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Worms and gardening. How to use worms and their compost to grow flowers and vegetables.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

huge red strawberries

Strawberries from the Worms Etc garden 2009

Tips on vermi-gardening
Vermi-gardening is gardening using the help of worms.

The first year of a garden

Soils in areas that have never been worked before seldom have the qualities needed to grow domesticated plants and vegetables. Although soil in a particular area may be covered in grasses and other naturally occurring flora, modern plant breeds have been selected over the years for varieties that produce the highest yields. These plants can only meet their potential when rooted in a soil that meets certain conditions. Continue reading “Worms and gardening. How to use worms and their compost to grow flowers and vegetables.” »

Why worms?

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Ok so I when I tell people that I am into worms I never know what to expect. Some people don’t question it at all or say something like “Yeah, I have heard of people doing that,” but other times I get these weird looks, blank stares, head scratching responses that say, “I don’t get it.” Those are actually my favorite, because then I get to tell them “Why worms?” Continue reading “Why worms?” »

More worm bin critters

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Well I am sure there are to many critters that could possibly find a home in a worm bin to ever list, but I am going to start a list. There are many places with list already, but I will try and produce the most extensive list with common and scientific names and pictures. I will include a reference HERE. This post will be updated regularly as it will be an ongoing work. Please help by adding new creatures, your experiences with them, if a particular creature has been a problem or help to you, what you have done to get rid of a creature or manage it, corrections to scientific names (they are always changing), any good pictures you have of a bin creature or anything else that may be helpful. And so it begins…

There are plenty of authors who have wrote of there experiences with worm bin creatures but two excellent sources , although not writing specifically on this subject, having practical information on many creatures are worth mentioning. Mary Appelhof’s Worms Eat My Garbage covers many of the more common creatures, and Ruth Myer’s A-Worming We Did Go! goes into great detail about a couple of common problem creatures and how she finally overcome the great troubles she had with them.

This is going to take some time so I think I will do it like this. I will make a list here on this post and then go back and make a more detailed post on each creature in this list with a link to it from here.

Scientific names may be given as a family where many varieties exist.

potworm whitewormWhite Worms, Pot Worms
Scientific family: Enchytraeids
Small white segmented worms. 10-25mm long
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Undesirable where worm production is the objective. These are not nematodes which are unsegmented.



Thanks to lord v on flickr for another amazing photo!

Scientific order: Collembola
Over 1200 different know species with habitats from the Arctic to the equator.
Small white flea like creature. May cover surface of bin so thickly that they look like a white powder.
Can jump the equivalent of human jumping the Eiffel Tower!
One of the most important creatures for creating the worlds soil humus.
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Undesirable where worm production is the main objective.

Woodlice Rolly-Polly SowbugSowbugs, Pillbugs, Woodlice, Rolly-Pollies, Isopods
Scientific name: Armadillidium vulgare
Look like tiny armadillos. Can roll into small balls. Need a moist environment to transpire O2.
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Relatively non-invasive and should not ever present a problem to most worm bins.

Scientific Class: Chilopoda
Ok these are one thing that we need to keep out of the bin. They are not likely to multiply rapidly but if you see them kill em, at least this is my opinion. Be careful as they have a poisonous bite and they may eat the occasional worm. They often find there way in on yard trimmings and I often see them in mulch. You can easily tell them apart from harmless millipedes by the number of legs per body segment. Centipedes have two legs per segment, while millipedes have four. Also centipedes can move much quicker than millipedes.




more info to come


Thanks to lord v on flickr for the use of this amazing photo! He has more click on the photo to look.


more info to come

Spirit of a Worm Farmer

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Being a worm farmer requires a unique type of person. Some one who is resourceful and not afraid to try something new. Also one must not be afraid to be different because well being a worm farmer is a little different.

Flow Through Worm Bin Worms Etc

Worms Etc Flow Through Worm Bin

I have been a metal fabricator with my own shop for the past few years. It pays the bills and is quite an enjoyable way to make a living. I have no intent of quitting that anytime soon either, but since I enjoy keeping my own “mini-farm” and think that worms are fascinating, I decided to start a worm farm. Also I can now add a line of worm farming tools to my product line coming from my fabrication shop. I always love inventing new tools and machinery and since there is not all that much available in the worm farming trade I thought it an excellent opportunity.

