Friday, July 20, 2012

Worm Inn

I purchased a Worm Inn recently.  I've started using it.  I'll let you all know if it's as good as it has been advertised to be.  Watch out for it!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Low Maintenance Vermicomposting

I haven't been able to give my worms their due attention in the past weeks since I've been rather busy.  That said, my vermicomposting habits have changed somewhat.  I no longer check on my bins several times a day.  It's more like once a week now.  But guess what?  My worms are alright.
So how do I take care of my worms now?   I collect our organic leftovers in a resealable bin.  I add paper as necessary (when there's moisture under the lid) to keep the contents as dry as possible.  At the end of the week, when the bin is full of nice, sour smelling contents, I dump the contents on several layers of whole newspaper sheets (about 3 to keep the dampness from getting through).  Afterwards, I wrap the contents nice and tight and then I dump the newspaper package into one of my flow through trays. 

I transfer about half of the contents of the tray to another tray since the tray contents go down by about half in a week so that my newspaper package has somewhere to go.   I rarely add moisture now since it's been raining.  The worms take care of migration on their own.  That's about it.  Zero organic waste with minimal effort.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hydrangea Pot Vermicomposting

As I mentioned in a prior post, my mophead hydrangea plants are situated in front of my house.  When I sweep the floor (filled with dust, hair, skin cells, dead insects), I promptly pour the contents as hydrangea mulch.  I would partially the dirty mulch credit for the hydrangea's continued health.  However, since I also throw some food scraps there (lemon, onion, other fruit peels), I've been seeing roaches much too frequently in the area, not to mention gnats.  So I changed strategies.  I covered the dirty mulch with lots of coffee grounds and paper scraps and put in a couple of African Nightcrawlers.   Well this isn't my first try at pot vermicomposting, so I know this could work.   I've also vermicomposted using what I call a reverse mulch technique with live plants on top (mango, cat's whiskers, habanero, etc).  Anyway, I continued caring for the plant, not really paying too much attention to the mulch.  I've thrown at least 20 roaches into that pot over the months so you'd understand why I don't want to touch it much.  That was until today.

For the past couple of days (after over a month since the mulch), I've been noticing that the soil on the pot (yes, I can see soil already) seemed grainy.  That's a good sign if you're used to seeing vermicompost.  So today, I got my trusty trowel and snooped around.  There were lots of worms and at least two inches of vermicompost on top.  Not bad huh?  The more you ignore them, the more they thrive.  I'm pretty sure most of them were African Nightcrawlers and not earthworms.  I can almost distinguish them physically now.  And besides, they were lolling around organic matter.  Earthworms tend to stay in soil, correct?   Since I was running low on ANC inventory anyway, I gathered an ice cream container full of worms and vermicompost so I can easily fill an order for a worm bin.  I also replaced the lost mass with about two handfulls of shredded paper along with a few scoops of used coffee grounds.

With my recent successes in pot vermicomposting, my thoughts have been wandering towrads my mom's absolutely large pots at the back.  I am thinking about the possibilities.    

Until next month! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Overfeeding Your Bin Tip: Vermicomposting Adventures in Quezon City

One of the most common tips you'll see when vermicomposting is to avoid overfeeding your worms.  Sounds familiar?  It's bad for your bin because too much materials decompose at the same time, causing your bin to smell bad.  At the same time, the decomposition will eat up the bin's oxygen, thereby depriving your worms.  I've experienced that first hand. 

Now, I never seem to have enough worms because people buy worm bins from me.  However, I have managed to vermicompost every organic waste in the house.  Here's one technique that has worked for me recently.

I put a week's worth of organic waste (with shredded paper of course) in my bin.  That's a lot!  I usually have to spread that out into several bins.  Instead of doing that though, I just put the contents inside a paper bag (thank you Starbucks) or a small cardboard box (Nesvita, light bulbs, etc), I close or seal it and then I put that inside the bin.  I don't bother to moisten the bag or box.  After all, when the organic matter decomposes, it will release moisture.  The worms eat from under the bag when the time is right.   It's great because the bin doesn't smell or attract insects. 

At one point, I had about 100 grams of worms left in a semi big bin (3x1x1.5 feet) because I scraped to provide a customer with his requirements.  About two weeks later, I put in an entire melon (rinds only of course) inside a starbucks bag.  They finished it and there was no smell at all.  Cool huh?  Just the other day, I also had a rotten melon (what a waste, right?).  This time around, I placed the entire melon (not just the rinds) in a big paper bag, wrapped the bag around a little to close the hole and dumped it into the bin.  I'm betting the worms will finish that in about two weeks.  Once again, no smell. 

Try it both ways.  Get identical small bins with minimal worms.  Put lots of food in both, but bag it in one.  See if the technique works for you too.  ;-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ideal Temperatures for African Nightcrawlers: Vermicomposting Adventures in Quezon City

I've observed something over the past couple of months.  In April and May, I had to scoop back worms from the floor at least twice a day and I had to keep the night light on to discourage escape.    Furthermore, I had to leave the lid off my bins even at night apart from not adding any sort of moisture at all.  And yet, I still lost a lot of brave worms in those months.  I salute them.

The past couple of weeks have been marvelous though.  I've been adding food whenever I want.  I pour glasses of water in my bins.  Some are even flooded.  I keep the lids on and I don't have to leave the lights on at night.  The best part is that my worms stay put!  And then there's the lack of fruit flies and gnats. 

