I have worms

chickencoupeAugust 6, 2012

Worm castings are some of the richest soil on the planet (depending on their diet). It's near time for me to do some harvesting of worm castings. The fall cooler temperatures are good for reproduction. So, a reminder and notice to newcomers. I have worms available (about 1/2 lb). If you're interested in getting setup feel free to contact me and we'll 'get er done'. We wormy people are generous that way. I recently ran across this excellent video that shows life in the soil up to and including the capture of a worm emerging from a tiny cocoon. The pseudo scorpions in this video are really cool. So much goes on in dirt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqRLVUtAAV8&feature=player_embedded

"Annotated video microscopy footage of earthworms, springtails, mites, pseudoscorpions, millipedes and protozoa"

I'm off to update my email via gardenweb. Let me know if you cannot reach me.

bon

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chickencoupe

I am unable to update my email address. Here it is: boniyah2000@gmail.com

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:29AM
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slowpoke_gardener

Bon, at this time I am not ready for worms but I would like to ask a question that you, George or some of the others that grow worms may no. I would like to build a bin at least a 4' cube, much like a compost bin and stock it with worms. I would like to put hardware cloth a the bottom and maybe put the bottom about .5 to 1 foot below grade. Would something like that work and be worth while? If that is not a good idea can you direct me to a better way?

Thanks, Larry

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 8:52AM
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okievegan

When I saw the title of this thread, my first thought was "There's a pill for that". :P

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:26AM
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macmex

Larry, such a bin will work. Though, red worms don't go very deep. The older, standard red worm, with which I started out, back in 1992, won't go deeper than 6". This worm has the scientific name of Eisenia fetida. In recent years (probably in recent decades) another species of red worm has come to be available. It is Eisenia hortensis, sometimes known as a "Canadian nightcrawler." It's not from Canada, rather from Europe. But it does get much larger, and it will go a bit deeper. I've heard of mixing the two, for better composting. But I haven't tried it. I used to have the larger species. But they all died out on me, last summer, during the heat wave. Now I believe I have Eisenia fetida, as they are small. If you use these worms in a 4' deep bin, you'll probably want to mix things up from time to time, to let them work the deeper material.

George
Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 10:22AM
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chickencoupe

No way. Arkansas and Oklahoma are too hot. Basically, any temperature at 90 degrees or higher is deadly to worms. The cocoons are designed to survive extreme temps but they just won't last there. Meticulous care would allow worms to survive outside but you'll give up on that crud within a few weeks of hot weather and they won't thrive but just barely survive. it's just too hot and dry. Otherwise, we could pick up a rock and find red wigglers in the yard. If you're specifically wanting worms right in the garden your best bet is to learn what your common earthworms like and encourage them to stick around and thrive. That's not possible even now with our stupid heat.

The answer to your question of the bin is not an easy one. I don't think you are inclined to do so but for the sake of others I'll mention "DON'T BUY HOUSING". It's a waste of money.

Happy worms consist of a good host who can adequately regulate
1) air temperature
2) air flow
3) bin moisture and contents.

Seriously, food is not an issue. They prefer food, but worms can go without real food for up to 2 months and I've had mine survive for up to three on just cardboard and sufficient moisture. Hosts are more likely to kill worms from over watering and over feeding. You're not going to get voracious eaters until you reach about three pounds of worms (about 3,000 worms) and the life expectancy of worms is about 3 months. Remember your 4x4 bin you had in mind? It would take about one year in optimal conditions for the worms to fill it by exponential growth. It would take me about two years to have if full of worms based on how I care for worms.

Your bin construction is going to be determined by the primary factors above. Like soil and plants that depends on your environment. How well you care for the worms in that environment depends upon what you are comfortable doing to care for them. For example, I have changed bins - now using up to four at a time - six times over the last 2 years. the primary reason for the change is I didn't like how difficult it was to keep the worms happy. It really was about me. right now I am finding my most favorite bin to be a pain in the butt because it gets such good airflow the dry weather is forcing me to water the buggers every day now. I like to be able to neglect my wormies for up to a month without killing them so I keep my bin and the environment in such a fashion that doesn't happen (plus I keep more than one bin as a safety measure. I nearly let this tub of worms die because I didn't expect the air to get so dry. boy, did I freak. It's about twelve lbs of worms.) In this case I won't change the bin but wheel it to another area of the house under a kitchen cabinet obstructing air flow. That should slow down the drying process.

Just get a plastic tub about the size of a shoebox, drill some holes in the top and a few in the bottom and start there. You'll learn over time. First, you need to learn about the worms and what makes them happy and keep from killing them with kindness.

In about five months you'll be better equipped to determine the type of bin to construct for your desired outcome and to keep the worms happy in your environment. At five months, if you're keeping them happy you'll definitely be looking into bin construction. It really is a "do it and see" scenario. Worms will not max out their space. If they run out of room they automatically regulate their production so you cannot have too small of a bin.

