We are in WEST Napa with unlimited, FREE Parking. We have Worms, Worm Tea, Worm Compost and various wooden bins available all weekend. Place an order by calling 707-287-0891 and come out to pick it up. This is a wonderful weekend for nourishing your soil, planting edibles and ornamentals. Remember 'Great Gardens Begin With Worm Endings'!
Check out the link below. It covers many topics and ideas to consider before implementing your new composting plan.
You picked up your Red Wigglers, Now What?
Place the worms on top of the bedding or under a light, they will immediately migrate down to get away from the light. Nights 1 and 2, they will try to leave when it gets dark. I recommend keeping a light on, near their new home and allowing some light to filter inside. This encourages them from migrating out as they are very sensitive to light.
It is important that the top of the soil stays wet to damp as this is where the worms spend most of their time. Worms breathe through their skin requiring moisture to survive; healthy worms are pink and glisten. If you use city water, consider leaving a container of water out for 24 hours to de-chlorinate. The chlorination in the water is detrimental to all the microorganisms that assist the worms throughout their lives. I always have a container ready with day old water and have discovered that using a watering can and lightly moistening the top of the soil works very well.
A worm box contains many critters once it gets established. Flies are the biggest problem most people deal with, periodically. There will be some flies but an excess of flies is generally caused by over feeding. It is best to underfeed versus overfeeding, less is best. They will never starve as they are happy to re-eat their vermicompost. I feed my worms once a week. Chopping up the food helps it to rot quicker, thus is more appealing to a red wiggler. Appetites of worms change with the seasons; they are not very active in extreme cold or heat and will eat less. Their ideal temperature range is 55-80 degrees. My biggest indicator of the wellness of the worms and their soil is my nose. If the box smells bad, there are several things to consider. Is the soil too wet or dry? Is there too much food? Is the soil compacted and need air? Stirring up the soil with a garden fork or spading shovel might help; the worms will survive a little stirring. A healthy worm bin smells like rich and wonderful soil.
One very noticeable critter amongst the worms and compost is a tiny earthworm called a Pot Worm (Enchytraeid). It looks like a small piece of white string about ¼” long and many people think it is a baby Red Wiggler. Pot Worms are one of 4,000 types of earthworms; they help break down the food for the Wigglers. A Red Wiggler hatchling is about ¼” long and looks creamy white to pink. They are nearly transparent; the blood vessel running through its body causes a light pink to red tinge coloring.
Any questions, please feel free to call me or email me, I love talking about worms.
Come join us at the Napa County Library in the Community Room
We will talk worms, care, bins, vermicompost, aerated worm tea and gardening.
Live Worms will join us.
My worm ‘hobby’ began in 1999 after attending a Master Gardner Composting class. My hobby continues to keep me fascinated by red wigglers and the work they do recycling my kitchen garbage. I have had successes and failure over the years; I have experimented, tested and watched my garden thrive. Two years ago I wanted to learn more so off I went to North Carolina State University’s annual Vermiculture Conference. The conference and people were so inspiring I went again in November 2012 to attend the 13th annual Vermicompost Conference in North Carolina. This is the only conference about earthworm farming and mid-to-large scale vermicomposting held in North America. We were 120 in attendance, people from 27 states and 5 countries gathered for 2 full days of learning and sharing Research based information. The conference is coordinated by Rhonda Sherman, an extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University. Yes this conference was for WORM People and Researchers from around the world giving us the hard facts based on scientific Research. One of the topics discussed was the differences between Vermicompost Tea and Leachate.
It all begins with red wigglers which are a smaller earthworm that lives near the top of the soil consuming organic matter. My choice of feedstock is all my kitchen garbage and disease free plant debris from my yard, and my goals are to create vermicompost and aerated compost tea. There are many commercial and homemade worm bins from small to large. The process is the same and the results are the same.
Aerated Compost Tea is produced during a 12-24 hour aeration cycle or putting your finished compost in a bucket for 3-7 days and stirring occasionally. The rationale for introducing air into the extraction process is to encourage the proliferation and survival of aerobic microorganisms in the water and also to decrease the culture and development of anaerobic microorganisms that may produce metabolic byproducts unfavorable to plant growth in the water extract. Vermicompost tea contains a large diversity of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. It also helps increase soil biological activity, encourages positive effects in plant vigor, yield, bud break, fruiting, flowering, color, root volume, seed germination, pest and disease resistance. Vermicompost Tea can be used as a foliar spray or soil drench.
