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Summer home for my worms....

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Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:55 pm

Its warm enough now to take my worms outside for the summer. They've been happy in my bathroom, but I like them to have fresh air and I need more room for ME in my bathroom.

Here's my condo in sections. On the left is the new apt being readied for its tenants with kitchen scraps tucked underneath and wet shredded newspaper on top for their bedding. To its right is the current apt filled with dark castings and worms.

Using the lid of my bucket and latex gloves, I sort out the worms a scoop at a time. I toss the worms in their new abode and the castings in the white bucket.

Worms don't like the light so they burrow deep in the castings as I scoop out more and more.

The new apt has fresh kitchen scraps tucked under the newspaper on the right and the shredded newspaper is their new bedding and its wet but not soggy.

When I sorted thru the castings, I counted 2053 healthy worms, from large to small, telling me its a healthy apt or they wouldn't breed. I placed their new apt beneath the shade of the trees, their new summer home. They'll stay here until late fall when it gets too cold to keep them outdoors, then its back inside my bathroom for the winter after going thru another sort and getting another bucket of castings for my garden.

Today I filled a 28# bucket with fresh castings for my garden. I love getting free compost that's among the best available anywhere, and recycling my kitchen scraps as well. The best thing is, I don't have to turn a heavy pile of compost. The worms do all the turning for me.

Here's a view of the condo beneath the trees in its summer home complete with its over 2000 tenants.
I highly recommend composting with worms. They don't smell. I keep my condo in my bathroom all winter and there's no odor as long as you feed them properly.....no meats, oils, fish, bones, eggs and I limit the peelings of root crops because they aren't crazy over those either and never too much lettuce because too much isn't good for them. If I feed lettuce, I make sure its mixed with other veggie scraps, coffee grounds, or tea bags. Dried eggshells crushed are great. They lay their eggs in them and its good for the castings. All I have to do is tuck some fresh kitchen scraps beneath the bedding every day or so and make sure the bedding stays wet, but not soggy. As they feed on their bedding, I add more strips of newspaper to the condo and wet it. Easy Peasy!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  PeggyC on Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:36 pm

I am so ready to do this, but keep getting tripped up at the initial cost of set up. Maybe I'll make it my Christmas present. I know there are cheap ways to get started, but even with those, I hate to get started and then hubby finally gets a job somewhere else and I have to give up all my awesome worms. I didn't start a compost pile until we've been here 2 yrs with no end in sight. maybe 3 years will be what it takes for me to give up on escaping this little town and do the worm thing.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  boffer on Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:45 pm

Well...I don't know why you couldn't make a bracket to carry them on the back of your car/truck/fifth wheel like hayjude is toting her sfg!

Great pictorial Bea-you just about convinced me to try it Very Happy
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:10 pm

Peggy....I agree with Boffer. You can just put your worm apt/condo/containers in boxes and put them in the back seat of your car. I wouldn't put them in the trunk if its hot weather or they could be fried when you get there. Otherwise, they'll be fine when you get to your destination.
Boffer....Yes, jump right in and try it. You'll be surprised how easy is the care and the castings are just superb. I don't think there's anything better for our SFG from what I've read. I haven't tried my castings yet. I have last fall's castings in the garage and now spring's is ready so I feel I can use them without shortchanging any of my plants.
I'm going to side dress my plants in July.
I already gave them all their compost tea fix for this month.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Shoda on Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:10 pm

Quiltbea,

Your worms look great. What a nice location for them. Just a reminder, if you are in an area that might get raccoons, you need to make sure the top is secure.



Here is a picture of my worm bin that I keep outside. Notice the clip? There are also two more clips on the back side of the worm tower. I put them on last week when the raccoons rummaged through the top working tray to get at the melon scraps I had put in there. (Worms love melon but so do the raccoons). Fortunately, most of the worms were unharmed because the top tray was pretty new and most of the worms hadn't migrated up there yet.

As for moving with worms, I guess it would depend on how far you have to go. When I set up my worm bin, I got the worms locally at Bay Worms (Alameda, CA). They gave me a huge plastic shopping bag full for only $18. I drove them back in my car and they were fine. As long as you don't leave them in a hot car to bake they should be just fine.

