It’s official – 9 out of 10 Babies Prefer Smaller Particle Size!
Something I’ve been meaning to test out for quite some time is whether or not food particle size has a major impact on the growth/reproduction of Red Worms, and just generally on the overall effectiveness of a vermicomposting system. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that foods that are chopped up finely will become “worm-friendly” (much?) more quickly than those that aren’t. After all, there is greatly increased surface area for microbial invasion, so these materials will tend to break down more quickly. But will this translate into much faster growth?
I need to dig up the source, but I recall coming across some research findings that seemed to suggest that smaller food particle size can have a dramatic impact on worm growth rates. I’ve certainly seen a big difference in the overall efficiency of systems receiving waste materials that have been chopped up etc – but I’ve never really done an actual comparison.
This is going to be a pretty simple experiment, but I’m hopeful it will end up being really interesting! As you can see, I am using carrots as the “food” material. I need consistency here, and don’t want to spend all my time trying to create equal mixes of different foods. Carrots are fairly inexpensive (and readily available), and I think they should provide the worms with enough nutrition when mixed with shredded cardboard bedding.
Yesterday I processed a 3 lb bag of carrots for my initial set-up. My “coarse” grade treatment will receive carrots that have simply been chopped into small disks (middle one in above photo) – this will certainly be a vast improvement over tossing a whole carrot in the bin, but should still be quite a bit more resistant than the other two. My middle treatment bin will receive carrots that have been cut up with a peeler – so basically carrot ribbons. My “fine” grade treatment will receive carrots that have been finely chopped and then further pulverized. It’s important to mention that all of these chopped up carrots (for all treatments) will be frozen prior to use. This will further aid the breakdown process – and will make it easier for me to pulverize the fine-particulate carrots prior to adding them to the bin.
As you might imagine, I will be adding equal weights of carrots to each treatment when I set up the bins and each time I feed. Not 100% sure how many worms I’ll be adding to each, but my plan is to use immature worms that are similar in size (and of course, will add the same number to each bin). This way I know the worms weren’t already fertilized (carrying sperm) when added.
The carrots are in the freezer now. Will likely take them out today and aim to get the bins set up tomorrow. Next week I will add the worms!
Afterthought – I guess technically my “ribbon” treatment won’t be receiving smaller particles than the coarse grade treatment. Perhaps “surface area” (degradability? lol) would be a more relevant parameter here.