Adding Red Worms to Your Garden
This question comes from Cindy – she is wondering what she should do with what seems to be an overcrowded worm bin.
Hi, I’m new to worm farming, and I really find it
interesting. I have a plastic bucket farm with wire screen over
bottom holes, and a screen mesh top. I hae a piece of burlap over the
I got my worms May 21st, and at the end of June, I gave them a fresh
bin, and moved the black gold to the garden.
Now my worms are getting bigger and more plentiful. I came home this
week to find 20-30 worms trying to crawl out of the container. I’m
wondering if they have reached the end of their current
bedding/compost and are looking for more food?
I’m also wondering if I should glean out a bunch of worms with the
bedding change and add them to my garden? Will I need to feed them in
the garden? The current worm farm is in my cool basement, will the
summer heat be too much a change?
Will the liquid from my current farm, help get the new bedding ready
for worms faster?
Also, I’m wondering what happens this winter when I have too many
worms, and the garden is frozen outside…my turtle can only eat so
I guess I’m looking for ongoing maintenance info.
It sounds like you are doing quite well for someone who is “new to worm farming” – congrats! The fact that you have already been able to harvest vermicompost, and your worms are breeding quickly is definitely a good sign.
If the worms are trying to climb out, it may indeed be an indication that you need to refresh your bedding materials yet again, or better yet, split your worm population and start up a second system. How does the material in the bucket look to you? Is it dark and crumbly, or is there still a significant amount of unprocessed materials? If it is mostly made up of processed bedding/food (ie vermicompost), then you are likely right. If on the other hand there is still a lot of unprocessed bedding/food there may be something else causing the worms to want to leave.
I generally wouldn’t recommend adding composting worms directly to your garden since they are not really soil worms, and will more than likely leave the area or die if they are unable to find a decent amount of decomposing organic matter. As I’ve discovered this year, vermicomposting trenches can be a great way to keep your red worms active in the garden – it’s like setting up an inground ‘worm bin’. The major difference is that the plants can make direct use of the vermicompost as they grow. You may also want to try out what I’ve referred to as ‘Garbage Gardening‘ – basically you lay organic waste directly over the soil, then add some sort of mulch over top – once it has aged a little, it should make for an ideal habitat for your composting worms, not to mention an excellent bed for growing plants.
If you live in area that has a real winter, I can’t imagine that it would be too hot outside in the summer for your worms. We have some pretty hot weather hear during the summer months, but I’ve had no problems with my worm gardens. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my big outdoor worm bin – it has been overheating periodically. Just make sure you have a thick layer of mulch (straw is ideal), and add some water periodically if you are having a dry summer.
It will be tough to keep your outdoor systems completely active during the winter months – unless you have a pretty major supply of organic waste, but it should not be difficult to at least keep most of your worms alive – especially in the trench systems (since the earth will help to protect them). The key is to add a LOT of bedding over top – fall leaves, straw – whatever you can get your hands on. It wouldn’t hurt if you added a lot of food waste as well.
As for what to do with excess worms during the winter – here are some options:
1) Give them away or sell them (just post an ad on any free classified site, like Craigslist etc, and you’ll likely get some takers) – you could also encourage friends and family members to get into vermicomposting.
2) Start up another vermicomposting system – I’m sure you could find room for a few small worm bins in your basement.
3) Have you ever tried fried worms? Mmmmmm…
Ok, I’m KIDDING!
Oh – almost forgot – the liquid for your bin is probably ok for soaking your new bedding IF you let the bedding then sit for a few days before adding worms. Straight from the bin it will likely be pretty anaerobic and potentially harmful to your worms. Cardboard soaked in it then allowed to sit would likely be fine after a few days since aerobic microbes would likely breakdown any anaerobic bi-products that may have been in the liquid. If it REALLY stinks though, I would avoid using it altogether.
Anyway – hope this helps, Cindy!