Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Using Box Store Compost or Manure For Your Worm Bin

The problem with bagged compost from a box store is - 
  1. The way it is often stored...It is stacked on top of each other which compresses all the air out of the product and then they leave it out in the sun to bake.  This kills all the life in the compost, if there is any and often times will create a toxic environment because of the lack of air. 
  2. Most often the bagged compost, especially like steer manure is sterilized so all of the life is killed.  They do this for fear of salmonella.  But the worms use the bedding as food stalk as well, so if there is not enough food provided the worms won't thrive.
Bottom line, always go with the happiness of the worms.  If they seem to be doing good, then I wouldn't worry, but I would try to stay away from store bought products.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Time to Kick it in the Worm Bin

Spring is on the way, at least in my part of the world.  With Spring comes a whole list of activities that need to happen after a winter long season here in the North.

Every worm bin should be on some kind of schedule to make sure you are keeping finished material removed and fresh bedding added.  The gardening schedule is a perfect schedule to tune into for this as the finished material is the perfect addition to your gardening activities.

The material that comes out of your worm bin will be removed from the bottom of the bin.  The natural movement of the worms will leave the bottom material most concentrated with the castings and the top material will have mostly fresh bedding and food stock.

Since the worms are top feeders any new bedding and food stock should always remain in the upper portions of the bin.  Even when you mix the bedding to incorporate air into the bin you should try to keep these layers separated.  Turning the bin periodically is necessary, especially for the bottom layers as the weight of the bedding on top compresses the material and pushes the air out.  Portions of the bin that go without air will become anaerobic and this is bad.  Bad things grow in anaerobic environments that are not friendly to worms or garden.

So, the first thing you want to be doing as the gardening season approaches is to be harvesting a portion of the material from the bottom of the bin.

I use tubs to pull the top material off and set this aside.  Then I pull the bottom layer out.  I use kiddie pools to store my product while it dries.  The material on the bottom will be too wet to work with.  It should not be sloppy wet, but if it won't go through an 1/8th inch screen without clogging it up the material is too wet.

I then place the removed bedding from the top back into the bin, turn it well and add fresh bedding on top to start the building process again.

The harvested material should be stored out of the sun and wind so the drying process can be controlled.  I use a compost fork to turn the material twice a day until the material is dry enough to work with.  At this point you decide how you want to use the material.

If you are going to use the material in the garden for amending soil and transplanting then you don't have to work the material any further than to have it be workable for these tasks.  However, I use the separated castings to add to my seed starting mix.  This is a perfect application for screened castings.  The finished material is rich with life and nutrients and has a fine texture for seed germination.

If you want to use the material like this then the product from the bin will have to be dried further than that used in the garden.  As mentioned earlier, it will need to go through an 1/8th inch screen.  It is well worth the effort to produce this awesome product.

Happy worming,

Handle your organic waste the way Nature intended.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Worms and the Soil

This picture illustrates one example of what the worm does in our soil, burrowing tunnels that allow water and air deep into the sub-soil levels where the roots of our plants penetrate for water and nutrients.

But the worm does so much more by helping to complete the decomposing process of our organic waste, eating bacteria and fungi and mass producing these microscopic life forms in their gut and pooping it out in the form of castings.

Castings, often called gardeners gold because of its value has a unique shape of its own.  Torpedo shaped and covered in a substance that slowly breaks down like a time release fertilizer, the casting helps build the soil both in physical structure and chemical make-up.

Two books I recommend for soil education are:

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms


Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition

Worms, the soil, gardening...these can not be separated.  If you do one you must do all three.

Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides all kill the naturally occurring life in the soil.

Mother nature really does know best and if assistance from man comes is the form that mimics mother nature then you feed the cycle instead of breaking it.

Feed your garden and it will feed you.  Let the worms help!

Organic Minded
Organic Conspiracies


Monday, February 27, 2012

New worm added to the herd.

Technically I have not added this worm to the herd, as the worms have their own bins. The reason for this is that I want both worm species, Eisenia hortensis and Eisenia foetida, to thrive and since they have different requirements (even though minute) they must live in separate bins.

The new guy on the farm is of course, Eisenia hortensis. This worm is bigger and fatter than Eisenia foetida and remains active at colder temperatures making this worm an excellent choice for fish bait.

Also called the European Nightcrawler, this worm likes it drier and does not like to be disturbed. Not the top feeder that its cousin E.F. is, it stays down in the bedding.

As I said it’s a much bigger worm and great for fishing. Fat like a common nightcrawler but not as long so you don’t break it up to put it on the hook. This worm stays active in cold water and flops around like the red wiggler.

I loved this worm the first time I tried them but I messed with them too much and kept the bedding too wet. In essence I tried to raise them like an E.F. and they didn’t like it.