I have had my worm bins for almost a year and haven't separated the worms out yet. I was under the impression that they would must "move up" but there are still a lot of worms in the two trays that are ready to go. Guess I might have to sort the stragglers.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:47 pm

Shoda, I didn't have any trouble with coons last year but I'll keep my eyes open. Maybe having two dogs wandering the grounds helps.

I don't wait for my worms to move to the upper level even tho I have 3 floors to my condo. When I know I'm going to be moving them to new qtrs soon, I don't add any more newspaper bedding but I still feed them scraps, just not a lot. I let them eat it up and when it looks all dark and finished inside, I move them as you've seen above.
I got my worm condo last springl and changed them to a clean apt in mid-Sept and harvested a 28# bucket of castings then.
I left them thru the winter in my bathroom feeding, etc., and now that its warm enough to go outside for the summer, I moved them to a new apt once again.
I got another 28# bucket of castings.
I like the twice-a-year changeover just fine and doing it this way I can check my worms and count them to be sure my numbers are reasonable and there are lots of little ones.

Here's last year's castings on Sept 17th.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Aussie Girl on Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:57 pm

I have recently become the proud owner of a worm farm too!

Mine are in a 1 foot square bucket with a flip lid in my SFG. The bucket has holes in it, so as the worms miltiply, they can move down into the garden bed.

Emptying the kitchen scrap bucket used to be a painful chore, but now I enjoy feeding the worms. I even make sure I chop up all the scraps fairly small so they will break down faster for them.

Where I live I don't have to bring them inside for winter, making these guys my most helpful & least maintenance pet I have!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:10 pm

Aussiegirl....Here our worms are not for gardens. The worms in the garden and the worms in the worm farms are different varieties.
I was told that ours would not survive being put in the garden directly.
I'm not an expert, but that's what others with more knowledge have stated.

Your setup sounds ideal for you. I'm glad its working for you.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Aussie Girl on Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:29 pm

I did not know that!

But now that you mention it, when I bought my worm farm they did tell me there were 5 different varieties of worms inside. Maybe some of them will stay inside & some will move out?

When they get a bit bigger I might have to go digging through them and see if I can see different varieties.

Just another wonderful part of SFGing!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Shoda on Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:45 pm

Hmmm... maybe I should "count" my worms and move them out. Most of mine move up on their own but there are always some left to move. How long does it take you to sort through the castings? Also, my castings are thick and wet. I suspect it might take a while and they might benefit from drying out a bit.

It sounds like your system is working for you. However, I heard that it is best to leave them in some of their own material. I could be wrong but my understanding was it shocks them less.

Of course, have you ever seen a video on the professional worm sorting machines? They are huge and shake the heck out of the worms.

Any advice you can give before I jump in would be greatly appreciated!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:47 pm

I can only tell you what works for me.
Today's sorting took me about 2 hours from start to finish which included hosing down the equipt and putting everything is its right place afterwards.
When I pick out my worms, I sometimes toss a ball of ten or so and the piece of cardboard (thin cardboard or pieces of egg cartons) to which they are wrapped, back in the new apt. They need to be further composted. Any larger pieces that haven't been eaten and turned to castings yet also go back in the new apt. If a worm is wrapped in a bit of its bedding, I toss the whole thing in the new apt.
I also add a cup or more of soil from the garden which I sprinkle with water, because I know I haven't used any chemicals on it. The first thing I do with the new apt. is put a piece of thin cardboard on the bottom of the apt/box except for the extreme outer edges so the worms don't crawl down thru the holes to the empty bottom which in my condo is reserved for liquid to drain. I build the layers of newspaper bedding on top of it. I don't cover the outer edges with cardboard because I don't want the water to puddle in the bottom of their bedding. I want it to drain thru to the lower level where no worms live.
I think of my round condo as a clock. I tuck in kitchen scraps at the twelve o'clock area one day and then a couple days later I add scraps to the 2 o'clock area. Next time I add them to the 4 o'clock area so that the tenants will move to the new scraps when they are done with the old. I use a small spade/fork thing to lift the edges of the bedding so I can tuck in the scraps underneath.
My finished castings are always damp-ish since worms live in dampness so the bedding is never really dry when I'm sorting. If your castings are wetter, just leave the bucket uncovered in the sunshine for a few days and it'll dry out just fine.
If I can be of further help to anyone, just ask.
I'll help you all I can.
Good luck with your worms.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  new2this on Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:52 am

Quiltbea, sounds like you're busy with the wholegardening thing again this season. Does it leave much time for quilting? Counting all those worms would be like ripping stitches....what a chore.

