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Let's talk about worms

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by Patty S on January 06, 2006 10:19 AM
Now that I'm starting to get my Red Wiggler bin going, I think I can answer some of the questions posted earlier in this topic. (Again, my information comes from the Instruction Manual that came with my system. As there are usually different approaches to the same end result, I'd be interested to see information from other sources, that anyone might care to share.)

FRUIT FLYS -
My book says to keep a cover of moist burlap or newspaper over the worm's food, as the wet material keeps the food in the dark, helps to prevent the food & bedding from drying out & discourages fruit flys. The worms may eventually eat the cover, so you just replace it with a new one.

TYPES OF WORMS -
There are many thousands of species of worms, including over 3,000 species of Earthworms. They all feed on some form of organic matter, but their preferences & habits differ. Earthworms can be divided into 2 broad categories, according to their behavior:
Earthworkers generally live in the topsoil on a diet of humus & soil, & will not survive on food waste. The North American night crawler is in this category. (I have no idea what they eat!)
Composters are surface-feeding worms that live, eat & breed in places where there is rich organic matter & high levels of moisture. (These are the ones I have, which will mean the end of my having to buy rich potting soil & fancy stuff, in order to "beef-up" my flower beds & veggie garden plot.)

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by Patty S on January 06, 2006 10:31 AM
In the beginning of this topic, there was a lot of talk about what the composting worms eat. Here's what my book says:

WHAT TO FEED COMPOSTING WORMS
Left over vegetable scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings
Tea leaves/bags & coffee grounds
Vacuum cleaner dust or hair clippings (including animal hair)
Torn up newspapers
Egg or pizza cartons (soaked first)
Crushed egg shells (these will help with the pH balance)

FOODS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR COMPOSTING WORMS:
Dairy products
Eggs (only egg SHELLS)
Oily foods
Onions
Potatoes (can ferment and you will end up with drunk worms)
Meat scraps
Garlic or spicy "left-overs"
Citrus fruits

Some of the items on the "not recommended" list are there because they are too acidic, or because they must break down & decay before the worms will eat them, which means a foul odor may result... AND will likely attract "organisms" that you really don't want to have around.

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by Patty S on January 06, 2006 10:48 AM
FATTENING YOUR WORMS
The "composters" are smaller than many of the "earthworkers", but can get bigger if they're fed a "Worm Fattener".

Use this recipe to make a mash for raising tough, fat worms for fishing:

Monster Mash
Chicken Layers Pellets 50%
Wheat or Corn Flour 10%
Powdered Whole Milk 10%
Bran or Wheat Meal 20%
Agricultural lime or dolomite 10%
1. Mix the ingredients together
2. Lightly sprinkle 1 Cup of the mash over the food wastes.
3. Repeat step 2 once each week.
** After several months you will have fat, tough worms in ready supply for fishing. **

I would think that because of the enzyme action of the flours & wheats, along with the presence of reconstituted milk, this mixture should be refrigerated... and, I don't know why this recipe calls for milk solids, while milk products are on the "not recommended" list! (The only reason I can think of, is that good quality castings for organic gardening can't be produced from protein foods, such as milk & meats.)


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by jonni13 on January 06, 2006 10:59 AM
Thanks, Patty. I never thought to add my vacuum contents to it. I do add potatoes when they get soft or something. I guess I have some worms that party then. I also put in stale bread. Mine is a large bin and I don't grind or chop anything. Whole watermelon rinds and jack o'lanterns go in. I turn the whole thing over once in awhile. Move the larger stuff to one side awhile before I want to use the "black gold".
It all works for me.
~Tina

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~Tina
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Getting old is the pits. But it sure beats the alternative. My Blog
by Triss on January 07, 2006 11:22 AM
All of that is very interesting. I am really looking forward to starting mine. I have to get ahold of the local county extension here. I am sure there is something like that here, I hope!

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We are all under the same stars... therefore we are never far apart.
by comfrey on January 07, 2006 01:01 PM
Wow Patty that is very cool...I am going to get ahold of my county extension office here also...they always have alot of great things to offer.

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by Patty S on January 07, 2006 02:23 PM
I need to make a correction here... I said earlier that the Extension office has the Red Wigglers & that the start-up supply of them is included in the cost.

Scratch that...

