Thursday, September 17, 2009

Worm Cocoons

Fall is right around the corner and the worms are noticing this. Once again we are seeing an increasing number of cocoons throughout each bed. We have been monitoring this trend for about 4 years now in the large-scale systems and the cooler temperatures of early fall seem to promote increased mating and resulting cocoons throughout the worm populations.

Do worms breed continuously throughout the year in the large-scale systems. Yes... definitely see more dominant mating periods at specific intervals throughout the year as well. We can pinpoint 5 specific times (or ranges of time) of the year in which we see increased mating and resulting cocoons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Composting prior to Vermicomposting

There has been much curiosity as to why we compost our feedstock material (dairy manure) prior to vermicomposting. On the surface, this may seem slightly redundant, but there are many key issues which the process addresses. The controlled thermophilic composting (natural high heat) process we utilize completes three things for us:

1. It removes some of the potential for the material to heat up (compost) after being fed to the worm population (removal of energy). The last thing we want is to have the feedstock material start actively composting in the worm beds; thus making the living conditions undesirable or uninhabitable for the worm population (higher temps);

2. PFRP = a path to further reduce pathogens;

3. Weed seed destruction. Finished products should be weed seed free;

4. Produces a richer feed for the worms.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Worm Power AgriTourism Event

In 2008 we became part of the New York State Agri-Tourism Program. This past Saturday we hosted an open house event (as part of this program) in which we opened our doors and provided free tours to everyone interested in learning about vermicomposting. We had close to 550 people attend. It was a great experience and was well received by the local and regional community. Our next Agri-Tourism event will be mid-summer. These tours are a great way to introduce people to the benefits of vermicomposting and also the benefits of using organic materials/inputs for home gardening.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Temperatures In Large-Scale Vermicomposting Digesters

We get questions all of the time regarding the temperatures within our large-scale vermicomposting digesters (aka worm beds). It must be stressed that temperatures within these larger vc (vermicomposting) systems will be much different than those observed in smaller vc (home) units. Upfront I should also state that we have an enclosed facility that aids in controlling temperature swings. The building does have insulation and is minimally heated in the winter (building is heated to 48 F in the winter). Active ventilation assists in cooling the building during the warmer summer months.

  • Typically we see an average temperature (T) range between 70 degree F and 100 degree F throughout the year within the beds (measured about 4 inches from the bed surface). I can safely say that the beds really have never dipped below 68 degree F and never above 110 degree F for any significant length of time. At the those extreme temperatures (below 68 F and above 110 F) we start to worry about worm health and put remediation measures into place in order to adjust the temperatures to within an adequate acceptable range. It is also very typical to have a range of temperatures within a single bed at any one time. The ends of the beds exhibit different temp characteristics then other bed areas.

  • It's uncommon but you can get "hot spots" (greater than 110 F and less than 125 F) in the beds during the warmer periods of the summer. Hot spots may occur if feed material is placed over uneaten portions of the bed thus resulting in some form of composting action to occur. This is one reason to never overfeed your system. We precompost our feedstock (dairy manure) prior to feeding it to the worms. This action aids in reducing the energy in the material thus limiting the potential for it to reheat (composting) in the beds. We have also observed increased T in areas of greater worm activity (which makes sense).

Please comment or ask questions and I will do my best to answer or explain.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Home Use Worm Bins

I am always on the search for unique ideas for smaller home bins (especially ones that can be made at home). We use a small audit box, as we call it, primarily for testing different feedstock "food" material for our worms (what works and what doesnt). Probably the best source of information on this topic I have found is from Bentley at Check out his blog. Anyone that has some unique and good ideas for the design of small worm units / bin please post them here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vermicomposting Digesters (aka Worm Beds)

This is a great photo of a few of our "flow through" vermicomposting systems. The premise is simple - feed the worms from the top and collect the castings from the bottom. With this type of setup, you never have to disturb the worms, their cocoon's, or their habitat (no screening to separate the worms from the castings - thus leaving the worms alone to do what they do best). This in turn aids in increasing worm densities and overall population.

The system also significantly saves on labor input (I don't know about you, but I can only shovel for so many hours per day) as the harvesting system beneath the beds is also automated.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

So this is how it all starts....

My hope for this blog is that it evolves and becomes a place of reference and exchange revolving around the topic of vermicomposting. We at Worm Power have successfully operated a large scale commercial vermicomposting operation for well over 5 years now and continue to grow. We definitely don't have all the answers (as our list of questions grows by the day) but we do have a tremendous amount of hands on experience and scientific backing to contribute to this field.