Worm tea

December 7, 2005

I have a can of worms that I've had since the beginning of August.

About every other day I open the spigot to release any moisture that is in the bin. What I want to know -- can I use this liquid for worm tea and if so -- in what proportions? It seems since it came from the worms I might be able to make worm tea out of it. Any thoughts?

Comments (38)

  • novemberguest

    It pretty much IS worm tea. If it smells OK (i.e., not anaerobic), just dump it on your plants. It is probably not as nutrient-rich as the worm tea you could make by soaking castings overnight in water, but every little bit helps.

    By the way, the usual practice with a Can o Worms is to leave the spigot open all the time with a bucket under it to catch the drips. This provides better air circulation through the system. (All those collection tray openings tend to get plugged up with goop pretty quickly -- a definite downside to the COW.)

  • sqh1

    That liquid is not tea. It is more a leachate,from the water released from the feedstock as it decomposes. I would not recommend putting it on houseplants. I usually dump it on my outdoor worm bins. Tea would be "brewed" by placing a portion of vermicompost in a bucket of water, possibly with some added nutrients, and aerating it for a few days. The tea would need to be used within, maybe, 12 hours from when the aeration is stopped. I agree with novemberguest about leaving that spigot open for better drainage and air circulation. Also, if there is a great deal of liquid draining, try adding bedding dry. Those plastic bins (that I have a lot of) really do have moisture issues because of condensation.

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  • chuckiebtoo

    Yea, I agree with SQH1. Leachate, and those little spigots to "easily drain that important resource to use as an invaluable addition to your plants/garden soil/whatever/blah, blah, blah" is just a way to add valuable additions to the cost of the contraption. Liquid leaking out of the bin shows that the bin is too wet, and shows that it definitely needs those holes in the bottom from whence it's leaking.

    No more than just a few drops should ever leak out. A couple of paper towels should be adequate to handle the leakage from a bin properly moisturized.


  • Mickey2

    OK yeah, I have been leaving the spigot open. And I guess plastic bins to do not "breath" well -- therefore the spigot. My worms seem to be doing fine, though, but it's winter time right now.

    I did add strips of newspaper (dry) to the COW. How would a torn up egg carton do -- if I didn't soak it in water and then wring it like a sponge -- I mean would it be OK to just add a ripped up DRY egg carton to the COW to relieve the excess moisture?

    Anyways is it the plastic container that causes the moisture? Because a lot people on this forum seem to use Rubbermaid containers and they are plastic. What's the big difference?

  • chuckiebtoo

    Plastic, in any form, just retains moisture. If you ever empty the dishwasher after the stuff in there has air- dried for awhile, you'll notice the plastic bowls, and lids, and tupperware-type stuff will still be wet.

    Once again, the spigot isn't necessary, IMHO, if the moisture content is correct. Moisture shouldn't be prevalent enough to drain through the bin. Think about it: why would a spigot ever be left closed, OR open? Proper moisture content would preclude the spigot altogether. With leachate being basically worthless, the spigot is just a marketing tool. Holes work if a major moisture catastrophe happens.


  • sqh1

    I have COW's and rubbermaid bins. They are all the same. If I add dampened shredded paper to those bins, the next day the condensation is on the lid, raining down on the inside. I now add dry paper and it has helped. Try the dry egg crates and see how long it takes for them to become damp and then post it here. My outdoor in-ground bins are so much more stable and forgiving. I almost never have to monitor them. They are by far my favorite way to do vermicomposting.

  • novemberguest

    I don't understand this dissing of leachate. I put it on my outdoor plants all the time, with no ill effects whatsoever. True, it doesn't produce the miracle growth of steeped worm tea or vermicompost, but if it smells OK (not anaerobic), I don't see the harm in it.

    Good luck getting a bin not to leak any moisture. It's a nice goal to have, but I personally have never achieved it and the worms thrive and the vermicompost comes out just fine. Don't be concerned if a little juice seeps out. After all, the worms themselves seem to seek out the wettest, yuckiest parts of every bin!

    The dry bits of egg carton should be just fine. Probably you should not use the parts that have colored ink on them, though. I understand the colored ink in newspaper is toxic, so I imagine the same could be said for egg cartons.

  • chuckiebtoo

    Leachate is not bad for your plants and there is no harm in it. Neither is it particularly good for them, and certainly not worth spending money for gizmos like spigots to collect it.

