Vermi-Terrarium – Wrap-Up

Today I decided to wrap things up with the system I’ve referred to as my “vermi-terrarium”. It never did really become a terrarium (really only kept the name for consistency), but in some ways it actually turned into something much more interesting!

As I shared in my last update, I ended up with some big Russian kale plants. These are easily the biggest “food” plants I’ve managed to grow indoors using only artificial lighting, and I’ve actually harvested a lot of the leaves for consumption.

In my last post I also mentioned dumping in handfuls of sunflower seeds to see what would happen (yep, that’s how I roll). If you are on the RWC e-mail list you will likely know by now that things got pretty “interesting” on that front. The back section of the system ended up so overrum with sunflower seedlings that I decided to remove a large quantity in an effort to prevent the habitat from getting completely choked out with plant roots. I had intended to add those cut seedlings back to the system at some point, but when they started to break down in the bag I decided to just toss them in the freezer until I am ready to use them as worm food.

Apart from the sunflower seed deposit, I also dropped in some other seeds for kicks and giggles – but this time in the front (“plant growing”) section. Plenty of them germinated, but most of the seedlings didn’t do all that much – not really all that surprising considering the kale canopy over top and the extreme crowding of plants in general.

One exception was the Scarlet Runner beans. As you can (sort of) see in the next image, they grew quite big (relatively speaking) and even sent climber vines all over the place. No blossums, but considering the limiting conditions and the fairly short period of time I left them grow (compared to the kale, for example), all in all it was a pretty impressive effort from them!

Removing all those sunflower seedlings – and then snipping down many of the ones that popped up later – seemed to help things settle down in the rear section of the system. By this morning, everything was looking pretty well worked-over, and the overall level seemed to have dropped a fair bit.

Part of my motivation for distmantling the system today was that I’ve been seeing more worms around the edges and up at the surface recently – seeming to suggest that the overall habit-quality may be declining . We will also be heading off on a bit of a family trip soon, so this way I can rest easy knowing the worms are doing just fine (more on that in a minute).

As I started excavating the habitat zone (with a gloved hand) it didn’t take long to realize the material was absolutely loaded with cocoons. As I might have expected, there were lots in the zone where I deposited the jute grow mats, but there also seemed to be accumulations of them in zones with lots of plant roots.

I was pleased to see lots of healthy looking worm (of all ages) as well. The population has clearly expanded!

I felt a bit guilty about uprooting all my plants, so I at least made sure to harvest all the remaining kale leaves.

So where did everything else end up, you ask?

Well, I decided to transfer all of it over to a proper worm bin! The plants have been getting special treatment for long enough – it’s time to really let the worms enjoy themselves now!

Of course, I started things off with “false bottom” of coarsely ripped up corrugated cardboard.

This provides the worms with a “fresh” habitat zone they can gradually start moving into. The cardboard was added dry, but I poured some water down into the bottom – the cardboard will gradually wick a lot of this up, and will also absorb moisture that makes its way down from above.

Transferring over the material from the “vermi-terrarium” was pretty straightforward. I did bury most of the plants so as to help ensure they would break down more quickly, but other than that is was basically just a grab and toss operation.

My apologies for some of these terrible photos. Truth by told, my good mobile device recently conked out on me so I’m currently using an older device with a broken camera. Close-ups seem to work OK, but regular shots need to be taken in “selfie” mode (yep, a rather interesting manoever when not actually including yourself in the shot – hahaha).

Once everything was moved over to the new bin, I added a bit more water then closed ‘er up! I think I can already hear the worms singing in their new home!

I’m excited to see how things develop in the new worm bin…but guess what? I’m even MORE excited for my next hybrid system experiment (once back from holidays)!
Seeing just how prolific the growth of sunflower seedlings was in the worm zone of the tray system – and how well the kale performed – it made me realize this old fridge drawer could likely serve as a pretty awesome “bottomless” microgreens garden.

This time around, the designated worm habitat will actually be a smaller zone (similar in size to the plant zone in the previous system) positioned at the back, and the front of the tray will be the plant (sunflower greens, mostly) zone. Worms will of couse still move around wherever they want – and over time their available habitat will definitely expand – but the main focus will be greens growing in the front.

Stay tuned – it’s going to be a fun one!

Related Posts
Worms in Microgreens Trays?
Worms in Microgreens Trays – Update
Vermi-Terrarium – 06-13-22

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    • Lorraine
    • July 15, 2022

    I was looking for this text box and I obviously didn’t scroll far enough.
    I copied your idea and dumped all my old seeds into my two bins. I also (planted) some sprouted potatoes. I will send pictures later.

    • Bentley
    • July 24, 2022

    Sounds great, Lorraine – I look forward to your updates!

    • Frank
    • September 12, 2022

    I’ve been running a similar microgreens/worm tray, but with no specific worm zone – the worms just live in my potting mix (coir, perlite, vermicompost) very happily. Residual nutrients from the vermicompost plus any dead roots/dead seeds seem to be enough to keep them going, then once I’ve harvested the microgreens they have lots of old roots/stumps to munch on before I re-sow again on top. They’ve gone a couple of rounds now, and I suspect there are more worms than I originally put in there, and certainly they are a lot bigger (I started with juveniles)! My theory is I’ll be able to keep this going for quite a while without any fungal disease, adding a bit of vermicompost on top each time to top up nutrients removed with the microgreens harvest, because the worms will eat any fungus or dead plant tissue quickly. I’m excited to see how your experiment goes, and I’ll try to keep you updated on mine :-).

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