The message of leachate has not been a popular topic. Many worm composters are unfamiliar with the topic of aerated compost tea, preferring to use the leachate that many vermicompost systems encourage with their spigots. Although leachate seems to provide benefits to plants and vegetable gardening, it carries a very real risk to humans and plants.
Research shows that leachate should be discouraged. Vermicompost tea
is NOT leachate. The excess water dripping through a worm bin is considered leachate; it picks up undigested material which may contain pathogens and chemicals that are toxic to plants and humans. Professor Sherman says proper maintenance of a worm bin will not collect or seep excess water or leachate. Recommended use of leachate is to water your favorite weed or flush it down the toilet. The risk of using leachate on plants, especially the edibles, is not worth the risk of possible pathogenic contamination.
There is a difference between leachate and vermicompost which is produced in the presence of red wigglers in the worm bin. The worms and microbes gobble up the pathogens in their environment while eating the foodstock and do not release the pathogens back into the soil. Microbes are part of a worm bin ecosystem working and living amongst the worms in the vermicompost eating and overpopulating the pathogens while being ingested by the worms as well. The finished vermicompost is ready to use when you don’t recognize the original feed stock, it smells wonderfully clean, earthy and appears brown and crumbly.
During this discussion, I began to wonder if the pathogens the worms previously digested are freed upon worm death. Dr. Otto D Simmons III, Research Assistant Professor in Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University replied the “other worms digest the dead ones very quickly and the pathogens are eaten by the surviving worms”.
So why do I use Aerated compost tea? The answer lies in the biology, adding organic life to the soil, improving soil structure, water retention, root depth and growth. Vermicompost tea used as a foliar spray naturally helps protect the plant from pests and disease thus reducing the use of chemicals. I love the idea that my plants seem happier and stronger due to my kitchen garbage. Be sure to use non-chlorinated water when making tea or watering your worm bins. Those of you on well water don’t have to worry about chlorine. City dwellers can set a jug or bucket of water out for 24 hours to degas the chlorine. Rainwater collected in buckets is also a good alternative to chlorinated water.
This information was collected through continuing solid based Research rather than opinions or facts not supported by extensive Research. This information is available in the book Vermicomposting Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management. Published by CRC Press, copyright 2011.
I overhead a young father explain worms to his very young son,“Worms = Happiness”.
Wonderful article in the New York Times
I was doing some pruning and cleanup in our yard this afternoon. I started wondering what I should be doing this month. Voila, I have a “Month to Month Guide to Gardening in Napa County” sold through Master Gardners of Napa County.
1) This is the time to dream, plot and review seed catalogs.
2) Weeding and mulching the soil.
3) Prune your fruit trees and Roses, apply fungicide. Uh Oh, I should have read this guide earlier today. Hydrangeas can be rejuvenated for the coming year by removing the branches that bloomed this past year and leaving branches that did not bloom alone. Cut OLD growth off perennial plants.
4) Do some pest control maintenance by raking the yard and picking up boards, pots etc to discourage pests such as slugs and snails.
5) Spray for peach leaf curl by spraying with a copper-based fungicide and repeat in February right before bud break.
6) Cover tender plants from frost damage; be sure the covering does not rest on the plant. Protecting the top of the plant is most important, use shade cloth or plastic sheets stapled to wooden stakes. Well watered plants are more resistant to frost damage. You may want to add some heat to your sensitive plants.
7) Container plants that have built up salt deposits can be placed in a container of rain water overnight, drain well and repeat.
8) Clean your tools of dirt and rust. Use a Sharpening stone, a little oil and lots of elbow grease.
9) Shovel prune unwanted and diseased plants (dig up).
10) Purchase and plant, bare-root fruit and shade trees. Planting of bare-root Roses was suggested in December.
This list is just a reminder of what you can or may want to do during the Month of January in Napa County. Here at our Worm Farm we use vermicompost and aerated worm tea on all our plants and trees throughout the year for healthy plants and soil.
Photo Journal of this years Tomato journey: We planted in May and again in June, trying to outsmart
the Voles, Moles and slugs. We ended up with 8 varieties planted throughout our garden. The plants
were tall, lush and green but nothing ripened until Mid September. By late November they were still
producing buds and fruit, however rain was predicted and we dug up the plants. Our wheelbarrow
was filled with green tomatoes...What To Do? Green Tomato Pickles, takes me back to my
childhood memories and the local pickle factory selling this luscious delicacy. I found a wonderful
refrigerator recipe and my daily tastings are divine. Yum!!
It is raining here in Napa and time to get those buckets out to collect water for the worms. DO NOT water worms with city water if it has chlorine in it. The chlorine is not beneficial to the worms or the microbes. This is another tidbit of information we received at the Vermiculture Conference this month and one small issue I have been wondering about.