    Worms are extremely forgiving and much more tolerant of conditions than we are led to believe...especially when it comes to moisture levels. They do very well with excess moisture such as that which produces leachate. They also do very well in plastic bins with no spigots or leachate collectors underneath with holes in the bottom and moisturized such that virtually no moisture leaks from them.

    A plastic worm bin can be managed with virtually no leachate leaking out of it. I'm able to do so with my indoor bins, and I ain't the sharpest knife in the vermicomposting drawer.

    When my bins leak A FEW DROPS of leachate or the condensation appears on the top or sides of the bin, I may leave the lid off for awhile. More than just a few drops may necessitate a tweak of the amount of moisture I add occasionally. I'm particularly attentive of this aspect of worming because.....

    .....leachate-less bins appeal to wives who are less than enthusiastic about worm bins....indoors in particular, and anywhere, in general.

    I believe if the generally accepted worming principles stated that leachate indicated excess water (which it is), and that it was very bad or fatal for the worms (which it isn't), we could, and would, manage to maintain our bins without leachate.


  • Kelly_Slocum

    Ok, hang on a minute, let's take a few steps back. Believe it or not, leachate and tea, based on peer reviewed RESEARCH, can and often do have essentially equal value to garden plants in terms of growth response. Shall I repeat that? Leachate and tea, according to research, can have an equally beneficial impact on plant growth.

    Ok, I'll pause here to give you a moment to digest this, since I suspect I've just caused Chuckie's head to explode.....

    Now to better explain:

    The problem with leachate is not that it contains less nutrient (in fact, it often contains more soluble nutrients than does tea), the problem is that leachate can also contain alochol, phenols and terpenes (all naturally occuring by-products of anaerobic decomposition), and it is not always possible to tell when these compounds are present in sufficient concentration to cause damage. Smell is absolutely NOT a reliable indicator of the value of leachate! Let's repeat that as well! Smell is NOT a reliable indicator of the value of leachate. There is, in fact, research demonstrating that the stinkiest, most foul-smelling leachates imaginable can and sometimes do out-perform odorless leachate and yeasty-smelling tea in plant growth trials. Yes, stinky leachate almost always means anaerobic leachate, but this idea that anaerobic is ALWAYS bad is simply incorrect! It is definitely more risky due to the presence of alcohol, phenol and terpenes, but it is not always bad.

    The problems with leachate come down to risk factors. Aside from the potential presence of phytotoxic (plant toxic) anaerobic by-products, leachate is liquid draining from an actively decomposing mass of OM, thus it has a greater chance of containing human pathogens like e-coli and salmonella than does a tea made from finished, stable material. When applied to food plants there is the danger of contamination when fruits and veggies that may have come into contact with the leachate are not adequately washed or cooked before being eaten (danger is from surface contamination, not from plants uptaking pathogens into their systems).

    And while I was a bit cavalier above regarding anaerobic by-products, as many people have killed or damaged plants by applying leachate with concentrations of alcohol, phenols and terpenes that were not apparent as have found leachate to be beneficial. It is because of the potential for leachate to contain human pathogens and anaerobic by-products that its use is generally discouraged.

    There are many folks out there who use and love the leachate generated from their worm bins. Some use it at full strength, some dilute with clean water before use, usually at a roughly 10:1 ratio. For what it's worth, it is not a practice that I would advocate, but this is a decision that should be made by each individual once they understand the potential risks.

    Make sense? Chuckie, are you still with me?


  • chuckiebtoo

    Kelly, you know I'm still with you, and you know everything you honor us with makes sense to me....
    except....because tea and leachate "have basically equal value to plants" and since you're on record that tea (aerated or not?) is pretty much an exercize in futility, and that the usage of vermi castings and compost have proven to be much more beneficial than teas and, I would guess, leachate, that seems to make your statement, although true, somewhat of a riddle within a conundrum wrapped in an enigma (aren't they always).

    So if the benefits of tea and leachate are of equal value, equal being something between zero and miracle, what part of the riddle-laced conundrum are we referring to?

    I had been a staunch...well, semi-staunch, proponent of teas in the past, and was dissuaded from my passion for them, in part, because of your convincing "derision" of teas with regard to the lack of consistently conclusive data, and evidence of tests within specifically outlined parameters, in accordance with FEMA guidelines, and OSHA supervision...or something like that.

    And, after all, isn't one man's tea another woman's leachate?

    Nice to hear from you...I thought you had escaped.


