Encouraging worms without a bin

lilhouseonprairieApril 5, 2014

I love the idea of a worm bin, and I understand the benefits.

But I have acres of land I want to improve. I have sandy soil, with some loam in some areas. And I have a good supply of manure. We also compost anything we can from our household.

How do I encourage the worms to set up shop and stick around without a bin?

I found my first few "nightcrawlers" (These are europeans, which aren't actually a nightcrawler and closer related to red wigglers, from what I understand). They are in a flower bed I heavily composted last year and planted strawberries in. I assume they came with the berries because there just isn't a ton of good soil around for these guys to be hiding out in. You can imagine how excited I was to find them in that bed!!

I got 2 pounds each of red wigglers and euopeans from a local compost business. I put handfuls in various areas where I've piled on 2-3 feet of manure from goats, chickens, and horses. I made sure the manure was damp, but not soaked.

The worms all seem alive and active. But they haven't moved in the last week or so. What else should I be doing? I'm hoping these guys will move in, spread out, stay a while, and work all this manure into the sand!

Thanks for any and all help!

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Just keep providing all that great stuff for them.....they'll come, flourish, multiply and migrate...slowly....to the different abutting areas where you spread the food.

Ready to move a bucketful (bin) to a new area? Move it and repeat the previous actions.

And have patience. It'll happen, just not as fast as you want it to.

If you live in an area of severe winters, you'll have attrition.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 5:47PM
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I postponed posting. But then chuckiebtoo with his "Ready to move a bucketful (bin) to a new area? Move it and repeat the previous actions." was exactly what I was going to say. Permies.com. How to regreen a desert. My soil is beach sand so I can so relate to how it eats up any organic matter. But apparently there are people doing it. That will be handy because we seem to be trying really hard to turn America's wheat basket into a desert. Simple measures could turn it back into the grass lands of great value it wants to be. South America is not the only location of Terra Preta. The expanse of the Great American West also has or had very deep grass lands built Terra Preta. This is what I am and many others is trying to fill in by making use of our tiny home based vermicoposting bins.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 6:51PM
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A little personal note: when I moved into my present house about 12 years ago, my topsoil was basically pitiful. Clay-ish, lacking anything much resembling loam and when it was present it was like 1 or 2 inches deep.

Using nothing but vermicompost, vermicastings, avct (worm tea), and mulch, it is now ridiculously loamy, fertile, and productive.

Never used chemicals or chemo-fertilizers....because if your soils are healthy they aren't needed.....and my lawn and plants are AWESOME.

That's why I'm always yelling and screaming about doing it this way. I KNOW it all works.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Much agreed all around. I don't use any chemicals or artificial fertilizers. I just pile on the organic stuff as high as I can stack it, wet it, and let it compost. Worms are invited members of the ecosystem around here!

I raise animals for food and eggs. I have a small orchard (40 +/-) trees, and I'm constantly adding more for some self-sustainability -- grapes are this year's addition! That having been said, if the land will sustain us it will do so because we have fertile, healthy soil!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Welcome to the forum. Hats-off to you for your goal of sustainability. It sounds like you are headed the right direction.
I have a horse and 10 hens, and turn their manure into castings. I find it hard to keep out birds, chickens, coons, rats, skunks, gophers, moles, ect without some sort of protection. IMO it is also quicker to expand your herd if you use some sort of "bin". Also easier to manage (maintain optimum conditions).
If you turn loose worms in a big pile of manure, they will likely survive and multiply. Your manure pile may be compacted or too dry for them. They may stray and not multiply as quickly. They may follow the moisture down into the ground and disappear.
A worm bin is simply a way to protect and manage your worms. Your piles of manure are now your worm bins. Protect the worms and bed from heat, cold, sun, evaporation and critters.

A local businessman gave me a bucket of worms for my start. He had a worm bed that was about 40'x12'. He used the castings for the community orchard and garden, which were beautiful. His bin was........ carpet. Reclaimed and saved for the landfill, Carpet was the perfect "worm bin". It was heavy enough to not blow in the wind, it kept out critters, kept the darkness and moisture in, pulled back easily for feeding, and allowed excellent air/gas exchange The worms stayed near the top
I have used a 12'x19' carpet bin with great success. There are other ways I have tried such as windrows, lasagna beds covered in burlap, hot and cold compost piles, hay-bale system, and worm cages made of hardware cloth. I now prefer to make worm cages. .I set them up near where the casts are needed.

A secure worm bin, where there are always worms multiplying and available to you, should be part of your sustainability plan.

My 2-cents worth. Good luck and happy wormin'


This post was edited by mendopete on Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 10:45

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 12:54AM
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Would love to see a picture of your carpet worm bins!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 11:13AM
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Strange that you post this as I unwittingly did this very thing. I have a small garden plot 10x25 and last year in an effort to keep weeds down I layered this whole area with corrugated cardboard. At the time I wasnt even thinking about the fact this could attract a lot more worms and in the process eat the deteriorated cardboard and then leave their castings in this plot further enriches the soil with microbes , nutrients, and NPK, just a thought.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:45PM
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smdmt, I wish I was able to post photos. I have not evolved quite that far yet. I keep hoping for a little "techy" help, but my "techy" friends and family are not interested in my worms. Alas, that is why I post here. I got to "talk" to somebody about things like worms, horse poop, tacky looking worm bins and such..................
The carpet bin is not much to look at. It looks like old carpet with a big hump in the middle. It is greyish commercial grade carpet. Couldn't find any used burnt-orange shag or I would have used it!! The bin needs harvesting badly as it contains probably 2 cubic yards of 98% pure castings. This bin sat idle (no food or water) for 8 months and cypress tree roots badly infiltrated my bin. I am getting this it going again with the survivors and cocoons. When the bin was at capacity last spring, fresh horse manure would turn black anf fluffy in about 10 days. I sampled the worm density @ 2 1/2 lbs of worms per square foot.

hummersteve, I always have big-box cardboard laying around, preventing weeds and prepping planting beds. It looks terrible but works well. If I have surplus woodchips I mulch over and it looks better.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:08PM
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boredsogarden(8 VA)

Yay for cardboard! :)

To encourage worms in areas of need in our yard (clay and compaction are awful with the pine trees here) I lay wet pieces of cardboard directly on the rough ground, putting a used nursery flat on top with chicken poo and greens, then another with dry leaves, and weigh it down with a fallen branch. The worms already deep in the soil and from surrounding areas come up into the nursery flats, and the layers of flats keep the chickens at bay long enough for the worms to set up shop.

I second everyone with the "NO CHEMICALS" sentiment. I had an excellent supply of earthworms which, in one season, was diminished to almost none. I couldn't figure out what was going on until I realized the hubby was actually using Round Up instead of just pulling and weed eating. You would be amazed what a tremendous effect it had on the worm population, not just around the edges, EVERYWHERE. It seeped into the soil and affected our whole yard. NO CHEMICALS! :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 8:52PM
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