Who here thinks you can grow 100 lb of worms (or more) in a single room in your house?
Sounds pretty far-fetched, doesn’t it?
Well, according to a now “classic” article by one Brian Paley (written way back in 1995, and amazingly STILL online), that’s exactly what you can do!
The article, appropriately titled “How To Breed, Raise, and Maintain A 100-Pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room“, is a whopping 7-part behemoth found on “The Burrow” website (actually part of the old “Jet Compost” site).
The content it contains – while in spots, controversial, debatable, or flat out wrong – is largely excellent, and at times entertaining, stuff! Absolutely worth a read-through (just don’t treat it as “gospel”).
Here’s a funny blurb:
After building the new container, I gathered the raw materials together, and set about brewing a new batch of compost, roughly three times as large as the first. To this batch, however, I also added about one third of a fifty-pound bag of some no-name dry dog-food. (My Rottie had previously convinced me that the only way she wanted anything to do with this stuff, was if she ever got a job paving someone’s driveway.) Once all the ingredients had been added, I went upstairs, got cleaned up, and took my wife out for the evening (it was her birthday.) The evening turned out to be really fun, and I never gave a thought to my latest project the whole time. That was to change approximately one tenth of a second after I opened the door upon our arrival at home.
To say there was an aroma in the house would be a lot like saying Charles Manson had a slight attitude problem. The words overpowering, awesome, incredible, and oh-my-God all come to mind, as do terrible, frightening, and horrific. The words my wife came up with weren’t quite as pleasant, and they didn’t stop until I had managed to rectify the situation roughly 2 hours later. When I finally summoned the courage to go down to the basement, I was greeted by the sight of billowing clouds of steam pouring out all the openings in my newest container. (Remember I mentioned I was the curious type? Well, before I actually did anything about solving this problem, I stuck a meat themometer into the center of the material, and got a reading of 166 degrees Farenheit.)
My two-hour solution consisted of transferring the steaming compost into large plastic bags (several of them), dragging the now-empty container up the stairs and out onto the back porch, then dumping the contents of the bags back into the container. Even though it was 10 or 15 degrees below zero out there, the material in the box took several hours to cool off, and at least two days to freeze solid. Needless to say, my wife was no more impressed than she was the day several of my worms decided to bail out of one of the hanging plants (which I had forgotten to water), and managed to land on her head. But that’s another story for another day.
Funny stuff aside…
Basically, Paley covers various ways to keep (the equivalent of) 100 or more pounds of worms in a single room. As I hinted at earlier, some of his methods may seem a bit ‘cruel and unusual’. At times he relies on the fact that various stresses can stimulate worm breeding (and cocoon laying) – and lead to a reduction in size. But he touches on some other interesting discoveries – many of which actually seem to in line with observations I’ve made in my own systems.
On many occasions, I have opened up a “neglected” system and found lots of processed material, and incredible numbers of teeny tiny worms (many of them fully mature) plus cocoons. In one case I actually moved some of these tiny worms to a separate bin, containing plenty of food, bedding and space to spread out in. Within a couple of weeks, most of the worms seemed to have attained “normal” size!
So, I do think one could potentially raise many “pound equivalents” of Red Worms in a pretty small space. I have yet to test this out systematically – but I think the new “Tiny Tub Two Worm Challenge” may offer a great starting place. I definitely want to try some tiny tubs without much food, other than bedding materials. It will be really interesting to see how the worm reproduction in these bins compares to those with regular feedings!
Be sure to check out Brian Paley’s article (linked above) and leave your thoughts below! I think this could make for an interesting discussion.