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flow through worm beds designs

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by growingdeeprootsorganicly, Aug 26, 2008.

  1. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    the grit also helps add some minerals to the casts, we need all the minerals we can get. it also helps control some ph issues that Leeds to spider mites/ants. and as we are not really sell pure casts, we just dont have a market outside our own use yet, we dont mind some grit( and its not just sand) getting naturals pulverized in the gizzard. the sand that does make it past the gut is all round and shinny, like little pearls....
  2. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    Here are a couple of blurbs from Kelly Slocum about raising worms which may be helpful.

    BLURB #1

    "If you’ve ever looked into an active worm bin you might have noticed that the worms were not the most numerous organisms visible. Beneficial mites, springtails, small white worms and a host of other multi-legged and even no-legged critters were likely visible without the aid of a magnifying lens. Place a sample of the organic material from the bin under a microscope and it becomes clear that the populations of microscopic organisms teeming in the material vastly outnumber the host of organisms visible to the unaided eye. It sometimes begs the question; why do we call this just a worm bin?

    In vermicomposting we tend to focus our attention and bin management on the needs of the earthworm because we recognize that worms in the system decrease decomposition time and produce valuable castings. It’s important to remember, however, that a healthy, productive bin is an ecosystem possessed of an incredible diversity of life. The activity of the whole of the system’s living organisms is greater than the sum of its parts and each of these organisms is filling a vital niche in stabilizing the organic material.

    Earthworms alone cannot complete the task of converting organic wastes. Lacking teeth and sufficient digestive enzymes of their own, they rely on microorganisms to begin breaking down the organic matter, fragmenting and softening the material so it can be ingested. In the process of taking in the decaying organic material the earthworm also ingests those microorganisms, deriving the majority of its vital nutrients from their bodies rather than from the organic matter itself.

    The microscopic bacteria and fungi are aided in their work of decaying the organic material by many of the insects and arthropods we see crawling in the bedding. These organisms shred and break up the organic materials, exposing more of the surface area to microbial attack. In their digestive systems acids, enzymes and gut organisms digest the material and what is not absorbed into the animal’s body is passed as feces. This fecal matter becomes a predigested, simplified food for other organisms, like worms, to further reduce.

    Mold and fungi are highly beneficial decomposers common to all worm bins as well as themselves being a food source for earthworms. Damp, dark environments rich in organic matter are natural environments for the growth of these organisms, which secrete enzymes that aid in breaking down some of the most resistant materials in the bin.

    Following is a list of some of the most common of the beneficial organisms living in a healthy worm bin:

    Ants (Formicidae)
    These highly successful insects generally do not live in healthy worm systems but may occasionally visit in search of food. Ants tend to prefer conditions dryer than are found in active worm bins and rarely nest in environments with so many competing invertebrate species. Their continual presence in the system may indicate a need to increase moisture, which will usually discourage or drive them out. While it’s not required that ants be prevented from visiting an outdoor worm bin, keeping the bin elevated with each leg in a can of soapy water will create a barrier, preventing them from entering the system.

    Centipedes (Chilopoda)
    These multi-legged predators in the worm bin thrive in the damp environment where they feed on other invertebrate residents. They have a pair of huge, formidable pincers that curve from behind the head with which they can subdue prey larger than themselves. They are typically dark brown to reddish/tan in color, with a flattened, cylindrical body and one pair of legs per body segment.

    While centipedes do feed on earthworms, it is unusual to have more than one or two in a worm bin, which is an insufficient number to significantly impact the worm population. Still, it is recommended that they be removed from the bin as they can inflict a non-poisonous but painful bite if we accidentally come into contact with one while feeding the system.

    Fruit flies (Diptera)
    While generally considered a nuisance, fruit fly larvae are voracious decomposers of fruit and vegetables wastes and, as such, are beneficial residents of the worm bin. If the system is being operated outdoors where the nuisance factor is negligible there is no need to attempt to control their numbers. If the system is being operated indoors, pre-treating the feedstock can prevent them. Most fruit flies enter the system as eggs and larvae on the peels of the fruits and vegetables we feed to the bin. Freezing or microwaving the food scraps before adding them to the system will kill the eggs and larvae, preventing the flies from becoming established. Ensuring the food scraps are never left exposed on the surface of the material will prevent mature fruit flies in the environment from being attracted to the bin and using it as a breeding ground.

    Preventing a fruit fly invasion is simpler than controlling one. Should the flies become established in your bin and require control, inoculating the system with beneficial nematodes in conjunction with pre-treatment of the feed stock will eliminate them in roughly 10 to 14 days.

    Fungus gnats (Diptera)
    These small fly species are often mistaken for fruit flies but lack their brightly colored, bulbous eyes. The small, black fungus gnat more closely resembles a mosquito without the long proboscis.

