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question re: worms

 
pollinator
Posts: 159
Location: South Central PA
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cat fungi urban
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I live in a city, so my composting needs to be kept fairly tidy. I compost in an insulated, rotating, composter. Problem is, I need to move compost into a finishing container or I run out of space. The most recent batch I pulled out of the composter had a ton of worms in it, and my finishing container is a wheeled trash bin with a lid. My problem is, how are the worms going to live in that trash bin, and am I subjecting them to an awful end? Should I try to sift them out and put them into my garden? I know they are super helpful with the composting, but I'm afraid that I am condemning them to an untimely death by putting them into the lidded bin.
 
Posts: 538
Location: Middle Georgia
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I am no worm expert but I agree, it sounds like it could kill them.  Can you sift them out or better yet, put the compost straight on your garden beds now? Maybe cover it with some straw over the winter or dig little trenches and bury it (so it looks better). It will nourish the soil either way.

How did they get in the composter to begin with?
 
gardener
Posts: 1333
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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cattle chicken bee homestead
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If you have some space to work with ... dump it all into a heap on the ground or tarp. Wait an hour or two. Gradually scrape off the top inch or two. Repeat. The worms will keep digging away from the top layer.

Another method is to move everything to one side. Place fresh food scraps next to that. The worms will eventually migrate to the fresh food.

They will almost certainly die in an unventilated trash can full of almost finished compost. They need air & fresh food!!! In my opinion you would be better off just putting it all on the garden now & starting a new batch of compost & worms from scratch.
 
Denise Kersting
pollinator
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Location: South Central PA
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cat fungi urban
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I do think it's best to just clear off some space in my garden, and trench it in now. At least its fall, and I can cover the garden with fallen leaves and the neighbors won't be the wiser. I'm not certain how they got in there, but I always have a healthy population in the composter doing their thing. There are ventilation holes on the sides, there are always flies and what not in there in the summer.  The may have traveled in there when I dumped any number of potted plants I have around after their season outside was over. Thanks for all the advice!
 
Mike Barkley
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Earthworms are very good composting helpers. They speed up the process & actually improve the end results. They're not a bad thing at all. Better to let them be free than to die though. Some people (including me sometimes) simply dig a small hole in or near their garden, put their food scraps in the hole, worms will find it, & then when the hole is full cover it with soil. Then make another new hole & start again.
 
Posts: 327
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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There's a difference between earthworms and the sort you find in compost bins.  I'm guessing the worms you have are quite reddish and look stripy when they stretch out, in which case they are what I'd call brandlings.  I'm not sure how they got into your compost bin!  Did you add some manure?  But they would be fine in the trash bin (unless it really is airitght), so long as there is a sump in the bottom for the liquid they will produce whilst "finishing" off your compost for you.  You can buy purpose-made wormeries just like this, with a tap to draw off the liquid which makes a fine fertiliser.  Brandlings won't thrive if you put them out in the garden soil, they'll just get by.  The best place for them is back in your first-stage composter, sounds like they like it well enough!

The suggestions for separating them out from the compost are good, though I've only ever done this is hot weather so you spread out the compost with little refuges for them to gather under in the dark and cool.
 
Denise Kersting
pollinator
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My hubby verified they are "brandlings," he called them red wigglers. We relocated as many as we could find back to the first stage bin, and moved the the compost that needed to finish to the garden. Topped that off with a heavy layer of grass clippings to help keep any stragglers warm. He thinks they got in the bin when we take collected piles of damp leaves in the spring and toss them in. (Got a few spots around the house that the wind naturally piles them up at.) We use the same damp leaf addition at our cabin's composting toilet to let the microbes/molds do their work when we aren't there.
 
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