A lady who runs the Waste Management Recycle section of the Extension office just happens to have a worm farm of her own, & has been giving people a start-up supply of worms, when they buy the bins. (So, that's just our good fortune, here, locally.)

There are several places where the Red Wigglers are available for sale, & they shouldn't be hard to get, as worm composting is pretty popular right now & everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. (I've heard that people who already have their worm composters going are eager to share with others who are interested in starting up their own.)

I need to look up what their rate of reproduction is, but I think I saw something that said they're pretty fast breeders... if that IS the case, then it probably would be pretty easy to get a start-up supply from someone who has an established system.
Will be back with that info when I find it again.

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by JV on January 08, 2006 05:22 AM
Got my Red Wrigglers ordered found a place here in Texas $28.00 for 1000 to 2000 tax and shipping inlcuded. The place in NY was going to charge me tax and shipping so will see if I did the right thing and in fact got a deal. Comes with bedding and instruction's on building worm bins. I did not get a worm bin I have something I can use to start. Anyone want their link PM me will send it to you.
Jimmy

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Meet Clyde my Male Sugar Glider. Clyde says.
Keep it organic
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.
Pray for our Troops!

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by Triss on January 08, 2006 07:17 AM
Great deal Jimmy. I may need that later. I still have to get my FIL to build it for me but I am letting him catch up on the other stuff I have already asked him to build.

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We are all under the same stars... therefore we are never far apart.
by Amigatec on January 08, 2006 07:27 AM
When I get my Hotbox up and running I will start of my Worm Bin.

Pat

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One OS to rule them, one OS to find them:
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Redmond where the shadows lie.
by JV on January 14, 2006 01:12 AM
Got my worms in this morning all seem very healthy and active. Have a bin setup in my spare bathroom . Now watch me get company I never have bath tub is full of worm bins [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [thumb]
Jimmy

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Meet Clyde my Male Sugar Glider. Clyde says.
Keep it organic
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.
Pray for our Troops!

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by weezie13 on January 14, 2006 07:57 AM
Keep us posted on how you do........
Would love to keep up with your info on it!!! [thumb] [thumb]

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/
by Bestofour on January 15, 2006 08:52 AM
"Potatoes (can ferment and you will end up with drunk worms)" Wonder if a person can use this excuse if they get pulled over by the police? Just had to ask that.

Can I get worms and put them directly into my compost bin? Or do I have to have another worm bin?

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by weezie13 on January 15, 2006 09:03 AM
Sheri,
I do know the ones' that they buy for the
special worm bins are different than the worms
like in your back yard...and as I understand it,
don't winter over outside in the cold like
regular outside worms would...

You might be able to get night crawlers an put
them in it...
*gotta watch when the compost is actually "cooking", I don't believe worms would be in there then either.. wayyyyyyyyyyyy tooo hot.*

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/
by Amigatec on January 15, 2006 11:03 AM
I am planning on building a worm bin, but the local newspaper prints everything in color, so i may havr to look at something else for the bedding.

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One OS to rule them, one OS to find them:
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Redmond where the shadows lie.
by weezie13 on January 15, 2006 11:28 AM
Shredded carboard?
Boxes, egg cartoons,

Some things that are in color are from vegetable
dyes...

I know a good rule of thumb for composting *and color things* is nothing that's shiney...
*anything that was dull, I thought was okay..*

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/
by JV on January 16, 2006 05:05 AM
Amigatec I plan to use my old bills I shred for this also. I use newspaper in bottom of some of my cages so I have plenty get freinds to save their old papers for me. I already use them in my compost.
Jimmy

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Meet Clyde my Male Sugar Glider. Clyde says.
Keep it organic
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.
Pray for our Troops!

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by Amigatec on January 16, 2006 07:20 AM
I do have a bunch of bills shredded already, I guess I can use them as well. Most sites say don't use paper printed in color ink.

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One OS to rule them, one OS to find them:
One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Redmond where the shadows lie.
by JV on January 16, 2006 09:46 AM
Mine are printed in black ink. I don't put glossy or color in my worm bin.
Jimmy

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Meet Clyde my Male Sugar Glider. Clyde says.
Keep it organic
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.
Pray for our Troops!

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by beebiz on January 17, 2006 03:59 PM
I don't know how in the world I have overlooked this thread for so long.... but I did!

