knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

If you are having problems with an existing wormery, or just need some advice - then ask it here
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leowoodscott
Junior Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by leowoodscott »

Hi Willy
Happy new year! I hope you are well.

I was wondering if you could help me - the lower worm castings trays in my wormery are a bit wet/gunky and not fully decomposed but are quite well gone.

How do I know if/when these are ok to transfer to my garden soil?
Is it still worth adding eg ground eggshells, egg cartons or anything else to improve the quality of the castings before use?
Is it worth aerating the castings occasionally to help the larger bits still left break down?

And separately how do you know when worm castings are bad and not any good for use? A funny smell I would guess (which isnt the case here) But can eggshells improve things here too?

Thank you so much Willy.
WillyWorm
Senior Member
Posts: 699
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:10 am

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by WillyWorm »

Hi Leo, are your bins inside or out? This will be influenced by this.
leowoodscott
Junior Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by leowoodscott »

hi Willy
Sorry for the delay in replying - it has been a very busy week!
The bins are outside...
Many thanks indeed!
Leo
WillyWorm
Senior Member
Posts: 699
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:10 am

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by WillyWorm »

Sorry Leo, I am having connection issues at the moment, the internet is dropping out every ten minutes or so, this would not be a big issue if I was able to type faster 😟.
All stacking bin set-ups seem to have problems with the wetness of the bottom tray. This problem is far greater if the bin is outside. It’s not surprising if you stop to think about it, gravity will take any moisture from the top tray down to the bottom. The kitchen scraps we put into our bins is 80/90% water, plus any water we deliberately or accidentally (via the ventilation built into the tray) get in. It is almost impossible to get the perfect castings from an outdoor stacking bin. But we are not producing casting for a world composting challenge but for our garden. I have regularly top dressed my veg with worm casting which are not perfect or are too wet to screen, and not once have the radishes complained. If your tray is near to being ready then use the castings when you need or want to.
You can help a little. Firstly open the sump tap so that water is not being soaked up by the bottom tray. Then move the bottom tray to the top of the stack. Do not feed in the tray it’s only there so you can work on it and it can drain. Fluff up this tray every time you pass it. If the weather is dry leave the lid off.
If you won’t be using the castings for a couple of weeks you could mix some dry carbon material. Taking these actions will help but won’t be perfect. If you can, take a seed tray full of castings inside they will dry quickly there.
The only thing I do regularly add to my castings is a handful or two of my home made bio-char if I have it, but you can add other things but I would question how much value I would get from it.

When are castings good? Casting are never bad! Sometime castings are better than others. If casting are a bit smelly fluff them up daily and add some bedding, you will have good castings again. Or mix your casting with garden compost they will no longer be castings but will a good feed for your onions.

Not every thing will be perfect ever time that’s life.

Sorry for the delay but my connection is crap at the moment😟 so
Hope that helps
Willy
leowoodscott
Junior Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by leowoodscott »

thank you so much Willy! you are so generous with your advice!

For the avoidance of any doubt, what constitutes:
- dry carbon material?
- bedding?

I will try and get the wormery under some sort of cover outside. That might help! it def cant come inside.

Many thanks indeed.
Leo
leowoodscott
Junior Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by leowoodscott »

Hi Willy

I just popped out to tend to my worms and a couple more questions popped up!

- what does it mean if there is a big clump of worms together?? Are they cold?

- I am often using egg cartons and cooked and ground eggshells in quantity in the wormery. Assume this is good?

And lastly, is a cover on the wormery in the winter a good idea? Can worms die in the cold?

Best wishes

Leo
WillyWorm
Senior Member
Posts: 699
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:10 am

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by WillyWorm »

Hi Leo, by “dry carbon materials” I mean the dry elements of what we think of as bedding. Like cardboard, egg boxes, dry paper etc not damp/wet leaves, wet paper, wet soil, compost etc. so material that can hold moisture not add more.
Bedding is often called “browns” and is a carbon material with a carbon (c) nitrogen (n) ratio of more than 25 part carbon to one part nitrogen. In regular worm keeping carbon is provided by cardboard and paper in all its forms, leaves, leave mould, wood saw -dust/chips/shavings. straw, hay plus a number of other things. The simple way to balance your bins c to n is to add twice as much carbon material to food at each feed.
Nitrogen material are often call “greens” and include kitchen scraps animal manure (not cat or dog) etc

When worms form a clump it is call a “worm ball” I not sure any body knows for sure why they do this but often there is a nice bit of food in the centre of the scrum. It not considered a bad sign.

Egg boxes are a good carbon and the irregular shapes will trap air in the bin which is good. Egg shells are a good source of grit for the worms gizzards, they provide a source of calcium, but are high in calcium carbonate which is lime. Too much lime will change the PH of the bin which should be maintained at 6 or 6.5. above 7 would be detrimental to the worms. A lot of small white worms (pot worms) would indicate that the PH is too high. A table spoon or less of egg shell should be enough.
Worms can/will die of cold. Worms are comfortable at 20c they function well between 15c and 25c the are very uncomfortable between at 5c and over 26c they will die at zero and above 32c. These temperatures are the temperature in the bin, the area occupied by the worms, not the ambient temperatures outside of the bin. The bin will normally be 5 or 6c above the ambient temperature and with a cover be another 4 or 5c above that. You are not alone my worms are not allowed in the house 😢 but just before Christmas they survived temperatures of -15c here in Scotland.

Keep up the good work
Willy
leowoodscott
Junior Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:41 pm

Re: knowing whether worm castings trays are ok

Post by leowoodscott »

Thank you Willy - that is all super helpful. You have serious wormery knowledge!
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