Red Wigglers – Getting Acquainted

Well, after reading perhaps too much on the topic of raising “red” worms I started a small vermi-composter in my basement.  Keep in mind that this took place some 2 years ago.  I went through the typical start up learning curve of how much water is sufficient, how much food is too much, type of background music, etc.  The first thing a novice wormer will experience is the not so pleasant odor generated by the worm farm.  It is easily taken care of by covering food scraps with soil.  This also takes care of the fruit fly population.

The main objective of having the vermi-composter is to generate the main ingredient for home brewed compost tea.

The container is modest and measures approx. 2 cu. ft.  Based on several recommendations I’m using red wigglers.  I started this system with about 100 worms then after 2 months added another 100 since it seemed that the initial population dwindled fairly quickly (2 month period). After the addition of the second batch of worms it appeared that the same thing occurred. However, the worms that remain appear healthy and continue to devour the food scraps given them. I add about 1 lb. food scraps per week. Anyway, the system seems to be working fine and the worms, as well as a host of other soil microbes, are doing their job.

The main reason for starting the worm bin was to have a fresh source of worm generated compost in order to produce worm tea (liquid fertilizer). So, after 4 months (two weeks from now) I’ll harvest the worm compost system and make several gallon batches of worm tea. During the harvest process I plan to segregate as many worms as possible in order to start a new bin of red wigglers. If the worm tea shows to invigorate plant growth as is claimed by many I will setup multiple bins so that I have the luxury of making worm tea once a month. Not only will I fertilize the vegetable garden with worm tea I also plan to do so for house plants and various plants in my landscape.

What one should consider when using worm tea is that it isn’t only a means to deliver certain macro and micronutrients to your plants but also replenishes the soil environment with beneficial organisms that have a positive effect on root and plant development. I guess one can say that you are improving the ecosystem, on a micro-scale basis or perhaps taking a wholistic approach to plant culture (husbandry). Of course there is a lot of literature on this topic and I hope this writing encourages you to dig deeper into the matter.

One avid gardener remarked that raising worms in a bin, located in a basement and fed weekly allocations of food scraps didn’t make much sense to him. Rather, he suggests that one should build a working compost, located outside and which houses red wigglers. By this approach you will have a much larger mound to work with and with the added ability to compost more food scraps then let’s say 1 or 2 lbs. per week. Granted, the worms won’t reside at the top of the compost pile, especially in cold weather, so you’ll have to be willing to dig a hole to deposit the food scraps where the wigglers can access same. Having said this, I did inspect my compost pile, which is 80 cubic ft, and dug down to the well decomposed material but did not see teams of worms as expected. So, I began to consciously deposit food scraps in certain areas of the pile to attract worms. However, it isn’t yet obvious that the worms are coming up from the soil layer to feast on the goodies. Keep in mind that I was making these observations between January and March of 2016 in central MO.

Another gardener mentioned that she tested worm compost tea versus compost tea made from her back yard’s compost pile without seeing evidence of any difference in plant growth or productivity between the two types of tea.

It is now late summer of 2017 and I have come to the conclusion that the time and effort it takes to make compost tea in your basement can’t be justified if you have the ability to maintain an active compost pile on your property.  I did enjoy raising worms and appreciate the richness of their compost but, quite frankly, I can achieve the same end result via my compost pile in my backyard.



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