I have a link to a site whose header says, "WORM WORLD, INC. is proud to present..... 'THE BURROW'". (Don't know if I punctuated that right or not!!) At any rate, they have a whole world of information about Vermicomposting (composting with red worms). It tells all about raising red worms, their reproduction specifics, how to build bins, and so on. If anyone is interested, they can find the site here.

Also, there is a worm farm in Jackson, MS that sells red worms and has about the most reasonable rates of any place that I have found on the net. They only charge $15 per pound (about 1000 adults and lots more if mixed ages) of worms, $8 S&H for the first pound and an extra $2 S&H per pound for each additional pound.

I have no connections with the owners of the site, but I still don't know if it would be okay to post a link to their site. If it is, I'll gladly do so. If not and you would like to know how to find them, PM me and I'll gladly share the link with you.

Good luck to all you new worm farmers!!

Robert

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My New Web Site If you take a look, please sign my guest book so I'll know you've been there! Also, check out the new African Violet addition to my site! Thanks
by JV on January 19, 2006 07:16 PM
Beebiz thanks for the link looks interesting. Although they are a little high. I gfot 2000 for $28.00 postage paid they sent po3 got them in good shape they seem to be growing good.
I will be using this link a l;ot. Again thanks for posting it.
Jimmy

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Meet Clyde my Male Sugar Glider. Clyde says.
Keep it organic
GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.
Pray for our Troops!

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by jonni13 on January 20, 2006 03:05 PM
Beebiz, Thank-you for the link. I just spent the last hour or so laughing my way through it. It also explained some things that happen in my worm bin that I wondered about. I knew I had happy worms and now I know why. Thanx
~Tina

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~Tina
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Getting old is the pits. But it sure beats the alternative. My Blog
by beebiz on January 20, 2006 05:04 PM
Hey Jimmy & Tina,

It was no problem at all. I was glad to be of help.

Tina, you said, "I just spent the last hour or so laughing my way through it." I am assuming that you are talking about the one called "The Burrow," right? As I read that one, I laughed, laughed, and laughed. When I got finished, I laughed some more!! My favorite part was where the man and his wife came home only to learn that dog food was NOT a good choice for the worm bin!! ;>O Don't you know that took some time to clean out of the nostrils?? ;>O

Anyway, I hope you new worm farmers have great luck with your worms. If you want to learn more about them, just do a Google for "raising red worms", "composting with red worms", or "vermiculture". You'll have enough stuff to read for days!

Robert

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My New Web Site If you take a look, please sign my guest book so I'll know you've been there! Also, check out the new African Violet addition to my site! Thanks
by Patty S on March 13, 2006 09:07 AM
My worms must be happy, or they're partying a lot, cuz there are about twice as many in there as I started with! Our little Granddaughter talks to them when she rescues the itty bitty babies that fall through the little holes of the top tray, into the collection bin!

Now that I have some stuff building in that collection bin, I'm wondering how I'm supposed to use it! [dunno] I've never bought worm castings before, so I don't know if I'm suposed to use it "straight" or mix it with potting soil, when I start my seeds.

(That's supposed to be a question... good thing I was told that there's no such thing as a stupid one here, huh?) [grin]

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by weezie13 on March 13, 2006 09:59 AM
Patty, for outdoors ones, straight..

And far as I knew, the same for houseplants...
but it would be mixed in with your potting soil.

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/
by patches1414 on March 13, 2006 04:36 PM
This was a GREAT site with a lot of valuable informaton! [clappy] I loved "The Burrow" and laughed until I cried. [thumb] Thanks for sharing it!

patches [kitty]

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"Lord, I love you and I need you, come into my heart, and bless me, my family, my home, and my friends, in Jesus' name. Amen!"
by Patty S on March 13, 2006 06:49 PM
Weezie, I'm not following you. It's probably just "ME"... be patient, please! [perplexed]
What do you mean, "for outdoor ones"? I assume that you mean in-ground compost systems that are maintained by worms(?)

I should probably explain my setup, to make sure we're on the same page. My worm bins are indoors for now, but I'll be moving the unit to the garage when the weather gets a little warmer.

