Red Wiggler Worms

Composting with Red Wiggler Worms
 
Redworm Basics
(courtesy of CompostMania.com)

 

Composting redworms are a species of earthworm native to the European continent, but now naturalized in North America. They thrive and reproduce in rotting vegetation, food scraps and manure.

They prefer to reside in the top layers of substrate (just below the litter layer) and are not normally found deep in soil. Being hermaphroditic, every individual is capable of producing eggs, which are housed in a lemon-shaped, cocoon-like capsule the size of a grape seed - each contains 3-6 babies.

Their excrement is a fertile compost referred to as vermi-castings and can fetch a premium in the marketplace. Due to their tolerance of temperature fluctuations, they are highly suitable for many climate zones.

Redworms will consume decaying food scraps and other organic materials such as moist shredded paper and cardboard. Supplying a tiny amount of grit in the form of clean sand will aid in digestion. 

 

• Red Worm Facts (courtesy of CompostMania.com)
• The worm population in a properly functioning bin can double every 90-120 days

• A cubic yard of manure can contain 50,000 worms which will convert the entire pile to vermicompost in 1 month

• Vermiculture reduces your carbon footprint by recycling your food scraps and diverting them from landfills where they may be converted to methane gas

• Raising worms keeps the garbage you do generate ‘cleaner’ - recyclables aren’t contaminated with food waste and they become easier to separate from the remaining debris

• Elimination of food scraps from garbage results in a less stinky bin for you and the folks who handle your waste

• Their excrement is a valuable resource for your garden and plants

• Protect your colony from predators – raccoons, possums, skunks and moles

• Bin must not be exposed to temperature extremes – place unit in full shade, out of direct sunlight

• Do not allow flooding of bin by rain – a wind resistant lid will help prevent soaking and leaching  

 (End quote from CompostMania)
 
 
Worms and vermicomposting........ 
DID YOU KNOW............?
 
.......that Red Wiggler Worms are not the same as Earthworms?
 
.......that Red Wigglers eat their weight every day?
 
...........that Red Wigglers show up in piles of food scraps, or under cowpies... but they don't do well in regular garden soil?
 
...........that Red Wiggler worms sell for $18-30/pound online (plus shipping)?
 
...........that regular compost sells for $15-$50 per cubic yard ... but VERMICOMPOST is $1-3 per POUND, and at least $400 per cubic yard? 
 
...........that happy red wigglers will keep your food scraps OUT of the landfill, reproduce themselves, and give you back great soil conditioner/fertilizer for your garden or houseplants?   What a bargain!
 

Stan’s Red Worm Do’s and Don’ts 
for setting up and maintaining your worm colony
 
Do:
1. Feed a small colony of worms only what they can eat in a few days. Too much food scraps will start a compost pile in your bin, (smelly and hot)

2. Feed veggies that decompose quickly. Carrots, for example, should be shredded. Worms love melon peels, banana peels, coffee grounds, etc.

3. Be careful with foods that mold such as breads,  pasta, etc. Keep the pieces small or not at all. 

4. Keep the bin in a cool place. Worms like 50-85 degrees F as a range. They’ll slow down above and below those temperatures. 

5. Look for tiny white baby worms. If your colony is happy there’ll be babies. Worms are smart enough not to reproduce when things are not right. 

6. Remember that the worms don’t eat everything in the bin. They allow friendly bacteria to do some composting as well.  Castings are the name for worm poop. They’re like tiny mouse droppings. The product of your bin is most properly called vermicompost.

7. Start your bin with a large layer of moist, shredded newspaper. Lots of bedding will allow the worms to find their perfect blend of moisture and temperature. They like space.
 
 
Don’t:
1. Don’t forget to maintain a cover layer of paper over the colony. Tear regular newspaper into strips and add generous amounts to the colony. It will absorb excess moisture, it provides habitat for the adventurous worms in the colony. It’s sterile and avoids contamination from outside critters.

2. Don’t feed the worms high protein foods like cheese, milk, cottage cheese, beans, or meat. These should go in your regular compost pile (except for the meat). Small pieces work better but, in any case,  just avoid the hassles of maggots, flies and bad smells in your bin by staying away from high protein items. 

3. Don’t forget to harvest the vermicompost. When the bin’s capacity is becoming mostly vermicompost,  it’s time to harvest. You may separate the worms in several ways. The lower layers of the material will be mostly vermicompost so you could just scoop that up and manually remove the worms from the castings. You can also use the worms’ avoidance of sunshine to separate them. Put a bin’s contents on a black plastic bag in the sun. Scrape away the castings until you see worms. Wait for a short period for the worms to retreat.  Scrape some more castings away. Repeat until there just enough vermicompost  to cover a lot of nervous worms. Use a spray bottle of water to rescue the worms off the plastic, i.e. flush ‘em back into the bin.

4. Don’t forget to use the castings to create a great potting soil, dig them in around valued house plants or sprinkle beside seeds to give a special boost to a planting.

5. Don’t let the worms out into the garden. They will thrive in a compost pile where there’s lots of fresh garbage, but the garden soil is usually not rich enough to keep these busy beavers happy.
 
What should I put my worms in? (Choosing the right bin.) 
Red Wigglers need a cool, dark, moist place to live. Any bin system, even an existing compost pile, that provides these needs will work. You can see a large variety of worm bins at  http://www.compostmania.com/Composting/Worm-Bins. You can also build a very simple worm bin using a plastic blanket box.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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