Easy Worm Mix Bins Update

July 8, 2015

It’s been quite some time since I wrote about my “Easy Worm Mix Test Bin(s)”. At the end of April I made a video showing how I “split” the bin, leaving me with two separate systems. Then, in May, I wrote about (on my Red Worm Composting website) using grass thatch as a “living material” in the systems. (See “Grass Thatch as a Living Material” and “Grass Thatch Vermicomposting – Update”.)

After that, I basically just left the bins to sit, without any further feeding for about a month! As I mention in the video, when you are using an enclosed plastic bin system, as long as you have plenty of bedding materials, and keep the bin in a location with moderate temperatures, the worm population can continue to thrive for months.

Towards the end of the video, I show just how well the worm population has done – even with my neglect.

Don’t underestimate the “power” of

Easy Worm Mix FAQ

May 16, 2015

I put this FAQ together to address some of the common (and occasional) questions that people have about Easy Worm Mix. I will likely add more questions and answers over time.

I highly recommend that you also refer to the Easy Worm Mix Guide.




Are there worms in Easy Worm Mix, or do I need to purchase them separately?


Yes – this is a Red Worm culture intended to start up a new worm composting system. Each bag of Easy Worm Mix has at least 250 Red Worms in it. The habitat material comes from active systems (and will already have some worms and likely cocoons in it) and 250 worms are hand-counted and added as well.


What kind of worms are in Easy Worm Mix? Are there different kinds?


The worms in Easy Mix are Red Worms (aka “Red Wigglers”) – Eisenia fetida/andrei (two very closely related worms that commonly occur in mixed populations). It is very unlikely that you will end up with any other types of worms in your mix.


How is the “New” Easy Worm Mix (2018) Different from the Original Easy Worm Mix?


My original Easy Worm Mix was concentrated worm-rich material. It contained loads of worms (and cocoons) but there was never any attempt to determine the exact numbers of worms. The guarantee was simply that it would start up a typical home vermicomposting system very effectively. I sold this mix in a single, larger bag (12-16 litres of material).

The new EWM comes in smaller bags. It still contains rich habitat material with worms (and likely cocoons) already in it – but there are also 250 hand-counted Red Worms added. This adds some standardization, and the smaller bags will likely be easier to work with.


How many worms are in this mix?


As outlined in the previous response, you can expect that there are at least 250 Red Worms in each bag – since the base habitat material the bags are filled with already has worms/cocoons in it, and 250 additional worms are then added as well.

This is an ideal mix for starting up a new worm bin, for stocking an outdoor composter (as long as it has been prepped for vermicomposting), for starting various “vermigardening” systems, and even for helping to “fix” an active vermicomposting system that isn’t performing very well (but in this case, please make sure to provide me with details so we can determine what’s causing the problems before the mix gets added).


Is there a pound of worms in this mix?


NO – absolutely not. For one thing, these tend to be fairly small worms – but even 250-300 large Red Worms would not weigh 1 lb. Easy Worm Mix is what you could call a “nursery mix”. There are lots of smaller worms (and cocoons). Their total biomass won’t add up to much when you first receive them – but their “future potential” is substantial. I recommend two bags of EWM for best results – but even a single bag could be used to start up a new worm bin quite effectively.


How much mix do I get?


Each of the new Easy Worm Mix bags will likely contain between 3 and 4 litres of worm-rich material.


I am looking for good fishing worms. Is Easy Worm Mix a good choice for me?


Yes and no. Yes, I would recommend the mix to anyone with an interest in starting up their own bins so they can raise their own worms for fishing. But NO, a bag of Easy Worm Mix is not ideally suited for being taken fishing and then the worms used for bait.

These are pretty small Red Worms for the most part. If you want to grow them to a good “fishing size” I recommend using no more than one bag of the mix per bin (spacing is important for growth), and also recommend boosting their nutrition in various ways – such as supplementing their feeding with aged manure, chick starter feed etc.


Can I add Easy Worm Mix to my garden?


It’s very important to realize that Red Worms are NOT really soil worms, like most of your typical “garden varieties”. They are what’s known as an “epigeic” species – earthworms that live very close to (often above) the soil surface in rich deposits of organic matter.

