The Earthworms Are Moving Up

Worm chalet level 2If you have followed Speed River Journal for a while you may remember I set up a worm chalet at the end of January (this photo shows it with the lid removed). The red wrigglers have been busy reducing our kitchen scraps to compost. The bottom level of the chalet is full now, so on Sunday I prepared the second story of their luxury condo.

The worm chalet is a vermiculture structure I purchased from Cathy’s Crawly Composters. It harnesses the power of earthworms to produce rich organic supplements for houseplants and the garden. The process is aerobic (using oxygen-loving microbes) so it does not stink so can operate indoors all year. We keep ours in the basement where the air should remains cool through the summer (worms like it that way).

It got off to a slow start, which was to be expected as the worms got used to their surroundings. The chalet uses red wrigglers, which like to live in rotting stuff; not fat night crawlers, which are more familiar to gardeners. Night crawlers like to descend into deep burrows during the day, so they are not happy in this kind of dwelling. Several weeks ago I found red wrigglers in some chicken manure from a friend’s farm, so I added some new blood to the colony.

Worm castingsWhenever I added food, I would check for worms. The were bewilderingly invisible, yet the food would disappear with startling speed. Within a few days all but the toughest bits would turn unrecognizable. Today the bottom level is full of rich, dark castings. In the photo at left, I moved some bedding aside to show the compost.

So today it was time to add another level to the chalet. The bottom of each tray has a screen so worms can crawl from the one below. I covered the screen with fresh bedding (mostly shredded newspaper and cardboard) mixed with damp coir fibre, and inoculated it with a little compost from the bottom tray. More kitchen scraps went on the bedding and then more bedding on top (see top photo). A third tray and lid cover it. Now that the worms are firmly established in their home, I expect the process to move faster.

In other gardening news, I have a new strategy against the groundhog. In response to my post the other day, one reader replied that she has successfully used marigolds to keep a woodchuck out of her garden for ten years. Marigolds arrived at Brock Road Nursery this week, so I bought a flat of 48 and began placing them around the vegetable garden today. If it works this would be a more permanent solution than spreading substances noxious to vermin, like ammonia, epsom salts or blood meal. Here’s hoping it keeps them away from the succulent peas springing up in this delicious spring weather.

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Comments

The Earthworms Are Moving Up — 8 Comments

  1. I have a round Can-o-Worms ‘worm condo’ that we’ve used for several years. Since it’s so hot at our temporary jobsite near Tampa, Florida, the worms are in my garage in E. Texas, where they get lots of coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, veg & fruit peels and the occasional batch of shredded confidential papers.

    Probably time to add the top ‘story’ and move them up so we can use the rich vermicompost in the new flower bed we’re building.

    Great to see how you’re gardening in the city – happy Blogathonning!
    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  2. Great to see that the worms are working well for your Van! Thanks for the mention. Our next Worm Away Newsletter is going out soon, we’ve included a link to your blog. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy International Compost Awareness Week!

    • You’re welcome, Cathy, and thanks for the worm chalet. Besides being useful, it is good low-key entertainment.

  3. I’ve been worm composting for over a year now, but I am very low tech. I just use a large under-bed bucket I got from Walmart! It’s been a fun adventure for my family, for sure! Congrats on going to a new level in composting! ;-D

    Coming over from Blogathon.

    • There’s nothing wrong with your version, Kate. I debated doing it that way, but found the worm chalet at an organic fair and it was kind of an early birthday present to myself. Maybe someday I’ll get ambitious and try doing it the simple way to see how it compares for efficiency. I would have raccoon troubles with a standard outdoor composter, so the indoor worm chalet will be our only means to make compost for the time being. Thanks for visiting, and happy blogging!

  4. The types of composting you refer to are quite dffreient.Good compost is essentially speeding up the natural process of decomposition in order to get a good soil amendment with a mix of nutrients that are in form that is easy for plants to ingest.In the wild, worms are an integral part of this process. Worm composting systems leave you with worm castings, which is a great organic fertilizer and nitrogen supplement, but won’t have the add benefits of improving drainage,soil structure,and micro nutrient absorption. I would recommend just buying some worms and tossing them into a regular composter. That way the worms will speed up the composting process, thereby elimating potential odor problems, as well as improving your soil quality and structure when you begin planting. Make sure to throw a handful or two of your old compost in your new batch in order to transfer the the microbes and worms, which are responsible for the entire composting process.Good luck and take care!

    • Yes, they are different, but I am speaking strictly about vermiculture here. One major benefit of this alternative is that it makes indoor composting feasible. This allows participation by apartment dwellers or people who, for one reason or another, cannot have a compost pile outdoors. It is a great way for inner city dwellers to get involved in sustainable food production. In cold climates such as mine, it also continues compost production through the winter, when an outdoor compost pile slows down or becomes dormant for at least four months.

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