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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:06 pm 
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Hi all! I'm about to start vermicomposting; I'm building bins and plan to order worms this week.

I'm undecided on where to order. I need 2 lbs of worms (a friend and I are each starting bins) so Uncle Jim's is very appealing pricewise at $36 but their reviews are mixed. Closer to home (southwestern VA) is Blue Ridge Vermiculture for $52 or Earthworms4Sale at $46.

I'd prefer to get them locally given the temperatures but the bait shop doesn't have them and my freecycle & craigslist ads haven't come up with anything.

And then there's the bins! My initial (and probably overly enthusiastic) plan is for two bins: a small tiered bin under the kitchen sink for convenience and a large bin in the garage for bulk. I'm making the small bin out of two kitty litter buckets (square, about 3 gallon) and their lids. One lid on the bottom for drainage, then a bucket with drainage holes on the bottom and ventilation holes around the top edge. Initially this will be half full of moistened bedding to which I'll add the worms, some ground eggshells, and scraps. As they work through that I'll put a second bucket nestled inside with new bedding and food so they can worm (ha ha) their way up through the second bucket's bottom holes and then I can harvest castings from the first bucket.

Question: how big should the drainage & "migration" holes be? If they can be the same size then perfect: I can just swap buckets as they fill. If the drainage holes need to be smaller then I can harvest & dump the top bucket into the bottom. I was hoping to use three buckets so I could just rotate the top two but there isn't enough space.

The garage bin will just be a rubbermaid bin with drainage & ventilation holes.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I've spent (mumblemumble) hours reading past threads here and on davesgarden.com and have read Worms Eat My Garbage so I'm in relatively good shape for book smarts, now I just need to work on my "street" smarts!

ETA: I can't decide if this is funny or embarrassing, but I'll share anyway: viewtopic.php?f=42&t=15428 needless to say, I didn't make any progress back then! (After I posted I wondered how I had a post count of seven and found my old thread.)

After (re)reading that thread I'm considering ditching the drain holes and having the bottom bucket be solid except for ventilation at the top. Or maybe not even that since it'll be opened and closed daily? The lids snap on the long ends and it would be easy to leave one end snapped and the other ajar. That would mean harvesting the castings from the bottom bucket and dumping the worms and bedding from the top back to the bottom...will they care about that level of disruption? I do rather like the thought of stray worms not wandering the kitchen.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:49 pm 
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I've ordered from earthworms4sale twice and have been very impressed. When I ordered the first time, in the spring, it was still pretty cool, especially for the Africans I'd ordered. He packaged them with a chemical heat pack. They arrived in beautiful condition. The second order was in warm weather and those also arrived in beautiful condition. I can't say anything about the others you mentioned as I have no experience with them.

Good luck to you on your worm adventure.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:03 am 
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I too have seen Uncle Jim's site and read mixed reviews about his worms. But, I have no personal experience that I can share with you.

I've never bought worms from Earthworms4Sale. But, counting RoseGrower, I know of 2 people who I trust who have ordered from him. In each case, the folks got excellent worms and excellent customer service!! And, if RoseGrower and this other person says you can trust him... it's as good as money in the bank!!! ;) Another thing going in his favor (in my opinion) is the fact that the owner is a member of this forum! :)

Last year, I ordered worms and some cocoons from Blue Ridge Vermiculture. I got a full measure of good quality, healthy worms. And, as far as I could tell, every cocoon hatched for me. So, I know they can be trusted... at least, they could be trusted last year when I bought my worms from them. And, I wouldn't hesitate to order from them if I needed worms again!

A few words of caution to you... if you don't like the idea of worms going "walk about" on you in your kitchen, DO NOT get any African Nightcrawlers!!!! Their propensity to crawl is so strong that if they take a notion to do so, they will even crawl in bright light!! I wouldn't even recommend getting European Nightcrawlers. Their propensity to crawl is not near that of the Africans. But, it can still be a bit strong. So, if you are going to use your worms just for composting, get the plain ole, everyday, anything but boring, hard working, big eating EF's... aka, Redworms or Red Wigglers!! As long as you keep their environment bearable for them, they will stay put, eat like a bunch of half starved teenage boys, and breed faster than rabbits!!! :lol:

Oh, and remember this... I know they say that a pound of worms can eat a pound of food/scraps every day. This is true. But, generally speaking... it is not true when you first get your worms. They need a chance to get over being jerked up out of their home, shipped, and dumped into brand new surroundings! So, when you first get your worms, be careful not to overfeed them or keep them too wet.

As for drilling drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets, I wouldn't do it! As was stated several times in the thread that you provided a link to, if you manage your bins properly, there is no need for drainage holes in the first place! And, if your bin has enough liquid in it to be leaking water from the bottom, you've probably either killed or are well on your way to killing your worms!!!

With the very first plastic tote bin that I set up, I drilled drainage holes in the bottom and ventilation holes in the lid. I very quickly learned that those dang holes were little more than convenient escape routes for the worms (had Europeans in it)!!! In less than 48 hours, I figured out that drilling the holes was a mistake... big time!! So, I used duct tape to cover all of the holes that I had drilled... in the bottom... and in the lid!!

Unless the bin got too wet and needed to be dried out a bit, I would not even leave the lid ajar. And, you could always dry the bin out by simply adding some dry bedding to it. Just keep this in mind... every bin opening that you drill or make (ie., leaving the lid ajar) not only provides the worms with a possible escape route, but it also leaves a possible entry point for undesirables such as flies, ants, and so on!!

If you were wanting holes in the bottom of a bin for "easy" ( :lol: :lol: :lol:) harvesting, there are other ways to do it without drilling holes in the bin! One of the quickest and easiest ways is to wait until the bin is almost full and most of the food at the top is gone. Then, add a layer of the worm's favorite food(s) to the top. Wait a couple of days. Carefully scoop out the top... say... 1/3 of the bucket. And, dump it into the next bucket. You will have just harvested the first one and started a new one!

Good luck to you!!

Robert

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:07 am 
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Hm. I hear what you're saying but it means so much less mess and time with a drill! You've sold me on keeping the bottom bin intact but I do think I'll try the top bin w/ holes because it feels more like a project that way. :D If it fails them I'm only out one of a dozen or so free buckets, so not too big an investment. I figure an advantage of the second bin in the garage is I won't be tempted to overfeed the upstairs worms (plus I have an outdoor compost pile, so things can go out there, too) and if I screw up and kill the upstairs worms I can always reseed from the garage bin!

I promise to come back here and post after my first harvest so you can point and laugh. ;)

Are you saying I don't need ventilation at all, other than opening the lid periodically?

I think I'll go with earthworms4sale...good mix of price, reviews, and a short shipping distance. Definitely EFs! I hadn't considered getting anything else.

Thanks for the feedback!


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:31 am 
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Yep-- no ventilation needed aside from the occasional opening of the bin. That is assuming you don't have an air-tight lid, of course. I have some rubbermaid bins and some of the under the bed bins and the only one with a few holes in it is the first one I set up. The others are all fine. Between feeding them and the newbie trait of frequently poking around at your worms -- they'll get plenty of fresh air!

If it makes you feel better, add a couple holes. But IMO you don't need them.

You mentioned drain holes in the bottom of your bin. GardenFanatic has some holes in the bottom of her bins. She puts a sheet of cardboard under the bin. It collects any excess liquid that drains and becomes a nice spot for the occasional wandering worm to hang out. (The worms move in under the moist cardboard.) When she harvests her bin, she scoops those guys up and puts them back into the bin. They can live there quite a long time, although their diet isn't going to be nearly as rich as what the worms in your bin will be getting.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:00 pm 
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Hi cevamal & All; Welcome to the forums; Now Now Now! Beebiz :D lets not alarm too quickly. Yes the Africans can be a hand full but,big but they can be managed with some caution :shock: . Perhaps a fan blowing over them to drive them down, the old fence them in trick or even the screen around the top with a couple inches curved inward to the center of the bin can keep them from wandering too far. Worms need three major things 1 Water to breath. 2. Food for energy. 3. Other members of the same species to Squirm with :lol: . In some respects the Food comes in two forms 1. the bedding 2. Actual food scraps. Water is required to keep the skin wet so osmosis of oxygen directly into the blood of the worm to be carried to all the cells of the worm to burn its food to make energy to sqrium :oops: .

With a little help from your new friends at this site and a little reading you will find lots of answers to your questions. When you cannot find a suitable answer ask and you may get some really good suggestions from the folks here.

I have never ordered worms from anyone except Vermitechnologies. When I first started 2# each of Efs and Ehs that went so well I then ordered 10# each for my WWW flowthru bins. I now have estimate of 70-80# of each species. I am feeding about 40 # of food every day and the biomass keeps growing. I haven't checked Larrys prices in a while.

Try this link to vermitech.https://www.vermitechnology.com/

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:26 am 
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lkittle wrote:
Hi cevamal & All; Welcome to the forums; Now Now Now! Beebiz :D lets not alarm too quickly. Yes the Africans can be a hand full but,big but they can be managed with some caution :shock: .

