For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bentley (“Compost Guy”) Christie and I’ve been a crazed worm composting fanatic (or “vermiholic” if you prefer) for more than 15 yrs now. I started this website back in 2007 with the simple intention of sharing my passion with the world. So far so good! Things have certainly progressed since the early days, though, and the website has provided me with an amazing opportunity to get to know a LOT of other “worm heads” from across North America and around the world!
Question from Abbie:
Hi. I have an indoor garden/greenhouse where turtles and frogs roam
freely through a small vegetable garden. I need worms for the soil.
When I planted this spring I realized that I have no worms in my soil
and it is hard and compacted so I would like to add worms. Any
recommendations or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
You are certainly not alone in wondering about this topic. It is widely known that earthworms can mix and enrich the soil, so naturally a LOT of people feel the urge to stock their own soil with gobs of worms.
Unfortunately, this is a “chicken/egg” problem that most people get backwards.
Earthworms don’t magically turn any soil into black gold. In fact, if you try to stock worms in lifeless soil, you’ll likely end up with a lot of dead worms and/or a mass migration of the wigglers in an attempt to find ‘greener pastures’ (assuming conditions are favorable for such migration).
This is even worse if you try to (more…)
Likely one of the most common reader questions/concerns over the years has related to the challenge of vermicomposting outdoors (or at least in locations that are not climate-controlled).
While I like to think of vermicomposting as the “ultimate” indoor composting method, I know all too well that keeping worm bins indoors is not always an option – whether it’s due to spousal pressure, space issues, personal preference, or one of countless other reasons, sometimes we simply have no option other than setting up our systems outside.
Naturally, in a lot of locations it can be a major challenge to maintain these systems for at least part of the year. In these cases, our only choices are: 1) to throw in the towel, 2) to bring some or all of our worms indoors, or 3) to get creative with our strategies!
For quite some time I’ve been meaning to put together some information on this topic, and late last fall I finally dove in and started creating what has become the “Extreme Vermicomposting” course.
Message from Joel:
Hello, I was on a forum and saw a vermicomposting question. They wanted to catch earthworms to use in their vermicomposting. I referred them to your site and suggested the purchase their first batch.
One poster suggested just setting up a pile of leaves and scraps and catching wild red wrigglers. This got me thinking.
Being primarily a compost worm and with us not having lines of compost from coast to coast for them to travel in, how likely would it be for someone to “catch” any red wrigglers this way.
Also, my though was what are the chances of getting some worms or eggs if you went to a big box and bought a bag of organic compost and added to the bin. I’d think you’d have issues with the bag getting too hot and killing them, but I didn’t know if you’d ever experimented with this or possible the same idea, but straight from a whole seller.
These are some great questions!
There really isn’t such a thing as a “wild” Red Worm – well, at least not the type of “Red Worm” we are after. Eisenia fetida/andrei worms are very closely associated with human activities, most often being found on farms (in old manure piles) or in compost heaps/bins within town/city limits.
Another type of “Red Worm”, Lumbricus rubellus IS more of a “wild worm”, and there is a pretty good chance you could attract them with a heap of old leaves (assuming they are found in your region) – but they are NOT an ideal worm for vermicomposting. They don’t reproduce nearly as rapidly as Eisenia fetida/andrei, they’re not as well-suited for processing rich organic waste materials, and they don’t have the same sort of tolerance for hot temperatures and crowded conditions as Eisenia worms (although they are much better suited than typical garden/lawn worms).
The other potential “problem” with L. rubellus is that it (more…)
This is an interesting question:
I have prepared my first worm bins in anticipation of receiving my first ever order of worms later this week. I am also now on the lookout for any and all items the worms might like. One item I haven’t found mentioned on your site: household amounts of pencil shavings?
Thank you for your excellent website.
Generally speaking, woody materials are not the best food/bedding for worm bins since they can take quite some time to fully break down (but they can simply be screened and added to new systems as a “living material” over and over again). That being said, shavings like that are certainly better than chunks of wood or even wood chips.
Although we still use the term “lead”, the actual metal lead probably hasn’t been used to write for hundreds of years (but I’m not a writing historian so don’t quote me on that! lol). The graphite that IS used is totally harmless (and whadya know – it’s a carbon source too!). I would imagine that the core of coloring pencils would be equally benign.
RWC Reader Tara H. recently wrote in to let me know about a cool article (on the “Rodale’s Organic Life” website) that included the video above. It features time lapse photographs (every 10 minutes!!) of an experimental vermicomposting system over the course of 20 days! Really cool.
Be sure to check out the original article for an interview with the people who created the video:
Good question from Kristi:
My worm red wiggler compost is very wet and brown not black like I see on
videos. I feed mainly greens along with paper egg shells and coffee. Am I
doing something wrong? I’m composting indoors in Worm Factory 360.
Many a new vermicomposter has wondered the exact same thing – believe you me!
The long and the short of it is that it comes down to the oxygenation/moisture balance in the system. The challenge with plastic bins – even stacking flow-through bins like the WF-360 – is that they are incredibly effective at keeping in moisture and reducing air flow. In some cases this can be very helpful – especially if you happen to be a neglectful worm steward (like me most of the time – lol) – but if you are a fairly active vermicomposter it can result in a less effective vermicomposting process.
It is important to remember that vermicomposting involves the aerobic breakdown/stabilization of wastes. Excellent air flow not only speeds up the process, but it helps to (more…)
Question from John:
I bought reds years ago and they are still doing well. Planning on buying more worms. I have a huge amount of old pig manure 20 x 40 x 2 septic tank. (old pig farm) and thinking about introducing night crawlers to the batch. This is a long term retirement crop. LOL .
When it comes time to sell these worms years from now is it going to be a pain to seperate reds from night crawlers. Should I just stay with the Reds?
Your “huge amount of old pig manure” sounds great! BUT make sure you put it through some form of “pre-composting” stage before feeding it to the worms. It is typically a liquid or slurry (seems to be the case for you, given your mention of a septic tank) so it will first need to be mixed with a dry, absorbent, carbon-rich bedding type of material, and then allowed to compost (or at least age) for a while.
There shouldn’t be a (more…)
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