The good news is that you CAN still use Easy Worm Mix in your garden, but you’ll need to create an optimized environment for the Red Worms in order to gain the maximum potential benefit.

I’ve had great success with various “in situ” composting systems – that is, composting systems that are actually located right in (or beside) my gardens – such as vermicomposting trenches and “Worm Towers”.

Be sure to check out this blog post for more information:
Gardening With Composting Worms


Can I use Easy Worm Mix in a backyard composter?


YES, absolutely! This is actually a fantastic way to put this mix to good use. But you DO need to make sure the system is set up properly! The good news is that your chances of success using Easy Worm Mix are likely higher than when you purchase bulk composting worms, since the mix contains lots of valuable starter habitat/food, plus plenty of beneficial composting organisms.

Check out this blog post to learn more:
Backyard Composting with Worms


I’ve read that releasing worms outdoors can impact local forest ecosystems. Should I be concerned with these worms?


In some locations, especially where native worm populations were not previously present, certain earthworm species are indeed creating problems. This can commonly be linked to fishermen dumping out their bait worm containers in remote fishing locations.

It’s important to not make sweeping generalizations about this, however (i.e all worms are “invasive” or just generally “bad for the environment”). In the scientific literature there isn’t any documentation (that I know of) implicating Eisenia sp worms (those typically used for vermicomposting – and ones we sell) as harmful. Some have included them on “watch lists”, but in my humble opinion this is a case of “throwing out the baby with the bath water”. Eisenia worms are adapted for life in habitats containing very rich organic wastes, so you’ll very rarely even find them in the “wild”. They certainly aren’t voracious forest leaf litter consumers (unlike some of the Lumbricus species). They are usually closely associated with human habitation – eg on farms, or in compost heaps in urban settings.

If you liked to learn more about this, you may want to read an article I posted on my other website:
Do Composting Worms Pose a Threat as Invasive Species?


I’m not seeing many worms. Is this mix going to work?


Absolutely! You just need to follow my instructions and hold yourself back from trying to do too much too soon (the new vermicomposter curse). As touched on earlier, this is what I refer to as a “nursery mix”. In other words, there are loads of smaller worms – many almost invisible when covered in habitat material – plus cocoons (which release an average of 3 new Red Worms each), along with quite a few adults. The mix is taken from from specialized beds, where there is more emphasis on worm numbers (and reproduction) than worm size.

You are also receiving a good quantity of what I like to refer to as “living material” (containing countless beneficial composting organisms). This alone will greatly assist the process.


Can I set up a bin like you did in the Easy Worm Mix Guide and leave it outside?


Generally, I don’t recommend keeping enclosed plastic bin systems outdoors since they don’t offer much of a buffer against weather extremes.

If the bin ever receives direct sunlight, especially during summer months, temperatures inside could potentially climb past the acceptable range (of about 30-34 C), and the worms could end up dying since they wouldnt have a cooler location to escape to.

Similarly, during periods where temps are below the freezing mark, a small plastic bin would offer virtually no protection, and the contents would likely freeze solid. This would obviously kill the worms as well.

All that being said – as long as you keep the system in a protected (shaded, and just generally sheltered) location, you should do OK. And also don’t forget what I said earlier about the potential of backyard composters (and various other options) as well.


Easy Worm Mix Blog Posts
(Please note that these were written about the original Easy Worm Mix – but they are still relevant for anyone using the new mix)

NEW – Easy Worm Mix!
Easy Worm Mix Bin Update
Straw Bale Gardening with Easy Worm Mix?
Feeding My Easy Worm Mix System
Splitting The Easy Worm Mix Test Bin


Have any additional questions about Easy Worm Mix? Please feel free to email me any time!

Feeding My Easy Worm Mix System

April 10, 2015

As promised, I shot a new video today showing how I am “optimizing” my food wastes and adding them to the Easy Worm Mix system (again, the one used as an example in the Easy Worm Mix Guide).

It shows my basic chopping process and how I mix the wastes with “living materials” already in the system (remember, Easy Worm Mix comes with a lot of this) to help accelerate the break down process even more.

