Results of Worm Bin Experiment Using Dry Newspaper
In December I saw a YouTube video on how to prepare a worm bin using dry shredded newpaper. I had never heard of this before so I decided to try it. You can read that post here: Worm Bedding-Using Shredded Newspaper. After a little more than a month all the worm bedding is now moist from the worm’s excretions and the food scraps. And the newspaper that I put in under the worms to keep them from going into the dry shredded newspaper has deteriorated so that the worms can make their way down into the rest of the bin. The one thing I did notice is that the moist paper covering the worms dried out much more quickly so I had to spray that with water every day or so.
Once the worm bedding was all moist I went in and mixed it up and found that it was somewhat matted. So I pulled it apart to aerate the worm bin. As in all vermicompost bins, the bedding gets compacted and “shrinks” as the worms do their work. As they eat the food scraps and the bedding, the volume of the bedding gets smaller. So to maintain the volume in the bin during the worm composting process I will continue to add bedding until it gets to a point where I decide that is enough.
So when all the newspaper became moist I decided to add more. I shredded up more newspaper and tucked it in underneath what is already there. I will continue to add it dry so that it can become moist naturally from the worm composting process. The great thing about this process of using dry newspaper is that as the worm bin matures it won’t be as moist and wet. I will keep you posted as to how it goes as this worm bin matures. I am thinking that because I started with less moisture in the beginning that it won’t get to that point where it is “too” wet and I am frantically adding newspaper or cardboard to soak up the excess moisture.
Remember To Keep a Moist Area for the Red Worms
If you are new to worm composting you need to remember that the worms need to be in a moist environment to live. So if you use dry newspaper bedding you need to do one of two things:
1. You need to add a lot of worms at once, with the bedding that they came in with a lot of food scraps to create the moist environment for them to live. In the YouTube video she added 3 lbs of worms.
2. If you are adding fewer worms put down a layer of several sheets of moistened newspaper first and then add worms and food scraps. The moistened newspaper is like a ledge for them to live on until the shredded newspaper underneath becomes moistened.
Always cover the worms with a layer of moist newspaper. This can be a couple of sheets thick. You need to spray it every day or so to keep it moist.
Too Many Worms Can Make a Worm Bin Too Wet
It became very clear to me that when a worm bin gets too wet, it can possibly be because the worms have multiplied so much. Then there are just too many red wigglers for that amount of space. With my last bin that was too wet, it stabilized very nicely when I removed some of the worms and put them into a new bin. After I transferred the worms to a new bin, the old bin didn’t have the problem anymore of getting too wet.
Worm Bedding Too Wet
Sterlite 10 gal worm bin
This is about worm bedding-using shredded newspaper. Since I posted about a week ago, about my worm bedding being too wet, I have been transferring some worms to a new bin filled with shredded newspaper. The moisture situation has stabilized and I haven’t had to add any shredded paper since then. So there were just too many red worms in there for that size of worm bin. I would expect that eventually there will be too many worms for the bin because there are a lot of worm egg cocoons in there and the worms are mulitplying all the time. I have already given away worms because I had too many for my bin. For the new bin I am using a Sterlite 10 gallon opaque plastic bin that I bought at WalMart. It cost $3.97. Another good choice for a worm composting bin is a Rubbermaid 14 gallon container which I recently saw at KMart for $9.97. So it is possible to start vermicomposting without spending too much.
Using Dry Shredded Newspaper
When I learned to set up a worm bin I was taught to use moistened shredded newspaper-just wet enough so that if you squeeze it no water comes out. Just like a wrung out sponge. I found a video on Youtube about making a Rubbermaid worm bin composter. (The video uses music which gets too loud at the end but basically it has good information.) Dry shredded newspaper is used-this is the first time I have heard this. It makes sense because if you start with dry shredded newspaper then there is less moisture to start with and it will take a longer time until the worm bin is too wet. It just keeps that extra beginning moisture out of the bin. So I decided to experiment with this.
Will the worms die?
Worms covered with moistened newspaper in dry shredded newspaper
That is my big question. In the Youtube video she puts in 3 lbs of worms, with the peat moss they arrived in, along with lots of food scraps. So those worms have lots of moist space to move around in and don’t have to venture forth into the dry shredded newspaper. I didn’t have so many worms to begin with because I was slowly transferring them from another bin. So I put down a double layer of moistened newspaper, about 12 x 10 inches, to put the worms on with some of their previous bedding and food scraps. I did this so they wouldn’t fall down into the dry newspaper and get dried up–I’m not sure this would happen but I wanted that protection. After a week I have checked around in all the dry bedding and I don’t see any worms in it dead or alive which is what I expected. The dry bedding right under the worms is starting to get moist from the food scraps and the worm poop. And the moistened newspaper under them is starting to break down so I expect they will start venturing forth into the rest of the bin. One thing to watch out for is that the moistened newspaper covering the worms dries out quickly so you have to spray it almost every day. I also tried this in a much smaller bin and all the dry bedding is damp now so it works out great.
In this Worm Factory review I will address some of the problems that I encountered with it. It was the third method that I used for worm composting. In my Worm Factory I continually had to open it up to get the worms out of the bottom drainage level. They consistently ended up there. This is one reason why I hesitate to put drainage holes in a DIY worm bin because I know how red wigglers migrate out of drainage holes.
Though the Worm Factory is very compact and neat looking it does have some usability issues. It is a good practice to go into the worm bin about once a week and stir up the bedding and see how they are doing. This also aerates the worm bin which is a good thing. Worms need oxygen to live. With the Worm Factory it is hard to get into the bin to see how the worms are doing or to get them all out of the drainage tray:
You have to lift off the trays depending on how many you have.
When they are full they are heavy and I was never quite sure where to put them because a lot of worms would be hanging out the bottom and I didn’t want to squish them.
So if you have, say, 3 trays, you have to lift out two of them before you can see or work with the lowest level and to see what is happening in the bottom tray. This is important because the weight of all the upper trays compresses the lower tray so there is not so much available oxygen. Sometimes my lower tray wouldn’t smell so good because of a lack of plentiful oxygen. I would always mix up the compost in the lower bin to oxygenate it.
Then you need to remove the lowest tray to get the worms out of the bottom. There were always lots of worms in the bottom where the spigot is. I would put layers and layers of newspaper in the lowest tray to block them from going into the drainage tray but they still managed to get down there. I don’t know what attracted them there. Maybe there were a lot of bacteria down there?? Maybe they didn’t have enough oxygen in the tray above because it was so compressed by the weight of the trays above it. But they were always there and I had to scoop them out and put them into another working tray.
Some ads say that “worm tea” collects in the bottom where the spigot is. It is not worm tea but leachate. It is the liquid that leaches through the worm bin and depending on the status of your worm bin it could contain harmful substances for plants. Worm tea is the liquid from soaking finished worm compost in water for a day or two. Read more at these links about leachate turning leaves yellow and the difference between worm tea and worm leachate.
- Using Worm Bin Leachate
- Difference Between Worm Tea and Leachate
I will continue with my review of the Worm Factory in my next post. Please bear in mind these are my personal experiences with the Worm Factory and certainly on Amazon there are good reviews, also.