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Worm Bin Troubles

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by LandOfOz on October 05, 2006 10:22 PM
Okay, my worm bin is giving me troubles again. Here is the problem--worms are escaping! I'm not sure what the trouble is--it is damp, I keep them fed, and I've got probably a 10-12 inch deep bedding of newspaper and cardboard. Is the bedding too deep? Also, I've got a lot of fungus/mold in there, could that be causing problems? I went through today and thoroughly stirred the bedding, added some chopped lettuce and smashed some clumps of starbucks coffee that I put in a few weeks ago that was blue . I also sprayed some water in there, just to moisten it a little extra. Any suggestions?? [thinker]

Thanks,
Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by SpringFever on October 06, 2006 02:18 AM
Try maybe removing some of the bedding and adding some new??
I was told to keep the bedding right up to the top at all times to continue adding to it Keep it mixed in.. [dunno]
How are they getting out?

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by LandOfOz on October 06, 2006 02:45 AM
Rita, how deep is your bin? My bin is a rubbermaid box, probably 2 feet deep. I had read that red wigglers only feed on the top 2-3inches of materials and that you don't want your bedding too deep. [thinker] Such contradictions really are making me wonder. This is the bin I used--I drilled holes all around the top and bottom and it is the bottom where they are getting out. They are crawling all over the sides and lid as well. Thanks for your reply!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Patty S on October 06, 2006 02:50 AM
I stopped putting coffee grounds in my worm bin, because it always ended up turning blue & fuzzy!

My worms were also finding their way up to the brim of the bins, by the lid, for a while! [dunno] I just kept knocking them back down in (& made sure they landed down under the shredded paper). After I took out all the stuff that didn't seem to be breaking down very fast, I moistened it up real well... they stayed down & stopped crawling back up to the top.

Do you have a solid layer of newspaper across the top of your pile of bedding? The instructions on mine say to do that, & to put a new one in when it starts falling apart. (Don't know why.) Every once in a while I get a sheet of newspaper that just turns brown after a month or so (looks like it's scorched), but doesn't seem to break down much. [dunno] When that happens, I take it out & replace it.

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by LandOfOz on October 06, 2006 03:01 AM
I don't have a wet, solid piece of newspaper over the top-but I'll put on today. Maybe that will help? [dunno]

I've got so much of this white-rooty fungus stuff in there, could that be the problem?

Most of the food seems to breaking down quite readily, it's mostly just been chopped up romaine lettuce and some tomato ends. Maybe they're just tired of the same-ol', same-ol' menu? [Big Grin]

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Patty S on October 06, 2006 03:33 AM
I really don't know about the white-rooty fungus stuff, Sarah, but I don't think that should be happening. Try calling your county extension office & ask if they have someone there who knows about worm bins. (The guy in our extension office who's in charge of that is in the recycle division, where they sell compost bins.)

[teacher] He told me that the worms don't actually "eat" the food... the enzymes that break the food down, is what their diet consists of. (And I guess they're not fussy about what they "eat", cuz they don't live long enough to get finicky!)

Just make sure that you don't put large chunks of stuff in there (like carrots or wedges of fruit/veggies)... they break down too slowly, & only invite fruit flies.

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by SpringFever on October 06, 2006 03:34 AM
I have the same system.. Jonnie13 Tina said to keep it full of the shredded news paper and turn regular ... put a damp piece of Cardboard on top [dunno] How old is your system? I only add food stuff to mine every couple weeks cause I don't have sooo many worms as of yet.

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by LandOfOz on October 06, 2006 04:00 AM
Well, I called my extension office and, of course, the lady was out of the office! I just recently (a month or more ago) moved the worms into a fresh box because they had used up all of the bedding in the new one. There isn't a lot of broken down stuff, but there is some, they seemed to be "eating" everything just fine. I don't have many worms either--I started with just 1/4 lb of them, but there was a lot more when I put them in a new bedding. I have noticed a decrease in their numbers recently, not a good sign, huh? With all the bedding that I've got in there, it seems to compact fairly quickly, like every 2 weeks or so. Has anyone else noticed this?

