2 acre farm: Vermiculture Nursery

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vermiculture Nursery

If you’re not aware vermiculture is raising worms for their byproducts (worm castings or as bait). I started experimenting with vermiculture last October. I began with a wooden box I made lined with plastic and a modest handful of red wigglers. When I first started out it seemed to be going moderately well, I had castings (worm poop) and lots of worm eggs being laid. But I had a large problem also, vinegar flies aka fruit flies. I couldn't get the little varmints to go away and when cold weather came I was hesitant to bring my worms and flies inside mostly because of the flies. So consequently my worms all died, R.I.P.
So I concocted a new plan and made a new worm house out of a large styrofoam meat container. I then went and bought some new worms from, I hate to say, Wal-Mart. I found a distributor who sells European night crawlers to them as "pan fish and trout worms". These worms are the new hip composting worms. They reproduce less than red wigglers but are hardier and eat more types of food. In fact one online source claims they will eat any organic matter besides bones, a little creepy but efficient. I have had my European night crawlers in the basement since early November. All this time they have been eating and producing castings and laying eggs but there has been a problem. The eggs haven't appeared to be hatching because I haven't seen any babies. So I made a sort of vermiculture nursery. I thought maybe it was too cold in basement for the eggs to hatch since I had read multiple sources that said the eggs need temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees fahrenheit.
About two weeks ago I took about fifteen eggs and put them in a plastic sour cream container with a few knife holes punched in the top. I then shredded and wet a paper towel and placed some small morsels of organic matter for them to eat inside. Just yesterday I was inspecting my eggs and turning some of the newspaper over when I discovered babies! I was excited to the point where I am pretty certain some members of my household may be scarred for life. I also discovered why I wasn't seeing my little babies in the main worm house; the worm pictured next to the straight pin is two to three times bigger than the smallest worms hatched. I figure I will let the little guys keep growing and hatching for another week and I will move them to the main worm house. I also finally did discover some young worms in the main house that are about one inch long. I am not sure what I thought I was looking for before when checking for babies but I don't think it was quite this small.

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Blogger debsgarden said...

Congratulations on your worm babies! It's amazing what we gardeners get excited about. I hope your little worms grow up to enrich your garden by doing what all good worms should do. Good luck!

February 6, 2010 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

Congratulations! Thank you for this informative post! I've enjoyed a homemade bin of red wigglers for four years now, but I never considered a bin of the nightcrawlers. Gotta do it! :)

February 6, 2010 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Kylee from Our Little Acre said...

Nathan, this is pretty cool! I haven't ventured into the world of vermicasting yet. Not sure I will, but it is kind of fascinating!

February 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Nathan (2af) said...

debsgarden- Thanks! It is amazing and a little scary also.
lisa- Thanks and your welcome! Don't forget to get European Night Crawlers and not the run of the mill night crawlers. The Canadian and African Night Crawlers are much more finicky and not good for composting.
Kylee- If it makes you feel better I sometimes wonder if I should have ventured but they do produce some incredible organic fertilizer.

February 8, 2010 at 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, congratulations on your worms. I'm really surprised tho, that the original ones died. Abut a month ago I brought some worm compost from a farm that kep them outside and then I kept them outdoors in the trunk of my car for a couple of weeks. When I brought them inside I didn't see any worms at first but after they warmed up and I started digging around I could them. Are you sure yours are really dead?

February 14, 2010 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Nathan (2af) said...

Well the optimal temperature for worms according to my sources is 55-70 degrees fahrenheit. Below 50 drops worm activity (metabolism I presume) and my worms were out in temperatures in the twenties at the time, might have even hit the teens at night I dont remember for sure but they were definately dead. Poor little fellas.

February 14, 2010 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

To avoid fruit fly problems.... freeze the food scraps (especially for indoor bins)for a day or two, then thaw and put in bins. You can also make fruit fly traps out of a plastic bottle (like a water bottle, cut off the top and invert it, then hot glue it in place. Dilute vinegar, wine, or even fruit juice with a touch of yeast as bait will attract them. Just put enough liquid in the bottom for them to drowned in. The inverted top confuses them, so they get in but most can't figure how to get back out.)
BTW, extremely few people are around that can actually positively ID what species most earthworms are, just so you keep a heads up on that. Some species & subspecies are so close in appearances that actual DNA tests are done.
Gotta love the vermicompost though. I started my bins 7 years ago with maybe 1/2 to 3/4th pound I fished out of my compost heap and now there is probably about 20 pounds of them in my bins (have to thin them out every now and then).
Good luck and happy gardening!

May 5, 2010 at 6:28 PM  

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