  • sqh1

    Kelly...Chuckiebtoo..Thanks for the smiles! As you read through these posts about such topics as tea/leachate, I think you might start to realize that your own observation and trials will be most important, to you. For instance, with this topic, I have put leachate, from my ever dripping plastic bins, (Chuckiebtoo.. I am the "wife" here, so, for me,there are not the same issues)on my houseplants with bad results. (Yellow leaves and black spots). I do however pour it liberally over my outdoor bins and outdoor plants. My roses seem to love that stuff. I go with what works for me. If someone comes to this forum and asks a question, there may not be a single answer that will fit your situation, but if you read all the answers and then add in your specific observations of your bins, you just might come up with a bin that works for you.

  • novemberguest

    Well put, and one tangential question, SQH1 ... what is an "in-ground bin" and how do you make one? (I tried a search but didn't come up with anything too clarifying.) Is it just a hole in the ground filled with the usual suspects?

  • sqh1

    Novemberguest..I will make a new post with some images.

  • Kelly_Slocum

    "Kelly, you know I'm still with you, and you know everything you honor us with makes sense to me....
    except....because tea and leachate "have basically equal value to plants" and since you're on record that tea (aerated or not?) is pretty much an exercize in futility,"

    Hmmm, am I on record saying that? I had hoped I was on record saying that those who claim tea is ALWAYS the greatest advancement to gardening since the shovel were overstating things, and that the level of beneficial impact of teas is so variable as to be essentially impossible to quantify at our current level of understanding, thus folks should experiment on their own and make their own decision on whether or not teas are something in which they find value. That's a bit different from saying the application of tea is an exercise in futility, isn't it?

    "and that the usage of vermi castings and compost have proven to be much more beneficial than teas and, I would guess, leachate, that seems to make your statement, although true, somewhat of a riddle within a conundrum wrapped in an enigma (aren't they always)."

    Chuckie, dear, a woman must be allowed to maintain her mystery. It's what keeps you coming back for more...

    "So if the benefits of tea and leachate are of equal value, equal being something between zero and miracle, what part of the riddle-laced conundrum are we referring to?"

    You've got it, actually. We are talking about value somewhere between zero and "the greatest thing since the shovel". Where, in that spectrum tea falls, leachate can fall as well, and that particular point will vary with the tea/leachate, the plant or soil to which it is applied, and the desired impact. It is why any recommendation regarding tea (or leachate) should be qualified with the statement "individual results will vary", as Susan has wisely said.

    "Nice to hear from you...I thought you had escaped."

    No, I'm just kept on a very long leash...


  • Mickey2

    WOW! quite some rousing conservations! Anyways two days ago I added dry paper strips to the COW and they are still holding their shape and are maybe the merest bit damp.Of course the spigot is left open all the time. I suppose the spigot was just added to increase the cost of the container in the first place.

    Then I got thinking, can the containers get dry enough to the point that the worms are in jeopardy?

    As for the worm tea -- I think I'll not use the leachate.I understand worm tea is to be stirred over a period of 24 hours and then it is to be used within 12 hours? Is that true? If so, why? I don't see any reason to strain it -- right?

  • novemberguest

    I think the spigot-plus-legs is a very useful feature. Whether you use or toss the leachate, the above-ground spigot lets you control where it comes out and makes for easier collection and cleanup. You don't have to wrestle one heavy container out of another to empty the bottom one, and it's definitely easier on the eyes than a bin sitting in a pool of brown liquid. The spigot is the main reason I use the COW.

    Yes, I think your container can be too dry. If the new bedding doesn't reach a good level of dampness (like a wrung-out sponge) within two days, spritz it a little.

    No need to strain the tea you make, because all you're straining out is vermicompost -- which MAY be (yes, I know it depends) even better for your plants than the tea. I believe people say to use it within 12 hours to prevent anaerobic bacteria from beginning to make their nasty little by-products.

  • earleemornin

    Aloha, Im new to this forum and fairly new to vermiculture.
    Can some some tell me how to make the worm tea.