Based on the success of this system I will actually be showing you how to “split a bin” next week (be sure to look for that post – and other updates – on the blog if you are reading this at a later time). This will leave me with TWO thriving vermicomposting systems – all started from a single bag of Easy Worm Mix!

Easy Worm Mix Bin Update

April 9, 2015

Yesterday (April 8th) I shot a video showing how my Easy Worm Mix bin (the one used as an example in the Easy Worm Mix Guide) is coming along.

Since starting it up on March 16th, I have fed the bin twice, not including the food added when I set up the system:
March 27th – 1.54 kg (3.40 lb)
April 5th – 1.60 kg (3.53 lb)

I plan to feed again tomorrow.

For a brand new enclosed plastic tub worm bin, these are pretty impressive numbers.

Speaking of “impressive numbers”, if you watch the video you`ll be able to get a feel for the sheer quantity of worms in the system. Easy Worm Mix might not look like much fresh out of the bag, but it`s important to remember that a lot of the Red Worms come as tiny hatchlings, and unhatched cocoons (each of these releases an average of 3 babies), and these worms grow quickly when you provide them with the right environment.

Plus, the “living material” that comes in the mix, when mixed in with optimized food wastes (chopped up really well, and frozen-then-thawed), greatly accelerates the process. There is no real lag time between when the food is added and when the worms start moving into it and actively feeding.

During my quick exploration yesterday I kept hitting on incredibly dense pockets of worms in my most recent feeding zone.


Tomorrow I plan to shoot a video showing exactly how I am adding food to the system.

Stay tuned!
😎

NEW – Easy Worm Mix!

April 8, 2015

Over the last few years we’ve been selling composting worms in the form of some sort of “mix”, rather than by the “pound” or “count”. This year I’ve decided to stream-line things even further by offering a single “Easy Worm Mix” (EWM). As the name implies, this is meant as a really EASY way to start up a typical home (or school etc) vermicomposting system.

Rather than adding a big gob of worms to a fairly sterile, foreign – potentially even hostile – environment, you are introducing loads of worms and cocoons (present in densities much closer to what nature intended) along with a large quantity of beneficial-microbe-rich habitat/food material that will help to kick-start your system. This virtually guarantees your success (if you stick to the guidelines)! And you also won’t need to pay nearly as much for it.

To demonstrate just how “EASY” working with EWM is, I set up a worm bin using 1 bag of it back on March 16th. I included the set-up procedure in the Easy Worm Mix Guide, but will share it here as well.

It’s important to note that the bin being used is a simple plastic (Rubbermaid) tub, with a volume of about 58 litres. The basic approach will still apply to other types of systems, but you may need to tweak your methods a bit (be sure to check out the guide for more info).


STEP 1 – Fill 1/2 to 3/4 of the volume with moistened bedding materials. My favorite is shredded corrugated cardboard, but for the sake of speed, I used mostly shredded newsprint for this particular bin (and it is a great bedding material as well).

Normally I recommend “as moist as you can get it without pooling on the bottom of the bin” (this assumes no drainage of course). When using Easy Worm Mix this is less of an issue because it has excellent water-holding capacity. Obviously you don’t want a deep puddle in the bottom of your bin, but if your nicely moistened bedding does create a bit of pooling down there this is not an issue at all.


STEP 2 – Add about 1/4 the volume (i.e. in relation to bedding that is) of well-optimized food scraps. These should be chopped up really well and (ideally) frozen-then-thawed. Anything you can do to help out the microbes and worms is highly recommended. Bulky, fresh scraps will take MUCH longer to break down, and can lead to other hassles such as fruit fly (etc) outbreaks.

Mix the scraps in with the bedding so they are well distributed throughout the bin.

STEP 3 – Now it’s time to add the Easy Worm Mix. Just so you know, a bag of the Easy Mix contains about 10 litres of worm-rich material. Remember, it’s definitely NOT about worm weight – especially since many of the worms are hatchlings or are still in cocoons – but be assured that you will end up with plenty of worms. Plus you have a lot of very helpful “living material”, which helps to inoculate the system with beneficial microbes, and just generally helps to kickstart the vermicomposting process.