Unfortunately, the way to learn how not to kill worms is by killing them. SO, I always recommend two bins. One to keep behind with a very lean diet and the other to begin feeding and watering(killing). It takes practice to learn how to feed them, but not too much.

The basics is what you need and you can read up on that here while you're biding patiently with a new worm bin:

"This guy really knows his composting worms and he talks about worm bins (with pictures) on this page"

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:42AM
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chickencoupe

After the initial massacre from over feeding I had a friend in Minnesota dig up her yard worms and mail them to me. European Night Crawlers, some earth worms, some blues and also red wigglers were in there. I put them all together to see how they reacted (these were indoor, btw) Curiously, the red wigglers out bred all others forcing the other species to die out, I assume. Fascinating.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:50AM
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chickencoupe

Oh! I should add I'm not expecting payment. The worms are free! I didn't want anyone thinking I'm selling them. Nope.

bon

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Lisa_H(7)

I've been experimenting with worms this summer by worm sitting for a friend of mine :) It has gone really well since the first initial bout of fruit fly infestation. Those came with the worms! I banished the bin to my porch for a few weeks while the flies worked their way out of the system. I had to bring the bin in when the temps got in the 90s.

Thanks to all the help I got here I think the bin is doing well. I added a nice layer of peat moss to the bottom and I have added shredded newspapers several times. I am surprised at how moist it stays. After my initial setting up with the peat moss I haven't added any additional moisture and the paper stays fairly wet.

My feeding has been rather sporadic, probably every two weeks on average. They loved the coffee grounds I put in there. I tossed a bunch of sliced up summer squash in there before I left for 10 days and it looks like they ate it all up. I couldn't find any left!

Their worm mommy is coming back next week, so when she settles in I will take them back and we are going to harvest the castings.

I have been trying to decide if I want to do a bin for me. They are easy, but the bugs in the kitchen are not a plus. I don't have a great place to put them besides there because my house is pretty tiny. On the positive side though they are fun, low low maintenance and an easy way to compost small amounts of kitchen compost.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 12:18PM
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OklaMoni

I am not sure about the heat this year. I hadn't had worms in several years, because of all the moving and apartment living I was doing.

But, that said, I used to always have worms outside, and sometimes inside. Never a problem. 4' by 4' should be big enough for them to stay near the bottom, where it will be cooler.

You will have to shade the bin, no matter what.

Cold also never seemed to bother mine, again, they would live near the bottom, this time, cause it is warmer there.

I think, you would be fine.

Moni

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 3:08PM
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slowpoke_gardener

Thanks everyone. It looks like I am farther from worms than I thought. About 20 years ago I had a compost pile and the worms just showed up and seem to be happy. The kids in the neighborhood would come and dig in my compost pile for fish bait. I dont think the type of worms I had were great bait though, they were some kind of large nightcrawler.

Larry

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:42PM
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soonergrandmom

Larry, I have a lot of worms in my garden but I don't see them in dry times. Once the ground is damp they stay near the surface. A few years ago, I had a place where I wanted a flower bed and it had never had plants there before and the soil was awful. I put down a double layer of cardboard, and put enough top soil on the top of the cardboard to hide it and put some plants in. The next spring when I added plants, I couldn't believe how much better the soil was and how many worms were in it. I think they love cardboard and the nice damp area it provides. If I am going to till, I try to do it when it is dry, otherwise the tiller will get the earthworms.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 10:47PM
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chickencoupe

grandmom, that's what I've been doing every since you suggested it last year. I'm amazed how well it works. I don't need break my back to turn that dirt if I can coax the worms to come up.

Lisa, I got lazy this year and have an abundance of fruit flies. I can't want to set them on the porch for a while. Annoyingly, though, the wormies are happier with the gnats and the castings are better off, too.

Larry, I raise my worms for breeding and exclusively to obtain worm castings. So, I focus on optimal conditions for such.

When I can garden as effectively as raising worms I'll be a happy camper.

bon

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:28PM
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slowpoke_gardener

Carol, I have been saving cardboard to use as you have. I have also been using the post hole diggers to bury wads of news paper in the empty spots in the garden.

I have a nice crop of worms in the wet season. I think I may have a pretty good crop of worms in the sweet potato bed in the front yard. I was trying to find out why I had some plants dying and stuck my hand down in the mulch and soil to feel for potatoes and pulled back a very large worm, my heart almost stopped, I cant keep my mind off snakes this time of the year. The soil was surprisingly moist (this was before I knew I had a water leak).

Bon, I hope to learn a little about worms in the future, but I will have to figure a way to raise them outside. I dont think Madge will go for the idea of having them in the house.

Larry

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 12:15AM
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soonergrandmom

Bon, I am glad to see that you are OK. Was your area evacuated?

