Worm farm basics

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Merry Christmas from Worms Etc

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Fair warning, this is a little strange, indeed sometimes I can be.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a worm.
The worm inns were hung by the carport with care,
In hopes that compost soon would be there Continue reading “Merry Christmas from Worms Etc” »

Composting made simple using red worms. Indoors!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Composting food scraps is easy and fun to do even in ones home. If you have an outdoor area to compost in then you can certainly compost a larger amount, but even if you live in an apartment you can still compost most of your food scraps.

Items such as newspaper, leaves, cardboard, dried straw, paper towels are considered to be bedding or browns. It is important to have enough of these in every compost pile. Because these items decompose slowly and they have extra carbon they keep the composting process under control and prevent smells. Also when using worms in the compost pile they provide the worms with an escape from the composting process. Worms will live in these materials and move in and out of them as they consume and compost the food scraps.

Most food scraps can be composted as long as they don’t contain dairy, meat, or to much oil or salt. Worms love vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds including the filters.

There are many good compost bins for sale. Some are more complicated then they need to be but any will work. The simple fact is that worms do not require a mansion to live in. I suggest that if you are on a budget (aren’t we all?) to get a plastic tote to keep your worms in. A simple sweater storage box available at most any store works great. Many other sites and people say to poke holes in the bin for air circulation and indeed this may help, but if your bin is not more than a foot or so deep that the hole are not even necessary. If you don’t place hole just simply leave the lid off. If a dim night light is kept on the worms at all times then they should not every try crawling out. A piece of cardboard placed over the top of the bedding in the bin will help keep the bedding moist and the worms happy.

For the first month or so the worms will not use much food. I believe this is because of two things, first the bedding will act as food for the worms and second the worms need a certain amount of living organisms in the bin in order to compost and digest the food. The bin will be lacking in these beneficial organism for a few weeks until the population is established. After a month or so the worms should be consuming their weight in food every week. They may consume up to twice that amount under some circumstances.

Collecting the castings to be used in the garden is easy. The red wiggler worms migrate towards the new food and up. This is of great benefit to us as it makes harvesting easy. In order to harvest casting and leave the majority of the worms behind, simply feed the worm to one side for a week or so and after the worms migrate to that side scoop the section up with the worms and set them to the side in a temporary container. After the worms are set aside, harvest about half of the castings and add new bedding and a little food. Now the castings are ready to be used in the garden and the worms can be placed back into the worm bin. Just add the worms and the material the were in on top of the newly added bedding and they will crawl down into the material and begin eating right away. The castings will likely contain a few worms and some worm eggs as well, but they should not be so many as to effect your bin to much and the extra space will promote the other worms to reproduce anyhow.

You can have a worm bin anywhere. They do not produce any offensive odors if cared for properly and can be placed anywhere a trash can goes. Composting with worms reduce the amount of garbage sent to a landfill, the castings help produce greener, healthier plants.

Red wiggler versus the european nightcrawler, Part 2

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

European Nightcrawler or European Red Worm are common names for the worm which is scientifically called Eisenia hortensis. The euro is a great worm for composting and is quite a bit larger compared to the red wiggler. The size is important primarily to fisherman or exotic pet keepers who need a certain sized worm.

The European red worm is great for composting and is quite a hardy worm in my experience. One of the major differences being that the euro has a tendency to burrow much deeper into the beds and can be found at any depth. If uneaten food becomes buried deep in a bed of only red wiggler they may not consume it and it could become soured, with european red worms in the bed this is not a problem as the feed will get consumed eventually. The downside to this is that the Europeans can be hard to find in the bed and they do not tend to do as well in worm systems that depend upon worms to migrate upwards.

Many people, including experienced worm farmers, have told me that the european red worm reproduces at a much slower rate than the red wiggler. One experienced farmer has told me several times that you will never get more that one worm per egg capsule from the euro. I have found however that these claims are not entirely true. It does take quite some time for the euro to grow to full size and they are fewer worms per egg capsule, but I have seen as many as three worms come out of one egg capsule so I know this to be possible. Also the Euro seem to lay more eggs than the red wiggler, but the Euro is more finicky about the conditions before they will reproduce.

The Euro seems to love a diet high in fiber and low in protein compared to the red wiggler. This is a benefit as high fiber foods are generally easier to find for free or cheap compared to high protein foods. The european worm has quite a thick skin and is able to penetrate much harder ground. This is great is you are having compaction problems in your worm bins or if you would like to add worms to the garden. Even with the Euro worm you must add and incorporate lots of organic matter into the soil before the worm can survive. I think that this worm is a much better choice for use in a garden space over the red wiggler. The thick skin on the Euro also enables it to withstand dry conditions while maintaining a healthy size and appearance. This makes this worm easier to ship as dryer bedding allows for more airflow and less risk of shipping problems.

The Euro’s larger size makes it a better worm for classrooms and other demos. First, it is easier to observe from a distance, making group learning easier. Also any observation on the parts and sections of a worm is easier do to its size. The large egg capsules are easier to spot and then show to groups. Whenever I want show someone a worm egg I always go to the Euros as they are a lot easier to find and show. The Euros appearance seems to invoke less gross responses from the squeamish people, and they are also less slimy and tend to be more active and photo sensitive. This would make them a better choice if showing how worms react to light.

The real big disadvantages to the Euro are its slower reproduction, shorter life span, lack of upwards migration, and sensitivity to environmental conditions. The red wiggler worm will happily keep composting in very high temperatures and even survive compost piles going through minor heat up by moving to the edges. The euro however would likely be killed by these conditions. The euro is in high demand for fishing and this keeps the price much higher than that of the red wiggler. This is likely one of the major keys to its lower usage in compost.

