I’m only just starting to rebuild after a major heat disaster and have done some extensive research into the utterly amazing compost worm. I am particularly working with red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and remain in awe of how amazingly well adapted to their job they are.
To help get my squirm back up and running faster, I have looked into diet and conditions as ways to promote increased breeding activity. I stumbled across a post on the Worm Farming Alliance (of which I am a proud member) alluding to a method of breeding a lot of worms in a very confined space.
From the website:
That’s the question Brian Paley set out to answer in his now-legendary (among worm-heads, anyway! lol), MONSTER article, “How To Breed, Raise, and Maintain A 100-Pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room” (which I will refer to as “Paley100” for the sake of brevity).
The article is a huge endeavour. Some 13,720 words from a master worm wrangler. He also tells a compelling tale that kept me reading, despite some of it being a little confusing. However, I have read it a few times and think I have the process distilled down to the most important ideas which I am trying out and documenting in this series.
At their core, red wigglers are perfectly adapted to their job: eat, poop and mate. If you’ve got it that good, why change? However, it’s their ability to adapt to conditions, good or bad, that has me so impressed. The Paley100 method is trying to grow as many worms as you can with minimal space required. Particularly, over populating a small container (a two litre ice cream container) and under provisioning their requirements for proper bedding.
At this point, I would like to make it known that I feel like an utter bastard doing this to my worms. I just can’t resist trying out the method to see if I can replicate it. Although it doesn’t seem like a hard process, logic is poking me saying that this may not be the best idea this early in the game. I feel that my naivety of what I can and can’t do is a great excuse for this undertaking.
Again, quoting the original document:
Worms will breed most often for one of three reasons:
a) There is an abundance of food available.
b) Their survival is threatened by environmental conditions, or
c) They find themselves in an area which is saturated with suitable mates.
By placing twenty-ish worms into a confined space with food and grossly insufficient bedding, I am hoping to trigger two, if not all three, of the reasons for them to breed.
On with the show:
I acquired a small (three litre) bin from a local hardware store as my chosen test bed. Ice cream is a rarity in our house due to a ban on sugar (that isn’t doing my head in at all, really), so the cube it was. Total investment so far is about three dollars.
Then I collected one litre of dirt straight from the garden.
From everything that I have read and seen so far, this is the WORST choice of bedding for worms! I just hope it works.
I also used one litre of kitchen scraps to make up the rest of the bedding. Apart from the tea bags that I ripped apart manually, the rest of the food source was made up of kitchen waste put into a blender and some shredded paper was added into the post-blended mix.
We drink a LOT of tea at our place. That’s about a day and a half’s worth. Also, the pre-blender-ed kitchen scraps.
Having collected the required materials for the bed, it now comes to the part where you put it all together. Paley recommends gloves at this point. In hidsight, this is a brilliant idea that I should have listened to.
Just to make it clear, this is mud (dirt with water added to it) with ground up kitchen scraps in it with some shredded paper thrown in. It is EXACTLY as gross as it sounds. Get gloves.
EWW! Just EWW! What on earth was I thinking ditching the gloves?!
Once I got over the EWWW factor, it was time to take the mixed up bedding and fill the cube with it. Ideally, the “bedding” should come almost to the top of the lip (about one to two inches). I had forgotten this when choosing the cube. The holes near the top presented a limit to filling and I had to throw some of the “bedding” back into my other worm farm.
Stay tuned for part two where I choose some victims for my mad experiment! And observe the first twenty four hours.
The Gentleman Vermiculturist can be found on Facebook and Instagram as well as other social media. He talks incessantly about worms.