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Interesting pH Facts

Friday, November 26th, 2010

What’s my latest passion?   Learning everything I can about gardening.  Not just any type of gardening,  but also cool and interesting exotic fruits and vegetables that can be grown in our California Mediterranean climate.

Using Worm castings has defenitely accelerated the gardening experience…once you use some Worm Dudee on you plants and see the results…you’re hooked.

Here are some interesting pH facts.  Just a reminder, the pH scale is logarithmic (And counterintuitive), so a substance with a pH of 5 is ten times more acidic than one with a pH of 6.

Check out the pH level of some of these items.

8.5  Baking Soda                         

8.2  Seawater                              

7.5  Human Blood                     

4.5  Tomato Juice                    

3.1  Apples                                  

2.5  Vinegar                                

1  Battery Acid            

If you’re wondering how these pH numbers have anything to do with raising worms, remember my recent Worm Inn post where I’m currently composting 36 apples!  Updates coming!            

*From the book, Organic Gardening for Dummies

Featured Customer Questions – Michael R.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I continually stress the importance of spending the time to set up your worms in proper bedding.  If the bedding is set up correctly, raising worms is easy.  If not, it’s a never ending challenge.  Michael sent some interesting questions that offered me the opportunity to remind everyone about making a proper worm bedding…..

 Good evening. Hope you are having a good week.

I have a few questions and I hope you don’t mind.

1. Does it matter, when adding bedding, if some of the newspaper strips are stuck together? After I squeeze out the water from the soaked papers they get stuck together and it is hard to separate them. Do you have any tips for preparing the bedding?

2. When the bedding is turning into a lot of worm casting will the castings loose their potency whenever I mist them down?

Thanks for your time. Have a good night.
Michael 

Hi Michael, 

On the first question…regarding fluffing your newspaper.  The better you fluff the bedding, the better your worms will do.  It takes work…sometimes a good 30 minutes to make a great bedding.  Not much way to shortcut it.  If you don’t separate the “Stuck” papers well, you will create an anaerobic, (stinky) environment.  The good thing is, you only have to fluff the bedding every few months(when you put in new bedding). 

The castings will not lose their potency when misting.  In fact, just the opposite.  You are making the bedding condusive to the worms, so they are going to continue to process the bedding.  Even though it looks like all the food is gone, the worms are usually continuing to eat the stuff.

Have fun!

Featured Customer Questions – Karin K

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Hi Jerry!

My first harvest is complete, and I have a few questions.
I noticed that I had more paper at the bottom of the container than I thought I would find. Am I supposed to be “fluffing” while we’re processing paper?

Because this is my first harvest, I was diligently trying to separate casting from worms.
I noticed quite a few eggs, and I suspect a baby worm or two passed my inspection and ended up in the casting pile. Do I need to screen this before I add it to my plants? I’d hate to try to feed my tomatoes, and then have the worms go to town on the root system.

Thanks again for your patience!

I had a blast harvesting this morning!

-The worm apprentice (Karin)

 

Hi Karin,

First off, let me congratulate you on your first harvest! I love hearing that my customers “Had a blast”!

If you have some paper on the bottom not yet broken down, no big deal….just use it for additional bedding as you start the process again!

Regarding the worm eggs you saw in your castings.  Unless you pick them out (GREAT project for keeping  children entertained)! they will end up in the casting pile.  If you screen them, you will have additional worms.  If you don’t, they will end up as part of the “Circle of Life”, as Redworms will not surive well in your soil.  No need to be concerned about your plants roots….Redworms are bacteria feeders (Mush Eaters), and will not harm living plant roots.  Because worms are like ants in their ability to reproduce, please don’t drive yourself crazy trying to save every single one.  That’s an impossible task. 

Be happy knowing that you now have some of the best soil amendment known to man….and you may still have time to get another harvest in before the weather gets cold!

How to Raise Redworms and Easily Create Your Own Castings!

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

At a presentation I gave recently, one of the club members took great notes. I thought I would share her notes here. Very useful, as they condensed an hour presentation into an easy to read outline.

Worm Castings – Natures Finest Soil Amendment

Red Wigglers are eating machines, and their deposits (Worm Castings) make an incredibly microbiologically rich compost. Loaded with beneficial bacteria, all natural, non-burning, and odor-free, Worm Poop is truly a miracle of nature.

“When done right, raising worms takes only a few minutes a week, and very little space”, said Jerry Gach, our March speaker. “The biggest mistakes people make are overwatering, and overfeeding, reducing air flow throughout the worm bin”.

Gach outlined several simple steps to composting with worms.

