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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