Whichever worm one decides to use or even both worms will result in the best quality compost available. The worm castings from either worm will turn any plant into a thriving growing and greener plant quicker than anything else available. If you are into gardening then you should also be into vermiculture. Worms and their poop do wonders for plants.

Eisenia fetida, or hortensis? Whats the difference? Red wigglers or European nightcrawlers? Part 1

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Eisenia fetida commonly called the red wiggler worm versus Eisenia hortensis which is know as the european red worm or the night crawler. Both worms can be used as a composting worm but what are the differences and which one will work the best in a given scenario.

Ok, so the title of this post could use to be a little shorter, but the topic here is to discuss the two different worms and compare them to each other. The Eisenia fetida is the scientific name for the most common composting worm that is known best as the red wiggler worm. Often times it is called by other names such as; composting worm, red worm, manure worm, tiger worm, trout worm and they are other names as well. The second most common worm is Eisenia hortensis. It goes by a number of names as well and is even more confusing because of the fact that it is often called a nightcrawler when in fact it is not. It is a composting worm and does not live in the dirt as a nightcrawler would. With out going on a tangent here, it is important to note that composting worms do not live in dirt, they live in organic material. Here is a post on the living substrates of worms. E hortensis is commonly called European red worm, european nightcrawler, dutch worm, super worm, and confusingly enough it is commonly sold as a red wiggler. The problem with people selling E hortensis as red wigglers is, when someone buys the real red wiggler expecting to get what they had been sold as such but was actually E hortensis, they see the worms and they are much smaller then what they were used to.

Eisenia fetida makes an excellent composting worm for many reasons. It is a fast multiplier and can lay an egg capsule every week under good conditions. Each egg capsule can contain up to 5-6 worms but 3 or so is common. It takes about 90-120 days for the young worms to reach maturity after hatching. Hatching can take anywhere from 21 days to never. The eggs can go into a hibernation state and wait on proper conditions before hatching. This is very helpful to the worm farmer. If something should happen to a worm bin and a farmer was to loose many or all of his worms, it would only be a matter of time until the beds would be repopulated with more red worms. Not only is the red wiggler a fast multiplier but it also can tolerate a wide variety of conditions. This is important because some times worms bins can get very hot and then nearly freeze at other times. Also this worm can tolerate a wide pH. The pH in a worm bin can change a lot as organic matter decomposes. Further more they can tolerate a different moisture levels. I have seen E fetida in bins that were soaking wet and I have seen them in nearly dry bins. They seem to be fine in either although they do best in when the moisture levels are somewhere in the middle.

Eisenia fetida worms feed on the top of the bin and move up through the food. This helps make feeding the worms easy and allows for easy separation of worms and the castings. This can create problems though if feed gets mixed into the bedding the red wiggler will not eat it and the food may sour. Souring food in the worm bedding can lead to problems. This is why I always emphasis not mixing feed into the bedding. It is ok to bury food a couple inches deep under the bedding, just don’t mix or stir bedding if there is food in it.

Eisenia fetida likes to stay put and not to run out of the beds. Many other species of worms will leave your nice prepared and safe home that is well fed just to spite you. It is true that under some conditions even this mild mannered worm will crawl away, but usually there is something wrong which is causing this.

It is easy to see why the common red wiggler is so widely used and has become the number one composting worm. This in itself is an advantage for this worm, as much has been written about it and information is easy to find. However the european nightcrawler has some merit as a composting worm as well. In the next post I will describe the good and bad of Eisenia hortensis.

What do I use for a red worm bin.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

What makes a good worm bin or worm composter? How do I construct a worm bin or farm? Continue reading “What do I use for a red worm bin.” »

Worm Farm Kits

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Worms Etc Worm Kit

Worms Etc Worm Farm Kit

A lot of people have been trying to

Find worm farm kits.

So re-introducing the Worms Etc Worm Farm Kit.

Click the Pic for more detail and how to purchase.

Red Wiggler Worm farming in the heat.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

“How hot can my worm composting bin get without killing the red wigglers?”

That is a question I have been getting lately. Worms can actually survive quite high temperatures, but the conditions have to be right. Continue reading “Red Wiggler Worm farming in the heat.” »

Common questions people ask about worms and worm farming

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Here are a list of emails that I have received and answered that I thought contained valuable information.

Question: Does the same rules apply to your night crawlers [as to red wigglers]?  And can they co-exist with the wigglers I would really like to start my own small worm farm for fishing. So I will need to get everything I need from you to get started. There is no were around us to get the small wigglers (for my grandkids to catch sunfish) and even night crawlers are hard to come buy. I will have to do a little studying and order some nice worms from you ASAP.

Answer: Continue reading “Common questions people ask about worms and worm farming” »

European Nightcrawlers as a compost worm

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Europeans are actually red worms by classification

I am often asked the practical difference between Euro’s and red wigglers when it come to composting. There are some differences between the Euro and the red wiggler, but the Euro is in-fact a decent compost worm as long as a few things are understood about it. Continue reading “European Nightcrawlers as a compost worm” »

Worm Bin Bedding. A worm needs sleep too you know.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Shredded paper potential beddingstockphoto.com/pali rao

Bedding has a huge impact upon how quickly worms grow and ultimately upon the maximum size that they will obtain. Also it plays an important role in reproduction rates and has a practical impact upon the manageability of a worm system. It helps to prevent smells from forming in the worm farm or bin by providing carbon, without which the system would sour. Also the proper bedding will be forgiving and help keep worms healthy even when the worm bin is accidentally over or under fed or watered. Continue reading “Worm Bin Bedding. A worm needs sleep too you know.” »