    The adult fungus gnat is harmless, feeding on fungal growth in the worm bin. Their larvae will feed on decaying organic matter in the bin, but will also feed on tender plant root hairs if the eggs are deposited onto soil surfaces. In outdoor environments this is not a problem as competition controls their numbers, but in indoor areas the fungus gnat larvae can damage houseplants.

    Fungus gnats are not typically introduced to the home from the worm bin, rather, they may find the bin when they are already present in the home. The bin environment, however, is ideal for the adults and can support their populations inside homes. Fungus gnats can be readily controlled by inoculating the bin and all houseplant soils with beneficial nematodes, which feed on the fly larvae, typically eliminating them within about 10 days.

    Millipedes (Diploda)
    The slow-moving millipede resembles the centipede, but has a more rounded body shape, darker coloring and two pairs of legs per body segment. They are beneficial decomposers in the system, found through all layers of material, are harmless to humans, pets and plants, and do not require control.

    Mites (Acarina)
    These tiny cousins of spiders can be among the most numerous of the visible decomposers in a healthy worm bin. There are more than a dozen species of mites potentially present in a healthy system, all with four pairs of legs, large bodies and tiny heads, and in colors ranging from white to shades of reddish brown. Some mites are predators of other insects in the system, some feed on fungi and molds, and some on the organic matter itself. Despite web sites with statements to the contrary, mites species predatory on earthworms are not common and are essentially unheard of in worm bins.

    It is possible, though uncommon, for mite populations in the bin to bloom on the surface of the material so densely that they cover it entirely . Such mite blooms are typically associated with low oxygen penetration in the worm bed, often brought about by too much moisture and/or too little ability for air to move into the system. The mites, in response to the need for more air, congregate on the surface of the organic matter instead of spreading their population throughout the bin, as they normally do. Correcting the airflow problem will encourage the mites to spread through the bin once again.

    Molds and fungi
    Mold and fungi are present in any cool, damp environment rich in organic matter. Using their tiny, threadlike hyphae they penetrate into the organic debris and secrete enzymes that reduce the material so they can absorb the nutrients. Their presence in the bin does not require control, but those suffering from severe mold allergies should keep the bin outdoors or in well-ventilated locations to prevent irritation.

    Pot worms (Enchytraeidae)
    These tiny, threadlike, segmented white worms are among the most commonly cultured worms in the world as they are a prized tropical fish food. Common to healthy worm bins, they feed on decaying organic matter in the system. It is not necessary to attempt to control their numbers.

    Slugs (Stylommatophora)
    These unpopular invertebrates will appreciate the cool damp conditions of the worm bin to ride out the heat of the day. Some species of slug are omnivores and will aid the beneficial organisms in the system in breaking down the organic matter. While there are carnivorous slug species that feed on earthworms, they eat so few of them as to be a negligible problem.

    Slug control is not required but if desired, is best affected by hand picking them from the system.

    Black Soldier Fly larvae (Diptera)
    The larvae of the black soldier fly can be an intimidating and ugly resident of the worm bin, but is a voracious, beneficial decomposer of organic matter and is neither dangerous to the worms nor a health hazard to the humans managing the system, our pets or our plants.

    One half to one inch long, segmented, and dirty white/gray, darkening from orange to black at the front end, these larvae can bloom in massive numbers in an outdoor worm bin. The are not found in indoor systems as adult soldier flies will not willingly enter buildings. Control is not necessary, nor is it advantageous as the larvae quickly fragment the organic material in the system and their fecal matter becomes an excellent nutrition source to the worms. Worm systems harboring black soldier fly larvae are among the most efficient systems in operation.

    Sow and Pill bugs (Isopoda)
    Known as woodlice, slaters and roly-poly bugs, these crustaceans are welcome residents of healthy worm bin where they feed on the tough woody material that is resistant to microbial attack. It is not necessary to control their populations in the bin.

    Sow and pill bugs so closely resemble each other in appearance and behavior that, while different species, they can be viewed as the same organism in the worm bin. They are light brown to dark gray with an armored, segmented shell, seven pairs of legs and antennae.

    Springtails (Colembola)
    Springtails are often the most numerous of the visible decomposers in the worm bin. While some are dark brown with a spring mechanism, called a fercula, that enables them to jump impressive distances, the most numerous of the colembolans found in the worm bin are tiny white insects that lack the ability to spring. These white springtails will frequently cover the bedding material so thickly that it appears to be frosted.

    Springtails are often small enough to walk across the head of a pin and range in color from brown to white. As insects, they possess six legs and a pair of stubby antenna. They are highly beneficial in any environment of decomposing organic matter and controlling their numbers in the worm bin is neither beneficial nor necessary.

