Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Next Steps

I've been asked about the next steps after your bin is up and running. How long does it take to fill a bin...

The next steps and speed you need to employ them really depend on you.

How warm is soil? Food breaks down more quickly and the worms reproduce more rapidly in warmer soil. Soil temps are cool if 45-60F. 60F and higher is considered warm. 

What kind if food do you put in? Some food breaks down more quickly than other types. Think about a potato and a strawberry on your counter. The potato is good for months, but the strawberry turns to mush and gets grayish mold in a matter of days. The same thing happens in your bin. Remember the worms need to food to break down before they eat it. Some food is almost immediately available for the worms to eat, and other types of food takes much longer (stalks of Brussels sprouts, ends of asparagus, broccoli stems, etc.)

How large are the pieces of food? Food breaks down faster in smaller pieces (larger surface area). 

All of these determine how fast the worms reproduce (typically 10-12 weeks), but that difference adds up in a few generations. So, I typically respond to this question as follows: an 18 gallon bin with a pound of worms will be filled by a family 4 in 3-6 months (filled as in the bin will be 2/3 full and ready to harvest). Closer to 3 months if the bin is in a warm area and the family juices weekly. (If you juice you're putting in a pound or more fruit and veggie pulp which breaks down in days). Closer to 6 moths if the bin is in a cooler area and larger pieces are added.

All that said, most people will find that they can harvest once yearly and be fine. You can harvest sooner, but you do not need to. I recommend harvesting at least annually.

Remember that Christmas is coming. If you're bin is a bit full, consider giving a pound and a bin as a gift this year. Scoop a half gallon of worm castings and worms from an active area of your bin (under the  bedding). This is bed run. That is just what the new bin needs to get off to a great start.