”It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures” ~ Charles Darwin, about earthworms, in 1881
In the last few days, I have sent my some of my worms off to new homes.
To be honest, I feel responsible for their welfare the same way I would if I was giving away a puppy. Yes, I know they are damp dwelling, toothless, blind hermaphrodites but hey, worms need love too.
Which is why I wanted to write a brief guide to good worm husbandwifery. If you want happy worms, there are a few fundamentals to follow.
1) Location, Location, Location!
Whatever farm or structure you have your worms in, worms don’t like it too hot (over 30 degrees C) or too cold (under 10 degrees C). Perth is a hot climate, so worms must always be kept in the shade. Find them somewhere out of direct sunlight, wind and rain. For your own convenience, put them somewhere easy for you to access. You don’t want to be marching down to the bottom of the garden to feed and water them.
2) Worm Menu
It is better to underfeed, than overfeed your worms. An overfed bin sours quickly, which not only pongs something terrible, but it can mean the end of your worms too.
Feeding your worms might take a bit of adjustment before you get it right. Don’t feed them until the previous offerings have been almost all consumed. Since worms can eat about half their weight a day, that can mean they can eat more than you might think.
Worms love to eat;
- Raw and cooked fruits and vegetables
- Crushed eggshells
- Shredded Uncoated paper, such as cardboard, egg cartons, newspaper and copy paper
- natural fibers like hair, pet fur or cotton.
- Vacuum dust
- Dryer lint
They don’t like;
- Meat or eggs
- Dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- Garlic, onions
- Domestic animal poo
I don’t feed my worms cereals like bread or grains. While they do eat those items, I find they attract pests like mealworms which I don’t personally like. Plus, they tend to ferment quickly and can turn a worm farm sour pretty fast.
Worms love organic manure, but I draw the line at pet poo. I use my worm castings on my veggie patch and am a little bit concerned about the transfer of parasites and the like. Of course, if you are giving Puss or Rover worming medication, the residual toxin excreted in their wee (and to a lesser extent, their poo) can potentially wipe out your worm farm.
As previously mentioned, worms don’t have teeth. Big chunks of food tend to rot before the worms can finish it off. I whizz their food up in the blender with some water, gently mix it into the feeding tray and they eat it all up double quick.
3) Keep them damp and dark.
Worms love it moist and dark. Too much water and they will try to escape the bin. Too little water, they dry out and die. A light spritz everyday is better than a weekly soaking. The moisture content of your worm farm should be like a wrung out sponge, damp, not dripping!
If the feeding tray looks a bit sloppy, add some sugarcane mulch, shredded paper or coir fibre to sop it up. A handful of soil is also a good idea, it gives the worms a medium to help digest their food and burrow into. Always cover the feeding tray with a few layers of dampened newspaper, an old damp tea towel or carpet rememnant cut to fit. It helps keep it dark and moist, plus, seems to prevent smelliness and infestations.
4) Funkiness is not cool.
If your worm farm stinks, it’s a sign your worms are in jeopardy! A well balanced worm farm will not smell. Many sources claim that a worm farm should smell like a “rainforest”.
Since the closest rainforest to me is at least 2500km away, I lack the point of reference.
But I do know a smelly or “sour” bin indicates an acidic environment, most typically caused by over feeding. The fastest remedy is to add dry cellulose material like sugarcane mulch or shredded paper. A flush of clean water while keeping the tap in the open position might help. Keep the tap open and allow the leachate to drain freely until the smell disappears. Adding more worms may also rectify the over feeding. A sour bin will kill your worms, so if the situation is dire, your best bet is to clean them all out and start a fresh with a new batch of worms.
5) A few friends are ok.
Finally, don’t worry too much if a few guests want to come and join the worm party. I don’t like mealworms, so I keep the cereals out. However, people who keep worms for a bit of extra feed for their aquaculture system find them a happy bonus as the fish happily gobble them up.
Ants can take over quickly. I keep the feet of the worm farm submerged in little buckets of water to keep them from getting in. If you have an infestation, keeping your worm farm within a circle of ant dust may be your best best.
Slaters are not much of a bother. They tend to dwell at the surface of the soil, where the worms are usually just under the surface.
So there you have it, basic Worm 101. There is much to add, but this is enough to get you started. If you have any questions, or if I have left anything important out, please do not hesitate to comment and let me know.