Sandpit type worm farm

Written by Matthew on November 25th, 2011

One simple and cheap way to grow worms and compost with them is a “sandpit” style worm farm. You just construct a structure that would be similar to a sandpit for children built on the ground. You simply need construct a sandpit, but don’t but sand in it, instead fill it with your compostable materials and then add the worms. As for building the sand pit, there are tons of different ways. Just search Google and you will find tons. Here is an example. Taking care of the worms is the same as in any other bin, like here.

If you live in a hot area be sure to build it where it will get some shade. Also be sure to keep it damp and fed well. A lip of some sort around the top will help keep worms from escaping. Be sure its deep enough to not freeze through during the winter. Check your frost depth and build accordingly.


Compost and Vermicompost, What are they?

Written by Matthew on August 30th, 2011

Compost is the process through which organic matter transforms from an unstable state to a stable state. To understand this, think about an apple that has fallen off of a tree and is left sitting on the ground undisturbed. The apple, although fresh and ready to eat when it falls from the tree, will not stay in this condition for long. Because the apple cannot stay in its present condition it is said to be in an unstable state. The apple has stored energy in the form of sugars, starches, and proteins. These chemical stores of energy came from the sun and were stored through the process of photosynthesis. The apple tree took CO2, water, oxygen, and converted these basic ingredients using sunlight through the process of photosynthesis into the sugars and starches that make up most of the apple. The apple will soon begin a natural and God created processĀ  of decomposition called composting. Organisms such as yeast, bacteria, and fungus will begin breakdown of the apple into a more stable form and eventually into a material called humus. Humus has many important functions that whole books could be written on, but for basics its important to know that humus holds nutrients for plant use and acts as a filter and helps prevent contamination of ground water from many chemicals (Miller 148).

It is quite fascinating to see how this natural process keeps everything in balance. If things did not rot (compost) eventually there would be huge piles of leaves in the forest, our uneaten apple cores would soon litter the planet, grass clippings would eventually take over your yard, so on and so forth, but more importantly the soil would soon run out of nutrients because they were not getting replenished. Composting is necessary for new things to come about. Composting is a natural process through which God has allowed for His creation to continually renew itself. Everything that was once living will eventually turn back into the soil. (Genesis 3:19) The complexity of natural cycles is amazing and so vast that scientist cannot completely understand the chemistry involved, yet at the same time somehow they are fascinatingly simple and complete systems.

A large portion of garbage created comes from organic and once living sources. All the food, paper, wood, cotton and much of the other resources we use come from the ground as grown products. These product all can be turned into compost when their usable life is over. Currently we throw much of these materials into landfill when they could be used to enrich our soils. The problems comes from the fact that the natural process of composting is to slow to efficiently handle the huge volumes of organic material currently produced. However through intentional composting and using special methods we can compost large amounts of garbage quickly, producing a valuable soil amendment in the process of reducing waste. This also prevents depletion and waste of agricultural capacity.

Many different compost methods have been devised by people over the years. Some compost methods are suitable for extremely large scale facilities composting hundreds of cubic yards a day and some methods have been developed that can allow for a completely automated compost bin to fit under your kitchen counter. One type of composting called thermophilic composting requires temperatures to climb to over 150 degrees F, compared to vermicomposting which takes place at room temperature. Vermicomposting is of course composting with the use of earthworms. Vermicomposting can also vary in scale from million dollar operations to 15 dollar plastic containers.


Daily life as a worm farmer

Written by Matthew on August 12th, 2011

What is a typical day for a typical red worm farmer? That would be hard for me to know provably because I doubt that there is a typical worm farmer. Me and most of my colleague each do things very different, but I can tell you how my typical day goes.

You would think that a lot of my time would be spent managing the actual worm farm, but in reality I spend a lot of my time on the computer and phone answering emails and phone calls. To be honest I miss a lot of phone calls, but I do answer direct emails usually within 24 hours. Sometimes there is just no way for me to answer the phone. Everyday I try to do something online to get people interested in vermicomposting. That could be anything from writing blog post to answering questions on forums. Facebook is becoming an important resource for me to convey information and interest to people interested in vermicomposting. Lately, I have been working on making regular video post as well.

If it is a day we need to harvest red worms then me and at least one other person will go and harvest worms in the morning before it gets hot. After that the worms will need feeding. At least once a week the worm beds need turning with a pitchfork and this is quite a chore. Spot checks are taken every day to see the conditions of the worms. When doing a spot check I like to see how many worms are in an area, check for proper moisture, see if they are laying a good number of egg capsules, check for bedding temperature and compactness as well. It is always important for me to know about how many worms I have in the beds. If I start running low then something has to be done immediately or we could be out of red worms in short order. Thankfully we have not had that issue as of recent and our worms are breeding nicely.

Usually I also try and spend some time researching new ideas and trying to figure better ways of doing things. Every time we add a new red worm bed it is different and better than the older ones. Several times the improvement were so much that we would retrofit the old beds with the new improvements. Ultimately I plan to use the knowledge I have gained to help farmers and communities in third world countries. It will be exciting to start our first overseas project for sure. As for now I have no specific plans or dates set, just a head full of ideas.


