Red Wiggler Worm Farm

Our worm farm is beginning to improve!  Back in January, Jay did a little research into raising red wriggler worms for composting and decided we would try a bucket system as a housing.  Our neighbor was kind enough to give us a big handful of castings and about 500 worms, and showed Jay his five gallon bucket system and explained how he ran it.

Jay got to work and drilled some holes in some five gallon buckets to start our farm.  He put a bit of shredded paper in the bin and I added some toilet paper from the trash can.  Jay said the neighbor told him to give the worms a banana peel and then not to put in more food until the worms consumed the banana.  I blended up half a banana peel and poured it over the inch of paper scraps.  Jay felt like it was too much water and said the bucket needed to be fairly dry.  We also added a whole piece of banana peel to entice the worms to crawl out and investigate their new home.

A couple of weeks went by and the worms just sat in their casting nest wrapped up in a paper towel.  Jay said he was told it could take the worms a couple of months to start doing much, but that maybe I should give them another piece of banana peel.  After a couple more weeks the first piece of peel was dry and moldy and there was still no evidence of worm activity.   The paper scraps had dried up completely from my initial moistening and were clumped together in hard chunks.  And still no worms were cavorting about in wild abandon.  I added yet another banana peel and removed the dry and blackened peel.

Some days later when I stirred around in the bucket I discovered a scant quarter cup of wrigglers hiding inside of the fresh banana peel, the only moist place left in the bin.   I did a little more research, which revealed that we had not created an optimal home for the worms.

So here is what I did:

I tore up two paper egg cartons into smallish pieces and soaked them for about fifteen minutes in a pan of water until they were really soggy.  Those went into the bucket, along with a big handful of dry leaves and about two cups of composted horse manure from my garden.  I also added about a quarter cup of crushed egg shells.  I distributed all of these ingredients onto the dry paper shreds in the bottom of the worm bucket and on top of the banana peel sheltering our little refugee worms.  Then I chopped up a head of lettuce and stirred that around in the egg carton pieces.  I added a half cup of grated carrot and a few potato peels for good measure.  This all got stirred around into the bedding to encourage the worms to run around and investigate the smorgasbord, just in case they were tired of banana peel.  And I gave them another banana peel chopped into tiny pieces, in case they were addicted to banana peel and needed a fresh fix.  Lastly I took several sheets of wet newspaper and laid this on top of the entire pile as a kind of roof to keep the bucket cool and dark.

A couple of days later I removed the newspaper cover and used a spray bottle to mist about a half cup of water onto the bedding, then covered it back up.  I’ve been alternating misting the bedding and added a little bit more food under the egg carton scraps every few days for the last two weeks.

The bucket now has an earthy smell.  In fact, it is so earthy that something I added has begun to sprout and grow.  Overall it is quite damp.  Not dripping wet, but nice and moist.  I want the egg carton to remain soaked but still be able to hold air pockets.  I’ve stirred around in it and the original bedding paper has become moist.  I have attempted to fluff everything up and have noticed the worms have begun to emerge from the banana peel refugee tent and are now roaming the bucket.  I can’t tell if the worms are really consuming anything yet, but obviously they are doing better than they were before.

My research says that we should add a little more bedding – soggy egg carton – every time we feed the worms.  They are supposed to be able to eat up to their body weight in food every day, and they consume the bedding as well as the vegetable scraps.  The dirt and egg shells give them grit to digest better.  Some food mixed in with the egg carton saturates the fibers with decomposing goodness and is supposed to make the worms go on a feast of epic proportions.  So we will see how they do over the next month with some thrice weekly TLC from me.  I’m planning to mince up the food they are given to help them eat it faster, because I want MORE WORMS pronto!  Eventually it won’t be necessary to chop things up so fine because there should be lots and lots of worms.

I wonder if I will be less squeamish of worms in a few months.

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