Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Red Wiggler : Eisenia fetida

Red Wigglers

Eisenia fetida also known as the red wiggler worm. Lovely red wiggling friends! These are so easy peasy to keep once you figure out how to keep them at an even temp. They will make quick work of the majority of your raw food scraps and can be kept in your home for a low volume household or you can adapt your system to suit the needs of your household/community. Once you are set up you can harvest the castings, make worm tea or collect it and even use it for trades. The nutrient dense castings make an excellent soil amendment. The worm tea can be used as a foliar spray or just poured on the ground to nourish your plants. The castings are living as they contain tons of bacteria and fungi that benefit soil thus benefitting the plants.

Next I will show you my worms and then explain a little about how I keep mine.

I am currently running three worm bins right now; two of them are simply black plastic 3 gal pots and the other is a Worm Factory my mom got a couple of years back. The worm factory is not so suitable for the Florida climate so I would only recommend you get one of these pre made units (there are several brands) if you can keep it at an even temperature in extreme hot or cold. The worms work best at 55 - 77° F although they can tolerate other temperatures they work best in this range.

Here you can see what a small handful of worms looks like with some casting and debris... You can tell when they are well fed as they will be active (if the temperature isn't too cold or too hot) and appear very red otherwise they will look a little grey and not so plump and full of life.

In this next picture you can observe the main food my worms will be getting from now on. We are juicing daily for our health and save the pulp, separate from our compost waste, in a small plastic tub with a lid until its full. As it sits on the counter for two to three days in this tub it begins to break down. There is  no noticeable bad odor and I find it to be an important step as the worms like to get into predigested food. In the bag above the bowl there were left over's from our Jack-o-lantern that had past their prime. I let these bits of pumpkin sit out and we also gave our worms the pumpkin we had carved also.

We have rodent problems in our barn and they are extremely attracted to the food I give to our worms. My partner collected a huge bag of palm debris which I am using to line the bottom and top of the bin. Once I feed my worms I cover them with the palm husk and then put another pot with a small weight to that creepy animals can t get into the bin. Its worked great so far. Even if you dont have rodent issues its good to have a lid for your bin or cover it with leaves once you feed as the worms dont like light too much.

Below you can observe what their eggs look like. Once the temperature here gets cooler after the summer the worms start multiplying VERY rapidly and I have been finding stashes of eggs all over my bins.

So very simply this is how I set up my bins:

  1. I take a large plastic planting pot and line it with palm husks or large chunks of coconut fibre... You can use any organic material that you want that does not contain volatile oils as they might affect the health/productivity of your worms. You can also use any container so long as it has tall sides and you have created areas where air can get into the bin. When I started I made mine out of some rubber storage tubs.
  2. I add coco fibre (you can find it at hydroponic stores, some garden centers and online) to create the bed they will be in. It should be moist/wet but never soaked about one inch of material should be enough.
  3. Then I add my worms. If you are just starting then you can get worms online, from a specialty grower, or better yet find someone locally or a community garden that would be willing to share some with you. The worms will take a minute to get settled so when you move onto the following step you must take caution.
  4. Feeding = simple.... Take your food scraps (preferably cut into pieces; some people blend it up with a little water in a blender) or better yet pulp from your juicer and put a thin layer on there...

How much I feed them depends on several things:

size of the container
amount of worms
the type of food I am feeding

After some time if you are somewhat of a weirdo like me you will begin to develop a relationship with your worms and will be excited to see all the awesome castings they will be making for you!

Now the last thing is to know that the worms are not HUGE fans of citrus and Alliums (onions, leeks, garlic, etc) so they can be added but too much and your castings will be acidic and you will find some funguses you probably dont want from the citrus... In small quantities and mixed/broken down like in the pulp there are no noticeable negative effects.

I will be making another post on Harvesting and use of Eisenia fetida castings and tea. Stay posted!