Adding the mix is very EASY (lol). Just dump it on top, then very gently mix in down into the bedding/food.


STEP 4 – Lastly, I recommend adding a thick layer of dry bedding up top. This helps to keep the upper zone fairly dry (encouraging worms to stay down in the composting zone), and also provides you with an ongoing supply of bedding (assuming you keep it topped up) that can be mixed with the new food deposits as you go.


I wanted to also quickly show everyone the sort of air holes I now put in my plastic bins. I used to drill lots of holes in the lids and sides of my bins, but I’ve found that adding bigger (but far fewer) holes greatly enhances air flow. This is really important for the process, and helps to prevent your bin from getting too swampy over time (the thick dry bedding layer up top can help with this as well).


So there you have it!

As you can see, setting up a system with Easy Worm Mix is indeed incredibly EASY! No more need to set up the system ahead of time (I normally recommend 5-7 days), no more need to inoculate the system (with materials from another worm bin, composter etc), and no more worries about whether or not your worms are going to try escaping en masse (they won’t – unless you include worm-unfriendly materials in the system).

My recommendation – as with all new systems – is to leave the bin to sit for a week or so before starting to feed again. This allows the worms time to get settled in and to feed on the food you’ve already added.


My own system (one pictured above) is doing extremely well so far. I will provide an update in another blog post very soon (may actually be multiple updates by the time you read this post, so be sure to check out the blog links on the main homepage).

Composting Worm Mix Critters

May 24, 2014

Here is a video I created for my other website (Red Worm Composting), but with “Composting Worm Mix” customers in mind. A lot of people have wondered about the springtails in particular, so hopefully this will help!

In general, as stated in the video, most of the organisms you find in a worm composting system should NOT be a cause for major concern. If you are seeing huge numbers of any particular creature it is likely an indication that the system is out of balance. The one exception I can think of is the springtails – I often have HUGE numbers of them even in really well-optimized systems (like my Worm Inn Mega system for example – will write more about that very soon).

Sorry there is not audio for the video. I decided it was more important to get the video finished and released than to take extra time to add voice narration (I knew music would be too risky, since people have a huge range of tastes).

Hopefully you find it interesting/helpful!

Euro-Red Mix in a Stacking Worm Bin

May 29, 2013

It’s been said (even by yours truly, in the past) that European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) are not well suited for life in stacking worm bins – or really, any other sort of “flow-through” type system.

If you follow the Red Worm Composting blog, you’ll know that my assumptions about this worm species have, however, changed quite a lot in just the past 6 months (be sure to check out “European Nightcrawlers – In More Detail” if you haven’t already)!

I recently resumed my testing of the use of Euros in my “Worm Factory” system – a project I had started last year, but ended up discontinuing prematurely due to lack of space (among other things). I set up with first tray with shredded (drink tray) cardboard bedding, food waste, and some very-well-aged horse manure, then stocked it with two bags of our Euro-Red Mix.


IMPORTANT UPDATE (SPRING 2015) – We are now selling “Easy Worm Mix”, which only contains Red Worms. You can learn more (and place orders) on the following pages:
Shipped Order Pricing
Pick-up Order Pricing


A little over a week later (this past Saturday), I continued to plow right ahead by adding a second tray (set up in a similar manner to the first). This definitely isn’t how quickly I would recommend adding the second tray in a system like this – probably better to actually let it go for a month or two – but I’m very eager to see how readily the Euros will move up in the bin. They are known for being deep diving, moisture-loving worms – which is why many have suggested they are not ideal for vertical migration systems – so, in theory, they should all remain down in the first tray, while the Red Worms move up.

What’s funny, though, is that I’m really only finding Euros in the second tray so far – and it actually seems as though quite a few have already moved up!

Just goes to show that you should never make ASSumptions about composting worms. I’ve been at this for more than 13 years now, and I am STILL surprised (and re-educated) on a regular basis!

