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Posts Tagged ‘red wigglers’

The worms one finds on the sidewalk and in the gutters are earthworms. Earthworms are deep burrowers, leading a solitary life and surface only to look for a mate or when the ground is too wet.  They  feed as the move through the soil and will not thrive in the confines of  a worm bin.  In contrast, worm bin worms,  Red Wigglers,  are surface feeders and do well contained in bins and they thrive in crowded conditions. The best thing to do with “lost” earthworms is to place them back on the soil so they can burrow back under the surface.

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It is easy to dry out a soggy worm bin.  Simply add dry, non-nitrogen, carbon based  “browns”, for example;  shredded paper, coir, sawdust, shredded cardboard and/or old dry houseplant potting soil.  Then gently fluff up your bin with a three pronged cultivator to mix and incorporate air.  Keep your bin under a tarp or cover until returned to the correct moisture content. Make sure your tarped  bin allows proper ventilation for your worms.

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Worms don’t lay eggs, they produce cocoons which contain multiple fertilized eggs.

Earthworms are hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive organs. To mate worms align themselves  head-to-head and exchange sperm from the clitellum (thickened glandular band at the anterior end of adult worms). After mating  the clitellum produces a thick mucus ring which  hardens and begins to form the cocoon.  The worm’s own egg is then deposited into the forming cocoon as it begins its slide over the head.  It then seals at both ends forming a small pearl-like cocoon.

Each worm will continue to produce cocoons (without needing to mate again) for as long as the donated sperm supply lasts.

In the case of Red Worms (Eisenia fetida), each cocoon typically produces 2 -20 baby worms, which under favorable conditions hatch out in  2-6 weeks. Temperature, moisture content, population and acidity of soil determine how long it takes for a cocoon to hatch. If poor conditions prevail, cocoons can remain in a dormant state for years.

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If your bin becomes too acidic, too moist, too dry, too compact, full of rotting food, full of  food they don’t like, too hot, too cold or they just organize an expedition,  your worms can attempt an escape from your bin.  This thwarted escape plan (if your lid is on tight) ends up with many worms in your bottom collection tray.

To rectify this situation add water to the collected liquid in order to dilute the sediment and ease its flow through the sieve.  Then strain the liquid through a sieve or small holed colander, rinse the collection tray out and reassemble the worm bin.  Add the worms, collected in the sieve, back into your top working tray.   If you clean out the bottom bin regularly you can save all your wayward worms and keep the liquid fresh and in top condition.  Dilute the liquid with 5-10 parts tap water before adding to your garden.    Remove the chlorine from tap water by letting it stand in the sun for several hours.

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The Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin is designed with two different tiers. When the  first tier fills to the line inside the bin, you add the second tier and start feeding and add some new bedding. The worms will usually go wherever you are feeding them but oftentimes there are a few that stay behind. Here are a couple of tips from our Master Composters to speed up the process of harvesting:

1. Irresistible Foods Method: Add some melon or avocado to your bin. The worms will not be able to resist and will all  congregate in the same area  to eat. After a couple of days, physically move them where you want them to go.

2. Sun Method: Dump the contents of your bin on a plastic tarp outside in the sun. The worms do not like light so they will burrow to the bottom. You can even make cones of compost and take off the tops to speed up the process a bit.

3. Slurry Method: One of our Master Composters suggests putting some of your vermicompost in a bucket of water. Once in the bucket, the worms and compost will separate and you can quickly rescue your worms and put them back in your bin. Pour out the extra water and add your compost to your garden!

4. Waiting Method: Your worms will eventually move to other areas of your bin as long as you continue to feed there. If you happen to accidentally grab some worms with the vermicompost don’t worry too much about it. Red wigglers reproduce very quickly and your bin will not be affected.

Have any other tricks for harvesting?? Leave a comment and share them with us!

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Crock Pot Composting

How to make the ultimate worm food!

By: Diane Hollister, Master Composter

Worms have no teeth, so they can’t consume the kitchen scraps you feed them until the scraps are broken down a bit.  You can do this yourself very easily by putting your food waste in a crock pot.  Here’s what I found works.

1.  I bought an inexpensive 5 qt. crock pot from Target for around $20.

2.  Put about ½ cup of good compost or some soil from around any plant that is growing well.  This will provide the microbes needed to break down the material in the pot.

3. Add kitchen scraps, the smaller they are cut up the faster they will break down.  Crushed egg shells are great to provide grit.

4.  Put the lid on and set the crock pot on warm.  Check the temperature in 24 hours.  In mine, the temperature was 140 degrees, which was ideal.

5.  Stir when you think about it and add water to keep it moist.

6.  If the contents start to smell, add some paper from your paper shredder, some compressed pine pellets (sold as kitty litter), some coir or any other small sized carbon rich material.  Mix well.  If it still smells add more carbon.

7. In about a week everything will be nicely broken down.  Let it cool and feed it to your worms.  They will go crazy for it!

I found you can add meat and dairy to the pot as there is no problem of rats getting into it.  Also, if I think about it I turn the pot off at night and back on in the morning and that works fine too.

If there is more material than your worms can process, just bury the rest in your yard or add it to your compost pile.

Leave about a cup of material in the pot to start your next batch.

Have fun!

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If you just made a fruit salad or cut up a large watermelon, you may have more material than can be fit into a worm bin at one time. It’s very convenient to stow this food in the freezer until the worms are hungry again, but will the worms eat this food after it has been frozen? Does the food need to thaw before it goes into the bin?

Yes and no.

Fruits and vegetables are 80-90% water. When water freezes, it expands, changing the texture of the food when it thaws. Humans may not like to eat mushy fruit and vegetables but the worms love it! Because worms do not have teeth, they can easily suck the mushy food into their mouths. If the food is easier for the worms to eat, it will disappear more quickly so you’ll be able to feed your worms more food!

Although worms do not like the extreme coldness inherent with frozen food, it will not kill them to put non-thawed food into the bin. The food will make a cold spot in the bin that the worms will avoid until it thaws to a more comfortable temperature. If it is warm weather, it will not stay cold for long. Then the worms will be all over the food like white on rice! As the frozen goodies thaw and the ice crystals melt, water will be introduced to the bin. If frozen fruits and veggies are going into the bin, additional water should not have to be added. If the bin seems to be getting too wet, add some shredded paper to absorb the excess water.

The worms will love this mushy treat!

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