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Of the many delicious meals cooked from the garden, left behind are delicious food scraps, waiting to return to the soil as compost. Worm bins are filled with ‘bedding’ to provide the worms with a balanced diet as well as a damp, aerated place to live. Add a one or two spade-sized shovelfuls of garden soil to the bin to ‘inoculate’ it with garden bugs that will be helpful to your worms. Bad smells in a worm bins can result from too many food scraps, too much moisture, or the presence of cheese or other animal products. Composting plays an important role in reducing household waste by diverting it from the landfill. I am building garden towers and have compost bins but I cannot find red wigglers, which everyone rants and raves about,. I am trying to find red wiggler worms to start a worm bin and add to my garden and garden tower I just built.
Many gardeners compost both yard waste and kitchen waste with compost piles, sheet composting or some other method during the growing season. In the book, Worms Eat My Garbage, writer *Mary Appelhof suggests weighing your household food waste for one week (in pounds), and then provide one square foot of surface area per pound. TIP: If you make a worm bin out of a plastic storage container, never snap the lid shut tight. The large worm bin below (figure 1) is heavier, but is desirable in situations where a bin is going to be outdoors part of the year or in a heated garage.
The bedding for vermicomposting systems must be able to retain both moisture and air while providing a place for the worms to live. Before putting the bedding in your bin, squeeze the water out from the bedding as much as possible. The worms used in vermicomposting are called redworms (Eisenia foetida), also know as red wigglers, manure worms, red hybrid or tiger worms.
If you know someone who has an established supply, they may be willing to sell you some of their worms. The kitchen waste fed to worms can come from a variety of sources, including all vegetable and fruit waste (don't be surprised that some seeds may germinate and potato peels with eyes sprout), pasta leftovers, coffee grounds (with filter) and tea bags. If you notice odors, cut back on the amount of food or try chopping the food up into smaller pieces. Given the right environment, the worms will go to work to digest the kitchen scraps and bedding faster than any other compost method.
To keep your bin going, you will need to remove the castings from time to time and there are several ways to go about it.
Another method of harvesting composts is to push the black, decomposed material to one side of the bin, and fill the other side with new, moist bedding and kitchen scraps.
After you've had your worm bin established, you may begin noticing other creatures besides the redworms - especially if you keep your bin outdoors. In Mary Appelhof's book "Worms Eat My Garbage", she suggests that if you are allergic to molds and mildew, you may want to keep your home bin outside or away from living areas.
Try a variety of sources - compare prices, services, shipping policies and timeframes, and warranties. Use of commercial and trade names does not imply approval or constitute endorsement by Nebraska Extension or the author of this resource. The information on this Web site was updated September 2008 and is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. In the past 50 years, mankind has destroyed the worm habitat in an effort to "improve" agricultural efficiency.
Recycling the organic waste of a household into compost allows us to return badly needed organic matter to the soil.
Meanwhile, worms across the planet continue to faithfully fertilize and aerate the soil despite our ungrateful attitude. Now, you can help the worms and our planet by using the Swarup Vermicomposting System to provide shelter and food for thousands of our trustworthy friends. The earthworm has been mentioned in history as far back as Aristotle who dubbed the earthworm as "the intestines of the earth", and Cleopatra who had protective laws. Earthworms can be called as biological indicators of soil fertility, for soils with earthworms shall most definitely support healthy populations of bacterial, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoans, insects, spiders, millipedes and a host of others that are essential for sustaining a healthy soil.
Earthworms not only inhabit the soil, but by virtue of their activity contribute physical and chemical alterations in the soil leading to soil fertility and plant growth.
Earthworms are classified into epigeics, anecics and endogeics laying stress on ecological strategies.
The epigeics are efficient agents of communication and fragmentation of leaf litter and are phytophagous. The anecics feed on the leaf litter mixed with the soil of the upper horizons and are geophytophagous.
The endogeic earthworms are geophagous earthworms which live within the soil deriving nutrition from the organically rich soil they ingest.
Of the three ecological varieties of earthworms, the epigeics in particular and the anecics in general have largely been harnessed for use in the vermicomposting process.
Epigeics like Eisenia foetida and Eudrilus euginiae have been used in converting organic wastes (agro wastes and domestic refuse) into vermicompost.
Earthworms range from a few millimeters long to over 3 feet, but most common species are a few inches in length.
The first section of the earthworm, the anterior end or head, consists of the mouth and the prostomium, a lobe which serves as a covering for the mouth and as a wedge to force open cracks in the soil into which the earthworm may crawl.
The baby worms live in the egg case for at least 3 weeks, sometimes longer depending on the surrounding conditions. Earthworms improve the soil texture, soil aeration, enrich the soil with nutrients and promote useful soil micro flora required for plant growth. Worms live best when they are kept in a dark moist environment between the temperatures of 18C and 26C.
