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Letting compost mellow for the worms

Red wrigglers

Sometimes I hesitate to tell you just how many stupid mistakes I make.  But I figure if even 1% of you are as dumb as I am, I can save millions of lives with this post....

Three pounds of worms

...Worm lives, that is.  Yes, the horse manure I seeded compost worms into earlier this summer was far too hot for the critters to survive.  I ended up needing that manure for the garden a couple of months later, and I looked carefully for wrigglers as I emptied the bin out, but I found not a living soul.

Cool compostSo I did things differently the second time around.  After filling the three new bins up with horse manure and bedding, I left the lids open for a few weeks so the contents would get well saturated with rain.  Wet compost allows microorganisms to work, so the bacteria soon had the contents of each bin steaming.  And then, slowly, the warmth receded until the compost leveled off at ambient temperatures.

Time for another round of worms!  Even though the fault in the first batch was purely management error, I decided to take the advice of one of our readers and try a new source --- Red Worm Composting.  We bought a three pound bag for $70, and the worms showed up fat and happy, ready to colonize the mellowed compost.

I dumped the worms on the surface of the manure, a pound per bin.  Rather than spreading them throughout the large bins, I let each clump stick close together since I know compost worms like colonies. 

Seeding the worm bin

Except for one last bed of lettuce, we've planted all of our crops for 2012, so the worm bins will have all fall, winter, and early spring to work before I ask for castings.  Then I'll add fresh manure to one end of each bin and let the wrigglers migrate over before scraping up the black gold to put on the garden.  Assuming nothing else goes wrong, I'm hopeful that this will be the last set of worms we'll have to buy for a good long time.

Our chicken waterer takes the guesswork out of keeping your backyard flock healthy.


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Anna, did you have a post on how you made your worm bins?
Comment by James Wed Oct 3 08:31:29 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime