Worm *Batching*

Discussion in 'Growing Organic Marijuana' started by wetdog, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. I first saw this mentioned on a blog talking about another worm farmer's technique, but was never mentioned again.

    Pretty much, the entire concept was a 5 gal bucket, no drainage, some air holes in the lid, a large amount of food in 3+ gallons of bedding, worms added and then left totally alone for 3 months or so, then harvested. Sounds sorta familiar doesn't it?

    It worked great until I didn't leave it alone, got the bedding too wet and killed most of the worms. Lesson learned. The mix worked great when dumped into a bin with drainage and allowed to dry some. The worms in there loved it.

    Last year, WAK's experience with bringing compost indoors and using heating cables got me thinking about it again. He sort of created a huge worm bin without meaning to, but the result was much like that batching post from long ago.

    This past fall I found a 5gal bucket full of coffee grounds forgotten in the garage. I also had ~7 gallons of bedding sitting around and so combined it all. This sat outside till I could get everything else together. Bought 2-10gal Rubbermaid totes, 2 small soil heating cables and PVC to make a frame for the cables.

    Everything came together the end of Feb, and the cables heated the bedding ~10* over the temp in the basement. Basement was 57* and soil temp was 68*. Took some cantaloupe rinds and trapped a bit over 1lb of worms from each of 2 bins and used a lb in each of the 10 gal totes.

    Worms went in 3-3-16, so we'll see what happens around the end of May. The plan is, to use the VC as is, less what can be trapped with melon rinds, without the bother of sifting the VC. The 3-5 gallon amounts/bin should also aid this.

    Even after removing 1+ lb of worms from the larger 18 gal totes there was no noticable decrease in the number of worms in there and could easily start 3 or 4 more bins.

    More as it goes along.

    Wet
     
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  2. I plan to start a few "batches" soon. I had a couple bags of black Kow compost laying around. I picked up some rice hulls the other day. So with 20 gallons or so of bedding I plan on starting 6-8 bucket batches, and supply the worms from my current smart pot that needs harvested. The big smart pot worked great, but was pretty immobile. I like the idea of harvesting a small batch whenever I need it.

    Solo
     
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  3. Yeah, having a small batch handy whenever needed sounds great to me also. Have to wait for a visit from my son to even think about moving/harvesting the 18 gal totes, much less anything larger. They do work great as nurserys though.

    I'm thinking of the buckets when the weather warms up a bit and the comfrey comes up. Peat based bedding, coffee grounds added, and comfrey layered in. Let all this cook for a time then add some worms. Wa La! The 10 gal totes were mainly so I could use the heating cables for in the winter. The basement stays between 52 and 76 and most of the year perfect for the worms.

    Wet
     
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  4. what do you mean by "trapped with melon rinds"?

    btw that 5 gallon setup sounds pretty much like my bucket, only i have a big hole cut from the lid (the lip keeps the worms from climbing out) and a 5 gallon smarty fits perfectly on top so no fliers can get in!
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  5. "Trapping" is a poor word choice, baiting might be better.

    Anyway, an old Southern trick to collect fishing worms. Simply take a melon rind, usually watermelons, and place meat side down in a shady spot in the yard/garden. Let it sit for a couple, 3 days and when you flip it over there should be a mass of worms underneath. Worms and melon rinds are pretty much like stoners and free pizza.

    In the bins, there was easily 1/2 lb+ under each rind. My wife had quartered the cantalope and I put 2 quarters in each bin. Harvested twice, the first was close to a double handful of worms from each rind piece in a ball of worms. The second was about 1/2 that amount. The worms were there, I just grabbed a smaller amount. Easily ~1 1/2lbs of worms went into each of the new bins.

    I like your bucket set up, very slick, both the lid and the smartie covering.

    Wet
     
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  6. did you say free pizza?? :jump:

    sweet now i know how to collect worms from my bin! i have euros on that bucket which im trying to get breeding so i can throw some in my no-till. i started with about 20 couple months ago.
     
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  7. Bury a few chunks of cardboard near the surface. The worms love to lay eggs in those little tunnels. They also seem to love the veggie glue used. I make the chunks ~2"x2" and wet them a bit. Also try and get cardboard with larger tunnels so the Euros can fit. Plain old brown boxes work great.

    Wet
     
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  8. sweet, i actually have some cardboard with the larger tunnels laying around somewhere, thanks!
     
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  9. I just mixed up 18 gallons that will be 5 batches.

    1 cf Black Kow compost
    1 cf Black Velvet planting mix (10% black kow, 45% composted horse bedding, 45% Florida peat moss per their rep)
    3 gallons of rice hulls

    To each cf between 1/2 and 3/4 of the following
    Kelp meal
    Alfalfa meal
    Karanja meal
    Crab meal
    Aragonite
    Gypsum

    And probably 2 cups each of malted barley flour and rock dust.

    Mixed in a 45 gallon smart pot and soaked. I'll put it in buckets in a couple weeks. Next I'll be wrapping up my trommel.



    Solo
     
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  10. I'd REALLY consider some perlite in there, even with the rice hulls. IDK, but it sure seems like I end up with less perlite than I started with. Do the worms have anything to do with this? IDK, just making an obsveration here.

    But, rice hulls will break down and lose any aeration value. Good stuff, I've used wheat bran to similar ends, but you still need perlite to keep life simple. VC gets amazingly dense. The good stuff anyway.

    Oh, a bit of play sand to provide grit.

    Go for it!

    Wet
     
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  11. How much you thinking of each? I've got the perlite, the sand I'll have to get.

    Solo
     
  12. The play sand is easy, ~2 cups or so for the entire 18 gal. Not mason sand (sharp edges), or stuff like that. But of the 50# bag of play sand I bought 6 years ago there is still well over 40# left. Or, just scatter some on the surface. The worms will find it and I doubt that they ingest all that much for their grit needs.

    I've started adding greensand to the bins, mainly to get it started breaking down. Looks plenty small enough, but whether the worms will utilize it, no idea and I'm not counting on it.

    The perlite is a bit trickier, since I mostly eyeball it, but a good bit less than in my mixes. I run ~40% in my mixes if not a bit more. "Well draining" is a big priority for me and I prefer light airy mixes. The worms, not so much so, they like it more dense and wet. But not so dense and wet that it's like mud. I would *guess* ~20-25%.

    What you could do is try different amounts in 5 gal buckets to find the sweet spot. I do similar to you, mix up bedding and let it sit outside. After a few weeks or so just digging your hand in there you can determine the density. I mean, if it's still totally soggy 2 weeks after any water you know you need more perlite. Plus, it will get denser once the worms start working it.

    Sorry I couldn't be more specific, but it's an experience thing and totally related to your set up, methods and environment. You'll see what works and what doesn't as you go along. Just like growing. LOL

    Wet
     
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  13. I agree with the drainage statements. I personally like my pots lighter, but whenever I transplant and see worms, the bulk of their numbers are at the bottom with all the settled small particles and less drainage.
     
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  14. Same here, that's why I mentioned that worms seem to like it more dense and moist than what most root systems prefer and I use a good bit less perlite in my bedding than is used in the soil mix.

    Wet
     
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  15. Well, very much a success and turned out better than I had hoped for, both in time and ease of harvest.

    The whole thing was very much a LITFA and I only looked in every couple of weeks or so. The middle of May check in had a very good 'worked over' look to the surface, so I used my fingers to look deeper. It felt well worked all the way through. It's hard to use sight when your primary food source (coffee grounds), looks exactly like EWC. But, it doesn't quite feel the same and there is no way to describe it. Was figuring on 3 months, but 10 weeks is even better.

    Anyway, after removing the heating cables, was able to mound it all up on one side and remove a coffee can amount (~1/2 gallon), from the surface and apply it while the worms buried deeper. Only having 5+ gallons in the 10 gal tote made this easy. There were worms in every can harvested and they got spread everywhere. The very last can was mostly worms and that was used to inoculate and populate the next batch of 'coffee bedding'. Temps were in the low 70's, so the heating cables stayed out. Harvesting was spread out over 3 days since other stuff was going on at the same time. The second bin will be faster since my VC top dressing needs are mostly met for the moment.

    For sure going to keep the 2 larger bins at the least for nurserys, but I'm really liking these smaller totes and method for ease and speed.

    Wet
     
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  16. A bump for Scoob and for the coming Spring in general.

    Cheers
    Wet
     
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  17. @wetdog Hey man! So just to make sure I understand this, you are basically just doing more small batches of VC instead of the normal big batches that we are all used too, right? And also, are you basically waiting the 10 weeks until they are done and then scooping a lot of the finished material out while leaving the worms, adding more worm food, and then starting the process over again?
     
  18. For a small twist on the original thread, pine bark fines work awesome in place of the perlite. I have made a couple 5 gal buckets with a blend of rice hulls and pine bark fines. I like how the bark holds moisture better than the perlite ( perlite with rice hulls was my goto recipe before) but still lets the mix breath. This makes things a little more LITFA in the winter, when my indoor RH is super low. I was just talking with Granny Sinse about this yesterday, I was calling them Hugle buckets (because of the bark acting as a log would in a Hugle culture bed). This has also proved to work really well when batching with small smart pots, the bark is making much easier to keep the whole smarty moist. Out of all the batch type things I have tried during the low RH times inside during the winter months, I prefer the plain old 5 gal bucket filled to about 4 gals with an aeration mix of rice hulls and bark fines with a piece of cardboard for a cover.
    cheers
    os
     
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  19. Well, not exactly. These small batches are my "least effort expended", bins. Still have 3 'big batch' bins along with 3 'small batch' bins.

    When the batches are done in 10-12 weeks, all I do is bait what worms I can with melon rinds to add back to the larger bins and use the entire contents of the small bins as is. There is no harvesting involved other than the trapping.and the bins are totally emptied.

    Most of this gets used right away in the outdoor gardens/containers sometime in May, depending on the weather and I start the bins to be ready before May 1.

    Yeah, you could do what you were thinking of AFA adding more bedding and continuing, but the thing is, the bedding for the batches is highly amended (like 3cups/cf soy meal for one example), and the regular bedding is not. The 'batches' don't get added food. Regular bins do.

    Just saw OS's post while typing and his suggestion is brilliant! I love pine bark fines, but avoid them in my bins because of the screens used in harvesting. Since the batches are used in toto with no screens involved the bark fines would be perfect. Still haven't found rice hulls locally, but I'm on the hunt.

    I like OS's mix better than my own and that's how the next batch will be made!

    Cheers
    Wet
     
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  20. You got me going on this bark fines thing. Last week I broke into my second, 2 cu ft bag that I have used this winter.
    As far as finding rice hulls, this happened to me years ago, and Granny Sinse down in America just last week. For some reason, almost no one at brewing stores recognize rice hulls by the name rice hulls. Even if it says it on the bag. You have to ask them if they have 'filter' material. I had to actually talk to the kid at the store on the phone for a minute, and as soon as I called it 'fitler' he came out with a bag of rice hulls (clearly marked rice hull), and hooked up Granny Sinse. I was turned down myself at my local brew store for over a year. One day I was buying barley when the owner was working. I asked him if he could order some, he laughed and said "we have been carrying that for 10 years". Ever since then, they started keeping 2lb bags out on the floor. He was actually completely amazed when I told him what I used malted barely and 'filter' for. He also told me he loved the idea of selling it for that purpose (which kind of surprised me), he said more volume is great for everyone, and if gets more people into his store for any reason he likes it.
    cheers
    os
    cheers
    os
     
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