propagating garden variety earthworms

petrock1963March 3, 2013

I am just into my fiirst week with my worm factory and all seems to be going well.
Prior to my making this purchase I collected worms from my compost pile and garden and made a small worm bin to study while I researched vermicomposting and worm farming.
While in time I may choose use some of the red wigglers in my compost pile they dont seem to be suited to the garden.
What I was wondering was since I now have a bin and a couple of hundred garden worms that seem to be happy if it would make sense to propagate these for use in the garden.

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I am doing about the same thing you are. I am trying to get whatever kind of worms that are in my garden now to do well and multiply. From what I have sounds like red wigglers are better suited for worm factories. Also from what I have read there may be a problem from not native worms getting into ecosystem. I sticking with my native worms, I compost in my garden and for my garden.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:40PM
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Thanks Hammerga
My garden beds are now gowing on the 4th year since I built them and I have had an increase in worm population year over year. I guess I always been somewhat aware of what worms do I guess I just have not appreciated it.
Anyway after the little research I did I am starting to see just how important these little guys are. Good luck to you

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:51AM
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priswell(9 CA)

You don't really propagate worms to put in garden soil. You use worms to break down your organic material to make compost for the garden. If you put worms in the garden, unless you have a great deal of organic material, they'll just die.

You can, though harvest live worms out of your garden to put in your worm bins, if they're redworms, to increase the population. I started out with only 200 worms, and though it took a few years, eventually, I had enough worms to noticeably start reducing our garbage output.

>>I am trying to get whatever kind of worms that are in my garden nowThe only worms that really are happy to live in captivity are redworms, and I'm pretty sure these are the worms you mean, but if you find gray or tan worms, they will just die in a compost bin. While redworms don't mind occasional bin turning and curious cultivator, these tan/gray worms prefer to make their little burrows and avoid disturbance.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:31AM
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Ty Priswell for your comments.
I got 2lbs of red wigglers to go with my worm factory and coming up on my second week and they are really something the way they go at the food.
I understand what you are saying about my garden worms not doing as well in captivity but thus far they are eating and growing but I have not seen any reproduction yet. Their bin is just coming up on 4 weeks so I'm sure its still early yet. No matter what it will be a learning experience but I do hope to continue to increase the population in my garden what ever the species is they seem to be happy and are making the soil better.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 6:22PM
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The blind leading the blind.

Somewhere in the archives Kelly Slocum describes the three categories of worms, and explains why worms from your garden will not do well in your bin and worms from your bin will not do well in the garden.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Now Bryce it isnt as bad as that I did wind up getting the correct worms for my new worm factory. They are doing quite well.
The observations made thus far would prove the red wigglers are a eating machine and very active. However the worms from the garden that I was playing with in another bin are doing well and are eating too. I was just curious as to whether these worms will or will not breed in captivity so far they are eating and pooping. I havent seen anything that says they wont. If they will reproduce then if I were to introduce their castings to the garden it would seem that with any luck some cacoons might make it as well. Anyway just hoping I will have some luck

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:54AM
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I just came in from my I said earlier I compost in my garden. I side dress my raised rows with horse manure and wood shavings. I also have piles on top of my rows that where I throw weeds and debris and now and then a scoop of manure. I believe that both red wigglers and the common red worm do well in the garden if you have the organic matter to support them. So I think do a worm bin in your garden where your garden worms can come and go and you get your compost and support garden worm population

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 4:26PM
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The worms from your garden may breed in captivity. You won't have nearly the same results with them as you have with your red wigglers. Your best bet, though, is to take Hammerga's approach and create an environment in your garden that will attract more worms and encourage them to breed there.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 5:25PM
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I read somewhere that if you want to up propagation, sprinkle some cornmeal in your bin. Fwiw, I have no bin, YET.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 8:42PM
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Despite the fact that I do attempt to never post "facts" without supporting links from a real data supported source or actual experience or at least a conglomeration of reading from 100 sources, it is possible that it is true that "if you want to up propagation, sprinkle some cornmeal in your bin".

Kevin woohooman, there is no time like the present to vermicompost. You know you want to. Now. Like today. You seen to have a natural knack for this sort of thing. You seem to be to be a good candidate for the DIY bin and FYO (Find Your Own) (I made that up.) worms bin system as opposed to the I just spent my whole paycheck and they are mailing me a system and I just have to add water. The advantage of the DIY system is those posters tend to read a lot more and do their homework. In a week or three weeks we tend to get a whole lot less posts that say... my system is starting to smell... real bad... are my worms dying? In vermicomposting doing your homework is WAY more important than spending your money. As no doubt you already suspect.

Are YOU a vermicompost worm wrangler? Or do you buy your worms in a styrofoam cup?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 12:02AM
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Another difference between Redworms and Earthworms is that the Reds are almost surface dwellers (they live in the top 6" - 12" of soil) and need a high level of decomposing organic matter to thrive, while the Earthworms are burrowers going down sometimes 4 - 6 ft. Yes, they may survive in a bin but they'll have nowhere to go. It could be compared to two Lions living in a Zoo, sure they might mate and produce offspring but it'll never be the same as if they were living in the wild (in their natural habitat).


