Worm Farming

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Ken Anderson, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    As I have mentioned in the Composting thread, in the spring I have been buying composting worms, which are earthworms like red nightcrawlers (fishing worms), only not as large. They are good for vermicomposting because they hang out in the first few inches of soil, eating whatever vegetation, like food scraps, that are placed there.

    Although regular earthworms do find their way into my outdoor compost pile, I have found that adding a couple of thousand of them each spring speeds things up a little.

    This year, I decided to raise my own. It's not gross, as you might otherwise believe. They are earthworms, not maggots, and as long as I don't feed them more than they can eat, there is no more of a smell than there might be from any other bucket of soil.

    They also behave themselves very well. After the first few days, when they were still trying to figure out where they were, they stay put as long as the light is on. They don't like light so they stay underneath the surface as long as a light is on. At night, I cover the bins. The covers, of course, are vented, with a screen to prevent escapes. There have been no escapes.

    The advantages?
    • It's kind of fun.
    • It's not difficult.
    • I don't have to buy worms anymore.
    • Some composting can take place throughout the winter.
    I have three worm bins, in all. Only two are active. The third is empty. Every couple of months, during the spring, summer, and fall, I place some fresh bedding (either peat moss or ground coconut husk) in the empty bin. I could use regular soil but that would come with whatever outdoor creatures might be in the soil. Then I take one of the worm bins and screen out the worms, the eggs, and the old bedding, now compost. I add the compost to my garden and place about half the worms, and half of the eggs, in my outdoor compost bin. Then, any uncomposted food can go on top of the fresh bedding in the formerly empty bin, along with the other half of the worms and eggs. I cover that with an inch or so of damp shredded newspaper, and place a damp piece of burlap over the top of that, and that bin is ready for worm farming. I clean out the now empty bin and set it aside for a month when I rotate the second worm bin.

    I thought I'd try it, and if I found that it stunk, was gross in any way, or was more trouble than it was worth, I'd just dump them all into the outdoor compost pile. However, it's been a few months now and none of that has occurred.

    I only feed them vegetable matter so, unless I were to greatly overfeed them, and something started fermenting or something, there is no odor problem. I don't even have to touch them. When I add food, I just have to lift up the burlap and a couple of inches of the shredded newspaper, to place it beneath, but I have a glove for that. Being fairly new at it, I do lift up some other sections from time to time, just to check on them, but it's actually better to just leave them alone.

    During the long Maine winter, when I won't be able to add any of them to the outdoor compost pile, there are two options. I can start a third or a fourth bin, and then add a larger number of worms to the compost pile in the spring, or I can feed them less. They lay eggs proportionate to the amount of food they have so, I am told, if I feed them less during the winter, the number of worms will increase at a slower rate. On the other hand, if I elected to start a couple of new worm bins, I'd have plenty of compost for spring planting.

    Here is a photo of each of the bins, plus another with the cover on one of them. One of them is about ready to be harvested so it's looking a little ugly right now. There wouldn't ordinarily be plants growing in the bins but I planted a few of the beans that I had left over after planting the garden. They will be pulled up soon and become worm food.

    IMG_0265.jpg IMG_0263.jpg IMG_0264.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
  2. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    If you have more that you need, @Ken Anderson , I'll be glad to buy them from you.:D Nightcrawlers are very expensive here.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

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    I don't have nightcrawlers, although they are raised in much the same way. Nightcrawlers are larger.
     
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  4. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    I considered trying to raise nightcrawlers once but It seems that they are difficult to keep contained. I decided that I didn't need any more frustration in my life.
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

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    I think they are more likely to try to escape than compost worms are. Plus, being larger, I would need to have either bigger bins or more of them.
     