Drill several holes in your worm bin to allow for air flow, then drill a hole in the bottom of the bin for drainage.

Keep the bin out of direct sunlight at all times.

Create worm bedding by soaking 1 inch strips of newspaper (Lots and lots of newspaper) in water for 24 hours. Then wring it out and fluff it up to about a depth of 6″-10″ in your bin.

Add your worms, keeping a light above them for 24-48 hours to get them to burrow into their new bedding.

Bury a handful of produce scraps into the bottom corner of the bedding, making sure to cover the scraps completely with bedding. Let the worms come to the scraps.

Add food when the existing food has been eaten, and add water as needed using only a mister.

Harvest the castings when they look rich and black, and the original bedding is no longer recognizable (Usually in 60-90 days).

To harvest, simply dump the processed bedding (Complete with worms) on a tarp outside. Make some piles and allow the worms an hour or so to make their way to the bottom of each pile, as worms will always slither away from light. Retreive the worms from the bottom of each pile, and place the worms in some fresh bedding with fresh food to start the process again.

Want Healthier, larger plants? Raise some worms!

For additional information, visit WWW.TheWormDude.Com

Let’s Experiment! – Red Wigglers in Newspaper Bedding.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I can’t say enough good things about using newspaper as worm bedding. It’s abundant, usually available for free, and it’s easy to tell when it has been converted to castings(Unlike coir or peat moss that tend to look like castings).

The initial pictures are of a bin that I set up using only paper bedding on October 1, 2008. The last few pictures were taken today, March 21, 2009. Same worms….NO FOOD!

I wonder if this is how time lapse photography started? ;)

Why would I starve these poor worms, letting them eat paper and nothing else? This was all done to prove a point. Worms can live off newspaper alone!

Why is this important?

The NUMBER #1 way people kill worms is by overfeeding them. If you knew that your worms could survive on newspaper bedding alone, you never have a reason to overfeed your worms! Even when you know you have some busy weeks coming! Even prior to going on vacation!

In the interest of full disclosure, though the worms survive, they are basically getting an all carbohydrate diet from the newspapers. They survive, although they definitely are skinnier than when fed a balanced diet. Kinda like you and I living on bread and water!

Don’t try this with peat moss or coir! The worms will process both, but they get no nutrition from either. You will end up with dead worms. I’ve tried it and seen the results. Trust me on this one.

Worm Beddings – The Good and the Bad!

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

There are MANY different options when it comes to bedding for worms. Some of the most common beddings include; Peat Moss, Coconut Coir, leaves, manure, straw, Paper(Includes newspaper, junk mail, cardboard), etc. Name a product, and I’ve probably tried raising worms in it!

I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the various beddings:

Peat Moss – Depending on the type you buy, Peat Moss is usually VERY acidic. In order to have your worms thrive in peat moss, it needs to be extremely well soaked, wrung out, and soaked again. The best results I’ve seen using Peat Moss is when it is mixed in a cement mixer resulting in a nice, fluffy texture.  Although your worms will process the Peat, they get no nutrition from it, and will eventually die from starvation without additional food.

Coconut Coir – Coir also needs to be well rinsed prior to use. It is a decent bedding, but usually relatively costly considering the size of the blocks normally available. The best results I’ve seen using Coir is when it is mixed in a cement mixer resulting in a nice, fluffy texture.  Although your worms will process the coir, they get no nutrition from it, and will eventually die from starvation without additional food.

Leaves – When using leaves for worm bedding, use only leaves without a strong fragrance. I’ve heard stories of people adding just a FEW bay leaves into the bedding and killing their worms! If worms cannot get away from strong smelling materials, they will die (Usually after trying their best to climb out of your bin first)! Worms can do well in leaf bedding. Two problems with using leaves as bedding in my opinion:

1. Leaves are not absorbent, and do not hold water well.
2. Leaves tend to get messy when they break down. Almost oily.

Manure – For the purposes of this article, let’s talk about manure from herbivores such as horse/cow manure. Manure from meat eating animals (Humans, dogs, cats) gets into other issues of pathogen problems and cross contamination. Manure is normally easily obtainable, and can make GREAT worm bedding. But, the reality is that most of us live in cities, and do not appreciate a box of worms living in poop in our house or garage. Additionally, most of us would not like putting our hands in manure bedding when we need to check on the worms. CAUTION: Manure that comes from horses or cows that have been given deworming medication will sterilize your worm bin, killing all your worms. The medication will dissipate over time, but be careful. Like a canary in a coal mine, I would only use manure if it had some existing redworms living in it.

