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

Worms eat food scraps after only five days

Worms composting food scraps

The worms have found the food scraps!  I know that worms work a lot harder when they're not constantly being poked and prodded, but I couldn't resist lifting up a few leaves and peeking into the bin Wednesday to see what was going on.  I don't know how the worms found the food so fast, but they were already wending their way through some hamburger buns and vegetable scraps --- success!

Worms eating moldy breadIf you look closely at the second photo, you can see mold growing on the hamburger bun.  Although mold on your food is usually a bad sign, in the worm bin it means that enough microorganisms have colonized the scraps so that your worms can feast.  I wonder how long it will take for the worms to break these scraps down into castings?

Our parking area, a third of a mile from the trailer, used to just be a spot I passed through.  Lately, though, it has turned into one of my favorite places to pause and commune with the worms.  With big piles of wood chips, a compost bin (more on that in a later post), and the worm bin, I might have to rename the spot Biomass Central!

Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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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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From your photos, it looks like you are leaving the food scraps whole. I have read that it is better to grind up the food before feeding it to the worms. Are they really consuming even the largest food scraps after only five days? Do you think that it may be due to the specific variety of worms that you are using?
Comment by David Wed Mar 2 22:57:35 2011
Grinding the food scraps will expedite the composting process by creating more surface area, but it's far from necessary. A situation where I'd recommend grinding would be if your bin is really too small for the amount of food scraps you need to dispose of, so you want to speed up the process so it doesn't overload. Since we have a big bin, we aren't worrying about grinding, and our run of the mill compost worms don't seem to care at all.
Comment by anna Thu Mar 3 08:26:40 2011

I know that you haven't had this bin that long, but I'm curious if you are able to know if you have worms escaping through the drainage holes with the compost tea as the food gets consumed or when the bedding is compressed after breaking down. (From your photos, it didn't look like you could open up the section where the compost tea is dripping from the bedding section.)

In my small worm bin (2 buckets) in the garage, I had to remove the top layer of newspaper bedding that gotten really moldy. It was cold enough that the worms were not active enough to consume the food that I had left. The next day I separated the worm bucket from the compost tea bucket and half of my worms had crawled through the drainage holes into the compost tea. I suspect that removing that much bedding material all at once made them want to dig deeper where it might be "warmer". Luckily I found them before they drowned.

Comment by David Thu Mar 3 13:16:53 2011
I can't get in our drainage basin to check, but I've read that you only see escaping worms if they're not happy with their habitat. Usually, the problem is too wet or too dry, but I could definitely see why worms might flee too cold as well. I'm glad you caught them in time!
Comment by anna Thu Mar 3 20:35:36 2011
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