maggot/bsf bucket that will overflow for the chooks,that way they can reap benefits of some waste streams around the city with just a little bike riding and collecting effort on my part.


Myron what is your climate? I am curious if that might be why the worms can survive with BSFL without getting overtaken.For this particular bin on my porch, the worms slowed down in the heat and the BSFL started kicking in. By the end of the summer there was hardly a worm left in there.
 
Myron Weber
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Zach Muller wrote:
Myron what is your climate? I am curious if that might be why the worms can survive with BSFL without getting overtaken.For this particular bin on my porch, the worms slowed down in the heat and the BSFL started kicking in. By the end of the summer there was hardly a worm left in there.


I'm in Southern California - zone 9b - so our summers are hot and dry. Here's a little more info in case it's helpful: I have a DIY 3-bin stacking system where I periodically empty the bottom bin and rotate it to the top. Through the course of the summer while the BSFL are active, I don't rotate through all 3 bins. The BSFL tend to dominate the top bin, but they don't like being buried, so if I rotate that bin down, they tend to move out of the (now) middle bin. Also, I generally add shredded green waste (which worms eat but BSFL don't) along with kitchen waste - so there's a decent amount of worm food in there.

I've been using this particular system for 4 years, and the BSFL first showed up 3 years ago. Prior to this system, I was using a single-container system that had screens over the openings, so BSFL never got in. Maybe I've just gotten lucky so far with my worms surviving the BSFL invasion - time will tell.
 
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