If you do not have rain, put your water out for 24 hours to dechlorinate before moistening your worms and bedding.
Begin with 6” of bedding and 1” layer of feedstock (don’t cover entire surface), cover with more bedding and moisten. Adding 1-2 handfuls of soil is OK but not mandatory. Add 1-2 lbs of wigglers to 1 square foot of surface area of bin. This means square foot of SURFACE area, not depth.
Worms/New Bed/New Environment:
Worms are definitely Not Hungry in the beginning. Leave a light on the first few days to keep them contained in their new bin, preventing escapees. WAIT until feedstock is eaten before adding more. Worms will continue to move upward as more feedstock is added.
Lots of food in bin will heat up the bed.
Ammonia is most deadly to the worms from Chicken manure.
Salt is deadly from Swine manure.
Foodstocks can be high in salt. DO NOT add salty food.
Do not compost higher than 3 feet as the bedding will get too hot.
Water frequently and lightly or mist top layer. Maintain moisture at 60-90%
Worms should have moist, glistening skin
Temperature range is 55-83 degrees F
Worm Bin should Not stink. Healthy bin will smell like the forest, clean and earthy soil….Wonderful.
Harvested our "first" crop of cherry tomatoes yesterday (11/17/2012), amazingly yummy. We still have 6'-7' tomato bushes full of tasty ripe tomatoes. The bushes are loaded with green tomatoes and we are making plans for green tomato pickles, pie and cake. In the garden, change is inevitable.
I just returned from the 13th annual Vermicompost Conference in North Carolina. This is the only conference about earthworm farming and mid-to-to-large scale vermicomposting held in North America. We were 100+ in attendance, people from 32 states and 11 countries gathered for 2 full days of learning and sharing research based information. The conference is coordinated by Rhonda Sherman, an extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University, providing leadership for university outreach programs on solid waste management issues through the Cooperative Extension Service.
The "Worm Condo" is considered a flow through vermiculture bin or "continuous flow system". It will help
save the task of labor and time in separating worms from the finished material.
Set aside all wine boxes except one for later use. TO SET UP: fill one of the wine boxes half full of moist
bedding. Start off with strips of paper soaked in water for about 15 minutes; you can also add brown leaves,
cardboard, 2 handfuls of soil, compost, non aromatic sawdust, coconut coir, coffee grounds to this mix as
desired. Place the worms and any bedding they are packed in, on top of this bedding in a lighted space to
encourage them to go down into the bedding immediately. Small amount of food may be added at this time.
The smaller your food is cut up, the quicker decomposition will take place encouraging the worm's interest
in the food. Cover the food with another layer of paper or cardboard to discourage flies. Lightly moisten the
top layer, (worms breathe through their skin and require a damp home).
It is important to leave a light on above this wine box for the first 48 hours to discourage the worms from
crawling out when dark. They are highly sensitive to the light and will stay down in the bedding. After this
initial 48 hours the lid may be placed on this box. Slowly add small amounts of food weekly, followed by
a layer of bedding and keep moist. The worms will continually work and eat their way in the top several
inches. When the worms, food and bedding reach the top of the wine box it is time to place a 2nd wine box
above the first one and begin to feed the 2nd box only. The worms will move up into this new box to eat when
their soil is in direct contact with the screen from the 2nd box. Do not overfeed and keep moist. Repeat with
the 3rd and 4th boxes as each wine box fills with vermicompost.
After several weeks most of the worms will have vacated the first wine box, leaving it full of vermicompost
that can be emptied and used in your garden soil and potted plants.
These florescent green worms with white v-shaped marks on the side become full size at 3-4" long. I discovered my first ever Hornworm this summer basking on a tomato leaf in the sun. They make their presence known by their black frass (droppings) on the foliage or around the base of the plant. The activity they seem to be most known by is their voracious appetite. They will munch entire leaves, small stems, eat parts of the immature fruit and can defoliate a plant in a few days. If caught early, your plant will recover. They may also be found on eggplants, peppers and potatoes. Organic Control: pick it off the plant as soon as you discover it. A bowl of soapy water will finish it off as well as squishing it or as in my case, I tossed it on the gravel and the Yeloow Jackets fisnished it off.
One Tomato Plant was infested with Black Aphids last month (top picture). I thoroughly saturated the entire plant with our Aerated Worm Tea.......2 DAYS later, my infestation is Gone (bottom picture). We are now 1 week later and the infestation has not returned, the live microorganisms in our tea ate the aphids and will stick around to protect the plant.