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.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wet Bin Delimma

I recently had a fellow wormer write me asking how to take care of a wet bin problem.

I have an excellent series of two videos that shows how I handle rejuvenating a bin that had a soggy tray and sludge in the bottom collection tray. You can watch it on my YouTube channel here.

This wormer had added food waste to the bin that was frozen, likely overdoing things. If you are using frozen food waste I wouldn't put the food waste into the bin frozen unless you have a heat problem. Otherwise, let the food waste thaw and drain before adding to the bin.

Otherwise, here is my answer to her questions:

    • First make sure you solve the reason why you're bin is too wet...

    • Do you have adequate drainage in the bottom of the bin?

    • Is your bin elevated so it does not sit in the moisture and air can circulate to the drainage holes in the bottom of the bin?

    • Are you over feeding/over watering?

    • Have you had a die off of worm population?

Make sure you answer each of these questions adequately.

If you have adequate drainage in the bottom of the bin and you have identified why you have a moisture problem I would proceed to remove excess moisture by placing DRY newspaper strips in the bottom of the bin, stir the bottom portion (where it is the wettest to incorporate air into the bedding and add a well moisten layer of fresh bedding to the top of the bin if needed for the worms to move up into.

How does things smell? If it stinks you might want to consider getting the worms out and getting rid of the toxic mess at the bottom of the bin. The bad bacteria will kill your worms if you don't get things back into balance.

Always follow your nose and the condition of the worms when trying to decide if you have a problem in your worm bin.

Happy worming :)

VermiCulture Northwest

Friday, August 21, 2009

What to do About the Yucky Muck!

First thing is, watch the above video! There is a part two on my YouTube channel

Next thing I would do is start a new tray and if the material in your existing tray appears to be fully composted I would go ahead and move them out of that/those trays into the fresh tray.

If you have a healthy population of worms in the existing trays, I would go ahead and use that material. If it is exceedingly wet I would work the material daily with my hands to incorporate air into the material until it is of a workable texture.

The sludge in the bottom collection tray...what you do with that depends on the condition of the material. Again, if it is full of worms I would scoop out the worms and add them to the fresh tray. The sludge can then be used. I would simply dig a trench in the garden along the root zone of your tomatoes (they love worm castings), pour/place the sludge in the trench and cover with earth or compost.

If however, there are NO worms and the material stinks, I would dispose of it.

Unless you have a microscope and know what you are looking for, there is no way to know if the material you have accumulated anywhere in your worm compost bin is healthy, except by the population of worms, how happy they are, and the smell of the material. The beneficial life in your compost is microscopic and can not be determined by the naked eye.

Happy worming :)

VermiCulture Northwest

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

In the Heat of the Summer

A new friend of mine on Facebook asked me this question...

I live in Mount Washington, and, unfortunately, have no shade for our house, or yard. I want to have worms to take care of our green waste, but I'm afraid, in the heat of summer, they will die. At its worst, our house averages 95 degrees, even in the kitchen. I'm worried it will kill any red worms I might cultivate. When the weather is favorable, what can I do?

Heather, Here's my advise. First, understand that even in 95 degree weather in the house the ambient temperature of the worm bin will be cooler, as long as you are careful with your bedding and food stock that you do not get any active composting going on.

I would start with a tower compost bin like the Can-O-Worms which you can find on my website. This tower, when all trays are active, will give you a great surface area to feed your worms without the mass of a larger bin that might heat up when food waste is added to the bedding. (Note: you still need to be careful, but with separate trays available for the worms to migrate into, there is less of a chance you will accidently fry your worms.)

Second suggestion, if you want to compost outside, I would first consider proximity to a water source, electricy and the need for you to keep a watchful eye in hot weather. Make sure your bin is out of any prevailing wind, erect an arbor to grow your own shade, set up a misting system to keep the surface of the bin moist without drowning the bin and a small fan to move air over the surface of the bin. The air movement will cool the bin like a cool breeze cools you in the heat of summer.

