Worm Report — Established and Working

The worms I added to the institute’s worm bin (instructions here) are doing well, as far as I can tell. They are rather tight-lipped neighbors, though, so I have interpret the tea leaves, in this case, literally.

The Bin

Worm bin shown between tea hutch and trash and recycling bins.

As this is a prototype of a wooden bin design, I’ve got a little feedback for myself. First, I think the bin is attractive and fits in next to our standard trash and recycling containers. I am still happy that I used wood, however, it has warped a little because of the moisture in the bin. If one is looking at the square bin from the top, the midpoint of each wall has deflected in a little bit, about 1/4–1/2 in. This makes the lid not fit as tightly as I would like, so I’ll have to trim the lid to fit a little looser. This bowing might have been avoided by using thicker wood; this was only 3/4 in thick.

Otherwise the bin is working splendidly. The screen material keeps the worms up in the bin and the 1/4-in hardware cloth supports the pile.

Moisture and Olfactory Observations

The pile.

As a wooden bin, the compost dries out a bit faster than in plastic bins. Each Friday I uses spoons to turn the pile and pour in about 1-2 c water. In the first few weeks, this gave off a smell as the pile became established. First a white fungus established itself. Tendrils overwhelmed the surface of the pile, but this seems to be no problem. After a week (and the perusal a few verimiculture websites), this seems to have died back. In fact, the fungus is digesting some materials to make better worm food. The only downside was a mustiness given off when I turned the pile. This has reduced each week as the pile looks more like soil and less like rotting vegetables over shredded paper.

The Worms

The worms scurry as I turn the pile.

The red wrigglers seem to be doing well. When I turn the pile, they are active and quick to move away from the light. They seem bigger and more numerous each time, which is to be expected; this is just anecdotal, however, as I am not measuring them in a quantifiable way.

The Diet

The worms get a daily serving of used tea leaves and an apple core from lunch. In addition, they’ve gotten vegetable peelings, egg shells, and a pile of acorn hulls. The butternut squash seeds that I tossed in have sprouted, sending up shoots that are sickly yellow due to light deprivation (visible in the picture). I figure this just lets the seeds break themselves down more quickly, so I let it go. I have accumulated a whole container of onion, garlic, and citrus peels, which do not go into the worm bin, and I am not quite sure what to do with them.

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