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Vermiculture: Worm composting  RSS feed

 
                                    
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The most recognized composting worms species for a worm composting unit are Red Wiggler worms or Eisenia Foetidas. They are known for eating as much as their own body weights in just 24 hours and are great potent worm casting producers.

Here's an article on
 
                                  
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I've raised them for several years and here's what I've found to be simplest. Being a huge fan of simple.

   10 gallon Rubbermaid bins work great for your average kitchen bin. For a long time I stored one under my sink.Drill small holes around the sides at intervals to give some air flow. Now I've begun to use large plastic pots, the kind
trees come in, and have it by my back door.

   But not content with just such a small population I branched out, trying several containments. Shipping crates lined with layers of overlapping cardboard works if you stumble across a size you can deal with. Not too deep- say 3'-4' .  And an even simpler system is taking a piece of sturdy fencing (hogwire ?) and overlap the ends making it as big around as you want. This system is the best in my mind because it's easy to tear down and access your compost after a year or two.
 
                        
Posts: 57
Location: Northern Rockies
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I'm a nube, but here' s what I'm doing.  For my bin I'm using a "ruff tote," a c. 9 cu.ft. plastic container with tight fitting lid and wheels.  It's made for tools.  I drilled 3/4 inch holes along the lower walls.... maybe 8 in total.  I'm using a mixture of sawdust and woodchips (mixed green and dry) for bedding.  Keeping an eye on moisture and feeding the worms things chickens won't eat.  And things seem to be happening. 
 
                                  
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Hi Rickster,
   I am a bit worried your sawdust and woodchips are a ways from being edible yet. It takes time for those materials to be broken down by microbes enough to be palatable for the worms.  They do love brown paper, soaked first, as a heavy addition to any bin.  Old leaves would also be a really good addition to a new bin as carbon material.
  Although they can take the addition of fresh materials to their bin, what they will actually look to eat is the older stuff that microbes have already been working on.  There is a great website called www.redwormcomposting.com, it's where I started and it gave me confidence understanding their needs. Looking into a happy bin is a great feeling. I am in total awe of worms.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 10366
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Do the worms destroy internal parasites if manure is added to the bin?

Thanks.

 
                                  
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Lodi -  No, they're after already composting material. But it is thought that they eat microbes. I kind of doubt the parasites would outlive an active bin, as it's inhabited by an amazing variety of creatures all busy doing their jobs, such as predation. Worms are quite vulnerable to worming medicines, however - so be cautious when sourcing manures. ( but I am not a soil scientist - check with one if you feel you're at some risk)

Rickster - your holes might be kinda big, allowing material to dribble out. I do 1/4" small at 4-6" intervals along the sides in 2 or three rows  The worms, being photo-phobic will only try to leave if they feel they have to because their "bedding" is too hot or inhospitable. There is heat from the first stages of composting and the worms must have older material to escape to. This is why I use a bin for fresh stuff, which becomes great for worms in about a week (at mid-range temps) and I can then add to my worm bin.

Verimicomposting is a great relationship.  Look at them often, see what kind of material they are busiest in.
They love.. watermelon, squash, oatmeal and all kinds of surprising things like stems, which they hollow out and they then curiously, congregate in an orgy of numbers. Little worm churches ? Maybe they're grateful too.

enjoy

here's a quote-      " I've woken myself up laughing"     - an anon friend
 
                        
Posts: 57
Location: Northern Rockies
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Blueroot,

Thanks for that link.  The site is excellent, and their community seems really cool.  I look forward to reading the guide they have written.

Re. my worms, I'm bedding with the woodies but weekly adding about a quart of compost.  Plus I started with a couple gallons of castings from the worm donor.  The worms are definitely happily procreating in their ligno-cellulosic bliss.  I'm thinking things might be alright. 

The big disadvantage of the chips is that I'll have to filter them out of the final compost, but that's not such a problem.  I'll be experimenting as the orb turns.  I'm also doing other things with wood chips and biomass.

Another question, has anyone fed mushrooms to their piles?  I have some dried up boletes (suillus) laying around outside where I put them for the squirrels.  (They were buggy.)  I'm thinking about going out there and taking them back from those little rodents (since they're throwing pine cones at my roof and being utterly raucous) and dropping them into the word bin.  In fact, I think I'll post this and go do it. If I can eat them, the worms should love'em.

 
                        
Posts: 57
Location: Northern Rockies
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Blueroot,

I agree on the hole-size.  Next time I would make more, smaller holes for that very reason.  It won't be too big a problem, but still I would make the change.