    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 7:57AM
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Thanks all for your replies. I may just have some wishful thinking going on. I will continue to add OM to my garden in an effort to increase my garden worms. I will probably keep the worm bin going with the garden worms for a month or so more just to see what happens. I feel I can at least release them if nothing else.
I am not really a worm wrangler or anything like that but a gardener that started researching solutions to some problems I have been having with my garden. The earthworm just keeps jumping out as a resource towards a solution.
The worm factory I have got going is really getting active. I followed the guide and the worms are responding well.
I guess I am just excited.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 6:32PM
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I seldom visit this forum as I do not raise worms in captivity but have 'raised' them in my garden for many years since I read how beneficial castings are and the amazing quantity of castings worms produce. Whatever I do in my mostly organic garden is to benefit or at least not harm the earthworms as they provide the main source of 'fertilizer'. I do compost in a pile but at certain times of the year I dig in my kitchen scraps between the plants. I call this 'feeding the worms'. It's amazing how quickly that 'worm food' disappears except for certain items that don't decompose quickly.

When I began gardening here 16 years ago in the middle of a coniferous forest there were no earthworms at all in the hard clay soil. As I improved the soil, brought in plants from friends' gardens, and with the addition of DH's extra fishing worms the population increased. Every time I move a perennial there are many worms and last year there were many dozens of robins feasting in my garden. More than I've ever before seen which I take as a sign there are a lot of worms. Some things I occasionally use that I believe are beneficial to worms are fresh organic grass clippings as mulch and alfalfa tea as fertilizer. I also keep a shredded bark mulch on the soil which provides a healthier environment for the worms and plants. What I'm fairly certain are not beneficial to them are synthetic chemicals so I seldom use these.

In my cold climate I can make 2 batches of compost a year altho it's not completely finished so I use it as mulch and the worms take care of it.

I know all the vermicomposters here are aware of the benefits of worm castings but there is a link below for anyone who is not aware of this. You really cannot buy any other fertilizer that has these benefits and it doesn't cost much (really only a bit of time and effort) to encourage the worms to propagate in the garden soil. For me it's much easier than raising them in a bin and certainly cheaper than buying worm castings. Of course if you can utilize both systems it's even better.

Here is a link that might be useful: benefits of worm castings

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Sounds like a real nice eco-system you have been cultivating. The birds as well as your plants are all enjoying your efforts in the garden. Thank you for the happy outdoor worm story.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 7:43PM
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Nice write luckygal. You are always welcome on this forum. Just because you have not built a worm prison does not mean you are not a worm farmer.

My worms free-range in the garden as well as hang out in bottomless worm beds on the ground. I must admit to having chickens acting like guards and eating escapee's!

I dump los of castings, compost and mulch on my garden beds in the fall, and there is a lot of worm activity, both composting worms and earthworms

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 10:41PM
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Or you could do a worm tower. As an alternative to using a PVC pipe, you can bury one of those nursery pots, start putting kitchen scraps and shredded newspaper (or not) in it and use the next size as the lid (upside down). You even might be able to harvest some of the castings for your indoor plants this way, easier than getting it out of a PVC pipe. There are many ways to DIY, rather than spending money on commercial stuff when not really needed

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm Tower

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 6:06PM
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Thanks luckygal and otis for your comments. I thought the worm tower thing was cool but its not for me at least just not yet.
I have been steady collecting material for my garden beds and think I have enough to carry me till fall. My growing season along the Gulf coast I guess would be quite different than Canada. I am for sure going to maintain a focus on mulching and creating a better enviroment for the worms. I can see the difference already.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 4:40PM
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To the original concept post: "I do hope to continue to increase the population in my garden." Worm sellers sometimes post pictures of flowers and rainbows and sparkles and suggest that purchasing their worms and multiplying their number will allow one to seed their garden with worms that will then multiply like rabbits popping out fertilization where ever they go. In reality if a garden is lacking in worms adding them only condemns the worms. If a garden does not have worms then the garden is not right for worms. To get worms increase the organic matter, not the amount of worms. If the organic matter is increased the worms will show up like magic. Simply adding $$$ worms does not magically increase organic matter. Even the sterile biosphere they built was invaded by ants. No doubt smart worms would have invaded too by clinging to the bottom of pallets, etc. and gotten a foot hold in the biosphere if not already added there. I can not think of a place, farm, garden, compost bin, that would benefit from added vermicompost worms that would not already have them due to their tenacity other than a landlocked human made bin. I bet there are even worms crawling in the roof gutters of my house right now. So purchasing or growing worms for placement into a garden might be sparkly rainbows and feel good happiness but in reality it is advertisement encouraged wormacide.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 12:07AM
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