Red Wiggler Worm Composting Bin Setup Video

Written by Matthew on August 8th, 2011


Red Worm Shipping and Packing Video

Written by Matthew on July 29th, 2011


Red Worm Feeding Frenzy, How To Compost Quickly Using Red Worms

Written by Matthew on July 28th, 2011

Red worms are well know for their ability to consume vast amounts of food in a short time and multiply like mad as well. Often time however our worms will fail to meet this potential due to not a failure on their part but due to a lack proper conditions for them to get worked up into this feeding frenzy. When things are just perfect though, you can literally see the food disappearing in a matter of hours. This will work best in well established worm beds that have plenty of worms in them. There should be at least 1 pound of worms per square foot for this to work right.

It takes a few days to get a properly maintained worm bed to this point of boiling over with worm activity. First thing is to have the bedding material loose so that the worms can freely move through the bedding. Second is that the moisture level needs to be right. To check the moisture level, grab a handful of the bedding substrate and give it a squeeze. If no water drops are produced then it is way to dry. On the other hand if more than 4-5 drops of water are squeezed out then it is way to wet. Ideally 2-3 drops of water should come out of the bedding for best composting speed.

Worms must have plenty of easily digestible food to eat in order to get worked up onto a composting frenzy. All your normal compostables will work, but in order to get thing really moving fast you can mash or chop them up into smaller sizes, but this is not necessary and the worms will work on them either way. The food needs to be near the top of the bed as that is where the worms prefer to feed. It is provably best to feed in strips rather that feed the whole top. That way if the feed starts to heat up the worms will have a place they can escape to.

Check the worms every couple of days. As long as they have food and the moisture level is right they should really start to work on the food. Feed them just beside of the previous feeding moving the strip of feed just a little each time. The worms will follow the food scraps. If they run out of food then they will disperse through the bedding and it will take a few days to get them started eating like crazy again. This is not necessarily a bad thing though and every once in a while the bedding should be allowed to go without food for a few days so that any missed food will get consumed. Follow this and you will have loads of worms casting and no food scraps to throw out!

Thanks for reading,
Matthew Wilson
Worms Etc


Shipping and packing red worms

Written by Matthew on July 26th, 2011

We have had great success with shipping and packaging our worms. This year we have shipped out more than a thousand pounds of worms with only a couple of packages having problems. We did have an issue with worms trying to crawl out of the seams of the bags but we have solved that with new types of bags.

We harvest our worms ahead of time so that they have time to cool before shipping. After the worms have spent some time in air-conditioning and have cooled off we remove all material or substrate from the worms and try and get them “Clean as spaghetti” (Thanks for that saying go to Mr. Jack Brantley) before weighing them. This ensures that our customer is getting a solid pound of worms shipped to them.

The worms can not survive for long though without being in a substrate, aka bedding, so after weighing them we immediately add either peat moss or coconut coir to them and mix them up with it. Mixing them ensures that they are no clumps of worms that would soon run out of oxygen and die. The substrate is a little dryer than the worms would normally prefer, but this has no long term effect upon the worms and helps keep them alive in shipping. If we were to add them back to the bedding or to really wet substrate they would likely perish during shipping. If a worm farmer claims to add his worms back to the original bedding before shipping, be careful as they cannot take heat very well in such a situation.

The weighed out worms and substrate now go into a breathable fabric bag which is heat sealed so that no worms can escape. Boxes are ready and the bottom of the box is filled with a compostable and insulating packing fill. We use a special fiber made from recycled cardboard boxes that we make here on site at Worms Etc. This material has really helped us in preventing the loss of worms during shipping. It keeps the worms cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. Also it helps retain moisture preventing the worms from drying out and also keeps the shipping box sturdy during transit. This along with the heat sealed bags now makes our shipping very safe for the worms.

Included in the box of worms is an instructional sheet that will help you get started composting. An invoice and our business card also hitch a ride in the box.


Red Wiggler Worms and Water

Written by Matthew on July 25th, 2011

I always thought that red wigglers would drown if the substrate or bedding was really wet, but I have found that this is not necessarily the case. Although they certainly can drown in too much moisture the level of water which they can handle is very high. While checking on my beds I found a certain spot that the sprinklers were watering much more than the rest of the beds and when I checked to see if how the worms were in this spot they were just hundreds of them bunched up. They were also some of the largest worms I had seen. This spot was so wet that the substrate was almost like pudding or a very wet mud. The thing is that they don’t lay may eggs when it is this wet and that it is impossible to harvest them from such wet bedding.

The thing here I guess is to know that if you want some really big wigglers for fishing, don’t be afraid to wet them down. Just be sure that you have good drainage, because the standing water can cause problems.


Orders are going out on schedule

Written by Matthew on May 15th, 2011

There was a slight delay in order after the passing of my mom. We are now caught up and are shipping on our normal schedule.


We Will Miss You Mom

Written by Matthew on May 10th, 2011

After struggling with multiple sclerosis for more than twenty years my dear mom has passed away today. There is no doubt in our minds that she is with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sickness and lameness no longer has a hold on her and she has a new body. She was an amazing person and will be greatly missed.