Re. the material, since the volume of my weekly compost is only a small percentage of the total volume of the mass in there, I get the effect you are talking about.  The worms take their time moving into the fresh compost, but they do get there and work it fast when they do. 

The more I think about it the more I'm interested in introducing edible mushrooms to the system.  They grow everywhere around here, several types.  Easy pickin.  Hmmmm...
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 10366
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
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Thank you Blueroot. 

 
                                  
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I started my worm bins with a couple of cartons of red worms from a pet store. Now, five years later, I have tons.
 
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How cold can Eisenia fetida stand?
 
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I started a worm bin one autumn by leaving some of the leaves on my patio. It wasn't long before some little worms started crawling about under them so I just collected a few of them up with some of the decomposing material and put them in the worm bin.
 
                          
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I was slowly building a compost pile from gradual kitchen scraps and shredded newspaper plus straw. As the pile got to 3 feet I decided to move it and discovered lots of worms in happily eating and pooping, so I decided to keep the pile where it was at and at the suggestion of a neighbor keep it covered with a tarp to make it nice and dark. Bit by bit without a box the worms turning the whole pile worm-casting black so I am starting another pile right next to it.

My last worm box got invested with centipedes and they went to town on my worms, so I am hoping this method will allow escape routes for the worms or at least more of an inflow for critters who eat the centipedes.
 
Posts: 211
Location: Missoula Montana
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Here is more info on worm bins.  I just threw leftover earthwoarms (from a fishing trip) into my garden beds and they are doing great. 
 
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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i have 2 envirocycle compost tumblers that are just way too slow,maybe there isnt enough mass to heat up real good but they've never really worked that well,they're overfull now .

I've been wanting to get a worm bin going for some time, and the more i researched the more ideas i came across ,and unsure i was as to what to make.

after way too much anal-yzing this subject, i'm resolved now to building a Continuous-flow/ Flow-Through design . It seems the most logical functional and lowest maintenance in terms of feeding and harvesting the VC,

i've found some Fantastic sites and resources that i havent seen listed here yet ,enough to warrant a new thread maybe  but it makes much more sense i think to keep it here.

www.Vermicomposters.com
has a wealth of info, there is a very active forum ,its full of bin designs, photos,videos, a wiki page, a Google Map with markers of  VC'ers all around the globe you can contact for help/supplies/etc. 


http://vermicomposters.ning.com/forum/topics/diy-flow-through-bins-a
this thread here has about 40 worm bins from 5 gallon pails to 300+gallon industrial(but DIY) sizes.  my favorites are here,
http://vermicomposters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/flow-through-is-the-answer-to
http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/worm-bins
http://vermicomposters.ning.com/forum/topics/new-worm-bin

rhonda sherman's page  NC state university.
lists of resources,workshop demos, etc.
http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/topic/vermicomposting/
appropedia's page: http://www.appropedia.org/Category:Vermiculture

www.Redwormcomposting.com
great blog articles,bin designs,videos and many other resources.

youtube playlists.
not a comprehensive list, but close. many of the lists repeat some videos.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=4BBAD3243C671B70&playnext=1&v=BhyTzhPtJcg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KHe8AFcudE&playnext=1&list=PL3AD450532DAB8457&index=1
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=68B4301A4F9964F9&playnext=1&v=gbjX2tt-oQw
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=7DB663696C9EACCA&playnext=1&v=WxhEQEA0GN8
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=3C0F17124D160C67&playnext=1&v=BhyTzhPtJcg
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=81572038D5F6C7EB&playnext=1&v=_0gSc0ZIdZA


other groups  (quite a few on yahoo)  not as active i've noticed. still good resources.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the_worm_bin/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vermicomposting/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Worm_Growers/

i'll post back once i've gotten mine built !

additions:
this was also very cool ! watch the video there
http://hypernatural.com/digestive.html#
 
                        
Posts: 57
Location: Northern Rockies
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Thanks Tribal Wind (or Matthew, whichever you prefer),

It's funny that you posted this note today because this morning I was thinking about the exact same topic - a continuous feed system.  I'm also concerned with space conservation, too.  My answer is to build a cubical box - eg 2'(3) - and horizontally partition it (with vertical partitions) into 4 square 1'x2'x2' spaces.  The vertical partitions will have holes for the little red worms to wriggle through when they get bored with their present menu.  And, with wheels, one can move one of these around.

On another note, I've been happy with my "rugged tote."  For my current situation, it's perfect, especially partitioned (simple vertical partition), and it has wheels, which helps.  (I have it tucked in a closet back by the water heater.) 

