Worm Digs

Categories: Compost | 7 Comments
Posted Thursday, February 4th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Part II of II:

“Of all the animals, the worm has played the most important part in the world’s history.”  – Charles Darwin

Worms.  Check.  Bin.  Check.  Food waste.  Check.  I had everything I needed to set up my very first worm farm.  Opening up the guide book that came with the bin I read, “The Wriggly Wranch™ harnesses the amazing power of earthworms, natures perfect recycler!”  Well, alright then.  Let’s get it on!

If there was a Dwell Magazine for the vermin set, The Wranch would be in it.  With a sleek, black modernist architectural design, it offers Red Wrigglers the finest in contemporary living.

Two plastic boxes, approximately the same size, fit snuggly together, leaving a gap of a few inches inside the bottom box. The top box, which has a screened bottom, is where food scraps go and where the worms live and eat.  Their precious tea, a powerful organic fertilizer and natural pest repellent, drips down to the bottom box which has a spigot, allowing you to easily collect it.

When the top box is 3/4 full of castings, you slide a third box on top of it, and start adding your scraps. Over a period of about three months, the worms crawl up into their new box, and you can harvest their castings in the old box and start again.

You’re supposed to start with 1 lb., or 1000 worms.  I think I brought home about 500, though honestly it’s hard to tell.  I’m not about to lay them out side by side to count (although, I think my husband kinda wanted to). Anyway, they mate like crazy, so  if all goes well, there  should be about 15,000-20,000 worms in a year’s time!

Considering all the rampant worm-sex going on under the lid, they probably should have called it The Bunny Ranch. But, yeah, maybe that would have been too confusing.

To create the initial bedding for the worms, the Wranch provides a block of coconut coir.  When you soak the block in a bucket of water, it expands and breaks up until it becomes a deep mass of mossy, primo worm-grade goodness that looks and feels like moist soil.

We spread the coir in the bin and then dumped our little recyclers in.  I’ve never been so  excited to open a can of worms.  (Sorry, had to make that joke.)

To encourage them to dig themselves into their new digs, we left the cover off and exposed them to light, which they hate. Then we put  a few pieces of lettuce in to start them off slow.

Finally, we covered them with a piece of wet newspaper to hold the moisture in.  Worms only survive in moist environments, so the bedding should always stay damp – not too wet, not too dry.

And that was it. Time to let nature do the rest.

In fact, getting them eating in the beginning is proving to be a little tricky.  It’s been a week now since setting up the Wranch, and the few torn up pieces of lettuce I scattered over their bed haven’t been touched. A little research told me this was normal, and could be due to a number of factors.

First, they need to get used to their new home.  I actually felt a little bit guilty about taking them away from their Vermi-Palace at SMC. But I think they’ll get used to slummin’ it on the porch soon enough.  Also, they are likely eating their coir bedding, so may not be interested in other food yet. Additionally, I may not have gotten a big enough worm-population to start.  Another trip to the Vemitech may be needed if I don’t have enough patience for the worms to get-it-on and let nature to take its course.

I also discovered that the worms don’t actually eat the food, but the micro-beasties that grow on the food as it decomposes. So, following advice from the Wranch manual’s troubleshooting section, I put some of the lettuce through the food processor.  Hopefully, the smaller pieces will biodegrade a little bit faster for them to consume.

I will keep you updated on their progress.  Until then, I leave you with this:

“The early bird catches the worm.  But the late worm doesn’t get eaten.” – Evangeline Heath



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  2. melanie watts

    WEll, I didn’t know they ate the bacteria that accumulate on the food as it decomposes.

  3. Eleanor

    You sound like a new mother :-) Did you do the ‘Save The Worms’ graphic? – it’s very cool.

  4. Micah

    I had no idea these even existed! What sort of temperature range can the worms withstand? I’d love to put one of these in my backyard, but only if they can withstand our (relatively mild) Atlanta winters.

  5. Candace

    I have a worm farm that I built using rubbermaid containers in my kitchen and as long as you cover the food scraps it doesn’t smell. I originally had it in the basement but because it was so cold down there they were kinda sluggish, so two years ago I brought it upstairs and they happily munch away on all of the vegetable scraps. (I live in Canada so having the worm bin outside for most of the year is not an option)

  6. Angela

    This is exactly what I was looking for! I’ve been wanting to compost for a while now and was looking into ways to do it while living in an apartment. I was considering the bokashi bins, but it seems that you have to still dig the resulting stuff into the soil, so that makes things a bit difficult when the balcony is frozen for half the year. Worms, though, that I can do :-) I don’t think I ever outgrew that childhood phase of being fascinated by worms and bugs… having an excuse to keep a whole farm of them will be cool! Thanks for the inspiration! Have you posted an update on this that I’ve missed, or are you planning to update any time soon? I’d really like to know your experience with them since setting this up.

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