Straw – I don’t like using straw at all. It is terrible at holding moisture, it clumps very badly, it takes FOREVER to break down….forgetaboutit!

Paper – Includes newspaper, junk mail, cardboard. Why am I lumping all paper material together? When wet, all paper turns into a pulp eventually. The worms ingest this pulp. Paper is readily available, it is usually FREE, it holds water well, and it’s relatively clean to put your hands in.

Let’s Experiment raising Redworms in paper bedding!

Check back soon!

Larger Scale Worm Composting

Saturday, November 15th, 2008


Here is a picture of a typical vertical migration worm bin. Vertical Migration bins are produced under various brands, such as Gusanito Worm Factory, Wriggly Wranch, Can of Worms, etc. These bins all have slightly different shapes, but basically, they all work exactly the same.

Vertical Migration systems are the most commercially successful products ever made for worm composting. Their benefits are; Small footprint, Ease of Harvesting, Cute little spigot. They sell well, and they work. But, what if you have a large family, or just happen to eat a healthy diet consisting of large amounts of produce? In these cases, a single Vertical Migration bin is not likely what you need to accomplish your goal. What if you would rather spend your money on more worms, and not more bin? You have a few options:

Build a Wooden Worm Bin-Basically, just a wooden box with a lid. Just remember that surface area is more important than depth when raising worms. Your box does not need to be any deeper than 12 inches. Valuable information to know when you want to move your bin! ;)

Buy a large rubbermaid tub-You can purchase these LARGE tubs for less than $20! More height than what is normally needed, but just fill halfway with bedding. I have converted to these exclusively for my composting. They are a great low cost option, and work very well if you have a large amount of kitchen scraps to recycle. I’m able to pull out 25 pounds or more of useable castings from each bin. Great for any serious gardener!

Just remember, the point of raising Redworms in a bin is that you are containing a large mass of worms in close confinement. This allows the worms to “Find each other” so that they reproduce quickly, and also allows them to rapidly process large amounts of food scraps. If you buy a large bin, but only introduce a pound of worms, you create two issues:

1. The worms will reproduce at a less than optimum rate, because they will spread out in the bin.

2. A large bin without a large amount of worms does not process food waste quickly. It just creates an anaerobic sewer!

Want to produce a lot of castings on the cheap? Buy a large bin, and introduce a relatively large population of worms. My recommendation: 1/2 pound of worms for each square foot to start. That’s 4-5 pounds of worms for a typical 4′ x 2′ rubbermaid tub.

The Bottom Line: For an investment of about $125.00, you can have a worm bin that can process the needs of almost any family, plus provide you with a LOT of castings to grow a better garden than you have ever imagined.

Alabama Jumpers for Sale!

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Here is a picture of one of the Alabama Jumper Worms that now reside in my clay soil. I captured about 500 of them, and tested them in captivity by setting them up in a plastic holding bin.

Two weeks later, I’m happy to report that they are doing great. They have adjusted fine to my damp newspaper bedding, and are producing castings pretty much like any other composting worm.

I’ve found a source to purchase these in bulk, which should greatly reduce my price on these worms.

So…for those that continually ask, “Do you sell any worms that I can put in my Garden”? The answer is, “You bet”!

WORM CASTS GROW GIGANTIC PLANTS!

Friday, August 15th, 2008
Typical 8 ball squash

Typical 8 ball squash

8 ball squash grown in pure worm castings

8 ball squash grown in pure worm castings

Here is another example of the POWER of worm casts.  A couple of months ago, I bought a six pack of 8 ball squash…about 2-3″ high.  Just your typical six pack starts.   8 ball squash are supposed to grow to around tennis ball size (See pic above). 

I planted my starts in pure worm casts….now, I can’t even tell where the root of the plant starts because it is so HUGE!
Every single thing that I plant in castings comes out like this.  It is AMAZING!
After seeing examples like this…Why would anyone want to plant with synthetic fertilizers???

Interesting Worm Facts!

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Here are some interesting worm facts from the University of Illinois:

An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is. An Lumbricus terrestris will be from 90-300 millimeters long.

A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.

There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.

Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.

In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.

The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.

Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.

Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.

Worms are cold-blooded animals.

Earthworms have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm and where it is cut. It may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right.

Baby worms are not born. They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.

The Australian Gippsland Earthworm grows to 12 feet long and can weigh 1-1/2 pounds.

Even though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour).

If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.

Worms are hermaphrodites. Each worm has both male and female organs. Worms mate by joining their clitella (swollen area near the head of a mature worm) and exchanging sperm. Then each worm forms an egg capsule in its clitellum.