What I did not realize going into worm farming is how challenging it would be. I am so glad that it is though because that is what I find so great about it. Every day there is something new to do, a new problem to solve, questions that need answering, a machine or tool that needs improving etc.

If I ever stop learning new things or if there are no new problems to solve then I will provably get bored and start looking for something new to do. Thankfully though I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.

Hmm, I am really wondering what causes this “protein poisoning” in worms. I think I am going to buy a good microscope on Ebay and see if I can figure this thing out. Should be interesting.

Matthew Wilson

Critters of the worm bin. WARNING SCIENCE CONTENT! May cause drowsiness

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Warning science content. May cause involuntary loss of conciseness known as sleepiness!

Worms are greatly outnumbered even in their own home. In the bin with them they are countless numbers of microorganisms. How many you may ask, countless billions to hundreds of billions in a mere handful of compost is common (Miller and Gardiner 2001). These microorganisms consist of micro plant life such as algae and fungi and countless bacteria . Not only is the number of microorganisms astounding but the shear variety is amazing. Most of the microorganisms that commonly occur in average soils have yet to be named or studied.

Algae, like plants, consume CO2 and release oxygen in a process known as photosynthesis. During photosynthesis the CO2 is restructured with hydrogen from water to produce starches, fats, and sugars. Because photosynthesis requires light algae are only active in the upper layers of compost where light is available. When algae die they are decomposed by fungi and are now a food source to the other creatures in the compost including worms.

unicellular algae

Thanks to PROYECTO AGUA on flickr for the photo

The fungi kingdom consist of molds, mushrooms, yeast and a few others. They do not utilize light to produce energy and therefore may occupy all levels of a compost bin. Since they cannot use light to produce energy they must consume oxygen and decompose carbon into carbon dioxide to produce energy. Hence fungus help decomposition whereas algae do not. The vast majority of fungus are harmless and many produce substances beneficial to man such as antibiotics and also the interesting flavor of blue cheese. Fungus also help change nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium into forms usable by plants (Pollock and Griffiths 2005). In-fact without microorganisms life on earth would quickly cease because of a lack of CO2 (Surber 2009).* See note at bottom

mushrooms growing is the woods is a type of fungus

Mushrooms are a common type of fungus

Bacteria though are the real movers in all of this. Bacteria can double in number as little as 30 minutes! Bacteria play an extremely important role in converting gasses that are toxic and unusable to plants into more stable and useful solids. Bacteria are classified as aerobic, requires oxygen to live, or anaerobic, does not require oxygen. Because worms need air anaerobic bacteria should not be found in large quantities in a worm bin. Aerobic bacteria use oxygen to convert nitrites into nitrates. This is good because nitrites are toxic to plants and worms (Miller and Gardiner 2001). This is another reason it is so important to have good aeration in the worm bed. Also it is important to not add to much nitrogen to a bin at once because the bacteria will consume the oxygen quicker then it can be replaced. At this point the harmful nitrites will build up inside the bin.

happy knitted yarn bacteria

Actual bacteria as viewed under a microscopeThanks to Beth at loxosceles.org for this creative photo

Actual bacteria viewed under a microscope at 50,000x magnification

Well if you made it this far thank you for reading this. If you enjoyed it you may consider yourself an official “Worm-Book Worm”

*Plants have a voracious appetite for CO2 and would quickly consume all available. Then when the plants die they would just lay there without decomposing and lock up that CO2. Most botanist agree that CO2 is the limiting factor for plant growth.

See related article

Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Red Worms

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Well I just had a couple cups of coffee so lets see if I can type without rambling to much. I tend to get real jittery.

In this blog I am going to teach how to set up a “worm bin.” Anyone can learn how to do this and its great fun for children so have them help also.

This is intended for the beginner starting with common red worms.

