The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Pounds of worms

Composting food scrapsEven though I'd like a bit more data before building our worm bin, it's clearly time to move on to the next step --- our compost holding bin is already almost full!  We've decided to make a simple bin like Binet Payne's, but with a false bottom to catch the compost tea.  What we haven't decided yet is how many worms to buy.

You need two pounds of worms per pound of daily food scraps, and if you factor in the no-food weekends, we're currently clocking in around 17 pounds of scraps per day.  But 34 pounds of worms would cost around $850, unless we can find a source of worms in bulk.

Of course, worms will reproduce, and under good conditions Binet Payne estimates that one of her bins stocked with 8 pounds of worms will come up to full production (64 pounds of worms) in 3 months.  Currently, I'm budgeting $100 for worms, figuring we'll have to build some additional compost holding bins to use the extra food scraps for the first few months.  If you know of any bulk sources of compost worms to make my worm dollars go further, I'd appreciate your advice!

Our chicken waterer is the perfect antidote to feather pecking --- the nipple design gives your birds something more constructive to do with their time.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I started to comment a minute ago and I don't know what key I hit but something happened -- please disregard my last -- here is my comment:

You can stretch your worm budbet by buying a blender and pureeing some of the food scraps -- maybe, at least, for a few smaller bins that are meant to be incubators. In my bins, when conditions are very dark, very moist and there is a regular addition of pureed scraps, the worms increase exponentially.

Also, when you're pureeing food you need to add water to the mix, and this saves time in that it's two steps combined into one -- food and moisture being added in one step. When I don't use pureed food, I find the bedding dries out and I spend time misting the bedding or soaking it. With purreed food, I slosh it all over the dry areas of bedding, add new bedding on top (to keep out light, to keep down flies and as next weeks' bedding) and voila, done!

You can easily get all the worms you need through reproduction -- very dark, good temp, very moist conditions with adequate bedding and lots of food.

Comment by J Thu Feb 17 09:07:05 2011
With all of that decomposing food, are you adding leaves or straw to give it enough carbon to balance things? I have been reading at where they can decompose whole animals (cattle, pigs, poultry) fairly quickly with layers of wood chips (at the bottom) and sawdust. I'm sure that they don't use earthworms at the first stage, but once they start turning it, I'm sure that they introduce worms to the mix.
Comment by David Thu Feb 17 10:52:02 2011

J --- I tend to agree with you that our worms will grow fast if we keep the conditions optimal. However, I suspect it will still be months before we'll have enough to compost all of the scraps from the school!

David --- In our holding bin, we're using wood chips to add the carbon, but in our worm bin we plan to add shredded paper since it keeps lots of air pockets and holds moisture to make worms happy.

Comment by anna Thu Feb 17 11:16:28 2011
Have you tried checking vermicomposters dot com to see if anyone near you has worms? You might be able to find a few people who could give you some.
Comment by Fostermamas Thu Feb 17 20:30:47 2011
Fascinating site! I hadn't heard of it before, and I love the map feature. Too bad we live in a dead zone --- about two hours to the closest vermicomposter willing to provide worms.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 17 21:10:31 2011
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