Larry, I know that both the Africans and the Europeans can be kept... I have both. But, as you mentioned, it takes a bit more to keep them put than it does to keep EF's put. When I made the recommendation for cevamal to stick with the EF's, I was thinking more about the worms that will be kept in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. That's a dark place... conducive to worm "exploration" and "expeditions!" :lol: And, I'd bet that without any of the "extra" containment "tricks" like you mentioned, all but the EF's would tend to crawl! I'd almost be willing to guarantee it in blood that the Africans would crawl... unless extra measures were taken to prevent it. And, being that cevamal is new to all of this, I was just trying to keep it simple! :D

Cevamal, once you get accustomed to raising worms, you might want to give the Europeans and/or Africans a try! The Europeans are much easier to convince to stay put than the Africans... IMHO. But, as lkittle said, they can both be kept with the proper management practices and containment.

You are going to be using cat litter buckets. It can be done. Of that, there is no doubt. But, be very careful about how much moisture there is in the bucket. Keep in mind that the smaller the container, the less forgiving it is... therefore, the easier and quicker things can get out of balance. This is especially true of the moisture. I'm not trying to scare you... just give you a heads up!! :D

Again, good luck to you!!! :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:46 pm 
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IMHO, drainage holes are necessary if you're going to keep your worms fed, especially food scraps. Food scraps are mostly water and they'll make the bin very wet with no drainage. However, if you hardly ever feed your worms, you won't need to worry about moisture. And eventually, you won't have to worry about your worms at all!

However, if you feed something that doesn't inherently contain a lot of water, like manure, you probably wouldn't need to be concerned with drainage holes.

What kind of worms are you thinking about getting?

Deanna

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:56 pm 
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I put 2 drain holes in only one end of my plastic tote bins (no vent holes anywhere). If a bin becomes a little too moist, I put a 2X4 under the opposite end of the holes so the excess moisture can drain out. Any other time the bins are raised on the "holed" end and that slightly tilted environment gives the worms opportunities to move "uphill" (drier), or into the damper lower end.

Chuckiebtoo

If that sounds kinda paranoid, it probably is.....but it works.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:26 pm 
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I have no drainage holes in my bins. I do feed my worms! And, I don't feed them manure! I feed them food scraps and oatmeal. Right now, they are getting all the honeydew melons, cantaloupe, and oatmeal that they can eat!! I also add a good amount of shredded paper to the bin each time I add food. And, if the bin looks like it is even thinking about getting wet, I add more shredded paper!! No drainage holes... no problems!!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:55 pm 
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So far, so good! A friend brought me red wigglers from a bait shop in Raleigh so I've started with those. It's probably only about 50 worms so we'll see how long my patience wears out. ;)

Y'all sold me on the Occam's razor approach to bin design. I have an intact bucket under the sink and a rubbermaid bin in the garage. So far the only food they've gotten excited about is watermelon so I'm trying to restrain myself from giving them an entire one. ;)

It seems like overfeeding is a common error so I'm trying to give them just a little and put most of the food scraps in the outdoor compost.

We'll see how long I can hold out before order a thousand!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:03 am 
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Congrats on becoming a worm rancher, cevamal! :wink:

Just remember that it will take them a while to get acclimated to their new home and into the routine of eating, breading, and doing those wormy things that worms do!!! :D And, it is at this time that it is so very easy to over feed them... especially with so few. So, keep a close eye on them. And, good luck to you!!! Oh... keep us posted on how things go! And, let us know if we can help out in any way!!! :wink:

Bee

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 Post subject: A year later:
PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:29 am 
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Someone asked recently about worm composting and it reminded me to come update this thread.

I kept with the KISS approach and just have a rubbermaid tub in the garage. No drainage or air holes. I abandoned the bucket under the sink b/c I just didn't have enough space under the sink for it.

The bin is doing great! I harvested a gallon of castings from it a few weeks ago with the help of my five-year-old. I've used shredded (I did learn that torn is not enough, it mats together something fierce) newspaper as bedding and misc. food scraps from the kitchen. We even have an 18" avocado tree that got its start in the worm bin!

I was concerned about the temps (both hot and cold) in the garage, but they've done fine. I occasionally go weeks without checking on them (which means no food or opening the lid for air circulation) and again, no problems. Tons of little worms in there, they're reproducing like crazy!

So here it is: you all were ABSOLUTELY right and I'm glad you talked me out of a complicated bin design!


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