Tink here. It’s the end-of-season worm roundup! Did you raise worms this year, in a bin, compost pile, or perhaps – like us – a Worm Factory 360?
We were pleased to review the Worm Factory 360 from Nature’s Footprint earlier this year. However we promised Nature’s Footprint we’d check in a few times throughout the season and let them know how our worms were doing and there just hasn’t been the time. With Season Three production drawing to a close, we thought we’d take this opportunity to catch everyone up on the whole experience and how the season has progressed!
First of all, if you’d like a little refresher on how things went at the beginning, here is the first part of the review in which we discussed the packaging and shipment of the Worm Factory 360, set up the trays, mixed and added the growing medium, then eventually sourced and added my worms. All in all it took me a very short period to set up the system, but a few weeks to get around to sourcing my worms. You may recall mine were all named Milton.
I have to admit I was tentative at the start. I’d tried a worm bin exactly once before, and it went… very poorly. It was a homemade bin and I’d followed instructions from a YouTube video. If only I’d done a little additional research I might have learned I needed a LOT more drainage than just the few holes drilled for show in the video. I might also have known to keep my black plastic bin out of direct sunlight. Many little worm souls perished in my earlier attempt, and I was not eager to have another mass vermicide on my hands.This time I followed the instructions but also cross-referenced a few things with the Nature’s Footprint website, and just through web searches found what others were doing. In some cases I found conflicting information but I found that more comforting than confusing… I took it to mean that the rules were not hard and fast and there was some room for interpretation or preferred methods.
I called upon our friends at Nature’s Footprint for support regularly, and their responses were quick and thorough no matter what the question.
I did want to share a few specific findings with others considering starting their own worm bin.
- A few weeks after I prepared the second tray for the worms to move up into, I found not only had the worms moved up but also a whole herd(?) of huge, fat, white larvae or maggots had appeared from somewhere. I was sure I’d done something wrong – perhaps in my excitement I added fruit that I hadn’t frozen first, or perhaps some meat had gotten into the compost, or there was something in the rice, or it was way too moist because of the banana, or perhaps this or that. After spending the time to pick all the good red worms out and completely toss that tray, I reported my gross guests to Nature’s Footprint to ask what my food failure might have been. Turns out they were probably Black Solider Fly larvae and not harmful at all! I tossed a great tray of worm food too soon! BSF larvae cohabitate just fine with red wigglers and except for the competition for food can actually be beneficial to your system. For more on the creepy-crawlies that may show up in your outdoor bin, and a little help on telling the good guys from the bad, refer to this page on Nature’s Footprint. So my advice would be to do research online and ask Nature’s Footprint for advice before assuming worm bin interlopers are bad news, or overreacting and tossing out a good tray.
- We have experienced zero issues with odor or flying pests – indoors or out. We think it may due to strictly following one big tip from our friends at Nature’s Footprint – we take care that the top layer in the top working tray always has a layer of cardboard or damp paper on top. This traps any larvae in the tray from hatching out into a flying form, and is a great way to utilize all the thin boxes our tea comes in, junk mail, newspaper, phone book covers, cereal boxes… just flatten and lay them on top of everything else. Moisten if necessary, or allow it to soak up moisture from the soil medium. Any new food added must be buried into the soil and re-covered with the cardboard and paper. It seems flies won’t find it, mold can’t grow. It’s working for us.
- When the bin was outdoors in the Carolina summer heat, things dried out quickly and we needed to add moisture regularly. We kept a spritz bottle of water handy next to the bin and added an extra, empty tray on top of the stack to absorb heat from the little bit of afternoon sun that crept across the patio. After we brought everything indoors away from summer heat, however, there hasn’t been any need to add moisture. So much of the food we add contains water already – just think about it: tea bags, coffee grounds, lettuce, leftover rice, gone-over grapes and tomatoes, potato bits and carrot peelings – all contain plenty of moisture. With the moister bin, we found we needed to add strips of phone book pages and toilet paper rolls to take up some of the moisture. The worms need the paper fiber as well and it all balances out. Incidentally, someone who uses a lot of air conditioning may actually have the opposite experience, where bringing it indoors will actually dry things out, so I guess the lesson here is just to pay attention to the moisture in your bin.
- I had very little trouble with flying critters in or near the bin. However I did experience a lot of flying things in my compost bowl on the counter, especially after we brought bananas into the house. Fruit flies, everywhere. We set a vinegar fruit fly trap and started using a plastic container with a lid. We also froze the remaining banana peels before composting them, and the fruit flies completely disappeared so we’re pretty sure that’s where they came in. By collecting spent coffee grounds and stale bread in a plastic container in the freezer, we also haven’t had to deal with mold. This was our first experience collecting compost indoors. Previous to this we just took it directly outside and tossed it past the trash cans to the general vicinity of the compost pile.
- We had a few ants and small snails on or in the bin when we first set it up outdoors. We set each leg of the bin into a yogurt tub of water, and that was the end of that.
I just checked in on the Miltons yesterday and the majority of them are still in the bottom bin finishing things up, but some are starting to move up into the second bin again. While I feel we suffered a setback with the loss of a tray and possibly a slow growth period during the summer heat, I’m thrilled to peek in to see so many happy worms doing their thing.
I couldn’t find much information on the life span of a red wiggler worm, but there’s a good chance many/most of the guys still in my bin today came from the initial stock. Just recently I have seen eggs and small worms as well, so I know some reproduction is starting to happen. Again, I believe mine to be off to a slow start so I might have had a lot more by now, but I’m pleased with what we have.
If you are interested in purchasing one for yourself or as a holiday gift, Growing a Greener World viewers and readers can take advantage of a special 10% off discount offered here.
In our next installment, we’ll check in with two lucky winners from our drawing in May and see how the Worm Factory 360 has performed for them this season!
- Do you raise worms? It is a homemade bin or storebought?
- What experiences have you had with odor or pests?
- Any special tips and tricks you’d like to share with someone just starting out?