    Live and let live
    Fears sometimes arise over the presence of many of the invertebrate residents of the bin as well as over the molds and fungi that may be present. As a culture we have been conditioned to see these organisms as harmful and in need of control or eradication. Concerns over the possibility that the insects may damage houseplants or infect pets, or that molds will spread disease are not uncommon. It’s important to remember, however, that the vast majority of the organisms living in the bin are there because they feed on dead and decaying organic material, or because they feed on the other organisms feeding on the decaying organic material. They have no interest at all in living plant or animal tissue or they would be found in environments where these preferences could be met. They do not spread disease, rather, the majority of the organisms in the worm bin are competitors of disease causing organisms and actually reduce health risks! The worm bin residents are beneficial to the processing of organic matter and should be left alone to work their magic side by side with the worms. Operating a worm bin means supporting an ecosystem, and a healthy ecosystem needs a diverse population of organisms in order to thrive.

    All rights reserved, Kelly Slocum, 2001"

    BLURB #2

    "Lacking teeth, earthworms rely on microorganisms to begin breakdown of organic materials so they can be ingested. Organic materials resistant to decay, like orange rinds, can take a significant amount of time to be sufficiently decomposed for the worm to take in. As such, oranges can sometimes remain undisturbed in the bin long enough to become a host for mold and fungi. These molds are breaking down the rinds, however, helping to gradually make them available to the worms. They are not a danger to you, your worms, your pets, or your plants when you later use the finished material in the garden. There is some suggestion on the net that the presence of d-limonene in citrus oils is inhibitory to earthworm activity, but this concern is typically so overstated as to be incorrect. It is highly unlikely that there is sufficient d-limonene in the rinds of one or two citrus fruits tossed into the bin to have a measurable impact on the worms. Further, citrus oil is rather quickly volatilized and broken down by biological activity. Once the rind is sufficiently decayed to be available to the worm most of the d-limonene is gone.

    Another myth often perpetuated about worms and citrus is concern over low pH. Worms are tolerant of a pH range from 4-9, often exhibiting little difference in activity throughout this range. Pineapple, grape pumice and citrus, all acidic materials, are all successfully processed in vermicomposting systems without the necessity of pH adjustments. If the possibility of pH being an issue was troubling you know that it is highly unlikely that the worms are avoiding the citrus due to acidity. Typically citrus rinds remaining in a bin for extended periods are not being rejected by the worms, they simply take longer to be sufficiently broken down so the worm can ingest them than most materials used as worm bin feedstock. Molds growing on the rind are aiding the process. It is not necessary that you remove the moldy oranges. Go ahead and add that nice leaf cover and in a couple of weeks those moldy oranges will be gone completely.


    I might add that one should place citrus and high nitrate food into the worm medium in small amounts (5% with other foods). I once wiped out hundreds of worms by giving them too much alfalfa meal. Now I restrict it to 5%.

  3. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    ok so we have had red spider mite chew a ring out of worms by the thousands.

    we have also had a planarian flat worm , very destructive

    any wisdom on these????? the hot mites are not a natural! they are GM for crop protection!

    because we need help!!! not just us the whole of FL growers.
  4. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    oh we also have a real nasty ant from Africa that is a predator, it will kill palmetto bugs and small birds, seafo i think is the name.
  5. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    do your smaller flow through bed scrape that slow?
    i guess if there's hangers in the bottom they get the hint to move up or down once the feel the pressure from the scraper?

    i thought to go with the flow through concept to avoid sorting, moving tubs,and make it easier on me. just feed and scrape/harvest
    dumb question,will screening after harvest help with getting purer cast from flow through?

    i think i'll start small and use tubs or buckets and then sort/screen.
    i'll work on just keeping them alive and producing first before i move to some thing bigger.

    any hints on best screen diameter? to use for sorting, worms,eggs,cast, larger compost. multiple screens are needed im sure

    the video of the WORM GUY on you tube has a pretty cool flat shaker table for sorting? and uses two methods of farming, buckets and flow through,
    any commits on the advantages to the two methods?

    to me it seem he gets more control with smaller batches with the buckets+ screening, and feeds them differently to, buckets get same special recipe always and the flow through gets what ever is available i think?

    do you think his buckets will produce a better over all product?
    sorry too, im not sure how to post the link to it, it's under WORM GUY youtube it's almost a half hour long

    Tim, as always great info thanks
  6. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,643

    I don't know why I doubt you Tim...The microscope you recommeded has worked out well and the Microbulator kicks arse....

    It's probably a lot easier to start out simple and upgrade later if it gets that far...
  7. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

  8. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    please tell me that these guys are friends, we will try and get a picture of a spider mite killing a worm.

  9. growingdeeprootsorganicly

    growingdeeprootsorganicly LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    check out too, windswept farm tour you tube
    maybe one of these days i'll take time to learn how to post links?:)
  10. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 795

    oi vey! Sounds like you might pass information on to Kelly.
    Nasty critters! My biggest problem is moles.

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