The worms feed on the biomass, assimilating 5%-10% for their growth and excreting the rest in the form of nutrient rich casts.
Earthworm enemies are: ants, springtails, centipedes, slugs, mites, certain beetle larvae, birds, rats, snakes, moles, mice, gophers, toads, and other insects or animals which feed on worms or molest them.



Now that we know what to feed them and how much to there are just a few other simple steps we should follow to keep our worms happy. The calcium in the shells will help your worms both reproduce, as well as grind up the food scraps they eat in their chicken-like gizzard.
After you’ve started your worm bin, you can use these items as topical ‘blankets’ to keep the environment in your bin protected, dark and moist for the worms. Always cover them with a few inches of the bedding to prevent flies and odors from becoming a problem. Odors can be controlled by removing excess or inappropriate wastes, or adding drainage holes and fresh bedding. Fortunately, very little yard waste is generated during winter months when cold temperatures make composting difficult. Wood bins allow for a better air movement and a bin this size (figure 1) will take care of food scraps from a family of four.
If the bin is indoors, a sheet of dark plastic or burlap sacking placed loosely on top of the bedding is sufficient as a cover.
This bin has a bottom so it can be moved and used in a heated garage or basement during cold weather. Bedding does not have to be purchased and most of us have plenty of bedding resources in our home, office or school. A 2-by-2 foot box will need between 4 and 6 pounds of dry bedding, a 2-by-3 foot box will take 9 to 14 pounds.
Place the dry, shredded bedding in a large container and add water until it covers the bedding.
If it is drying out, mist the paper with water from a spray bottle and dampen the bedding again.
Redworms prefer temperatures between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and are suited to living in a worm bin.
It will take time for bacteria to form and your bin can quickly become very smelly if you add too much food, too fast. The material will pass through the worms' bodies and become "castings." In about 3-4 months, the worms will have digested nearly all the garbage and bedding and the bin will be filled with a rich, black natural fertilizer and soil amendment. Molds and mildew are part of the composting cycle that help to break down organic materials and naturally occur in a worm bin.
Businesses and resources listed on this site do not constitute an endorsement by Nebraska Extension or the author of this resource. Species, which are usually used in Vermicomposting are, Elsenia-foetida, Eudrilus-euginiae, Dravida-Willsil and Perionyx-Excavatus. The use of chemical fertilizers has increased the salinity of the soil, making it unpalatable to our worm friends.
In this way, we participate in nature's cycle, and cut down on garbage going into burgeoning landfills. Growing worms is a meditative activity that will not only save the environment, but will also help decrease stress. New technology and business practices have recreated extremely efficient home and industrial worm growing operations.
Charles Darwin demonstrated that earthworms improve soil conditions and enhance plant productivity. Earthworms which form a major component of the soil system have been silently ploughing the land for millions of years and assisting in the recycling of organic nutrients for the efficient growth of plants.
Soils inhabited by earthworms have casts which are in turn richly inhabited by micro-organisms. Though these surface dwellers are capable of working hard on the litter layer and converting all the organic waste into manure they are of no significant value in modifying the structure of the soil.
Only a few types are of interest to the commercial earthworm grower, and of these only two are raised on a large-scale commercial basis. The worm swallows soil (including decomposing organic residues in the soil) or residues and plant litter on the soil surface.
For example, in the winter time, baby worms may stay in the cocoon for many weeks until the temperature worms up again. For commercial production, however, it is considered best to maintain the pH of beds around neutrality (pH 7.0). Earthworms eat and mix a large amount of soil and organic matter, then deposit their castings (vermicompost) either on the surface of the soil or in burrow, depending on species.
So in summer place in a shady spot out of direct sunlight and in winter if possible place inside a garden shed or garage. These can convert 45 kg of wet biomass (40% moisture) in a week's time yielding about 25 kg of vermicompost. The earthworm also has quite a number of internal parasites including numerous protozoa, some nematodes, and the larvae of certain flies. When feeding the scraps if at all possible chop or break them into small pieces as it will be easier for the worms to process. Common bedding materials include newspaper, corrugated cardboard, office paper, natural paper egg cartons, straw, partially composted wood chips, and brown leaves.
Rotate burial places throughout the bin to provide worms with a balanced diet of kitchen scraps and bedding, and to keep the pile aerated. The temperature of the bedding should not be allowed to get below freezing or above 84 degrees. Worms have a gizzard like chickens so fine grit should be added to help the worms digest food. In the beginning, add a very small amount of gritty material (see above) and a small amount of vegetable matter. Compared to ordinary soil, the worm castings contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium. The worms will migrate to the freshly filled side of the bin and you can just scoop out the finished compost.