I hope this helps all of you to worm bin compost no matter what your conditions are.

VermiCulture Northwest

Monday, May 18, 2009

Can Different Worm Species Co-exist in the Same Environment?

These red worms are in a bed of shredded newspaper.

A question I was just asked recently that I get alot is whether you can use the worms you find in your garden or lawn in the worm bin. This most recent question asked if they could co-exist with the red worms.

Please be aware that the worms you find in your garden or lawn are soil dwellers and red worms are composting worms dwelling in piles of organic matter such as leaves, manure, rotting grass clippings, compost piles, etc.

As such these worms each have their own requirements for their environment that are very different. These worms do not naturally co-habitate. Even if you find them in the same area around a pile of organic matter, the soil dwellers are at the soil level and the compost worms are in the organic matter. This is the only situation where these two organic consumers will co-habitate. Soild dwellers will not thrive in a worm bin. They are not deep enough to provide the soil dweller with area to burrow.

One way to have each of the lovely creatures in the same area is to dig a hole and fill it with organic material. This would provide the best of both worlds for each of the worms, and the area could be heavily mulched to provide cover for the colder winter months. (That's for all of us wormers in the North.) The material in the hole would need to be removed and replaced with fresh organic material to keep your red worm composters happy and in place. Otherwise, they will go looking for fresh organic material if you do not provide it for them.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
For now, happy worming however you decide to do it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DIY Worm Bin 101

Here is the video I did to show you just how easy it is to build your own worm bin. Get started with something simple like this and use the experience to stimulate some ideas on other ways to worm bin compost.

Have fun!

The Wormn Lady

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Harvest

I'm not sure how well you can see the worms all congregated in the corner of the bin, but that is about what it seemed like I had left in the worm bin after winter. My first peek in the bin on March 20th, the first day of spring, left me sad and full of regrets that I was not able to properly tend the bins before winter hit hard. I truly thought this was going to be the year I would have to consolidate all the worms into one bin and repopulate.

But I harvested my first pound of worms last night. And they were plentiful, fat, mating, and as I worked my way through the material there were lots of fresh cocoons. My bins are once again on the rebound and will be supplying me with a steady supply of worms and finished product.

With that being said, I have a DIYS worm bin to build. I will be filming and showing you just how easy it is to build your own worm bin.

Till next time,

Happy worming. What do you have planned for being green in the next year?


Monday, April 20, 2009

Moving Material

One aspect of a worm bin is what to do with the material after the worms have worked it and need fresh bedding. This is some of the most awesome stuff on earth! Seriously, if you are a gardener you will be in heaven when your bins get to the point that they need regular fresh bedding.

The container in this picture is one of the Large kiddie wadding pools you can pick up every year at KMart, or any such store. I have a number of them I have salvaged from the trash or yard sales. They are perfect for handling large quantities of material as they are not too deep and provide a good amount of surface area for drying the material.

This batch sat all winter and the bacteria and microbes continued to work the material until it was so fine it looked like soil. Mind you, I do not use any soil in my worm bins, not even the handful so many tell you to add to your bin when you start one out. I use manure so maybe I get enough soil mixed with the manure I don't need it, but my bins have never needed it.

I have a harvester that I put the material through that has an 1/8th inch screen on it and separates the finer castings material from the coarser compost. I estimate about 60 lbs. of castings came out of this batch (it would have been heavier but the material dried pretty good over the winter). I got 2 large, construction size wheelbarrow loads which I put on a bed I had prepared and that raised my bed up one landscape timber deep.

This is great stuff for the garden. Just one more reason to worm bin compost.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Worms, They Never Fail Me

It always makes me happy to work my worm bins, because the worms never cease to amaze me.

When I first went out to the worm bins this spring I truly thought that this was going to be the year that I was going to have to start over.

Fall was a very busy time for me and I really didn't have the time to work the bins, and indeed hadn't worked the bins properly all summer. They were just plain neglected. But I knew that if I expected them to make it through winter that I would have to get fresh bedding and food stock worked into my schedule. Then winter hit! Early and hard.

