Sunday, April 6, 2008

Honey, Did you Let the Worms Out?

No that is not a typo. The dogs are in, the worms are out. Today we removed the worms from their winter lair, the hall closet.

Many people have come through our hallway since we brought them in from the cold in late October, completely unsuspecting that they were passing a writhing mass of red wigglers (eisenia fetida). There is of course one child who likes to “see people’s faces” when she tells them that “worms live in her closet”, so the winterized worms have not been completely covert. We started our vermicomposting bin last September. This is what I have learned:
  • It is not easy to find the happy medium between fruit flies/smell and hungry worms. I would much rather err on the side of hungry worms.
  • The cool, damp air space between the bottoms of the bins is preferred by the occasional cave centipede. Truth be told these things are just plain creepy and I only saw one but still I have heard they can give a nasty sting so I thought it worth mentioning.
  • Apparently our worms reproduced in captivity, though I was unable to determine if any of the pieces of matter were eggs. Little baby worms are very small.

Now it is obvious we did not feed them enough. There was not nearly as much castings as I had hoped for. So today we made more bedding of torn cardboard and leaf litter and gave them a fresh meal. I am thinking they need to have food thrice weekly.

Preparing a worm farm is easy. We use two large containers, one which fits inside the other. We put bricks as spacers between the two containers and drill the inside container with small drainage holes. Within the small container we put shredded cardboard, old dry leaves, and a handful of sand (though gritty dirt will work as well). Mix it all through and wet it till its is quite moist but not dripping and there you have it.

If your worms are happy they will not attempt to escape. We have never had an escapee. Note, worms do not like oak leaves and they do not like citrus and tomatoes. These create an environment too acidic for worms and they will try to get out. Feed your worms small amounts as your colony builds. We cover the inside container with a piece of cloth which has eliminated fruit flies. If you start to notice an odor, you are feeding them too much. If you chop your vegetable matter into smaller pieces the worms will eat it faster.

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