In the last two years I have abandoned the tray-type worm bins as illustrated in Compost Tea Making. They work, but they’re fussy in regards to temperature, moisture and food. However, for those worm growers with limited space they are still a viable option. One has to take care that the trays do not dry out, become too hot in the sun, or propagate mold. The upside is that if one performs the ritual judiciously, perfect smooth worm castings can be produced.
Now, I use two 40 gallon bins that I alternate with cow pies and kitchen scraps, as well as a 4 to 5 yard pile of good manure that I bring in and seed with about ¼ yard of the previous years manure pile. There is always some manure + worms sitting in that large pile on a concrete slab. I protect the pile from birds and moles. I cannot protect it from little garter snakes eating the worms, but it is in the middle of a clear cow pasture, so resident Cooper hawks help in that regard.
Due to the presence of sawdust in much of the manure I get, the finished product is less than smooth, and quite sticky. Therefore, I hesitate to deem the product “worm castings”, rather a hybrid between year-aged manure and worm castings. It’s not clean enough for me to feel comfortable using it for compost tea. The product generally works well in the garden, but in too strong a concentration some plants suffer possibly due to the sticky factors association with less oxygen. That is a speculation at this time.
Out of the two smaller 40 gallon bins I can dig down and glean out some good clean castings for compost tea.
Any ideas worm growers?
In February of 2013 I acquired two yearling heifers: one of the Highland breed and the other of the Galloway breed. Neither had received vaccinations that I know of. I turned them out in 3 acres of lush pasture that no animals had been on for 12 years. I do not feed them grain, nor do I intend to. Therefore, the manure they produce I consider to be free of chemicals, fungicides, etc.
Sometime later, when one of the bovines dropped a cow pie in exactly the wrong place–directly in front of the gate where I would step, I grabbed a shovel. I decided to place the wet smelly thing in one of my worm bins–one of those small stack-able plastic tray-type bins. I layed it on top of an almost full tray. Over a period of about a month I observed the progress the worms made with their pie.
They loved it!
Due to the ammonia, I am not sure how much fresh manure the worms could handle at any given time, but after more observations, I have concluded that using manure is one of the fastest ways to increase the population of your Eisenia fetida (red wiggler) composting worms.
In Compost Tea Making, I discussed feeding worms kitchen scraps. It’s certainly beneficial for the worms to have a broad range of food available–a microbial smorgasbord. However, using only kitchen scraps I have had problems with mold, resulting in worm die-off. I now think that the addition of some clean manure into the blend helps them to process all of their food better. I realize this is well tread ground I walk, but I am adding it as an update to the worm growing chapter in Compost Tea Making.
What do you think?
There are many different ingredients one can add to a batch of compost tea. This is a very simple recipe that works well with few ingredients. Remember to use the finished tea within an hour after brewing is completed. Once the bacteria have consumed the molasses, they will be appreciate being moved into a new neighborhood.
4 gallons clean chlorine-free water
½ gallon hot water
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 liter/5 cups good compost
Put the hot water and the molasses into the bottom of a five gallon bucket
Dump in the four gallons of water
Put the compost into a nylon paint strainer bag fastened onto the top of the bucket, or into an onion bag, burlap rice bag, or some sort of tea bag. The paint stainer bag is slick because it is designed to fit on a 5 gallon bucket.
Pump air into the bottom of the bucket for 24 hours with a hydroponic or aquarium air pump
Try to keep the brewing tea from 70 F./21C. To 80 F./ 25C. If it is cooler—like at 60 F. it will take longer– about 48 hours to brew.