That being said, I should mention that in my larger, single-compartment flow-through system (called the “VermBin48”), the Euros seem to be living up to their reputation as deep divers. I had to install a “skirt” and catch-tray system in order to avoid losing worms out the bottom of the bin. It will be very interesting to see how things progress in the VB48 over time though. Once the false bottom has completely rotted out and the lower zone dries out quite a bit, there may end up being far fewer of the worms down near the bottom.


I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on both (stacking bin & VB48) fronts!

Backyard Composting with Worms

May 24, 2013

For some reason, not a lot of people associate backyard composters with vermicomposting. It’s a shame, really, because composting worms can offer a fantastic way to speed things up, and to improve the quality of compost produced in these systems.

In most cases, these bins are NOT really “hot (thermophilic) composting” since they don’t have the critical mass required for sustained heating (typically ~ 1 cu yard or more, assuming proper C to N ratio of materials). They tend to be closer to the “mesophilic” range of temps a lot of the time, and decomposition processes inside tend to occur more slowly as a result.

People often don’t really use them properly either. A lot of the time they seem to be ignored altogether, or basically used as garbage cans for random deposits of resistant organic matter.

Even the “Compost Guy” has been guilty of this more often than he’d like to admit! Below are images showing one of my neglected systems (before and after the bin was lifted away).


Well, today it’s time to turn over a new leaf (lol), and show you how you can convert your sad, underperforming backyard composter into a lean, mean vermicomposting machine!

Here are some of the KEY things to keep in mind:

1) We need to establish a high quality composting worm habitat BEFORE we try introducing the worms. You can’t just add them to a dry, neglected composter filled with old sod and sticks and expect them to turn everything into black gold!

As such…

2) LOTS of (fairly inert) “bedding” materials need to be added, especially early on.

In the same vein…

3) We need to avoid adding too much N-rich “food” material initially, since it can cause everything to overheat (among other potential problems).

4) Ongoing watering will be VERY important – especially if you are using a wooden bin. Adding lots of water-rich food waste will help, but periodic showers from your watering can will likely be needed as well. Taking off the lid during rainy weather can certainly help too.


Here are some of the supplies I used for my set-up:

1) Newsprint – used to lay across the bottom of my pit (more on that in a minute)

2) Moistened, shredded cardboard – represents a significant percentage of the initial habitat.

3) Bag of mixed compostable kitchen scraps – I want the worms to have at least some food available early on.

4) Well-aged horse manure – this is pretty well the “ultimate” vermicomposting material. It’s what I would call a “living material” since it is full of beneficial microscopic (and macroscopic) composting organisms. It provides excellent habitat AND food value, without the risk of excess heating, ammonia release etc. It should come from a heap that has sat outside, exposed to the elements, for at least a couple of months. It should be dark in colour and smell earthy. Bagged manure from a garden centre is definitely NOT the same thing!

Other “living materials” include old, rotten leaf mulch, and really old grass clippings (again earthy smells we’re after – not bad smelling stuff).

5) Worms of course! If you are fairly new to all this, you might want to set things up and leave everything to age for a week or two before adding the worms. Since I know what I’m doing, and since I had plenty of beautiful aged horse manure on hand – I felt totally comfortable with adding the worms on the day of set-up.


The first thing I recommend doing when setting up a backyard composter for vermicomposting is to dig a decent sized pit down below where the bin will sit. This will offer the worms a cooler/warmer zone (likely with higher moisture levels as well) they can retreat to during weather extremes. If you live some place that gets really cold and/or hot, you should dig at least a foot down – just make sure the diameter of the hole is smaller than that of the base of your composter!


Lining the hole is optional – but I decided to do so this time around to help keep things somewhat contained, and to hopefully increase moisture levels down below. If you live in an area with moles you may want to go all out, with something like thick landscape fabric.

NOTE: Some people might assume this is done to avoid having the worms escape into the soil (one of the concerns people seem to have about backyard vermicomposting in general). It’s important to keep in mind that the worms being used are composting worms. They are specialized for life in deposits of rich organic matter (they are not soil worms). So they will be more than happy to stick around if you give them what they need.


Next, I filled the hole with moistened, shredded cardboard, aged manure, and food waste – before mixing everything up really well.