  • joe.jr317

    Anytime anyone slings the term "peer reviewed" I am of the opinion they obligate themselves to actually citing that research. Otherwise, not trying to be offensive, but they are just words that hold no weight. I've read no such "peer reviewed" research on the subject, but plenty of scientific theory. For one, leachate is not nearly as consistent. In fact, it is easily proven by the individual with a pH meter how inconsistent the properties are without even determining the actual makeup. If you place a bunch of lettuce and spinach in the bin, it will not give you the same leachate as a bunch of pasta. Period. There are many factors that cause this to vary:

    Food provided: If you provide fruits, you will have different leachate than mostly lettuce or spinach. The liquid will also encourage different bacteria to grow and varying amounts of it due to the differences in sugar content. Grains and nut hulls will have more proteins and encourage more nitrogen in the liquid waste. Also, different foods provide different amounts of water. If you are putting fruits and veges in a can of worms regularly you will get leachate. That's the point of the spigot.

    Number of levels: How many levels is the liquid filtered through? It picks up and leaves behind more or less dependent on the levels and the bedding used, which is next.

    Bedding used: Using manure? I am in two of my bins. Totally different leachate than that from paper. Also potentially more dangerous due to the manure borne pathogens that could be present, as was mentioned.

    I test my pH all the time. Since I also do hydroponic gardening, I have a nice pH tester to help with nute solution regulation. It is also useful for checking leachate and worm tea for consistency. Leachate = no consistency unless you count 4.5 to 8.0 consistent. Worm tea = 7.3 - 8.2 every time. Much more consistent.

    Also, your "peer reviewed" research obviously didn't involve anyone familiar with pythium. Pythium can easily get into leachate from the veges that have spores on them. It's really common with greenhouse grown plants, which are the most common in big grocery stores. Transferring that to potted plants can encourage pythium root rot or damping off in seedlings. And yes, you can smell it. The likelihood that it will affect a ground plant is much lower as there isn't as fine a line between overwatering and drying out the roots. In order to stop root rot, you must allow the roots to dry out some, but too much can kill the plant as surely as the pythium. The idea behind the worm tea as a combatant is that the microbes in worm tea push out the other microbes, like pythium. Don't know if that is true, but I have never had root rot from using worm tea.

    To make the worm tea, I fill a cotton bag with castings. I place it in a five gallon bucket. I fill that with rain water, which has a lower pH than tap. Usually 6 or so. I add a little syrup for sugar (teaspoon) to the water and I aerate it for 24 hours with a small pump and air stone. I use leachate to wet new bedding. I does contain a lot of nutrients that can be put back into the bins.

    One last thing: Peer reviewed doesn't make something fact and there have been plenty of instances where peer review was completely wrong. That little round earth thing. Heliocentricity was peer reviewed as incorrect in favor of geocentricity for a long time. Evolution. And those are the most obvious. How about the peer reviews on safety of some of the drugs that have been removed from the markets? Vioxx anyone? Peers (which are nothing but respected colleagues in the same field as the researcher) are human, too.

  • ledge

    I wish I knew worm bin leach was not stable and dangerous shoot I used it for months now on my new tomato plants from day one, but then again we walk around in sheep barn leach all the time not to mention grabbing wigglers out of the horse crap with the horses standing next to us (no lie). We over evaluate way too much in life, more people kill plants with chemicals and just plain neglect than some natural liquid poop that has been dripping since day 1. 40+ years we have been slopping around in barn yards and we are all still healthy as one can be in this toxic world, what is dangerous is mans "processing" and fast food counter tops not worm pea. Nothing wrong with using liquid that runs out of a worm bin unless you put some dead animal in there. And you do not need a degree to know that. It's worms you are talking about? We have about what, 100 billion around the farm and most are crawling around in horse crap. Is our garden healthy? Take a guess oh but it is next to the worms leach so be careful, better yet come on over sit at the table with us and "enjoy" some worm leach veggies with us.


    insert wink here ;)

  • joe.jr317

    I'm thinking it would be incredibly stupid to ignore the scientific facts of the dangers of microbes and chemicals just because some people are healthy walking around in poop. Keep in mind that when you work with these things for a long time, you build immunities to many microbes that those of us in suburbs or cities can get very ill from. Failing to recognize that little point is the kind of ignorance that can and does get people sick. Just because you are adapted to that environment doesn't mean I am. How do you think the Native Americans died off but Europeans were able to walk around just fine even prior to vaccines? Because adaptation makes the difference. That's not over evaluation. That's common sense with historical evidence to back it. The latest strains of E-coli are not just in the meat of dead animals. It's in the manure and moreso in those that are fed antibiotics.