Here is what my Wriggly Wranch system looks like. It's made up of a Working tray (and lid) that sits above the Collector bin, to which legs are attached.
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The Collector bin is the same size as the Working tray, but has a solid bottom & a spigot for draining liquid off. The liquid comes from the water that I sprinkle into the Working tray to keep the bedding moist. The water that's not absorbed drips down into the Collector bin. (For use as liquid fertilizer.)

The Working tray is where the worms live & do their work.  -
Contents of the Working tray: At the bottom of the Working tray is "Coir bedding", which came with the system (made from coconut husks), & a couple layers of shredded newspaper. On top of that, is where I toss in leftover veggies, coffee grounds, crushed eggs shells, etc. Three Working trays came with this system... the two "spare" trays aren't added until the Collector bin is 3/4 full of worm castings. (Like I'm ever going to let it get that full!  - Meanwhile, those spare trays are handy to use around the yard!)

the Working tray has a molded mesh bottom, allowing the worm castings & water to fall through, into the Collector bin.
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The built-in handle holes are located such that they're blocked off when the trays are nested together, & the lid has molded mesh inserts (as seen in the second photo), that line up with the handle holes inside the top tray, to keep flys from entering the bins (which could otherwise result in less-than-ideal conditions).
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So now, back to my original question... What I've got to work with is not soil mixed with worm castings, as one might have from an "outdoor" operation, but rather worm castings only. (It looks like dirt, but I think is only "dirty"!)
Is it OK to use that straight, "as-is", to start seeds in, or for houseplants, or is it too rich? I'm not one to necessarily believe that "if a little is good, a lot is better", but maybe that's true in this case. [dunno] If there's no point in using total worm castings as seed starter or potting soil, at what ratio should I mix the castings & dirt?

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by jonni13 on March 13, 2006 10:23 PM
Patty, my castings come out of my bin wet and heavy, almost slimey. I know that is because the 'bin' I use is not set up ideally. I mix it about 50/50 just to lighten it a little. If your castings come out light and fluffy like potting soil you can certainly use it straight.

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~Tina
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Getting old is the pits. But it sure beats the alternative. My Blog
by Jiffymouse on March 13, 2006 10:45 PM
a story about a member who doesn't visit much was that he had a huge peace lily, but it was only 1/4 of the one that the teacher gave him.

combined with transplant/division shock and too much water, it nearly died.

he repotted it, shaking off most of the wet soil, potted it up in "dry worm dirt" and ended up not only saving it, but making it bloom and be happy very quickly. since peace lilies are very picky about their soil conditions, you know if it was happy, the straight castings are a good thing!
by Mandyz on March 17, 2006 12:46 AM
Wow, I'm loving that Wriggler Wranch.
I vermicompost with red wrigglers. The best sites I can recommend on vermicomposting are The Burrow (http://www.jetcompost.com/burrow/index.html) and Worm Digest (http://www.wormdigest.org/). Certainly Googling vermicomposting will bring up many other great sites. I have found that many municipalities have good information about vermicomposting.
I was taught by a friend, and she learned so that she could teach her young students. Now I teach people I meet and when I have an excess of worms I send out notices that persons looking to start bins can get free worms from me. I got mine free from a woman at my current university.

Vermicomposting is a great option for apartment dwellers and others without access to/room for an outdoor compost. That's why I started. I use my vermicompost for my indoor plants.
Now that I have a house and yard (and soon, gardens) I will also start an outdoor compost.

I do not put outdoor compost material in my indoor composter. I've read some guides that talk about using leaves, but some of these people are working on massive projects either for the sake of producing mass amounts of compost to sell or mass amounts of worms to sell. For my smaller operation I do not have room for piles of leaves etc, nor would I want to import outdoor pests into my vermi-ecosystem.

Speaking of pests, the Burrow has great information about what bugs are beneficial in your bin, and which are pests (and how to keep them out).

My bin is very simple. Looking at the Wranch I'm getting jealous! I should start a new bin with an open bottom for the castings to fall through... and the spigot is great! As it stands, I have to dig my castings out of the bin, which I don't really mind.
I prepare my bin for partial harvestings by only feeding the worms on one side of the bin. Once they've all moved over, the other side is quick to harvest.
In fact, the best way to use the bin in to compost in rows. If you visually divide your bin into about 5 or 6 rows, and bury scraps mixed with bedding (shredded carboard etc) in row one for week one, row two for week two... by the time you are back to row one it's been composted.
This is provided that you are not overfeeding the worms.