The year before my greenhouse collapsed from the weight of the snow. If it hadn't that year it most certainly would have this. We went to bed one night with zero snow on the ground and woke up to almost 3'. WOW! I kid you not, this is what we woke up to. I opened the front door and couldn't believe my eyes.

Needless to say, my work was to clear the driveway and I never got a path shoveled out to the worms. I had visions of mice happily setting up housekeeping, having late night parties, and generally carousing and creating havoc in my worm bins.

Once I did get out to the bins, the population was dismal to say the least. One bin looked like it might have a population that might recuperate before the spring season was over. One was totally void of worms (the one without heat) and the other two literally had a handful of worms that were congregating in the corners of the bin. One of those bins is represented in the picture above. I truly can not believe all the worms I have in this bin already.

Still have a couple of more days to work on the worms. Will be setting up my video area to film the making of a DIY worm bin. And I have worms to harvest. Life is good.

The Worm Lady

Update on the Worm Bin - 4/18/09

The bins are starting to look pretty good now. Feed is disappearing in a couple of days which is an excellent sign the population is growing and becoming active.

Food waste placed in the bin a couple of weeks ago heated up to the low 80's for a couple of days, but now is reading normal - that would be about 67.

Going to take out harvested material and turn the bin, add new bedding. Then the worms should really take off. The temperatures are still cold at night, but the bins are heated.

Will need to process some of the material I harvested last fall to make room for more material. Everything takes time.

Excited to get my hands in the worm bin with a healthy population of worms. They are so miraculous, they facinate me, even after 10 wonderful years!

The Worm Lady

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April Showers

Brings May Flowers!
I'm not sure this is what they meant when they coined that phrase, but this is what my world woke up to this morning.
Beautiful in it's appropriate season, but this is suppose to be Spring, right?
Anyway, I am excited to start bringing you new videos for the new season.
My first series will be on AACT or Actively Aerated Compost Tea.
There is a lot of mis-information circulating out there and other people just not understanding what it is that they are using when they use the liquid that comes from their worm bins.
Hopefully the series will clear up a lot of that.
The one thing we all must learn is that, "Life finds a way."
Even the most toxic, waste dumps eventually heal and new life starts. But how many lifetimes does it take, and do we really want to leave that for our children.
Composting properly, gardening and farming organically, and just treating the earth with respect will teach our children and show them we care about their inheritance.
We will expand our discussion this year. I hope you will stay with me and share your thoughts.
The Worm Lady
Handle your waste responsibly.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Winter Worm Report - Promised update

It's amazing how a worm responds to warmth, moisture, and food supply.

On the 20th I took my first look in the worms bins since November of last year. With the winter I had to deal with, there was simply no time or energy left, plus all my bedding was buried under about4 feet of snow.

Needless to say, the bins were a big downer for me as the worm population appeared to be almost non-existant. What was there were huddled in the corners and along the edges.

I brought them into the center of the bedding after turning everything for air, added fresh bedding, a little food stock and of course some moisture and low and behold, the worms come out of the woodwork.

They still need a little time to rebound, but it looks like I will be back in business relatively soon.

If you remember, I sent out a special notice to all my subscribers that the pricing on my website will be going up this year. I offered last years pricing to anyone who wanted to pre-order worms. A few of you took me up on that offer. You will be hearing from me soon regarding your orders.

Now all I need is a little time to rework the website. I have new products to add as well which I am very excited about.

Also if you remember, I have mentioned a membership site. This will be highly interactive, educational, affordable and will include many bonuses you won't find anywhere else.

I am thinking seriously about making it an organic gardening membership site as I have much to share that goes beyond worms. But the worms will make the big difference between what my Worm Bin Academy will have to offer organic gardeners.

The VCNW monthly newsletter is due out soon, so all you subscribers, old and new, be on the look out for that. It will cover the second of a series of articles I am planning on AACT (Actively Aerated Compost Tea).

