Sunday, April 20, 2008
Worms are Livestock Too!
I love raising worms. It is the easy way to break down organic waste into fantastically nutritious food for plants. I built 12 bins in the barn in which i'll raise my herd. Yesterday is got in the mail 10 pounds of red wigglers. They are consumers of partially decomposed organic matter and live in the forest duff not down in the soil like earthworms. I filled 2 bins half way with material that has been composting since 4 pm on March 22 according to those meticulous records i referred to in the last post. I put 5 lbs. of worms in each bin and filled them the rest of the way with the partially decomposed organic matter. I mounded each bin up above the sides. During the process of decomposition by the worms the mass will be reduced by about 50% as co2 and other gasses are given off during the process. Over the top i put a wet burlap bag. I sometimes use wet cardboard. Worms need to be kept moist and they need air. The organic material should be coarse to allow for good drainage and thus aeration to keep the worms happy and reproducing. There 2 rewards from worm composting. One is the worm castings (yea it is worm poop) the other is more worms. After 60-90 days the worms will have consumed all of the organic matter and will have had many orgies producing many eggs that hatch into many more worms. When the process is complete i will separate the worms from the poop (i'll describe that process when we do it) and start 4 more bins. After the next cycle i'll be able to start 8 bins, then 16, etc. But since i only have 12 bins , i,ll either have to build more bins or sell worms or both. Probably both.
My bins are 3' x 2' x 16" deep. Why are they that size? because that is the size that fit under the benches in our former greenhouse and could be easily be moved around by 1 person. (the first 6 are on castors so they could be rolled around.) They hold about 2 wheelbarrows of organic matter. After the worms finish their work i can harvest about 150 lbs. of worm castings and 10 lbs. of worms from each bin.
You may be wondering if i bury my kitchen scraps directly in the bins. No I don't. I put them in a pile with weeds, and other green matter from the garden. Worms have tiny mouths and can't bite into fresh greenery. As worm expert Will Allen at Growing Power in Milwaukee said " What's a worm going to do with a potato?" The detritivores (sow bugs, pill bugs, springtails and such) and the microorganisms need the break stuff down into small enough pieces for the worms to ingest them. When the pile gets big enough i start a compost pile. I'll talk about how i spice my compost in a future post. I will start the next compost pile a month before the bins are ready to harvest so i will have fresh partially decomposed material to fill the new bins. Then the process starts all over again.
Oh wait, I almost forgot, what i plan to do with the excess worms is feed them to the future chickens and the way in the future fish livestock.
All part of my cunning permaculture plan.