Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Vermicomposting Challenge: 10 Worms, 5 Gallons of Organic Material

Just a week ago, I finished creating my own indoor compost container / vermicompost bin.  As you can see from the edges, I'm not much of a handyman.  ;-)   Just a week later, it was already full. Okay, I may have been a little excited putting in new material from all over (mostly pruned herb leaves).   I also put in food scraps.  However, since it was indoors and since the bin has an air vent (lid not shown here), I added more dry bedding each time I started to smell something funny.  I didn't exactly want my house to smell like a garbage can. Besides, I need a 30:1 C:N ratio, right?   Once I deemed that what I will now refer to as Worm Bin 4 was full, I placed it in my little back area.  Then I wet the contents with some urine.  That should give the "feedstock" better nitrogen content.

A day later, I got the contents of my ice cream container "worm box".   If you look at the picture, you'll see that there's some good decomposition going on.  The contents are predominantly dark brown and as you can see from the sides, there are castings.  When I last counted, there were about a dozen worms here of varying sizes.  Pretty small, right?

I transferred about 10 of those worms (along with the substrate) into the Worm Bin 4.  I'm no longer concerned about the ammonia from the urine since the bin didn't reek of it.  I think the substantial bedding did its part in absorbing the urine.  Furthermore, I'm also not concerned about aging the bin a little more before introducing worms since I added the worms along with the half-processed substrate.  That means they definitely have something to eat for the next couple of weeks.  That also means the worms have a safe place to stay in case parts of the bin heats up when the organic matter decomposes.

So here's the challenge.  I'll stop feeding Worm Bin 4.  I'll spray additional moisture as required (to hasten decomposition, to keep worms alive and to discourage ants from entering the bin), but no more addition of food or bedding.  How long do you think it will take for 10 original worms (some are babies!) to fully process a 5-gallon bin full of organic material?  Things to factor in: 1) I've read that low density is a hindrance to worm reproduction; 2) The contents are not pre-composted; 3) I threw in a couple of the mushrooms growing in Worm Bin 3 to help with the decomposition; and 4) There's just one big air vent on top.    4 Weeks?  4 Months?  1 Year?

As a footnote, until I get a lot more worms, I think I will need about 4 5-gallon bins to rotate.  


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