Larry, I had some big bins stored in a shed which has a concrete floor but it's just an old worn out building that I have stuff stored in and is coming down soon. I had a big plastic trash can that I once kept charcoal in outdoors near where it was used. It got a leak in the top so I had moved it inside. One night about dark, I went in this building and moved that bin. It had a huge night crawler under it. By the way, I had electricity so I could see. Well I took this worm and put it in the garden and went back in this shed. Then I saw the granddaddy of all night crawlers. I picked it up (I'm not a girly girl, obviously) and took it in the back door to show to Al. He started to leap out of his chair because he thought I had lost my mind and brought a snake into the house.....In my hand, NO WAY. It was about 14 inches long. Anyway, it was pretty funny.

Guess it takes all kinds of people to make up the world. I can handle a huge night crawler with no problem, but those fruit flies would drive me nuts. I have been fighting ants this year and I get rid of them for a few days then they come back in. I think it is the dryness.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 12:54AM
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chickencoupe

Larry, I've read up on some who raise worms outside but their bins are very very large. I think they need room to get away from the heat or something as suggested above. One dude who experimented with worms in the cold found them frozen solid in the compost in the middle of winter and thawing out in the spring to carry on about their business. The subject of heat doesn't come up much and I assume it is just detrimental to them at 90 degrees or higher. For some plopping out 30 bucks for another batch to toss back in isn't a big deal. I forget that. (Currently, I am actually attempting to create my own moss in terrariums in the house to replicate my own form of peat moss.) I can't afford replenishment of worms so I baby mine and carry on with more serious undertones in a funny way. Still, I have enough now I might experiment with some outside but would rather help someone set up bins.

Grandmom; No ma'am. Red Cross set up shop here in Cushing from what I read and also heard for evacuees from nearby areas. I haven't even heard anything else so it must all be relatively uneventful. I admit to looking out my windows every now and then to check if a fire hasn't spontaneously ignited.

I got such a giggle about Al jumping out of his chair. LOL

Ants are our problem. I've never seen anything like it.

On a cool note: I read a comment under one of the Yahoo articles where a man wrote about his Massachusetts son who recently purchased a mobile home to be moved to a secluded mountain area. Instead, he donated it and sent it to an Oklahoman who lost their home in the fire. That just rocks. All I can do is donate worms to gardeners. Oh my goodness, that's so pathetic it's funny. LOL
bon

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 3:04AM
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macmex

A couple of thoughts and anecdotes:

When I first got red worms I send for my stock by mail, in 1992. They cost $10 a pound back then. We were staying, that year, in Ohio, and my father-in-law purchased several dozen, for fishing, leaving them in a Styrofoam cooler, in the garage. He offered them to me. But by the time I got there, they had frozen. I brought the cooler into our basement and within two weeks we had gazillions (but that's just an estimate) of newborn red worms, which had hatched out. The adults did not survive being frozen. But the eggs did.

I raised mine in the basement, in Rubbermaid tubs. We never had a gnat or fly problem, that year. We were slated to go back to Mexico the following June, and I wanted to take some with me, but only enough to start up again, after arriving. So, as an experiment, in January, I took 7 (seven) red worms and placed them in a butter tub with peat moss and shredded paper. I fed them a little and watched them multiply. By June they filled a Rubbermaid tub and numbered in the hundreds. We arrived in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, with our worms, in June. I dropped them into a 3'X3'masonary planter, in our front yard. The planter had no soil in it. I simply dumped them in there and added soil, to about 7" deep. Then, we added coffee grounds and scraps, as we had them. By fall, we had GAZILLIONS of red worms. It was impossible to count them.

The Mexican government was giving seminars on red worm culture. But, as was often the case with such seminars, they failed to make any stock available. So the presenters simply collected their checks for giving seminars. An agronomist friend of mine, from 6 hours away, where we used to live, heard that I had red worms. He and several agronomist friends offered to rent a car and drive six hours, each way, just to purchase a couple pounds of red worms. They were going to use them in an integrated agronomy system. Instead, I managed to pass them off, to his wife, at the halfway point, in Mexico City, when I went to do paperwork. I also gave a start to another agronomist in Hidalgo, who spread them around to his friends. Guess we ruined the monopoly!

I taught gardening and small animal husbandry in a Bible Institute for 8 1/2 years, starting that fall. So, my students received notes and class time on red worms. Below is a link to download a simply set of notes, translated into English, like what I handed out. If anyone cares, they can take the data on rate of reproduction and extrapolate. Given the right conditions these things multiply exponentially!

By the way, these notes were originally written when I had more experience raising them in the house than outdoors. I had red worms in our tool shed, here in Oklahoma,for over five years, before losing them last summer. The shed has no AC or heat.

This year, just to be safe, I started a small tub of them and keep it under my desk, at work. That way, if my home bin gets cooked, I can easily start over. I received my new start from our very own joellenh.

George

George

Here is a link that might be useful: George's Notes on Red Worms

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:38AM
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TraceyOKC(7)

I have never thought beyond garden worms. Ive read they are good for the dirt and never doubted it.

After reading these posts I am fascinated.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 1:27PM
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