How to keep worms in compost piles healthy

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  • samshancn
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History of vermifilter toilet and wikipedia article

Dear all,

Vermifilter toilets are conceptually good. But in practice, we need to give the worms a healthy and balanced environment for them to survive and thrive. I put worms in my compost piles. But from time to time I found worms number became less and less. My compost piles are not the hot ones. I keep them around 35 degrees centigrade. The nitrogen source comes from food wastes and the carbon materials are fallen leaves. There is no leak liquid and no odorous anaerobic blocks. My location is in the 23.5°N-40°N and the piles are shedded well. In my opinion, the primary thing is to keep the worms there before let them work for us.

Sam Shan
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Re: History of vermifilter toilet and wikipedia article

Hi Sam,
If you are continually adding materials (food wastes and fallen leaves) then the worms should stay in your compost because they have an ongoing food source. With batch compost heaps there is a food source "window of opportunity" for the compost worms, once that is passed they migrate away.
In a vermifilter toilet, because the food source is constant (unless you stop flushing), the population grows and stabilises at the right level according to the quantity of food (feces, toilet paper etc) being provided. Provided the conditions are appropriate (oxygen, moisture, not too hot or cold) the worm population will be stable.
cheers
Dean
Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Vermifilter.com
www.vermifilter.com
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Re: History of vermifilter toilet and wikipedia article

Hi Dean,

Thank you very much. I'll follow your advice and try again in my next experiments. I bought red worms and put them in the food waste bin one day and found they escaped from it the next day. I put them back again and added more dried leaves. I reckon they didn't like the new environment. The bin occasionally emitted some filthy odor. When I smelt the odor, Would replace the contents.

It might be the replacement that resulted in the loss of the worms. What should I do when I replace the contents and retain the worms inside?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Sam Shan
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Re: History of vermifilter toilet and wikipedia article

Hi Sam,
worms migrate away if their food source isn't appropriate. They don't eat food waste until it is decomposing. They feed on the bacteria that are digesting the waste. Start your compost, keep adding more food waste and only later add the worms. They will stay if they like it... but make sure water drains away and make sure there is ventilation so the vegetation doesn't decompose anaerobically.
cheers
Dean
Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Vermifilter.com
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Re: How to keep worms in compost piles healthy

Hi Dean,

Thank you very much for your reply.

The compost bin is porous on the side walls and the ventilation is good. The food wastes are buried in dry leaves. There is no surplus water in the compost bin as I drain the food wastes before I put them in. Of course, the food wastes contain some liquid in themselves.

I do often turn the contents up and down to ensure the decomposition process takes place evenly and no odor emits out of the bin.

I'll put the worms later after the food wastes have decomposed. But I may have another problem. How can I retrieve the worms from the batch of mixture of food wastes and dry leaves ? I want to retain the worms.

Best regards,

Sam Shan
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  • AjitSeshadri
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Re: How to keep worms in compost piles healthy

Dear Samshancn.
It is nice to note that you are introducing worms to food wastes in partly composted condition.
In one of my earlier posts( pl refer the data as to why worms prefer fully digested bio matter).

As you keep adding the newer input, in one portion, the worms would move to that region in an auto mode.
ie When the bio matter is fully digested, the worms would leave, leaving behind the fully digested matter.

This matter is drawn to the farther region of the pit or tank, and the matter can be removed to another pit and left to dry, cure and mature for 2 to 3 dys.

You would note there will be no worms. The bio - matter is seived and any worms if remaining not likely, can be removed and put in the on going process portion of the pit.

The compost would appear to be like " tea leaves "
Also when fresh bio matter is added to the pit you would note that the temperature of the matter, would raise in that region due to bio- methanation process, this space is not good for worms and due to heat, there could be some worms lost, Hence have a poker thermometer is kept handy to observe this phenomenon. Worms always prefer cooler and aerated envrnmnt.
Worms generally used are namely sp. Esonia fortida.

Pl feel free to share your experiences Etc..
With Well wishes.
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Environment Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others) Chennai, India
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Re: How to keep worms in compost piles healthy

Hi Mr. Ajit Seshadri,

Thank you very much for your comments. I am not a vermi-composting specialist myself. I visited some worm farms and saw people raise healthy worms successfully. I like your point that worms prefer digested bio matters. This makes great sense in the experiments. As a matter of fact, I put fresh vegetable ends and fruit peels or food leftover in the pile. Probably worms don't like them at first.

I am now researching on the kitchen wastes treatment. I thought worms would be helpful in the composting processes, especially as an odor control measure. But in reality, they ran away from the pile or bin. Anaerobic smell and heat accumulation may be the reasons. However, in order to keep the worms in, I used fruit crates instead of large containers. Fruit crates have many open holes on the sides and bottom, which help ventilate the organic matters in the bin, and keep the contents from generating much heat.

The worm farms make use of digested cattle dung to feed the worms in the open. Nevertheless, kitchen wastes are composed of fresh vegetable ends or food wastes. They are probably not good feeds for worms. Besides, the compost bin is usually placed in the kitchen. Thus smell control is crucial. The ideal time length for a batch of food wastes in the bin is about 2 weeks. Frequent changes of the contents are a nuisance.

I prefer using sieves to separate the worms from the compost if they are still alive. Last year, in a big pile, I found worms living healthily in the circumventing areas. But in a small bin, it is hard for them to survive.

Thank you again for your sharing.

Stay home and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sam Shan
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Re: How to keep worms in compost piles healthy

Dear Sam Chan,

I thank you for your detailed reply, to my DIY steps on vermi-composting process.

One needs to study the happenings, each day ( or sessions), there are books from which you can get the process, and all details.
The half digested cattle dung when fed to the worms in the open, serve as a energiser to the worms.
The kitchen wastes are consist of fresh vegetable ends or food wastes, when they are more than half digested are fed to the worms.

You can maintain the ideal time length of 3 to 4 weeks for a batch of food wastes in the bin, the changes are done in more modulated way ie the new matter ( 1/2 digested veg wastes) are put in a 2 day loads, on either left or right side of the bin, keep pushing the digested matter to the other side, and in the farther most portion ie opposite to the inlet zone, the matter would be getting fully digested, the worms will vacate to the nearby region, as no longer they possess nutrients Etc.

With a spreader or a flat spoon, fully digested matter is removed, and left in open for a 1-2 days and final compost is seived and removed.
A lot of care needs to be taken for the well being of the worms. If in open, direct sunlight / rain- water is avoided, take care of birds especially crows prying the vermi- beds.

well wishes,
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Environment Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others) Chennai, India
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