    Another factor with leachate I forgot to mention, but Ledge unintentionally reminded me of: Chemicals from the pesticides on grocery produce. Most people wash the parts they will eat and neglect to scrub the parts they don't. Worms supposedly render many of these chemicals inert. I would like to see research on that, but in the mean time I will base my belief on the fact that it makes sense. If you place the spinach that went bad into the bin and never washed it or the carrot or radish tops you didn't wash because you wash the root, the leachate will contain those chemicals and you will be applying those to your garden soil.

    Now, that may not be harmful. Then again it may be. Atrazine, for example (and only one), is a common herbicide used in agriculture that has been linked to various cancers and low sperm counts. Personally, I don't feel concentrating all the chemicals into a toxic tea without processing is a good idea. I mean, we're not talking about the amount off of one piece of vegetable. Your leachate is a concentrated concoction from the moisture of many many vegetable additions to the bin. It doesn't take a mathematician to understand that this creates an exponential increase and some of you people are suggesting I pour this on the soil I work with my hands? Personally, I prefer to let the worms process the stuff first. I'll pour the leachate on my lawn.

  • ledge

    incredibly stupid? dangers of microbes? ignorance?

    hey Joe I live in the city now so am I at risk?

  • joe.jr317

    Is that a serious question? I just asked my 7 year old what he thinks. Even he knows that living in densely populated areas increases your risk for airborne illnesses like flu and colds and reaction to pollutants. Of course, he learned that from playing a strategy game called Civilization where that is part of the game. So, yeah. You're more at risk of some things and the less immunity you have the longer and more severe the illness will be. To use your phrase, you do not need a degree to know that.

    Look, whether you like the term "ignorance" or not the term fits. If you choose to ignore simple high school level health education concerning immunity, that's not my problem. It's still ignorance and the kind that can and does lead to illness. Certain microbes are dangerous. That is a simple fact that anybody should be be aware of. What do you think illness is caused by? Magic? No. Microbes, viruses, chemicals, etc. Many of which find their way into leachate.

    I also want to point out that you have this misconception that it is "worm leach" we are discussing here. It's got nothing to do with the worms. As I mentioned, it's the leachate from the food and bedding you add to the bin. So your reasoning concerning "worm leach" from the worms on the farm doesn't even apply here. Nobody denied the worms are safe. In fact, I made it clear I feel the worm tea (using worm castings) is the safest way to go.

    Ignore the scientific fact of the dangers of microbes, viruses, and chemical toxins and you unnecessarily raise your risk of infection or reaction. To me, that's stupid. It's unfortunate when people take risks unwittingly. It's stupid when they do it even after being armed with the knowledge of the potential risks.

  • jeaninmt

    Although this is kind of an old conversation, i wonder if any of the original posters are still around ? Can anyone give more info on the presence of alcohols, phenols and such ? I wonder if thats what has stunted my veggie transplants the past 2 years, since I've been using leachate 'tea' from a friends' worm farm. It would be great to figure this out. Also, can aphid eggs be passed through worm composting ? Thanks

  • JerilynnC

    Leachate is very variable it depends on what you feed the worms, how much moisture, the bedding, etc, etc. And it can differ from bin to bin and also from day to day in the SAME bin. So, it's entirely possible to use it on plants with no ill effects, SOMETIMES.
    The thing is, there is no good way to tell if it's a 'good' leachate or a harmful one, so it's best not to use it to water plants or spray on plants. The best thing to do with it would be to pour it back into the bin. I add some dry bedding then sprinkle the leachate on it in order to moisten it. And it's possible for it to have alcohols, phenols and terpenes in it.
    It's possible that it may have stunted your plants, hard to tell for sure.

    Aphid eggs? That's one I've not heard of before, my guess would be that it is possible, but aphids are so common everywhere any amount of eggs that end up in the vermicompost would be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
    All that said, I've been using VC on both indoor and outdoor plants for almost 18 years and never remember seeing an aphid on an indoor plant. I wouldn't worry about them if I were you.

  • buckstarchaser

    "Can anyone give more info on the presence of alcohols, phenols and such ?"

