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Our Worm Composting Beginning (continued) – Worm Composting Problems

RAWkin Worm Farm - Composting Worms

Worm Composting Problems

Although our beginning was smooth sailing, it was not long before a few worm composting problems began to arise.  Having decided to make a business out of raising and selling worms we decided to branch out a little more.  We started this website which was a significant challenge, not a techy guy, lol. 

European Nightcrawlers

Because things had been going so well with the Red Wigglers, we decided to get some European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia Hortensis).  Since we decided to make a business selling composting worms, Euro’s would be the next best worm to sell.  Euro’s, being possibly the best bait worm in the world would appeal to the bait market.  And Euro’s may actually be the best all around worm, being a fantastic bait worm, and a good composting worm too. 

We purchased five pounds of “bed-run” euro’s and split them between 2 large plastic bins.  Our worm composting problems began with these Euros.  They were very restless and we began to find them out of the bin, on the floor, every morning.  We tried to pick up as many as we could find and put them back into their bin.  It seemed like the numbers were dwindling, so obviously more were getting away than we were finding.  We learned that they are more sensitive to acidic conditions, and vibration. So we added some crushed eggshells, and quit running the compressor in that shop.

Worm Composting ProblemsEuropean Worm Bins

The CFT (Continuous Flow Through) Bed

The CFT with Red’s that I mentioned in the previous post began to progress nicely but we had made it a bit too shallow.  As a result, a bunch of Red’s ended up falling through onto the floor.  Red’s and Euro’s ended up mixed together in those “Euro bins”.  Red’s and Euro’s look quite a bit alike except for size so it was difficult to tell the difference.  We really were not sure if we had any Euro’s left, or if those 2 large bins were predominantly Red’s.  Those bins have been split into 4 even larger bins, but are still contaminated, having both Reds and Euros in them.  If we decide to sell a blend of both worms, they will become another product.  For now, they are compost producing bins only.

The CFT had been progressing very well, the population had multiplied many times over.  We had finally built up the depth enough that the worms were no longer falling out of the bottom.  After arriving home from a trip we found that the CFT had collapsed and all the vermicompost and worms were on the floor.  We figured out where the flaws were in the construction of this worm bed and made plans to either repair or rebuild it. 

The Worm Trench

Winter was on its way and we had to figure out how we were going to protect the worms from the cold.  The most cost effective way seemed to be an in-ground trench.  We had approximately 25 to 35 pounds of Red Wigglers we had to protect.  So a trench 4 feet by 8 feet we figured would be the minimum.  Not knowing how well they would multiply during the winter we wanted some growing room.  The final decision was to make the trench 5 feet wide, 12 feet long, and 2 feet deep.

It was all dug by hand, no power equipment available, hard work!  The details of how the worm trench was built will be in an upcoming post.  A thick layer of leaves was put in first for bedding then all the Red Wigglers we had were added to half the trench.  The other half was left empty at this point.  We added a layer of leaves, then a layer of rabbit manure, then a layer of spent coffee grounds on top for food. 

At first, it became a bit hotter than we wanted, around 90 degrees F but then cooled down to 60 degrees F.  A few weeks later I tried to warm it up by adding more rabbit manure and coffee grounds but got it over a 100 degrees F in about 1/3rd of the worm area.  Balancing the temps are still a bit challenging and will require more experience.

Then, all of a sudden, it rained a ton overnight and the trench was flooded.  There were approximately 1.5 feet of water in the 2 feet deep trench.  Another rookie mistake, not having a tarp over it.  I used a 5-gallon bucket to scoop it out at the end that wasn’t being used yet.

Worm Trench

Learning Lessons

These worm composting problems have taught us some valuable lessons this year.  We know that there are many more lessons we will learn in the future.  But it has been fun also, and we would not have it any other way.  I goal is to pass on all that we learn and help as many as we can to learn how to compost with worms successfully.  If you would like to follow us on this journey please leave us a reply below requesting to be added to our e-mailing list.  If you would like to get started on the worm composting journey with us please check out our products here.

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Our Worm Composting Beginning – “A Crazy Idea”

Worm Composting Beginning

Our Worm Composting Beginning

I’m not sure if our worm composting beginning is different than most. I had been composting (hot/thermophilic composting) for several years now. Any food scraps we obtained in addition to grass clippings and fall leaves when into the compost bin. When we got chickens that reduced a lot of food waste going into the compost bin. This composting was a slow process, taking a year or more. My wife mentioned to me once about worm composting, I just dismissed it as another one of her “crazy idea’s”. A few weeks later she sent me a link via text or email, I cannot remember now, about worm composting. I think it was an article from “Mother Earth News”. I read it and was surprisingly amazed and impressed with the whole process. As I often do, I buckled my seatbelt and began my extreme research on the topic.

The Research

As I searched the web, I discovered a website that stood out among the rest.  It was redwormcomposting.com, published by Bentley Christie, a wealth of information about composting with worms.  I can’t say I did everything exactly the way he recommended, but I trudged along, learning all along the way.  Wanting to start as soon as I could with little or no cost, we purchased a couple of bins. See the pic above.  They were clear, a no-no, but they were cheap.  I figured it would be fine as long as I kept them in a fairly dark place. I learned a lot from redwormcomposting.com and still do.  Eventually, I ordered his audio course “Easy Vermicomposting” which was great.  I listened to all of it twice and some of it even more.

Our First Worms

Before I realized the difference between common earthworms and composting worms I had gone down to my local creek and dug up a bunch of worms in the moist ground.  I put them in that container with some ground leaves, a hand full of dirt, and a little cut up cardboard.  I then added some chopped up squash for a food source.  Then I decided I wanted some more worms for the other bin but wanted to get actual red wigglers.  I did some searching for a local supplier, Midwest Worms, and found a guy named Lonnie, who gave me about half a coffee can of red wigglers for free.  He told me those worms I dug up would probably not work.  He also gave me about 2 gallons of aged horse manure for free.  I eventually ordered another pound of worms to “get the ball rolling faster” you might say.

Upgrading My System

Stackable Worm Bin

I learned about stacking systems and flow through systems (CFT’s) and decided to build my own.  The first homemade system I built was a stackable system with 2×4’s. I will say that the worms really flourished in this system, they seemed to multiply very fast.  Over the next few months, I ended up with  trays on it and had pulled worms out of it several times to start 2 more 10-gallon Rubbermaid type systems.  Then I built a 3.5 by 5-foot CFT ( continuous flow through) bin and populated it with Red Wigglers from the stackable system mentioned earlier.

As you can see our worm composting beginning started out pretty easy and smooth.  We studied and learned fairly quickly and are eager to keep learning.  No real problems at this point with the worms and they progressed and multiplied very quickly.  With such a smooth beginning we started looking at the idea of raising composting worms to sell.  But that is the next part of the story so stay tuned it will be coming soon…

If you have started to consider getting into worm composting take a look at our products page, we would love to help you get going and are here to answer any questions you might have.