Nonlethal methods of control (swatting, traps for fruit flies and ants, etc.) are the best for areas around your worm bins. The increased knowledge of the soil food web and the need for new, safer fertilizers and pesticides have made the raising of worms and production of vermicompost and related products, commercially feasible.


Advent of chemicals and their large scale application in the name of fertilizers and biocides have changed the structure of soils and have, in most cases, eliminated soil. For millions of years before the green revolution these silent machines have been performing a marvelous function of ploughing the soils and fertilizing them.
The anecics however are capable of both organic waste consumption as well as in modifying the structure of the soil. Strong muscles mix the swallowed material and pass it through the digestive tract as digestive fluids containing enzymes are secreted and mixed with the materials.
The worms line up in opposite directions near their band (or clitellum), which contains some of the sexual organs.
If this isn't possible that's OK all you need to do is to insulate the top working layer of the instrument, this can be done by covering it with a couple of old hessian bags. In the summer months as the weather heats up you should always check that the bedding is moist because it will dry out but of course during the colder months watering will not need to be done as often but never forget to check them.
Leave the scraps in a container for a few days so bacteria will start forming because worms love bacteria.
Their job is to eat leftover food and turn it into a potent soil amendment, namely worm manure, known as ‘castings’. Simply push the nearly finished compost to one side of the bin and put fresh bedding on the empty side. Vermicomposting is the process of using worms and micro-organisms to turn kitchen waste into a black, earthy-smelling, nutrient-rich humus. You may want to line the bottom with rocks or boards to keep rodents and other worm-loving creatures from tunneling in. For smaller bins, experiment--if you prepare excess bedding, it can be dried, stored and used another time.
There is also a concern with toxoplasmosis, a disease that is of particular concern to a pregnant woman who may pass on the disease to her unborn child. This book is an excellent reference for anyone wanting to start and maintain a worm composting system. As if that wasn't enough, over-tillage of the soil destroys the worm tunnels that are vital to their efforts. Such burrowing species, that are widely used in soil management like the earth worm Lampito mauritii effectively also create a drilosphere apart from helping in compost production. The worm's lack of protruding structures other than setae facilitates efficient burrowing; in addition, various skin glands secrete a lubricating mucus which aids movement through the earth and helps to stabilize burrows and casts. The digestive fluids release amino acids, sugars, and other smaller organic molecules from the organic residues (which include living protozoa, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms as well as partially decomposed plant and animal materials). Usually the worms appear white, as they have not yet developed pigmentation, or do not have enough pigmentation (or blood) to be seen.
Lime (calcium carbonate) may be mixed with bedding material to correct acidity or to maintain a more favorable pH.
Worms love composted (not fresh) cow (their favorite), horse, donkey, llama, and sheep manure. Unlike the earthworm, the ‘red wriggler’ is a type of worm used specifically for composting, because of its aggressive desire to eat fresh food scraps. Always tear newspaper, paper egg cartons, office paper and cardboard into one to two inch wide strips before using them as bedding. Though they will eat meat, the odors and maggots that usually ensue and not readily desired! Each time you remove some bedding, the worms will be exposed to the light and they will keep migrating down to the bottom of the bin. If you have cats, provide a screen or other device to keep them from using the worm bin as a litter box. The simpler molecules are absorbed through intestinal membranes and are utilized for energy and cell synthesis. While the earthworm can take on the same job, it is better suited playing the roll of a soil tiller, aerating garden beds. Any bedding material you choose needs to be thoroughly soaked in water for several minutes before adding it to your worm bin, but be sure to squeeze out excess water after it has been soaked. The worms will migrate over to the fresh food in the rebedded side of the bin as the food finishes decomposing. The contents that do break down, do so slowly, and only with the help of microorganisms that don’t breathe oxygen. Mature sperm and egg cells and nutritive fluid are deposited in cocoons produced by the clitellum, a conspicuous, girdle-like structure near the anterior end of the body. Unlike the red wriggler, earthworms need mineral soils to survive, and would not so well covered in food scraps. When the old bedding and food scraps are completely composted, they become a dark and crumbly soil-like material which can be harvested and replaced with fresh bedding, starting a new vermicomposting cycle. This form of decay is referred to as ‘anaerobic decay’, and lets off a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, methane. The ova (eggs) are fertilized by the sperm cells within the cocoon, which then slips off the worm and is deposited in or on the soil. To start a worm bin using red wrigglers, you will need to secure a sturdy wooden or plastic box with a tight fitting lid. The eggs hatch after about 3 weeks, each cocoon producing from two to twenty baby worms with an average of four. It can be made from an old cupboard or packing crate, or constructed with untreated plywood and two-by-fours.
A shallow box about one foot deep is best because the worms must live near the surface to breathe. Like us, red wrigglers and their microorganism helpers, breathe oxygen, creating a healthier form of decay than that in the landfill.



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