    I can. It's a load of crap and this is why. Those three words are generic groups of chemicals. It's like saying that a neighborhood contains felines, canines, and conifers, and thus there is a potential threat to human safety. Now if the feline is a lion, then there could be a problem, but it's probably just a house cat. Catch my drift? If not, do note that you are surrounded by chemicals from all three groups this very second. If you are outdoors, then you are doubly exposed, as they are all common organic chemical groups found in every plant, animal, and soil. The turpinoids come from all plants, the alcohol comes from converting carbon, and is a common intermediate chemical (for example: sugar -to-> alcohol -to-> vinegar -to-> dissolved minerals ready for use). I don't know a common producer of phenols besides the famous camphor, but I know that they are commonly used in air "fresheners" lip balm, and naturally occur in malted barley used to make whiskey. Better yet, all three can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and your body at any given time, whether you ate them or not. This has been happening since the beginning of time and will continue uneventfully forever, regardless of what some person said on a forum. It is such a non-issue that it's hard to find direct data on the subject, besides the production of alcohol in your body. That is more easy to find information on because it is sited as complicating postmortem blood alcohol tests since your body can't break down the alcohol when you're dead but your gut is continuing to make it. Furthermore, cholesterol is an alcohol, and table sugar fills the very simple requirements to be classified as an alcohol to.

    All three chemicals are typical and mundane stepping stones to forming organized molecules necessary for every plant and animal.

    For the person that posted that misleading stuff. Go to Wikipedia and type in "research" and have a good laugh at what is required to perform it. For an encore, type in "scientist".

    Just to make sure that I wasn't missing anything, I (re)searched up some studies on using leachate on plants. The results from the tests could be summarized like this: It's not a good idea to use leachate on seeds before they sprout (or at least cress seeds); leachate may contain excess salt, so the best results were had by diluting it 50% with water; leachate contains substances that promote nutrient uptake and plant growth that NPK fertilizers don't have, but leachate does not have enough NPK in it to fully fertilize a crop; the best results were had by mixing leachate, diluted 50% with water, with NPK chemical fertilizer.

    For my personal experience, my worm bin is 110 gallons, and outdoors. It's made of plastic, and it's deep. The bin has no lid and so I have to give it a bit more water than the bottom of the bin likes. When I got around to drilling holes in the bottom to collect the juice, it had about 3" of standing water in it and smelled anaerobic. I diluted this juice 50% with water and immediately used it on everything. The soil I have is quite poor and so the plants were hungry and being eaten by bugs. After the juice treatment (I put it on the leaves, the dirt, and my shoes) I found that the plants activated and started growing strongly within a few days to a week, and the bug damage slowed. I suspect that the smell of the juice covered the smell of the plants, and since bugs find their host plant area by smell, they couldn't find the plants as easily.

    Now, my worm compost will not be ready until next spring, and since my soil is not good and I don't have anything else, I mixed a small amount of miracle grow into a later juice treatment. The study that I just read matches my results. Diluted leachate plus some stronger fertilizer does seem to have a solid improvement on plant growth (and in my case, massive tomato production). Now, next year I hope to have enough vermicompost that I won't need to feel the burning shame of using miracle grow, but last year I produced a handful of radishes from an 8'x20' garden and this year some tomatoes and a couple cucumbers.

    I may be a novice gardener, but I can't imagine that an experienced vermicomposter would claim that leachate is so bad that it should be flushed down the toilet. I had anticipated that there may be something in the juice that wasn't fully ready yet (which lead me to research it, and thus I found this thread), but mostly I didn't want the juice to smell bad. I installed an aquarium air pump and bubble stones in the buckets that I collect the juice in and I honestly can not smell the juice even if I stick my head in the bucket. What's nice about that, besides the lack of smell, is that most foul chemicals will be evaporated out of the aerated juice quickly, and aerobic microbes can continue to mature the juice until I'm ready to use it. Like I said though, I've used the straight anaerobic juice 50% diluted directly on the leaves and ground of all my plants and only had benefits from it. I had to stop my dog from trying to drink it from the bucket.

    I do need to point out though that I water my bin much more than a typical indoor bin and thus, my leachate is likely more diluted than an indoor bin. It's hotter outside and I don't have a lid to keep the moisture in the upper layers of compost. I also want 5-10 gallons of juice when I go to fertilize, as well as to keep the anaerobic areas deep in the bin flushed out. Traditional worm sages will echo that this is wormslaughter or whatever... the majority of my worms are found in this area that has the smell of anaerobic activity and they have better color and a firmer look to them than the ones that come to the surface at night to grab the new additions.

  • dowbright

    buckstarchaser, I wonder if mulching your bed with straw, which wouldn't appeal to them as much as your compost stuff, would help you to use less water. I don't know that you want to, for your purposes, since leachate works so well for you! But we have water issues, and I mulch all gardens. I don't see why it wouldn't work for worms. It's very airy, and I suspect it would function as bedding, so the worms could be working on your good stuff, and still be breathing (or whatever they do!) below the top of the bin.