Check out the website for purchase information on this worm and give it a try. You'll fall in love all over again if you're a true wormer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More questions on manure

I have received request for information from one of my subscribers to my Worm Bin Composting Course.

Here are her questions:

My worms said they're already ready to move on, so preparing new bin. The old bedding is already gorgeous dark stuff :)And the worms are climbing to the top, so time to move, right? Does that seem right? Most of what I read usually gives longer times. Maybe mine is too shallow and they compost it all faster?

Main question is - what to do with horse manure before using it in the worm bin.

About a month ago I got a small box of it from a guy down the street and it's been sitting on my back patio. The horses had been dewormed 3 wks before that. It's dry, so it needs to soak, right? Not sure of the ratio of manure to carbon material. Can you direct me to the info?

There is no set in stone time to move your worms. If you have the right set up, ie. a worm tower, you are free to move your worms whenever you want. The difference will be the amount of castings that will be in your finished material. The longer the worms work it, the more castings.

The amount of time it takes for worms to work is unique to each system. It depends on many factors. The size of bin in relation to the amount of worms and how ideal you keep the system - temp, moisture...and how you feed. The worms will consume bedding material in relation to how much fresh "food stock" you provide.

I have recently made a post on my blog about using manure.

However, I will elaborate for your specific questions.

One of the main reasons manure is a perfect bedding for worms is that you don't have to worry about C - N ratios. The material has a near perfect balance already. Moisture is the biggest concern.

If the material has been sitting dry then you want to put it into something that you can wet it down and let the excess moisture runoff. Make sure that ALL the manure absorbs moisture. Then you need to let it sit and make sure it is not going to heat up. It is always best to let the manure sit in a composting state at least 3 months if not 6. That means it needs to have moisture and air incorporated into the material.

If the manure is manure pooped from the horses three weeks after worming I don't think there should be any worming chemicals in the poop. There is mixed info on that anyway, since the worms that the worming chemicals target are different from the composting worms. Just always a good idea to let the material compost at least 3 - 6 months. I usually get a load in the fall that I let sit over winter and use in the spring/summer. Then another load in the spring I use in the winter/fall.

But everyone has their own set up. Just make sure the material is not going to compost further after you add your worms and start adding other bedding and food stock. The temps could kill your worms.

Hopes this helps. As a final note in regards to your setup - I always listen to my worms. If they are telling me they are happy I don't change a thing. Why mess with success. If your bin works for you and keeps the worms happy you're doing everything right.


Handle your organic waste the way Nature intended.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's Talk Shit! I Mean Manure :)

Manure is my bedding of choice for starting a worm bin.

I mean, think about it. What is the other name for red worms...manure worms.

You dig around in a healthy pile of composted manure, no matter what kind and you are going to find red worms.

So let's look at some guidlines about manure if that is a route you want to take.

  1. Any type of manure will do - horse, cow, pig, llama, alpaca, rabbit, zoo doo... Stay away from domesticated animal and bagged retail manure.

  2. If the source is questionable (ie. medicines or other ingredients otherwise not natural) then you will want to let the manure set for 6 months.

  3. Non-composted manure or fresh manure should not be used for bedding. The main reason is because the bedding will start heating up and this will surely kill your worms.

  4. Manure that has been removed from stalls should not be used as this will contain high concentrations of urine and salts. Worms will not like that.

  5. When I set up my manure for composting I build a three sided bin out of old pallets and pile the manure inside. This creates a pile much like a conventional compost pile and will allow the material to heat up, killing pathogens and weed seeds.

  6. I try to control the moisture in the pile much like that of a conventional compost pile as well. If needed I will cover the pile to prevent too much moisture leaching out nuturients or creating an anaerobic condition in the bottom of the pile.

  7. You'll notice when a pile is fresh there aren't too many other critters hanging out. Once these other critters start moving in I figure it's ready for the worms.

  8. With a new bin started with manure, you don't mix it up too much or you will get active composting happening. Just add food stock the first three months in small amounts, then you can start layering in different bedding material. Always be mindful of composting. Things can get real hot real fast and fry all the inhabitants.

  9. Other bedding materials I layer in after the first 3 months - shredded newspaper, leaves, grass clippings (sparingly).

Has this created more questions than answers for you. Send them to me and we will answer them together.

Happy worming,

Christy Ruffner

Worm Factory® 360

New product online now

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I have so many emails from all of you asking questions, needing answers, looking for solutions...and you know what? I haven't been able to get back to any of you.

Lots of reasons all dealing with a little thing called life. But I promise!!! I will be setting aside a whole day (fingers crossed), Friday to personally write each and every one of you.

Many of your questions are so good that I am simply going to have to write a blog post for the benefit of everyone.

So have heart folks... I have not foresaken any of you. I will be in touch.