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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
compost.

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
many worms!

I guess I’m looking for ongoing maintenance info.

Thanks.

Hi Cindy,
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!
:lol:

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!

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Written by Bentley on August 7th, 2008 with 10 comments.
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10 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ken
#1. August 11th, 2008, at 1:01 AM.

Hey I’ve posted here before and I read the last post about
putting redworms in the garden. I have a 6ft long by 2ft wide home
made planter box that I use for a “garden”. I currently have tomatoes
in this planter box. I live in Southern California. I just wanted to
comment on this subject. I have been experimenting with putting
redworms in my garden box. One day I just thought hey why dont I put
some redworms in this box. So I did. They adapted well and I havent
had problems with them escaping or anything like that.

What other things ive been doing is I been putting food waste
directly into the planter box leaving a small circle of clear area
around each plant so as not to cause any rotting of the stalks or
something like that just in case. Any way everything is great the
tomatoes are doing good no dead plants no discoloring of the leaves
and the cool thing is when I lift up some of the waste ( like a whole
peach) there are tons of worms slithering under and throughout the
waste. I think in my not so professional opinion that worms are an
asset to the garden. anytime I have top trim leaves from the plants or
I have rotten fruits from the plants i just drop them into the planter
box. Its like another worm bin! Anyway hope this blathering helps
anyone and everyone. Thanks for reading.

Worm Crazy Ken

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. August 12th, 2008, at 12:44 AM.

Thanks for sharing that, Ken!

I think a planter and/or a raised bed garden could work well for keeping red worms. As you’ve mentioned, the key of course is to add food materials for the worms.
One thing to keep in mind though – some planting mixes can come with inorganic fertilizer salts in them already – these can harm your worms. Be sure to make your own planting mix (peat, coir, vermiculite etc) and avoid adding any normal fertilizers to the soil while the worms are in there.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ken
#3. August 12th, 2008, at 3:43 PM.

yeah I use my own regular composting to cover the food waste in the planter. It all works out really well. I don’t really know if the food waste helps the tomatoes. I didnt make a control planter box to see, I just put worms in the planter just to see what happened. I would like to see the difference.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Debbie O’Phelan
#4. May 3rd, 2011, at 9:53 PM.

Several times I have repeated what I have done today in my garden. The reason I found this site is because I was wondering if what I have been doing is working. My worm bins started from just 1 Sm cottage cheese container full of red worms a friend gave me from their bin. With in 6 months My worms multiplied to satisfy 4 lg dark plastic containers with lids(holes drilled in sides) these are near my garden against a shed. We eat a ton of fruit and veggies and save every scrap. when the worms have had enough, I fill 5 gal buckets with scraps and secure with lids. Today when i went to feed them all bedding was gone and their were a ton of big reds and babies (this has been normal from early on). I dig trenches between my veggie rows about 10″deep.Scatter with scraps sprinkle with a little dirt then a ton of worms and babies them cover with dirt. My garden is 2 yrs old from grassy lawn and has produced well. the soil looks nice and i have alot of worms but can’t tell they seem to be earth worms,but are very big. I don’t know how I could use the worm dirt with out getting worms in the garden because i have so many. I fill my worm bins back up with the dirt left over from filling trenches. I hope this isn’t all a waste of time because it is alot work and time. this is about the 5th time I have done this. Reading this I think I need to get a few more bins and also refresh the beds in existing bins. 1 thing I can say I have so many babies all the time(the little white worms) why can’t red worms live in the garden like earth worms, won’t they eat the same things?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#5. May 4th, 2011, at 12:23 AM.

Hi Debbie,
The timing of your comment is excellent since this week is dedicated to talking about various ways composting worms can be used in our yards (including gardens of course).
As for your question – the long and the short of it is that Red Worms are adapted for life in very rich organic waste environments – not soil. Do they eat the same things as other earthworms? Yes and no. While regular garden worms would certainly come up and nibble on rich materials like manure and rotting food wastes, you wouldn’t find them actually populating a manure heap or compost bin the way Red Worms do.
Your best bet is to create something like a vermicomposting trench (you can learn more via the “HOT TOPICS” page) – but instead of just creating trenches and adding material from your bin, actually set the trench up like a worm bin with bedding and food materials. If you create a rich enough environment the Red Worms should stick around and grow in number quite rapidly.

Hope this helps

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ella hushagen
#6. June 18th, 2011, at 2:04 AM.

Hello,

i have worms and kitchen scrap compost in a galvanized can,partially buried in the ground. Recently I went to clean out my can and i found that my worms had died. Did my can get too hot? I have bought new worms several times now and I wonder what I am doing wrong. Please help!!!

Ella/W. Hollywood

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sam
#7. February 2nd, 2012, at 9:42 AM.

I know it’s been like 8 months since the last post, but was wondering if you would need to dig up the trench ever to replace bedding?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#8. February 2nd, 2012, at 10:33 AM.

Hi Sam,
Most of my trenches have become “windrows” (mounded beds sitting above ground). I DID do one trench excavation last year, and ended up with LOADS of great compost/mulch for my gardens, so that was pretty cool! (quite a bit of work though)
Bottom-line, if you want to keep them as trenches, you will periodically need to excavate them – might be a helpful practice for adding rich material to your garden beds every spring or fall.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kathy
#9. February 27th, 2012, at 1:14 AM.

I live in South West Tennessee. I do not have soil, I have red clay. My husband has tilled and tilled and it looks real nice. When we do not have rain for a couple of days the clay gets as hard as a rock. I cannot afford to buy topsoil to put in the garden. I was wondering if I put earthworms in the garden if this would help loosen the clay and also add black gold to the clay. I want to have a heavy producing garden but I am not sure about the clay – I have never worked with it before. Thanks for your help!

Kathy

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#10. February 27th, 2012, at 2:02 PM.

Hi Kathy,
I definitely wouldn’t add any of the composting species – and even a worm like the Alabama Jumper (much better suited for life in soil than Red Worms etc) would need a lot of organic matter to thrive. Don’t think in terms of top soil, but rather in terms of waste materials. Till in lots of aged horse manure, leaves, grass clippings etc etc. Earthworms cannot thrive in clay alone.

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