Worms Etc Worm Kit

Worms Etc Worm Farm Kit

First thing you will need is a home for the worms. This can be a bucket, a plastic “rubbermaid®” box, a used aluminum foil turkey pan or any other sort of container that will not get soft when exposed to water. If you do not have anything like this you can just go and buy a rubbermaid container.

Once you pick out a home for the worms you need to add “bedding” to it.

What is bedding? Bedding is the stuff the worms live in.

  • Shredded paper
  • shredded cardboard
  • peat moss
  • dead leaves
  • old compost
  • aged manure (do not used fresh manure for bedding)
  • coconut coir
  • Dirt / soil from the yard is NOT bedding. Adding a little is ok but no more than a hand-full
  • Mixing several different types of bedding together is fine and great

The bedding needs to be damp. Get a container and put some water in it. Then take a hand-full of your bedding and place it in the water letting it soak  for a few seconds. Then squeeze out the excess water just like you were squeezing out a sponge. That is all that is needed to dampen the bedding.

Now take that hand-full of damp bedding and place it into the bottom of the worm home. Repeat this until you have about 4 inches of bedding in the bottom. You are now done adding bedding.

Just an interesting note here that worms can live in damp bedding alone. The problem being a lack of food so overtime they would not multiply or grow much.

Worms and scrap apples

Worms and scrap apples

Next step is to add a small amount of food by placing it on top of the bedding. Small amount means about a cup full.

An optional step is to cover this food with a little bedding to keep flies and smells away.

– What is food? Worms are not picky eaters so just about any fruit, vegetable, nut or bean will work. This includes coffee and filters, egg shells, bread, and even meat and cheese. The problem from meat and cheese is that they can stink like crazy so don’t add them unless you want stinky worms.

You are now done preparing the worm’s home. Any worm would be happy and cozy in there.

Worm Bin Farm Kit

Worms Etc Red Worm Farm Starter Kit

Now to add the worms just place them on top of the bedding. It may take them a day or two to move into their new home because they need a little time to adjust to the new conditions. Think of it kind of like when you get fish for an aquarium, it is best to let them adjust slowly to the new conditions.

After two days they should be settled into their new homes. In another day or two you should see some worms gathered around the food that you added. This is a good sign that every thing is well.

Wait until most of that food is gone before adding more. Slowly the worms will be able to eat food faster. Just do not stir uneaten food into the bedding because worms do best with separate areas of food and bedding.

That is all there is to it!

Well the coffee is running down so I guess its time to wrap this one up.

The worms love it when I drink coffee, they get the grounds.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew Wilson

Read more…

Cardboard and worms and effect on reproduction rates

Monday, December 7th, 2009

One might say that as a worm farmer you see treasure where others see trash. Cardboard is one treasure that is very plentiful and easy to find but the problem is that in its raw state it is very unmanageable in a worm bin.

For example if you were to wet cardboard boxes and place them into a worm bin they would eventually be consumed and turned into castings but this would take a long time. Also until the boxes broke down they would be in the way of adding new foods, taking up lots of space, and make sorting or separating of the worms difficult.

Cardboard Worm Bedding

Hammer Milled Bedding

However when cardboard is first pulverized it makes an excellent bedding and the worms do seem to get some nutrition from it. I have tried raising worms on straight pulped cardboard and though the worms do survive and even multiply a little it seems that they do best when another food source is used and the cardboard is treated as a bedding. I have even seen that the red wiggler reproduction rates can be increased by the worms growing in cardboard. As far as the actual pulping of the cardboard is concerned it can be very labor intensive.

Lately I have been finding pre-shredded cardboard coming from companies that do lots of shipping. They use specialized cardboard shredding machines make a sort of packaging material from old cardboard boxes. The great part about this stuff is that it is already in a fairly use-able form for the worms. Also, the paper fibers are now cut to short and it cannot be recycled so there is no better use for it. This stuff kind of looks like a fish net made from cardboard and the worms love it so keep your eyes peeled for that bit of worm treasure.

If you happen to have access to a hammer mill than you are in good shape. That is what we use to make our bedding with.

Matthew Wilson