Thanks for the help guys, hopefully I won't kill off all the worms!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by melcon6 on October 06, 2006 10:59 AM
Sarah, I read somewhere that if the worms are trying to get out there is a problem with your system. I think you may have a combinations of problems, or maybe a chain reaction of problems. For one thing, don't give them too many tomatoes, and for now , I wouldn't give them ANY tomatoes. They are too acidic. Same goes for oranges and grapefruit and other citrus. And give them a little more variety in their , not just the lettuce.

Second thing, you may have overfed them and they couldn't keep up with the food supply. Don't put too much in the bin until you get more worms growing in there. Wait until they've eaten through one load and broken it down some before adding more food. I add a pot's worth of coffee grounds each day when the bin is in the house and I think grounds are very good , they need a certain amount of "grit" in their diet. Did you add a little soil when you did the last bedding change???

As far as the bedding, keep adding as it goes down. Only add enough water to make it slightly damp in there, wait a couple days before adding more water, and only if it's needed. I think it's normal for your bedding to have dropped in a week's time. Do you shred the newspaper thin enough and fluff it??? My strips are about 1" wide .

The white fungus root stuff could actually be sprouts. I have that all the time from little cantaloupe seedlings that sprout in there. They are just a really long white root with a couple stunted leaves on them , from no light I imagine.

Hope I helped a little, you just reminded me, I need to be cleaning out my worm bin!!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY CINDY!!!!!!!
by daylily77 on October 06, 2006 01:03 PM
If they're trying to escape the problem could be that it's too wet, also.
by LandOfOz on October 06, 2006 09:17 PM
I didn't know about tomatoes, I'll stop putting them in there. I always check to make sure they've eaten all their food before adding more. They only get fed every few weeks. I did add some dirt to the bin when I changed it.

My strips are a quarter inch wide--I just put everything through the paper-shredder.

My local extension agent called me back last night. She said that the fungus stuff it real common and not to worry about it. She mentioned that it may be too wet and to add some dry paper too it, but I really don't think's too wet. I can squeeze the paper and it leaves my hand slightly damp. I added a whole newspaper section to the top of the bin and damped it up. Hopefully that will even out the moisture in there. She also said to keep it about 1/2 full of bedding.

I wonder, do you think that it matters that I don't have a lot of worms in there? WOuld this work better with more worms? 'Cause if I need more, I should order them before it starts getting cold here...

Thanks for all the tips everyone!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Patty S on October 06, 2006 11:56 PM
I can't remember what I read about the reproduction rate of Red Wigglers, but it's pretty fast! I do seem to recall that healthy worms can reproduce in as few as 3 weeks!

You might want to read through this topc from earlier this year: "Let's talk about worms".

Here's another link to some pretty interesting stuff... (it might help you "bond" with your little sweeties!) [grin] All you ever wanted to know about worms but were afraid to ask!

Mel, when I added dirt to my bin, I ended up with earwigs & slugs in my bins, & had to clean it all out & start over... and I mean that I had to wash EACH worm! It took ALL DAY!  -
Apparently, there was larve or eggs... or whatever, from those things, in the dirt! When I asked the worm guy at our Extension office about that, he said, "NEVER do that, cuz that's one of the things that can happen!" (I guess I should have asked first!) [Roll Eyes]

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by LandOfOz on October 07, 2006 12:03 AM
Then what do you put in your bin? You've got to have something grainy for their gizzards...

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Patty S on October 07, 2006 11:59 PM
Crushed (dried) egg shells.
My booklet says that egg shells also help with the pH balance.

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by LandOfOz on October 09, 2006 10:45 PM
I checked on my worms this morning and found that there were only 2 little guys wandering around on the sides of the box and there were no dead ones underneath! WOOHOO! The only thing I did was adding the wet newspaper to the top. Maybe without the covering it was too bright or airy? Anyway, I'm so happy to have happy worms again!

Thanks for helping me, Patty, Rita, and Mel!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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