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Garden Composter; Mass worm extinction... Why?

Discussion in 'CycleChat Cafe' started by Fab Foodie, 3 May 2008.

  1. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Not being much of a gardener, I have taken some pride in keeping a pretty excellent garden composter going for about 5 years or so. Grass cuttings and kitchen veg/fruit trimmings. I've used the resulting compost in pots hanging baskets and this year dug a load into my 3 m2 veg patch.

    Now this wonderful bin of decomposing lovliness has been home for millions of worms... every time I add more material, I give the fermenting mass a stir and delight in the wormy wriggliness. About a week ago, there were zillions on top of the compost, up the sides and spilling out of the lid. I didn't thjink much about it, gave the mass a stir, shook the blighters from the lid and carried on. Now 2 days ago I lifted the lid to an unpleasant rancid butcher-shop smell and noticed a huge dead mass of worms on the lid and the surface of the compost covered in dead worms. I've given a stir and they're 99.9% dead throughout. All very nasty and a tad sad.
    Anybody know why? No chemicals, no weed killer etc used on the lawn.
    No idea.
    I miss my worms.
     
  2. Crackle

    Crackle Pah Staff Member

    Location:
    Wirral
    Too warm or too wet, is my guess. Conditions have to be just right for worm composting (I've only read about it though, not done it).
     
  3. Crackle

    Crackle Pah Staff Member

    Location:
    Wirral
    Here found this the other day, when I was looking how to dispose of dog poo.

    Q. My worms have died - why?
    A. There are several reasons why they may have died, the most common reason is because the conditions have become intolerable to the worms. If the compost looks black, sludgy and smells then it has become anaerobic, this is where there is no oxygen present (caused by compaction, wet conditions) and there is now the wrong type of bacteria present, this will give off nasty gasses causing the worms to give up or die off!
    Sometimes worms will die off due to bad foodstuff being added, such as a lot of raw onion or citrus fruit skin, fermenting fruit or alcohol etc.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Crackle
    That could explain it. It's certainly a bit fermenty in there, both alcoholic and lactic (silage) going-on which are both anaerobic processes, but I hadn't thought that the composter was that air-tight to affect the worms. Hence they were all at the lid where there was fresh air maybe?
    Hopefully fresh-ones will find there way up from the bottom. I'll keep it better stirred.
     
  5. mr Mag00

    mr Mag00 rising member

    Location:
    Deepest Dorset
    layers of paper help with this as they hold air, grass cuttings can get heavy, contain a lot of water and go anaerobic quite quickly.
     
  6. Dayvo

    Dayvo Just passin' through

    Location:
    O' slO'
    Before I saw Crackle's post, I would have said lack of oxygen, thus causing gases.
    Nice to know some of my greenkeeping knowledge is right! :smile:

    This morning at work, after a very heavy nights' rain, all the greens were literally crawling with worms! I tried to save some by picking them up and throwing them to safety before cutting the greens, but there were FAR too many. Needless to say, I killed thousands of worms today! :sad::sad::biggrin:
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    MURDERER!!!!:smile::angry::sad:




















    :biggrin:
     
  8. purpleR

    purpleR Senior Member

    Location:
    Edinburgh
    A friend of mine has a wormery, and she has noticed that if the worms aren't happy then they swarm up round the lid- usually (as has been said above) if they're buried in too much food and can't get enough air, or if she gives them food that they don't like much - they are quite fussy and don't like onions much apparently.

    On the up side, they are fecund little beasties and the 0.1% that have survived will multiply back into the thousands within weeks if conditions are right for them.
     
  9. Dayvo

    Dayvo Just passin' through

    Location:
    O' slO'
    That makes me feel a bit better! :smile:

    BUT I'm cutting the greens tomorrow again, although it's been warm and sunny today, so hopefully they've submerged. :biggrin:
     
  10. purpleR

    purpleR Senior Member

    Location:
    Edinburgh
    ...but that doesn't really help the ones you already chopped up! :biggrin:
     
  11. Fnaar

    Fnaar Smutmaster General

    Location:
    Thumberland
    Doesn't each chopped up bit grow into a new one, or is that only when you're a kid? :evil:
     
  12. Speicher

    Speicher Vice Admiral Staff Member

    I do not think that this is the time or the place to experiment with chopping bits off. :evil::biggrin:
     
  13. tdr1nka

    tdr1nka Taking the biscuit


    Yes!
    When I was a small child I was unfortunately chopped into bits and now there are 13 of me!:biggrin:

    Apparently this never happens after pubity???
     
  14. purpleR

    purpleR Senior Member

    Location:
    Edinburgh
    I think it's just gremlins that do that. Oh and japanese knotweed. I'm not sure about what happens at puberty, but you've got to make sure you do it after midnight.