    Just a thought, and I hope if this is a terrible idea that the more knowledgable folks will tell me. I'm pretty dang sure they will! :D

  • buckstarchaser

    Dowbright, not only is that a good idea, but I intend to do it in the fall. My garden is thickly covered with straw and it is the first big improvement that has allowed me to have any production in my garden this year. Last year, the water just ran off the surface and dried up before getting to the roots.

    When my plants are finished in the fall, I intend to strip the straw and spent plants from the garden and put it all into the bin.

    I do have an idea of what will happen though, as I have been putting a lot of grass and paper in there already. It seems that shafts of grass (and by assumption, straw) are not only inedible to worms until they break down for a long time, but that they don't hold much water. They just keep it from evaporating quickly. This is still good, just not as the only bedding in the bin.

    It kind of makes sense though. In a pile of straw, it is mostly air spaces and hard sticks of straw. Air moisture condenses at night and the result is more leachate and a wet bottom layer. Though my bin has 2-3" of pine bark mulch on the bottom, covered with newspaper, A layer of straw on top of that would probably be ideal. Another layer of straw or grass on the surface would also be helpful for regulating moisture. Since much of the straw from fall will likely be intact in the spring when I harvest the castings, I will likely put the majority of it as a base layer, and use grass as mulch until next fall.

    Even if it's mostly dry, the straw has been excellent at keeping my garden moist and at a more even temperature. I expect that this aspect to pay off over the cold winter inside the bin.

    Now, If I had a lot more nitrogen materials to add to the bin, it would probably break down the grass and straw more quickly. I have started adding some of last year's hardened chicken bedding to facilitate this. A seemingly small amount throws off a lot of ammonia smell, so I use it very sparingly.

    My friend is planning on picking up a pickup truck load of composted chicken manure from an organic farm he does side chores for. This will replace the straw and plants that come off of the garden in the fall. In the spring, I will place whatever worm compost that has finished, into the garden, and pick up another bail of straw to top it off. If I can get the compost offer to repeat, then I suspect that I would be satisfied with that process.

    I'm also looking into using rabbits to turn the grass into something more palatable for the worms. If I can suspend their cages above the bin, that would be all the better.

    For water, I have a well. I suspect that it is a good well, and I have some permanently standing water down hill from me to help keep the aquifer charged. I don't really see the point in using electricity to run the well pump, buying salt for the softener, and putting wear on all of the related parts, just to pump the water back onto the ground when the rain runs off my roof and down the hill into the catch basin. I have put up a cheep 165 gallon rain barrel/bag to see if it was something that I liked. I do like it, and my plants seem to respond better to rain water than well water, but it gets used up fast. I'm thinking about getting one or more used "IBC totes" to expand the rain storage system. They are typically 275 gallons, and fairly cheap for their capacity and strength, as they are treated as trash after they are emptied of their usual contents. "Food grade" ones can be found as well.

  • mendopete

    I have used hay and straw in my bins. I really like mulching with rice straw as you get no sprouts. Both do well and trap air and mulch in the wormsbed. I started a wormbed nearly 2 years ago using 8 bales of moldy hay around the perimeter. The bed grew (I have a horse) and spilled over and out. All the hay is gone but it took awhile. I still find baling twine when I harvest.

    Tell me more about IBC totes. I want a rainwater catch system but containers are scarce or expensive around here.

  • buckstarchaser

    "Tell me more about IBC totes. I want a rainwater catch system but containers are scarce or expensive around here."

    IBC totes are large shipping containers for transporting and storing fluids in bulk. They are made standardized for easy shipping and handling, but since they are to be shipped and handled, they are built to be very sturdy. The 275 gallon totes are roughly 4 feet cubed, weigh about 130 Lbs empty, and almost all of them are made to be stackable. Since filling one with water would cause it to weigh about 2400 Lbs, they are very strong to be able to stack.

    After they are used, nobody really wants them for their initial purpose, and I've heard that some companies that sell their products in them don't accept them back. I can understand that to a degree, as who would trust putting new food into a used food container (although it's been done with drinks bottling for many years). A lot of times, people will set them on fire to burn the plastic container out of them so that they can sell the metal frame for scrap. That seems like such a waste, but I have a soft spot for extra storage.

    I've seen videos on how to turn them into aquaponic fish tanks that have their top cut off and flipped over to make a garden bed right on top of the tank too. Of course the top is offset to allow access to the fish.

