Benign neglect

mendopeteMarch 25, 2014

Today I tore apart a worm cage that had not been harvested in 18 months. It was the finest quality castings I have harvested.

This 3' diameter cylindrical "cage" of 1/4" galvanized wire mesh hardware-cloth sits on the edge of the garden near the hen house. Started with a few pounds of worms,its primary function is to handle what is cleaned out of the hen's nests. In addition, It gets fed horse manure on occasions, and is always covered in straw mulch.

The past 8 months only a little chicken manure has been tossed in. Little water has been added from my precious and stressed well. We are in an extreme drought, with little rainfall the past 15 months.

Today the cage was unwrapped. The top 6" had worm activity. All bedding and worms were placed in a wheelbarrow. A tarp was laid next to the pile to keep the casts "clean". I raked out about 1/2 cubic yard of the most beautiful looking 100% pure crumbly black castings I have seen! The cage was put back into operation.

Happy wormin'


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Just doin' a little cypherin'... That's what I do.

3' diameter cylindrical cage + "a few pounds of worms" + chicken coop litter when convenient + 18 months + "benign neglect" = half a cubic yard of "soil".

A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. Half a cubic yard is about 14 cubic feet. 14 cubic feet divided by 18 months is a little less than a cubic foot of VC per month. Of course I understand that the production was not linear with time, with mild, moist months producing better than hot, dry ones.

Reading between the lines and squinting my eyes a little, I imagine this bin to be 30 to 36" deep (the standard widths of hardware cloth) - 6" of 'litter' and worms on top and 20" or so of castings beneath.

I kinda like this form of exterior bin. I just have a couple of questions:

1) How many pounds of worms would you estimate were in that upper 6" of litter at the end of the 18 months?

2) "the cage was unwrapped" implies (strongly), that the cage WAS wrapped. Was the wrapping plastic, tarp, burlap, ??? The choice would of course effect aeration.

3) Did the cage have any sort of "lid"?


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Paul, I will re-post an old thread about the worm cages.

  1. I estimate the worm population, which was about 4 pounds to start, peaked at about 10-12 lbs in July. Due to my neglect, many disappeared. I would estimate the worm harvest yesterday at about what I started with.

  2. By unwrapped, I meant that I cut the plastic cable ties holding the cage together and removed the hardware cloth. In the past I have wrapped these cages in burlap. Now I line the inside with rice-straw as it fills.

  3. No lid, but lots (6-8") of straw as a topper. It had a hardware cloth floor. The critters left it untouched.

Both worm and casting would have been higher with proper bin management. But a bad back plus not having a horse since July.........

I think the extra time and neglect help produce the best castings I have harvested. These are great outdoor systems for me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:14PM
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"Both worm and casting would have been higher with proper bin management."
I understand completely. I wasn't trying to generate any 'models' or 'rules'. Really, I was just trying to make sure I have a proper perspective on things, and sponge up all the knowledge I can.

Since you went to interior rice paper lining from outside burlap wrapping, is it fair to assume you prefer the inside lining to the outside wrapping?


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Yes. The straw holds in the moisture much better.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 3:38PM
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Oops - "straw", not "paper".

Got it.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 6:15PM
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