Thursday, June 3, 2010

6. pets

The Puppy, 2005

selecting a breeder

Worms are phenomenal pets! No doggie day care, no kitty clawed furniture, and no plastic poop bags. Your worms can even fend for themselves while you are on vacation for two, three, even four weeks. Just make sure that your bedding resembles a wrung out sponge before you say bon voyage.

I was lucky enough to inherit my worms, my pets with perks, the heart of the whole operation. I am proud to report that I was able to keep them happy, healthy, and eagerly producing enough offspring to eat all of the kitchen rubbish I sent their way and transform it into beautiful compost. In less that a year I was able to harvest compost from several boxes and begin several new boxes.

If you happen to have a friend with a thriving worm box or two, you should simply ask them if they'd donate a couple of heaping handfuls of their worms to a good cause--you. Individuals with worm boxes tend to be categorically friendly, as well as generous, so go ahead and ask.

If no one you know has ever considered possessing a worm box, my status pre-Point Reyes Station, you'll have to venture out on your own and find some worms. I know there are a variety of online options, but if you happen to live anywhere near a worm farm and can get a firsthand look at the way they treat their worms, all the better.

Worms are a source of organic fertilizer for many vineyards. As I mentioned earlier, perhaps you can link your worm farm expedition to your animal bedding hunt and make it all happen during a nice long weekend in wine country.

First and foremost, you want the right worm for the right job. The worms that will inhabit your box, when left to their own devices, live in a very similar environment. So you see, they are naturals for the job at hand. You are seeking a very specific type of worm.

The problem is that the type of worm you need is referred to by many names, red worms, red wigglers, striped worms, brandlings, and tiger worms, just to name a few. To make sure you end up with the right bunch, stick with a seller who knows the scientific name of their worms. When you find Eisenia fetida (E. fetida) or Eisenia andrei (E. andrei) your search will be complete.

E. fetida are the most common composting worm, but once in a while you will see E. andrei and they fit the bill as well. I highly recommend only purchasing these types of worms. I have read of other composting worms that have been known to exist in very specific environments, but we're not going to get into that here. I'm no worm connoisseur. Let's keep it simple.

E. fetida and E. andrei thrive in organic material (i.e., kitchen rubbish) rich environments. They were born to dine on decaying leaves, manure, and other types of decomposing organic matter, like your limp lettuce and cauliflower cores. And that my friend is the unadorned truth. Your objective is to create an inviting environment where your worms will feel comfortable and pursue their inherent calling in life.

Lumbricus rubellus (L. rubellus), also known as nightcrawlers will not do. They have an entirely different mission in life. They will find your attempt to confine them to a box meant for E. fetida and E. andrei insulting and will only rebel against you with starvation strikes that will end badly. If you cannot live without L. rubellus, you can find them frolicking in healthy gardens nationwide. Stop by and say hello, just don't add them to your box.

Your initial heaping handfuls, about a pound of worms, will be enough to start your first box. You now have everything that you need to get started. This is exciting!

  • The first step in setting up any new worm box will be to cover the bottom interior of your box with one inch of dry animal bedding.
  • Next, shovel enough bedding into your bucket to add about three inches of bedding to your box. While the bedding is in the bucket, sprinkle it with water and toss it around until it is as moist as a wrung out sponge. Add the moistened bedding to the box.
  • Add a couple of handfuls of soil to your box and mix it into the bedding.
  • Gently lower your pound of worms onto the bedding and watch them begin to scurry down into the bedding.
  • Close the box securely and allow them to get situated.

You will begin feeding your worms tomorrow.

Keep the contents of your box shallow (6"- 8" high). Your worms like to eat just below the surface.

Don't add more than three inches of moist bedding to get your box started and don't ever stuff too much food into the box (total contents should not exceed 6"- 8" high). A deep box that is filled to capacity doesn't really help anyone out--it is counterproductive.

I'll explain how to maximize surface area and maximize worm efficiency in Chapter 8. Your goal is to create an environment that resembles the natural environment in which these worms typically thrive. As mentioned earlier, they prefer to eat just below the surface.

Peruse the next couple of chapters to learn more about feeding your new pets. If all goes as planned, these pioneers should continue producing enough offspring for you to start your next box. The worms in your new box will procreate, and so on, and so on, and so on.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.