I happened to have some rock dust on hand so I added some of that as well. This is optional, but if you happen to have some ag lime (or dolomitic lime), you may want to sprinkle some of that in as well. I next watered everything down thoroughly.



Next, it was time to add the composting worms. In this case it was probably the equivalent of 3 bags of “Euro-Red Mix”.


IMPORTANT UPDATE (SPRING 2015) – We are now selling Easy Worm Mix. It does not contain any European Nightcrawlers.


I simply dumped them on top and let them move down on their own (did so quite quickly so as to get away from the light). This is an ideal application for the Euros since they tend to do very well in larger systems that are not being disturbed regularly. Red worms will of course thrive in this type of environment as well!


Next it was time for even more aged manure, more bedding, and more water.




I then put the bin over top…before adding…

…more aged manure
…some semi-aged grass clippings (if you are new to this I recommend waiting until the habitat zone is well-established before adding any – and NEVER mix them in)
…and some straw over top to help keep moisture in.


Finally, I lay an old towel over the top and soaked in down. This helps to keep moisture while also helping with the evaporative cooling effect.


It’s important to note how low in the bin the level of materials was left. This was especially important given the fact that I was adding the worms the same day. If you plan to fill the bin with lots of materials at once, you should definitely leave it to sit for at least 1-2 weeks, and only add worms once temperatures have dropped down below 30 C or so.

The advantage of primarily focusing on creating a high quality habitat zone early on is that we won’t need to be nearly as concerned about what we are adding moving forward. As long as the worms have a safe zone they can stay down in, you can get away with adding a wider variety of materials (and more of them) than would be recommended for a typical worm bin.


I should mention that this post was partially inspired by the following video:

It’s fairly long, and it can be difficult to understand what Mick is saying at times, but it’s well worth watching if this is a topic of interest!


I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on how my system is doing this summer – and will be exploring various related topics (including what protective measures we can take as winter approaches) here as well!

My Winter Worm Bed

February 23, 2010

Winter Worm Bed
The ‘Winter Worm Windrow’ is doing very well – hoping to start harvesting worms from it soon!


Howdy folks – it’s been ages since my last blog post! Sorry about that.

I just wanted to write a little about my winter worm composting bed. Those of you who follow my other sites may already know that I’ve been testing out various (outdoor) winter worm composting systems for the last few years. For whatever reason, I get a kick out of challenging myself in this manner, and it’s certainly been fun!

After a fairly rocky start (primarily due to letting things slide over the holiday season), my windrow bed has definitely made a nice comeback! Temperatures in the middle of bed have been up over 20 C for the better part of a month now. When I dug around in the bed a few days ago I was happy to see that the Red Worm population appears to be thriving as well.

Red Worms

I am hoping to start harvesting worms from the bed fairly soon, so if you are interested in ordering some worms (or have been on my waiting list), you may be in luck in the next week or so!
8)

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Red Wigglers Worms and the GTA

April 27, 2009

Hi Everyone,
I hope all of you in Southwestern Ontario are all enjoying some of this outstanding weather we’ve been having!

I just wanted to write a quick post about delivery to the Greater Toronto area. As mentioned on the Red Worm page, we are located in Elmira (about 1.5 hour drive from downtown T.O.), but shipping to the GTA (or the entire ‘Golden Horseshoe’ for that matter) is a piece of cake. Generally with our ‘Expedited’ Canada Post delivery, it takes 1-2 days for the worms to reach their destination (essentially “next day” or the day after), and costs $10-$13 in most cases (for small to medium orders) – so likely less than you’d spend in gas money to come pick them up in person (not to mention the time saved).

A Toronto customer recently informed me that some suppliers are experiencing shortages these days. This certainly isn’t a problem for us at the moment (after a tough few months in the winter, it;s a nice change!) – assuming you are happy with Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida) – the Cadillac of the composting worms. haha
😉

We are still out of European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis – NOT to be confused with Canadian Nightcrawlers / Dew Worms, which we do not sell) unfortunately, and I’m not sure when we might have them again. I will certainly keep everyone posted. Definitely some demand for those!

Anyway, if you ARE in the Greater Toronto Area and you are interested in getting into vermicomposting, feel free to get in touch!
8)

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