But, it is yet another piece of disposable plastic crap.  And, I want to be able to grow more of these little wrigglers in a limited space. So, soon enough I'll build something else. 
 
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Setting up long shallow (18inchx 6ft+) help with the separating of the worms from compost. Start from the left go all the way to the right. By the time you get close to the end of the bin, the majority of the worms are all the way on the other side of the finished vermiculite.
 
                                  
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vermiculite ? you surely meant vermicompost - I assume. I have so many various "systems" containing worm populations - everything from old wooden dresser drawers to shipping crates.. even an old bath tub, stacked tires. I like the idea of a longer narrower system that they eat their way through. All for the love of worms. 
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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blueroot wrote:
vermiculite ? you surely meant vermicompost - I assume.



Vermiculite is a natural mineral,commonly used to amend soil.
its also used in the hypertufa recipes as mentioned. and many other things.
i've read that it can also contain asbestos,which is what causes mesothelioma cancer.
here is one such link http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos

EPA says risk is minimal,probably right.

what i like most about the flow-through designs is it gets around having to sift out the VC/worms ,changing stacks and all that nonsense..i'll surely get an outdoor pile going in spring too,but the indoor FT bin will be good year-round for kitchen scraps.
once i have a big enough population of worms, i'll hit up my local juice bar,cafe and green market for more wormfood.
 
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Ive been worm-posting for a a couple years now, I have found by accident 2 easy ways to separate worms from the castings.  I use two large food barrels one is a "feed" barrel to which I add my kitchen scraps, the other is a "digest" barrel from which I harvest the yummy black stuff.  I alternate every month or so, depending on the weather and how much I am feeding the worms.  I left the cover off the "digest" barrel during a  heavy rain once, the barrel filled up with water so that only a small area at the top was dry enough to be suitable worm habitat.  All of my worms had sought refuge from the water there, and I scooped them out in handfuls.  Rather than draining the water out of the barrel, I simply added several arm loads of dry grass clippings and some half composted maple leaves.  The veggie matter absorbed the excess water and composted into the mix within about a week!  The other "easy" way to separate worms is to wait for the weather.  We had a cold snap here this fall and my worm barrels began to freeze solid. There was still a pocket in the center that was thawed, where all the worms were.  I used a hand trowel to scoop them all out just before they turned into wormcicles.  I keep them in a ventilated plastic cooler in the basement, feeding them coffee grounds until spring.
 
                        
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Location: Northern Rockies
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Sol, this information is interesting and useful.  Thanks!!
 
solomon martin
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It is spring time soon and I am ready to move my worms from the ventilated cooler box in my basement back out into my feed barrels.  I have discovered another really simple way to harvest my worms without screening or building an elaborate separation system.  My worms have been in a large vented coleman type cooler since the end of november in my basement, they pretty well chowed through all the organic matter that they started with since I moved them in from the cold, so I have been keeping them alive by carefully adding a handful of used coffee grounds and a small amount of kitchen waste, primarily to keep them alive, but to keep down the smell of rotting compost in my basement.  They have been on a diet for sure, but the population has been holding steady.  The coffee grounds seem to be a high energy, low smell worm food, for sure.  Last week I bought several avocados that were way to green for guacamole, so I cut them in half and placed them cut side down on top of the worm dirt.  Now, I pick up the avocado skin, and underneath is a solid mass of worms!  I could gather several pints worth just by picking up the avocado skins and scooping them out.  Hope this is helpful.
 
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http://www.waikikiworm.com/3wwaboutwms.html

Also look into Glen Martinez and his farm, Olomana Gardens on the island of Oahu, the guy is a genius.
 
                                          
Posts: 59
Location: N.W. Arizona
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We have NO worms native to our desert soil.  There is little to no organic matter to feed them.  To garden sucessfully requires adding green manure crops, compost, mulch, and earth worms.  The chickens hogs and dogs get our table and garden scraps.  The worm bins get our coffee and tea scraps along with some of the finely ground juicer waste.  When a quart jar is full of these I take it out to the greenhose set it by the worm hotel and loosen the lid.  This allows the scraps to get air and grow mycellium, which is worms favorite food.  At this point I add a cup of aquaphonic fish water to the top tray to keep it all wet.  When three quarts of scraps are collected I remove the oldest tray to apply to a raised garden bed, an aquaphonics grow bed or a compost pile.  Worms, castings and all get dumped right on top.  The jars of scraps get spread on the tray and covered with potting soil and wet down, ready to attract and breed more worms.  Often worms will be on top or hanging on the bottom of the tray when removed from the hotel.  Those go to the fish in the nearby tank.  Now when I pull back the mulch and dig to plant I see worms in the garden.
 