What's the basic difference?  A couple of degrees in the temperature.  Summer was brutal.  We had days of 33-34 degrees.  These days though, we get as low as 27-28. 

What's the conclusion?  African Nightcrawlers like low temps in the Philippines.  They can tolerate higher, but the other conditions must be just right (excellent airflow and optimum moisture).  It would seem that worms are more forgiving about air and moisture when temperatures are lower. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vermicomposting in the Philippines: Multiple Tray Flow Through Worm Bin

My really small back porch has been getting really crowded and messy because of all my little worm bins.  And then I had an inspiration.  I decided to have a multi-level flow through bin made out of office trays.  Of course I've tried this before, but I only stacked two or three.  This time around, I stacked five fully filled trays.  That's lots of paper and stuff and very few worms (about 250 grams I would guess).  Will it work?  Perhaps.

Here are some "features" of this stacked contraption: I put four chopsticks through the holes of each tray.   This prevents the trays from being too compressed.  This way maximizes the air flow.  Also to that end, I removed all the packing tape on the sides of the trays since I'm not afraid that the worms will try to escape.  I'm also not afraid of the vermicompost spilling from the sides.  That's because I also have a slightly wider bin at the bottom that will hopefully catch vermicompost falling from the sides.  On top, I just cover the tray with a breathable eco-bag.  And that's it. 

It's just like an expensive worm factory, only much cheaper.   The downside though is that the contraption is accessible.  I've seen a cockroach and two lizards already.  Really?  Are those house lizards feasting on my worms?  Tsk.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Worm Bin With Mushrooms

Tell me this is not an amazing sight.  I just need Sigourney Weaver to complete the cast of Aliens.  So I've had mushrooms in my worm bin in the past, but I waa blown away by a picture sent by one of my past customers.  This sees like a full blown infestation.  And so he's wondering if the worms are still alive.  I am betting they are.  Mushrooms and worms like the same environment so if the mushrooms are growing like crazy, so too should the worms.  It also shows that there's plenty of nourishment for everybody.  Once the carbon supply declines (thank you for helping with the decomposition dear mushrooms), the mushrooms should disappear.  So there shouldn't be any competition for food with the worms.  If those are alien mushrooms, all bets are off. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Outdoor Vermicompost Pit

Well there's not a lot going on in the garden lately.  Most of my herbs are half dead again.  I think it's because of the rainy season.  I also have a few worms left since most have been sold.

Anyway, I still have my outdoor "systems".  Although I don't have pictures, I'll try to describe what I saw the other day.  The pit where there was once a banana tree continues to impress me.  The contents have mostly been converted into vermicompost already.  What's amazing too is that all the banana trees in that clump died weeks ago.  But the other day, I saw two absolutely beautiful banana shoots.  They look really healthy.  I wondering now whether the worms had something to do with that.

As for the hole I dug nearby, it's been filled to the brim and I now see evidence of worm action.  There's vermicompost on top and when I remove the plastic bag covers, I see worms on top.  It took awhile but the pit now looks active. 

Interestingly enough, I also see the telltale signs of worm activity all around the backyard.  The soil looks cultivated even though you know you had nothing to do with it.  I'm not sure how else to describe it.  To test, I dig under those.  More often than not, I do find worms.  I guess it helps that there's a lot of organic material on the soil.  It allows the composting worms to thrive.

That's it for now.  Until next time.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A Tale of Two Rosemary Plants

A few months ago, I tried to take advantage of the summer heat by taking stem cuttings from my rosemary plant.  That mother plant's health has been on the decline ever since I purchased it.  It was only a full year later that I was able to take stem cuttings and even then I wasn't sure if the cuttings would root.  But as I've written before, the cuttings survived.  Today, this is how the plants look.  The mother plant is almost dead, but the clone, planted in pure vermicast, looks spectacular.  Good thing I managed to steal some cuttings before the mother plant passed on to rosemary heaven.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kitchen Scraps Mulch - Update 4

It's been a few months since I put kitchen scraps as reverse mulch (bottom of the pot) under my habanero.  Then I put a couple of African Nightcrawlers along with the scraps.  I wanted to see if the ANCs would survive in the pot and turn the organic content inside the pot into vermicompost.    A couple of days ago, I decided to dig up the pot to see.    Compare it for yourself. 

If you look at pictures 1 and 2, that's show's a month's difference.  In particular, examine the amount of additional mulch on the top side of the plant.  While picture 1 shows the pot filled to the brim with mulch picture 2 shows about an inch and a half decline.  Considering that I throw in additional material several times a week, you'll appreciate how fast the organic material degrades.  Was it due to the worms?  Perhaps. 

If you compare pictures 3 and 4, you'll see a big difference as well.  Whereas picture 3 has a whole newspaper on the underside covered by a week's worth of kitchen scraps, picture 4 shows mostly humus and some worms.  Now the inside of the pot wasn't exactly crawling with worms as I had hoped, but there were still some there.  However, I've also seen that the worms migrated to some of the other pots beside my habanero as well.  That's why I have cardboard and newspaper under the pots so that the worms can easily move from a bad spot to a good spot and always have something to eat.   I think this also goes to show that if you plan it right, composting worms can survive and thrive in the sunny side of the garden.


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