Friday, February 11, 2011

Comparing Vermicomposting Bins, Humanure Vermicomposting Experiments

I'm running a bit low on worms due to positive sales of my indoor worm bin.   So today, I decided to fiddle with all my worm bins just to see if my small business can survive with just organic growth of my worms or if I have to buy more African Nightcrawlers

First, I checked on my vermicomposting sack.  It's a basic rice sack that I left out in the garden, but under the shade.  It's my lowest maintenance "bin" since the material is porous.  Air is never a problem.  I put whole bags of wet paper  (think of a paper bag filled to the brim with wet paper) there so I don't have to think about moisture a lot.  I pour in about half a cup of water every couple of days when I pass by.  Since it's in the garden, it also has a lot of leaf litter and branches and stuff.  When I checked earlier, I poured all the contents on the ground.  I found that the worm population has not really taken off in the sack.  I think it's because the sack is in the garden and allows all sorts of predators to come in.  I did find a couple of centipedes after all.  Since rice sacks are also woven, I suspect worms can come in and out easily.   Nonetheless, I still had a fair amount of vermicompost which I applied to a couple of my plants.  I ended this experiment and placed the contents in other bins.  Rating: Two and a Half Crawlers

Then I checked on my original worm bin: the big pail, located in a shaded area in the backyard.  It has about three tiny holes in the bottom, making for negligible drainage. It is also sitting on three small bottles with water to prevent ants from invading the bin.   A month ago or so, I transferred about 3/4 of the contents of this bin to other plastic bins, which I have since sold.  I replaced the contents with a lot of cardboard and paper (not even shredded) since I just have so much paper in the house.  In fact, I hardly even feed this bin anymore, save for weeds that I pull out nearby.  The worms will eat the bedding anyway.   Well, it's good to know that the worm population has regenerated somewhat.  I can use the contents of this bin to seed a couple of new bins.  I think this bin works because it's big relative to content thereby allowing air to circulate.  I also cover the bin with dry whole newspaper which prevents worms from crawling out but would still be porous to let some air in.   I added some of the wet whole newspapers from the sack into the bottom of this pail.  Hopefully, it will help retain some moisture since the last few summer days have been absolutely scorching!  Rating: Five Crawlers

I also have what I call stackable flowthrough worm trays.  Until early this week, this was working really well.  It allows lots of air in which I  believe hastens decomposition.  The worm population also exploded in the past few months.  The back story is that I placed about 5 worms on this tray months ago.  Then they disappeared!  I figured the tray was a bad idea.  I just let the mushrooms grow since they'll keep decomposing the materials anyway.  But then I fiddled with the bin again around two months later to find a good number of worms.  I am guessing some cocoons must have survived.  Since that time, the performance of the tray improved consistently.  It came to the point that I experimented with humanure in two separate instances with that tray.  The specimens were gone within a week with no odor whatsoever.  Not bad huh?  It was just this week when I added some garlic and citrus peels that I saw all sorts of odd behavior from the worms (mostly escaping and dying).  I also need to add moisture about twice a day since the cover keeps drying out.  Rating: Four Crawlers

Last on my review list is my home made 5-gallon water container worm bin.  It has unintended drainage the container's leak is what got it converted into a bin in the first place) and good aeration.  Like the pail, it's big relative to the contents I put in.  This is also the site of my very first humanure experiment.  It wasn't very well done at the time.  It took so much newspaper to cover the smell.  I have learned since then.  About a month or so ago, I put a couple of specimens in the bin.  How?  I deposited the goods in a newspaper half page, put in some eggshells, dried leaves and coffee grounds before closing the page and wrapping it with another half page.  Not bad.  There were zero emissions.  And earlier I checked.  Guess what?  Only the newspapers remained.   It was like magic.  The contents disappeared.  The best part is that I put in dried herbs, right (different types of basil, mints, lavender, etc).  The bin smelled like potpourri.   The only drawback is that a few worms escape now and then, I think through the unintended drainage. As prevention, I also cover the opening with a whole dry newspaper to discourage crawl outs.   And oh, the worm population has increased again.  I got enough to seed two small bins and still leave some for that container.  Rating: Four and a Half Crawlers


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