    On my local Craigslist, food grade totes can be had for $50 and up, though they would likely charge extra to deliver it to you. That sounds good to me since my 165 gallon bag will likely only last a couple years, is not food grade nor sturdy and stackable, and cost $95.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia: IBC tote

  • mendopete

    Thanks. They would be great. I will start hunting for them.

  • chuckiebtoo

    OK, here's a test about how to bring back stuff. It is true a Subject thread is easily enough brought to the front, but.....

    Anyway, I read most of this old thing and refreshed it because of some good points, and because Kelly Slocum was a participant. For those who know of Kelly, you understand. For those who don't, read this thread and you'll learn.

    Kelly is missed.


  • buckstarchaser

    @CB2: My face nearly melted when it turned out that this was the thread you were searching for.

    ITT, Kelly Slocum explains that focusing your searches on bonafide research will make you look smart, but sidestepping straight-forward explanations is the art that she describes as her mysterious talent that keeps you coming back. Then she blunders the whole chemistry 101 thing.

    Is this the same Kelly Slocum that is currently selling get-rich-quick dog training schemes?

  • hummersteve

    My thoughts are not to use this drainage. You have no way of knowing if this is just drainage from water and food scraps and not that it has passed thru a worms body which is what you are striving for. I rarely get that drainage and when I do I just put it back in the bin or dump it as I dont trust it.

  • barbararose21101

    Keeping this topic active:

    KellyS 's paragraph:

    "You've got it, actually. We are talking about value somewhere between zero and "the greatest thing since the shovel". Where, in that spectrum tea falls, leachate can fall as well, and that particular point will vary with the tea/leachate, the plant or soil to which it is applied, and the desired impact. It is why any recommendation regarding tea (or leachate) should be qualified with the statement "individual results will vary", as Susan has wisely said. "

    BTW I looked up ITT : It means In This Thread . (Navigating My QUESTION: does anyone on this forum besides Paul, who doesn't do Tea, have the kind of microscope that can see and photograph Life in Your Bin ? I will buy one someday if/when I get caught up on higher priorities. In the meantime,
    (ITM ? )
    I wish someone would brew some tea and read it for me/us.

    Specifically, I'd like to see what happens when I/we "keep aerating".
    That is, why can't I keep 4 gallons, or a gallon jug,
    bubbling indefinitely ?
    And: is the foam a reliable indicator of what is happening ?

    If I had a microscope I could observe whether the good-guy count goes up or down with time, and whether the molasses or other food makes a difference.
    Further, since I do keep a bucket of horse manure tea brewing,
    I will, if I live long enough, look to see what is in HM tea.
    FYI (everyone knows that one, right ? ) Brewing HM tea breaks down the wood shavings & digested HM, until there are hardly any solids. Is that just because of the plastic net ? (the net oranges & garlic come in ) or is there bacterial action at work ?

    To repeat the question for the Scanners among us:

    Does anyone on this forum make "microbial extract" from EF castings AND look at it through a microscope ?

  • barbararose21101

    Ted ed has a you tube video about turbulence. It shows (alleges) that Van Gogh understood turbulence in a way math and physics don't quite. The explanation of turbulence reminded me of aerating microbial extrapolation . ; )
    Which led me to wondering whether the shape of the container makes much difference. Also reminded me of the Mandelbrot set. But that is way off topic. I am submitting this for your entertainment during what is, for most of us, cold weather.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Turbulence in Starry Night

  • PRO

    It was entertaining. Perhaps for a shape that adds more oxygen into water Google images “Flow forms”. In the olden days of brine shrimp growing a cut off plastic soda bottle was turned upside down. An air stone was put into the neck of the bottle to get the brine shrimp eggs to be in continuous circulation.

  • PRO

    While thinking on water turbulence you might enjoy some youtubes on the topic of ebru.

  • hummersteve

    To each his/her own on the subject of leachate, personally I dont have any drainage so it moot but I still would not use it.

    As for using plastic bins [which is what I started with] I had a problem with the bins sweating and worms not liking and I would find hundreds on the lid when I checked . To make a long story short now I leave the lid cracked and it never sweats this no worms at top stay down to do their thing. I also find at first I left the lid cracked an inch of so and now leaving only the slightest crack maybe 1/4" and the bin still doesnt sweat. But I have also made other adjustments like cutting out the bottoms and replacing with 1/4" hardware cloth thinking this may help with migration or not. I also have the bottom elevated to add more airflow.

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