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  6. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Very Well-Known Member
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    I have been vermicomposting for years now, and all is well. I started when I had fisherman in the house (my two eldest sons) who wanted worms to use for trout bait. That venture lasted for several years, but something happened and the worms suddenly all died. I suspect the boys added something they shouldn't have. A few years ago, I bummed a container of worms from a friend who had an active "farm" and I constructed a rotating system of bins. I have 4 bins, and the bottom one holds the worm "tea" that drains through the compost. The top three have worms and organic matter. I put compostables in a bin with the worms and when it is about 1/2 full, I place the third bin on top of the second and start filling that with stuff like coffee ground and other organic waste. I have drilled a number of 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of all the bins except the bottom one (that holds the liquid) so that the worms can pass upward through the bins to fresh food as needed. This continues until I get to the top bin, and when that is full, I remove and empty the second bin (first above the liquid), and put the contents into the garden, greenhouse bed or whatever. I periodically drain the "tea" to use as liquid fertilizer for things. If I get a chance, I will post a picture of what I have done.
     
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  7. Ken Anderson

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    I had thought of trying one of the layered bins, with the trays, but decided to go with the tubs instead. The first time, I harvested them by hand, but it's a lot easier with the screens. They fairly well screen out the worms, from the eggs, from everything else, and since I'm adding a good portion of them to my outside compost bin anyhow, that's close enough.
     
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  8. Ken Anderson

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    I have two bins going, and one spare. I have already harvested my first worm bin twice, and the other one once, moving about half of the worms out to my outdoor compost area, along with the soil, returning the other half to a fresh bin, to which I have added an expanded coconut coir brick, and most of the shredded newspaper and cardboard that is on top of the coconut soil.

    It's a pretty easy job. My bins are in the laundry room. Each morning, I open the lids, leaving them off until I go to bed. As long as a light is on, the worms will not try to escape. In fact, attempts to escape will be a clue that something has gone wrong with the environment in the bin. The soil could be too dry, or too wet, or perhaps they can't keep up with what I'm feeding them and something is fermenting. The lids have holes in them that are blocked with some fine screen, intended as screen window repair pieces. At night, when the lids are on, the smaller ones will crawl along the sides of the bin and onto the inside of the lid. When I turn the light on and remove the lid, I'll knock any of them that might be on the inside of the lid back into the bin and the ones that are on the sides of the bin will retreat to the soil to get away from the light.

    The only time I see a lot of them wandering on the sides of the crate or on the inside of the lid is the first night after I have moved them into a new bin. I suppose they are exploring.
     
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  9. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    The thread reminded me of our family's experiment with worm farming. My older nephew had gotten out of the Marine Corps., moved from California to small-town Kansas at the insistence of his wife, who needed to be near "Mommy". By small-town, I suppose a few thousand population. The rest of us were all still in the Chicago area. Dan came to visit, bringing with him a big business proposition. He approached all of us to chip in money, in order that he start a worm-farming business. Most of us thought he had lost some faculties in the Corps. Far as I know, he left empty-handed, having even approached my Mother (his Grandma), who quietly turned down his request.

    He had become convinced that the Japanese would buy all the worms they could get. Big profits to be made. One or two years later, when he heard I was at a point of leaving Chicago, he approached me with a new scheme, which I went for. He had become a certified welder while in the Marines, and suggested we go into a service station business together, and he would set up a welding business. We did. Story for elsewhere.

    It was then he revealed the "wormy" truth: he had borrowed $ 10,000 from each of 5 businesses in Marion, KS, to fund a worm business. His partner, a buddy from the Corps. had absconded with the dough and disappeared, leaving Dan in the lurch. The loans were unsecured, I think, but Dan's failure to produce results seriously hurt his integrity and reputation, and he left town.

    It was never revealed whether the friend had REALLY robbed the till, or if the scheme somehow fell apart.

    It was also never revealed just exactly why the Japanese wanted earthworms so badly.........Frank
     
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  10. Ken Anderson

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    A $10,000 worm farm investment is a big operation. As for Japan, I don't know. Most of the earthworms that we have here now, in every state, I think, were not native to North America. They were brought here from elsewhere.
     
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  11. Bess Barber

    Bess Barber Very Well-Known Member
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    You must have a very understanding wife.

    This is two earthworms getting frisky. :D
    images - 2019-08-30T192530.993.jpeg
     
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  12. Ken Anderson

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    Actually, I think she was surprised at how little of a bother they are. In fact, what she thought was my worm bin until only a few days ago was the empty (and thoroughly cleaned) one. If there is any significant smell to it, that means that something has gone wrong.
     
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  13. Beth Gallagher

    Beth Gallagher Very Well-Known Member
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