October 2015

Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers in the Same System?

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?

Hi John,

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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Adding Composting Worms to a “Back to Eden” Garden?

As the title implies, I recently received an email from Jay W, wondering about the use of worms in a “Back to Eden” garden (I’m sure many readers will be familiar with the concept – but I have linked to the movie just in case). Jay’s email is too long to include here, but here is a blurb:

Can I put the worms in my chips and mulch it is 10 inches deep. 150 x 60 ft excluding orchard. I thought the worms would help composting my mulch and chips. With all the mulch and chips do I need to continue to feed them I have lots of Q’s.

Hi Jay,

This is a really interesting idea – and I’ll say right off the bat that there is some potential for making this work. But it’s important to note that you would definitely be developing more of a hybrid approach than actually adhering to the guidelines for the original method.

The challenge here is that wood chips have a very high C/N ratio and they were very resistant to breakdown. Even when they are rotting, they are NOT what you’d call an “ideal” food for composting worms. As I discussed in my last blog post, the best foods for these worms will be those that: A) are water-rich, B) support a robust community of microbes, and C) break down fairly readily (actually related to the “robust community of microbes” since this is why microbes are so easily able to colonize ).

If the wood chips were mixed with (more…)

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Do Worms Eat Microbes or Wastes or Both?

Really great questions from Sherman:

Hi, I read that red wigglers consume microorganisms rather than food waste so how does having more worms consume food wastes faster?

What types of kitchen food waste’s good for supporting the microbial population?

Hi Sherman,

Thanks for writing in – this is a really interesting topic for discussion for a number of reasons.

OK – let’s start with microbes as worm food…

Yes, it has been shown that worms derive much of their nutrition from microorganisms that have colonized decomposing organic matter. I think part of the problem here is that these worm composting facts – in this case legitimately based on actual scientific research – can be viewed in too-rigid a manner. i.e. Worms eat microbes, that’s all they eat, and THAT’S THAT!!

While I would absolutely agree they likely get most of their nutrition from all those microbes – the fact is, they are definitely (more…)

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How Do You Know What’s Worm Castings and What’s Bedding?

Interesting question from Robin:

How do you know the difference between the worm castings and the bedding. It all looks dark brown to me. Please help!

Hi Robin,

In a typical home system receiving lots of paper-waste bedding (eg shredded newsprint or cardboard) and regular feedings of kitchen scraps, it should be relatively easy to distinguish between bedding and castings. The latter will tend to be a lot darker – more like “soil”, while everything else should stand out as obviously unprocessed.

Where it gets tricky is when you are using smaller-particle bedding materials that (more…)

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Tiny Tub Challenge – 10-09-15

I checked on my new “tiny tubs” (which perhaps should be referred to as “small bins” henceforth – lol) yesterday to see if I could find any signs of life. As you may recall, I decided to see what would happen if I transferred the contents of my (badly-neglected) original tiny tubs over to new, larger bins. (see “Tiny Tub Challenge – 9-17-15“)

I had prepped the new bins ahead of time with (more…)

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Isopod Composting – 10-08-15

Back in September I decided to try something…well…different. After seeing loads and loads of isopods in my hay bale garden beds, along with some nice looking “castings” (for lack of a better word), I thought it might be fun to try “composting” with them.

I’ve appreciated their talents as (more…)

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