Posts: 16
Location: boise, idaho
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A worm from irrigated pasture, soon to be new orchard. We find worms 12" long occasionally.

cpd2dell-4-22-2010-(20).jpg
[Thumbnail for cpd2dell-4-22-2010-(20).jpg]
 
Posts: 167
Location: MAINE
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@gowefarm

Nice Specimen there. May i ask your location as in what state?
 
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
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Check out http://vermicomposters.com/ for all of your worm related information.  The message board over there is entirely dedicated to all things wiggler.

In my experience, worms from an active compost pile will generally work in a worm bin.  If you get worms from the internet you have no guarantee on the the species anyways.  If you can, find someone with a worm bin and get a few scoops of their wormy dirt to add to your bin.

I've been raising worms for about 1.5 years, it is very easy.  Don't over feed them, don't let them get to wet, dry, cold, or hot......a lot like growing plants when you look at it like that!

My bin moved from temperate Cali to Utah so I'll be running my first indoor bin this winter.  I plan on using the "flow through" design
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
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Hanley wrote:
Check out http://vermicomposters.com/ for all of your worm related information.  The message board over there is entirely dedicated to all things wiggler.


Yep i second that, oh wait, i mean YOU second that,since i posted it above back in january 


In my experience, worms from an active compost pile will generally work in a worm bin.  If you get worms from the internet you have no guarantee on the the species anyways.  If you can, find someone with a worm bin and get a few scoops of their wormy dirt to add to your bin.

they'll even find their way into compost tumblers, mine  are the type that sit on a container-base with rollers and captures the compost leachate "tea".one of the bins is teeming with wigglers now. i will move that all inside very soon because it just started snowing here!. i guess there might be 1/2 lb-1 lb of worms, not really enough yet to process ALL our kitchen waste, so after exhaustive searching i found an Ebay seller with very good prices ($9 per pound on 3lbs+) and perfect feedback,everyone had positive comments on their worms .  i won an auction on 5 lbs for $45,and another 15 for shipping.

My bin moved from temperate Cali to Utah so I'll be running my first indoor bin this winter.  I plan on using the "flow through" design


over the summer i built  a BIG outdoor "flow-through" bin,3'x3'x6'.(actually i posted it to vermicomposters). i didnt get around to filling it though..now i'm going to build an indoor flow-thru bin, maybe 2'x4'x4' and keep it in the basement where i also have growlights setup ,i can use the VC right there for my soil-blocks next year i'll start filling the big outdoor one with what i am able to raise inside. along with heaps of horse manure from some stables .

some pics of the outdoor bin, and what the indoor bin might look like...stilldebating on the top plant shelves.
P1010010.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1010010.JPG]
Worm-Bin-with-seed-flats3.jpg
[Thumbnail for Worm-Bin-with-seed-flats3.jpg]
 
Raven Sutherland
Posts: 167
Location: MAINE
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I'm having great success with recycling banana boxes.
they are quite thick with multiple corrugated  layers.
once they go soft (and were pre soaked to begin with,)

i tear them from two directions  then they are intermingled
with bedding with browned maple leaves mixed in
and the worms are really thriving.

It pays to get your local feed store to order
Purina worm chow for you
-product number #5128
 
Hanley Kale-Grinder
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
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Yep i second that, oh wait, i mean YOU second that,since i posted it above back in january  cheesy tongue



lol, busted.  Guess I didn't read the thread that well!  I'm sure there are a few other vermicomposters.com netizens over here as well

Glad to see someone else with the flow through.  They seem to be the best design I've seen so far.  Also, props on not using plastic.  I'm TRYING to phase that particular toxin out of my life with varying success!

Has anyone left an active worm bin outside through a freezing winter?  I know it will go inactive and everything will die.  However, will the worms come back in the spring or will I have to repopulate it?
 
Raven Sutherland
Posts: 167
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the eggs will still survive...

they are known to float across the seas
and wash up on distant shores and hatch out
 
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Greetings- vermicomposting (and Permies) newbie here-

I've had a multi-level vermocomposter going for a few months- the bottom level seems to be about done and the 2nd layer is filling up- I'm not seeing as much of an increase in population as I would have anticipated- of course it's hard to tell how many are in there, but they are getting the job done. I don't want to lose too many when I remove the material from the bottom layer- should I not be worrying about this? How hard should I try to recover wigglers before moving the finished material to the garden?