It's nice to have a passion, isn't it? great tutorial on your worms....very cool!

Tonya

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Tonya, not quilting

Post  quiltbea on Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:33 am

Tonya...I don't have time to quilt.
Actually, in the summer heat I'm not really into quilting. I don't want to drip on my fabric. I do very little but manage to get some blocks done now and then when we get a cooler day or two.
I love having my gardens during this part of the year for a change of pace.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  junequilt on Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:12 am

I'll echo that, quiltbea -- who has time to quilt during the growing season, LOL! However, we still have July and August to get through, during which I know we will have days so hot, no one could stand to be out in the garden. I'll hide indoors in the air conditioning and quilt then.

I go through the sorting-out process every spring. With large single-layer bins, it takes about four hours per bin, but I do it sitting in the yard with my doggies, under the partial shade of an old longleaf pine tree. It's time well spent, imho.

Call me crazy, but I also enjoy just seeing the wormies and checking on how big they are, how many cocoons they're producing, etc. Does that make me a worm whacko?
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Shoda on Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:56 am

Yes, I know. I don't quilt but I sew and do machine embroidery. Don't do much this time of year.

I decided to take a look at my two bottom worm trays. They both look "done" but were very wet. So I pulled up the bottom tray and looked at the drain on my worm farm. The weed cloth had let through a lot of castings and they were clogging the drain (which I always leave open with a bucket underneath). I cleaned that up and put one of the processed trays on top of the stack with the top off. I am going to sort it there after it drys out a bit. I suspect the light sensitive worms should head down into my feeding tray which is full of only slightly processed newspaper and table scraps. I will let you know how it goes.

I am looking at getting a second worm bin as I love this one and it is too small for our vegetable eating, gardening, family of 5.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Shoda on Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:02 pm

Worked great! I re-stacked my worm bin so that the finished tray was on top of the working tray and I left the lid off for a few hours. Things dried out a bit and all the worms dived down for cover.

I took off the top inch that was now worm free. I used a home made compost screen (1/2 " hardware cloth in a frame ) to pull out the rocks, peach pits and wood that was left. No, I don't put those items in but when I got my worms they were given to me in their bedding which contained a lot of junk. Anyway, it was easy to see the worms and I sorted out a bunch of junk.

As soon as I started seeing worms in the mix, I left and did something else for a while and came back. Again, the worms had dived down and were not in the top layer. Nothing exciting about that exactly but because my bin had holes in it, I was able to do this until I got to the bottom layer. The worms just moved into my working tray and I only had a few left to hand sort.

Entire process took under an hour (not counting the breaks) and I have almost a 5 gallon bucket of worm castings. I rinsed off the used tray over the top of my rhubarb and rinsed off the rocks and such so that the rhubarb got a nice watering with worm castings. The rocks I tossed.

No, I didn't get to count the worms but I didn't really have time for that anyway. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be although I think I am going to make another compost screen of 1/4" as I think that size would be better.

Thanks for getting me inspired!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  quiltbea on Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:00 am

Shoda, good for you. Isn't it great to have that lovely bucket of castings!
Now start feeding those little darlings so you can get another bucket soon.
You did good!
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  Shoda on Fri Jun 25, 2010 10:24 am

Thanks Quiltbea! I have another tray that looks done except for a few spouts. I think I will sort that in about a week or so. It is nice to finally get use of it.
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Re: Summer home for my worms....

Post  PB on Sat Jun 26, 2010 4:31 am

Has anyone used a worm swag? I was on www.instructables.com type in worm bag then click on tutorial for a DIY worm swag. Any comments? It looks like it may be a bit less expensive than a worm farm.
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