Worm Endings Unlimited Blog
Worm Wrangler tips, training and Chemical Free Gardening.
I am a Vermiculturalist that assists the worms in their Vermicomposting, this activity typically involves breeding worms.
Quick explanation: Vermiculture is the process of breeding worms.
Vermicomposting is the active process of turning organic matter into vermicompost, taking 2 weeks to 2 months.
Vermicompost is the byproduct of organic waste which has been transformed into a nutrient rich soil amendment
This is a bit of information from the Napa Master Gardner's recent edition of the Napa MG newsletter, the volunteer coordinator said to offer this advice: California native plants should be the first priority for watering, then anything newly planted, fruit trees, then followed by large trees and plants that may be pushing buds. Dormant plants that leaf out early should be watered before later leafing ones and smaller plants, those that cost less to replace. And that constantly thirsty turf lawn...
January 2014 has been cold in Napa with NO Rain and my plants are suffering. I just came in from watering the yard again! Did you know well watered plants are more resistant to frost damage. Continue keeping your citrus well watered and provide some warmth from the freezing cold. Shade cloth or plastic is a nice protection from frost, attach cloth to plant stakes covering the top of your plants. Supplemental heating with old style Christmas bulbs, not LED’s, is another option to protect plants. Unfortunately some of my succulents did freeze under their covers and lost most of their foliage, mother nature won this battle.
January is also the time to prune fruit trees and roses. Remember it’s time to apply a fungicide now and in late February just before bud break. Here at Worm Endings Unlimited we use only our Aerated Worm Tea as a foliar spray and as a soil drench reaping wonderful results without chemicals. Don’t forget your lawn , it’s time to give it a drink of worm tea to get those microorganisms working in the soil and assisting root growth. This is also the month to rake and clean up the yard to prevent a hospitable home for snails and slugs. This is a list of recommended things to do in January. I realize that I still have lots pruning, cleaning and spraying but not today, my feet are wet and cold. Sausage and Lentil Soup is recommended for today.
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 attempt to leave when it gets dark. I recommend keeping a light on or near their new home and allowing some light to filter inside, this discourages 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. The worms actually eat the green fungus, white fuzz, and microbes living in the rotten organic food. 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.
When it rains, 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 2012 Vermiculture Conference in North Carolina 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. We keep jugs of water handy at all times.
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 last 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.
The Hammerhead Flatworm kills and eats earthworms, exclusively! It is considered a parasite and eats the entire earthworm. Do not chop up this worm in trying to eradicate it as they will regenerate from the pieces and you will soon have many Hammerhead Flatworms instead of One. Eradication treatment methods include: salt, vinegar, and citrus oil applied directly on the Hammerhead flatworm.
Ever wonder about the little stickers we find on our fruits and vegetables, what do they mean?
Here is a list of some of the Recyclers and Decomposers you may find in your worm bin, helping to break down and soften the food for the worms. These organisms naturally appear in worm bin due to the organic environment.
White Worms (Pot Worms)
Sowbugs /Pill Bugs/Roly Polys
Stirring up the worms in their bin is a bit stressful to the wigglers. In my case, I have no choice but to stir them up when filling a worm order. This gentle disruption in their bedding will slow down their mojo but not kill them. Luckily for worm enthusiasts, the worms and the beneficial microorganisms do most of the turning and mixing. In a healthy bin the multitude of microscopic critters and worms are aerating by creating pockets of air while they move throughout the soil looking for food. This natural mixing of the soil and air allows the beneficial microorganisms to grow and flourish prior to becoming food for the worms, which in turn help the worms make wonderful vermicompost.
If your bin starts to smell bad, do not add food for 1-2 weeks, it will be necessary for you to gently stir and aerate the soil in order to keep a healthy, active and thriving community of worms and microorganisms.
Microorganisms living on organic waste nourish the worm rather than the original waste we provide for the worms. Think green mold, white powder and soft, smelly rotten stuff.
As the earthworm eats the organic waste and microbes they promote further microbially activity and produce a richer fragmented product than the original waste they consumed. As the waste is consumed, plant nutrients particularly N, P, K and Ca are released and converted into forms more soluble and readily available to plants. This all happens quite rapidly by passing through the gut of the earthworm in just a few hours. Vermicompost is ready to use when you can no longer recognize its original form. Finished vermicompost should have a dark consistency and smell like clean, sweet and wonderful soil. Remember you only need to add 5-10% vermicompost to your new and existing plants.
**information compiled from Vermiculture Technology edited by Clive Edwards, Norman Arancon
and Rhonda Sherman. c2011 (pages 80-81)
It is necessary to use organic substances that will hold moisture, be suitable for the worms to live and function while providing a place to bury garbage. Bedding may include shredded newspaper, shredded office paper, leaf mold, non aromatic sawdust, coconut coir, 2 handfuls of soil and/or compost. This small amount of soil/compost is added to the original bedding, helping to provide grit for the worm gizzard and by adding a diversity of microorganisms, bacteria and fungi necessary for breaking down the food. Be sure to thoroughly moisten the bedding mixture being careful that it is not wringing wet.
Do not confuse the excess moisture or liquid collected in the bottom of a worm bin as 'worm tea'. This leachate is the undigested liquid and excess moisture that has passed through organic material that may contain pathogens or excess nutrients that may be harmful to plants. It is best to use this leachate on unwanted plants such as weeds.
information supplied in VERMICULTURE TECHNOLOGY, 2011. page 70
Rhonda L Sherman, North Carolina State University
- Coffee Grounds & Filters
- Tea Bags (no staples)
- Egg Shells
- Fruits & Vegetables (fresh or rotten)
- VEGETARIAN Animal Manure
- Natural Fibers (cotton/hemp)
- Cardboard, Shredded paper & Newspaper
- Yard Waste (healthylleaves/clippings)
- Dairy Products
- Meat, Bones
- Oily, Greasy Food
- Glass, Plastic, Metal, Foil, Rubber Bands, Ties
- Glossy Paper, Photographs, Colored Ink
- Diseased Plants, Clippings, Leaves, Ivy
Worms will consume their food more quickly the finer it is chopped up, soft and rotten, covered in microorganisms.
The following 5 species are most notable for their natural ability to process organic waste, including life cycle, reproductive rates, endurance and tolerance of handling.
1) Eisenia andrei
2) Eisenia fetida
3) Dendrobaena veneta
4) Perionyx excavatus
5) Eudrilus eugenia
There is much more detailed information in VERMICULTURE TECHNOLOGY edited by Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon & Rhonda Sherman on pages 29-35.
Remember to keep your Worms WET & COOL in HOT weather. Be extra diligent in the plastic bins as they may absorb the outside heat and cook your worms. Keep these bins in a cool place, elevate for better air circulation and open up the lid for better air circulation. The wood bins and barrels we use are not as prone to cooking the worms in hot weather. Keep the soil as wet as a damp sponge (until you squeeze it and 1-2 drops of water are squeezed out).
This reminder is referring to weather above 75 degrees. Worms prefer temperatures of 55-75 degrees, they are most active in this temperature range.
Vermicompost is a must to get the plants off to a great start. Besides the minerals and nutrients readily available to the roots of plants and seedlings, our worms have provided top notch vermicompost to help with aeration, drainage and moisture holding capacity to make your plants Strong and Proud. The added bonus is the presence of worm eggs which will turn into future 'blenders of the soil' and all the microbes that help keep everything in balance. Off to the garden, looking forward to the beauty and the harvest.