****Unfortunately, we are currently out of stock of the Starter Worm Mix. The product should become available again in mid-June.****
This goes through the ins and outs of what this material is and is not! This should shed some light on this product offering and why or why not it is a good fit for you.
What on earth is this?
In a nutshell, the Starter Worm Mix is red wiggler worms in their preferred habitat. The habitat is a mixture of optimized bedding, mostly finished vermicompost, and red wigglers. In a worm bin this is the area the worms are typically found when they are not munching on food scraps. The Starter Worm Mix is replicating the habitat that the worms are accustomed to. This is very beneficial when setting up a new vermicompost system as the Mix will provide a home for the worms as they settle into a new environment.
What are the advantages
- Mix of adults and juvenile worms – juveniles adapt much faster to a new environment than adult worms which provides some protection against early worm loss
- Contains cocoons – these yet to be born baby worms will adapt to new environments even better than juveniles – also a single cocoon typically hatches 3 worms!
- Safe zone – the Mix will provide a zone where the worms can hang out until conditions are right for them to spread out
- Shipping stress – the mix provides some cushion for the worms during transport and will tolerate shipping much better than worms shipped in peat moss
- Loaded with beneficial microbes – the microbes will help kickstart the decomposition of bedding and any food scraps which allows the worms to begin processing wastes quicker
What are the disadvantages
- The Mix does not guarantee any true number of worms or weight
- The Mix does not have a great quantity of “bait” worms for fishing – the Mix contains a variety of different sized worms but many on the smaller end
- Other compost organisms – this isn’t really a disadvantage but some may be off-put by them – these creatures are NOT harmful and in fact work with worms to compost faster – here’s an excellent video on the topic
Will this work for your situation?
One of the more common issues with new systems is the lack of the microbes and other organisms that make compost such a great product. The biology of vermicompost is what makes it so great. The Starter Worm Mix helps kickoff this process in new systems which will allow the system to get working much faster.
How do I use this?
Whether starting a bin, flow through, or an outdoor system some preparation is needed.
- About a week before you receive the Mix, set up a layer of absorbent bulky bedding material on the bottom of the system. I recommend about 4″ or so of torn up/shredded cardboard. Wet down this layer so it is damp but not over saturated (like a wrung out sponge).
- If using a plastic bin, the bedding can be a bit drier since the bottom sections will typically have the most moisture
- Then add about a handful or two of food scraps
- I recommend using frozen food scraps as the freeze/thaw cycle will speed the decomposition process and can prevent fruit flies (fruit fly eggs are effectively killed when frozen)
- Note for beginners – stick with fruit and vegetable scraps that do not have a strong scent such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc. Cruciferous vegetables have a high sulfur level and when breaking down can be quite pungent.
- Cover up the scraps with more bedding! It is VERY important when starting to have much more bedding than food scraps – 5:1 bedding to scraps ratio or higher
- This can sit for a week, but if there are any foul smells add more bedding!
This initial set up will allow for some decomposition of the food scraps making them more palatable for the worms to dig in.
- Next add the Starter Worm Mix! Just spread it out evenly over the top
- Last add another layer of bedding and wet it down.
That’s it! This is the start of the system’s vermicomposting journey! Also check out the blog post on how to start a new system.
Where to go from here
The worms will typically take about a day or two to acclimate to the new system. Try to avoid checking in during this time…I know it’s hard! In about a week the worms may be ready for some more food. The easiest way to determine this is if all or most of the original food scraps are gone. If there is about 50% of the original food scraps still remaining, hold off on adding additional scraps. During this period it’s better to be conservative and do light feedings or hold off until the majority of the scraps are processed. Also, if the system can be fed, make sure to always add bedding over the scraps.
I wanted to mention a quick few things about feeding the system. As mentioned above, freezing the scraps is highly recommended. In addition to to freezing, try to cut up or mash up the scraps as much as possible. This will increase the surface area and allow the microbes to break down the scraps faster.
Until you get a feel for how much the worms can process, only feed in small amounts at a time. Overfeeding can cause anaerobic conditions or worse over heating. For a primer of the types of material that can be added refer to the Feeding a System post.