 
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You can do this several ways:
1. you can move the finished tray to the top position and leave the lid off for a few days, the worms will move down away from light and the drying bedding.
2. You can put the finished castings in a bucket and top feed and wrangle up all the stragglers that way.
3. You can harvest them (here is a video on worm harvesting: http://youtu.be/OgliNESi8jA)
4. you can use them worms and all, it wont matter much.

Hope this helps. And fyi, in my experience, using a tiered system, the worms tend to stay small and not multiply too much, due it being a small space. Worms need room to grow and breed, they self regulate when the space is small. I know the manufacturers say otherwise but I just have not seen it myself and I have had a working worm factory for demonstration in my classes for 8 years. I use water troughs for my breeding bins.
 
Tony Thomas
Posts: 16
Location: boise, idaho
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Raven Sutherland wrote:@gowefarm

Nice Specimen there. May i ask your location as in what state?



Hi, we live in Boise Idaho.
 
Posts: 32
Location: Alberta Canada 3b I think....
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hey all
new to the site and a beginner composter. Very excited to begin doing my part in rebuilding abused soil in my area and my part in reducing the unnecessary waste in landfills.

I am looking for someone who might know where to look for Red Wrigglers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Im an hour north of there and could drive. It just seems like the most likely place near me to find them.

Also, I have set up a three bin system that I plan to use for my worm (upon getting them :p). Im referring to the one that has one bin on the bottom to catch tea, blocks elevating another active one with worms in it and the other sits in waiting for worms to be transferred into it when the other it full. I have a row of holes in the bottoms of the 2 bins and 2 more on the bottoms of the sides. these are about 1.5 inches apart going sideways and staggered the same on the next row. I have a similar set of holes on the top for air exchange. I have holes in my lid as well.

I think this is the right way to set up the bins once I have the worms to start the process. Any pointers? Should I start plain composting in the meantime, while I wait for my worms to be added or wait to start this all at once?

Thanks for the advice
James
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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James Barr wrote:hey all
new to the site and a beginner composter. Very excited to begin doing my part in rebuilding abused soil in my area and my part in reducing the unnecessary waste in landfills.
I am looking for someone who might know where to look for Red Wrigglers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Im an hour north of there and could drive. It just seems like the most likely place near me to find them.



for all things wiggly, check http://www.vermicomposters.com/
great great forums with lots of experienced users/experts , and a map with some sellers and folks who will donate worms.

for vertical stacking systems, my favorite is the bucket method. search that on youtube and the forums.
outside i made a large 2x3x6'long flow-through bin that is working great (albeit decaying a lot since i used salvaged cedar fence that was already rotting) it is much easier to use and harvest worm-free castings.
inside i have a bucket system but hardly ever tend to it. i overfeed it maybe every 8-12 weeks with mostly damp paper and a coffee can of kitchen waste.

edit: Doh! guess i shared this info already a year ago! well good luck.

here is a guy near Edmonton http://vermicomposters.com/wormbin?id=1736
 
James Barr
Posts: 32
Location: Alberta Canada 3b I think....
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Hey Matt
thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I joined Vermicomposters.

About my stacking system. I did get my plans from Youtube. I was just wondering if there were any tips an experiences wormer (? title) would have for a new guy? There are all kind of things people recommend to do, and Im trying to sift out whats good and whats bad advice.

Thanks again

 
Posts: 362
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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I figured I would give you guys the heads up, that the red wigglers can often be had on the cheap fom sporting good stores.
 
James Barr
Posts: 32
Location: Alberta Canada 3b I think....
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Hey just ordered my worms from a local earth friendly store. 45 buck for half pound. Im going to get them on the 28 of Oct. Combining my trip with an aquarium fish auction. Looking forward to starting my worms. Currently composting in the bins to prepare for my worms. This is going to be awesome.
When my worm colony is further along, I'm planning to start an aquaponics station in my home, making my aquarium hobby one with more than ascetics, but also food The unsustainability of my fish tank hobby has bothered me for a long time. This will make it much better.
Thank you for making this website where we can help one another learn to use our waste to make something great
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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James Barr wrote:Hey just ordered my worms from a local earth friendly store. 45 buck for half pound.





a half pound should be about $5. 10 tops.
when i started off with 5 pounds it cost me $45, about a year ago

did you check in on the guy from the worm site? was that his price? most of those folks are happy to give worms free.
i'd help you out but dont think they'd survive the trip from NY,especially not this time of year..

best of luck!
 
You ought to ventilate your mind and let the cobwebs out of it. Use this cup to catch the tiny ads:
Wildlife Web Kickstarter: Participate in the Web of Life
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