That is how I was taught. It worked well for my friend. Admittedly, I don't always bury my scraps in rows. Not surprisingly her bin was much neater looking than mine. But mine works just fine.
by patches1414 on March 17, 2006 12:13 PM
Thanks Mandyz! [thumb]

These are both great sites. I already knew about The Burrow, but not Worm Digest. I just checked it out and it has some valuable information too.

patches [kitty]

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"Lord, I love you and I need you, come into my heart, and bless me, my family, my home, and my friends, in Jesus' name. Amen!"
by treesha on March 18, 2006 04:39 AM
does anyone have any experience with a bathtub system? After reading over some of these posts it sounds like I'd need a cover for the top. Any helpful thoughts or suggestions?
by patches1414 on March 18, 2006 04:55 AM
Actually, I don't have any experience with the bathtub system and don't even know what it is. [dunno] I'm new to this vermiculture and I just started a worm bin and added my first worms the other day. I have a 31 gal. Rubbermaid tote container that I am using and it has a lid that I drilled holes in so they could get air. For now, I've put a screen top on it so I can look in without lifting the lid and disturbing them.

patches [kitty]

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"Lord, I love you and I need you, come into my heart, and bless me, my family, my home, and my friends, in Jesus' name. Amen!"
by SeptemberMorn on March 18, 2006 05:08 AM
Patches, I'm thinking that you and I need to drill holes in the bottoms of our Rubbermaid tote containers. I've got four of them and it's always so wet and stinky at the bottom. I've also moved mine out of total shade to a place where the "stuff" can warm up during the day.

I don't mind disturbing them, but don't know how They feel about it. LOL I've even let one of my younger grandsons play with them. Figured it would help with the airiation. [dunno]

OH! And if you want to see them multiply faster give them a steady diet of coffee grounds along with the other stuff. [Wink]

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y103/SeptMorn/
by patches1414 on March 18, 2006 08:17 AM
Hi Septembermorn,

Actually, I'm pretty new to this, but I've been researching vermiculture for months and I've received some excellent information from all the posts on this site. [clappy] I've already drilled holes with a 3/16" bit in the bottom of mine and have a big oblong pan in order to catch any of the liquid so I can use that on my plants too. [Wink]

They do not like to be disturbed so you need to leave them alone. They will aerate the soil on their own. I've got plenty of coffee grounds to feed them because one of my students works at Starbucks and he brings me bags that Starbucks packages up for gardeners and it's free. [clappy] I also bought some "worm chow" that Purina makes so I will be feeding that to them along with other stuff.

I hope this helps, but you really should check out all the other posts here about worms. [thumb]

patches [kitty]

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"Lord, I love you and I need you, come into my heart, and bless me, my family, my home, and my friends, in Jesus' name. Amen!"
by Mandyz on March 19, 2006 12:24 PM
I use large rubbermaid bins as well. 10 gal I think. I had so many from moving, that it was an easy option. I didn't drill holes in the bottom for a long time, and so long as I wasn't adding water and watched the moisture level (absorbing it with more bedding if necessary) I didn't have a problem. I eventually punched holes in the bottom and placed a boot tray beneath to catch drips. I don't get a lot of extra water coming out. (If I had a spigot I'd add more water for "tea".) I also don't have any problems with ants, so I've not had to raise my bin.

As for disturbing worms, I don't play with them, but of course I have to move them out of the way when I feed them, add bedding, etc. They don't seem to suffer. You shouldn't need to disturb them very often. Generally once, maybe twice a week.
by Serra on April 10, 2006 09:53 PM
It rained the other day and I went on an earthworm hunt. It was difficult to pick them up off of the concrete, but I managed and put them in a plastic bag, didn't close it up. They went immediately into the garden. Actually, I was out for a dog walk. She was so curious, but minds her manners so no earthworms eaten.

My biggest concern is that I buried some kitchen compost (blenderized) that had some jalopeno skins in it. I'm worried about whether the worms will be able to deal with them? Anybody know??

Thanks in advance for any info.

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Serra
Lancaster County, PA
by weezie13 on April 10, 2006 09:56 PM
I don't think they have taste buds..
That I know of...

And even if they don't eat it,
it will render down....
And become fodder for the dirt...

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Weezie

Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

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http://photobucket.com/albums/y250/weezie13/

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