The bulk of the newsletter will be simple text from now on with a link to view online if you want to.

Well, just taking a break from the worm bins and I better get back before it gets any later. Just thought I'd take the opportunity to catch-up with you guys.

See you in a day or so with the VCNW newsletter. If you haven't subscribed yet you can go here and get on the list. Do it now and you may still be able to see the last newsletter before it gets replaced with the next one.



Friday, March 20, 2009

Winter Worm Report - Updates to Follow

Here we are, first day of spring 2009. Winter has been long and hard. Snow hit very heavy just before Christmas and I wasn't quite ready.

Things look bleak for the worms, but if there is one thing I have learned is that it always looks worse than it is. But only a few days will tell.

I will be out there watering every day to bring the bin back into moisture range for the warmer weather.

I turned the bin and the bedding was pretty dry. Most of the worms were congregated in the corners and along the edges of the bin.

I have added food waste and fresh bedding and will water on a regular basis and watch closely.

The bedding material, which has been under a heavy layer of snow until recently (days) is the perfect moisture level and there are worms working away deep in the pile. Always good to see critters in the bedding, especially worms. That's a pretty good indication the bedding is habitable, don't you think.

I'll keep you all posted as things progress. I know a lot of you are looking for worms. I won't be harvesting for a while and when I do I have a few orders that were placed to get my old pricing as the website will be getting an overhaul and new pricing will be going into effect.

I'm excited for the 2009 season. I have some special videos planned, the first one being on brewing compost (worm compost) tea. This is to follow up on my latest newsletter.

For now, that's it. We will talk soon.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Compost Tea - the real story

My next newsletter, due out soon (it's already late), will be about "Worm Tea".

With the gardening season just around the corner, there is a lot of talk about "tea" and a good deal of it is not coming from people who have done thorough research. As a matter of fact I wonder if any research has been done at all.

My initial thought was to find some good information on YouTube I could share, that someone else had already put out there, but there wasn't anything that I found that I could conscientiously share with you. None of it had any evidence of any research behind it. And real "Compost Tea" has a great deal of science behind it.

There is a lot of good scientific information available on "Compost Tea" and the value it has in gardening and landscape applications. But bad or incomplete information can do more harm than good when it comes to the reputation of such a product, or a similar product made improperly.

I am planning a series of articles/videos that will explain the science of "Compost Tea" , the value of properly made "Compost Tea", and how to properly make "Compost Tea".

There are experts in this field who have explored the science and verified the findings. And while Nature has a way of using all levels of healthy biology for the good of life on earth there is value to understanding the why behind every level of success.

In other words, why does the compost tea from a simple home made tea brewer made from aquarium pumps and air stones work when applied to the soil or plant and how does using a properly designed worm tea brewer improve the process?

So stay tuned and I will share what I know and the valuable resources where I got my information.

Happy Worming,


Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Worm Report

The weather is changing - warming temperatures, rain, days getting longer - soon it will be time to dig into the worms and see how they survived this winter.

This winter was different for me from any other winter so far, since I have started worm farming.

  • We had an early, heavy snowfall in December which caught me unprepared to carry my worms into the colder months of winter.

  • Time constraints kept me from working the worms properly in the fall to prepare the bins for winter.

  • I had decided I wasn't going to spend time out working the worms in the winter months.

  • I had decided to not harvest any worms for sale through the winter months.

The snow that fell in December is still on the ground and covers all of my bedding material with a thick, crusty snow. Today I thought the snow was melting enough that I could drive out the other half of my circular drive, but I almost got stuck.

But it's close. Soon I will be writing and or video taping my Winter Worm Report. So stay tuned.

Those of you who have asked to be put on a list for worm need to stay tuned too. If you are not on my list you will not recieve notification of when I am going to start harvesting worms in the spring.

I'm a little apprehensive, but the worms have never ceased to amaze me. They are resilient and can survive much neglect.

Talk soon,

Christy Ruffner