worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!   Sitting Bull

Spring has certainly sprung at the Texas Worm Ranch and summer is knocking on the door.  The lovely temperatures and ample rain have helped us have productive gardens and a frenzy in our outdoor worm trenches.  A visit yesterday showed red wiggler worms in high numbers.  I will be attempting to harvest as many of those worms out of the outdoor trenches as possible, since my experience is the summer heat will kill most of them.  What lessons can we take from these outdoor bins to increase your indoor bin numbers?

1)     Worms like it moist.  Not flooded, but plenty wet.  I describe the correct moisture as walking through grass in the morning that soaks your shoes, but not a Louisiana Bog.

2)  Worms like temperatures between 50-80 degrees for best reproduction rates.  Who knows how many we would have at a steady 70 degrees?

3)  Worms like a lot of bedding on top of their habitat.  These outdoor bins have a big leaf layer, indoor bins can use moist newspaper or shredded cardboard

4)  A rich, organic material to lay cocoons in is a worm’s dream.  My outdoor trenches have aged horse stall waste, indoor plastic bins can use commercial organic compost (but not cotton bur compost, which can be too acidic).  I have see a ton of bins with peat moss, coco coir, or plain newspaper without any organic material.  My concern is there is no microbe production or nutrients in any of those materials.  Sure they are sterile, but therein lies the problem.  They create a microbe desert that your worms have to work to remedy.  Richer materials will yield more nutrient and microbe dense vermicompost.  I also have seen very low cocoon counts in those materials.

5)  Worms like a steady supply of food.  These are open trenches, so I am able to put a lot more food in there compared to a closed lid bin.  Don’t overfeed and heat up your bin, but make sure you give a steady diet of a variety of foods (about every 3 days)

6)  Worms like oxygen.  The more airflow you can get in the bin, the faster the rate of decomposition, the more your worms can eat, the faster the rate of reproduction and shorter time to use your VC

7)  Worms like new material.  I have replaced the horse stall waste about every 4 weeks.  The worms quickly move in and start laying cocoons.

Hope you can use these tips to improve your indoor bins and vermicomposting success.

Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch

Comments on: "Increasing Worm Bin Populations" (2)

  1. Deanna K said:

    for a container bin, should the newspaper on top be replaced – or is it okay to keep the same paper?

    • Deanna, Add more newspaper, as it is eaten, but do not remove the older paper–it will be eaten first, since it will have more microbe action. I liek to have newspaper up to just below the air holes in an indoor bin. 90% of bins I see do not have enough of that carbon layer (newspaper). If you are feeding regularly and have enough oxygen, you should be able to harvest about every 6-10 weeks from an indoor bin. When worm handlers let their bins go too long between harvests, they get skinny worms and reduced numbers. By harvesting and replacing the organic compost layer, you renew the life of the bin AND get to use the VC!

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