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Wormeries

Wyrd

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I am thinking of starting up a wormery in my garden, I can then recycle and feed my newts at the same time.

I was just wondering what the best way to go about this is, I have looked on the net at wormeries but they are all used for recycling and I did wonder about the practicality of getting the worms out with these wormeries, especially the plastic ones.

If anyone has made a wormery I would like to hear how you have gone about it:happy:
 

bellabelloo

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My worms come from a black plastic compost bin, with a lid. This sits in bare soil and I add all the veg scraps and majority of garden waste, also the cardboard containers are added that my fruit and veg come in. I now no longer add any citrus items as my axolotl reject any worms that were found near anything citrus! You are supposed to turn the contents from time to time, but as I tend to rummage around for the worms I don't do it. I never added worms to my compost bin, they just made their own way there...even had a toad in there for a while. About this time of year I empty the lower third or more around the garden ( now lovely soil) .It may take a few months to 'mature' but once it has you should have loads of worms.
 

Otterwoman

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Here are my outdoor "wormeries."
I made worm-friendly places in my garden so that on newt feeding days, I would be able to collect them more easily. They're not much to look at in the winter, but I just took these pics today for this post.


Pic 1-I made this little sitting area and noticed that worms (and slugs too) were always under the logs, and the leaves near the logs. So I "helped" a little by making sure leaves were always around there, and also put the cardboard there too (see next pic).
Pic 2- I was trying to smother some weeds with newspaper and cardboard, and I noticed that lots of juicy worms congregated under the paper. So I made a few areas with cardboard, I can just flip over the cardboard and collect worms.
Pic 3- I made this area to put my houseplants outside in the summer. I can always find slugs under these slabs of concrete, and on warmer days in the winter too.
Pic 4- These bricks are a good place to always find worms and slugs.
Pic 5- This useless compost bin does nothing for me. But the cardboard in front is a great place to look for worms.
 

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Otterwoman

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Here is my indoor "wormery."
I worried that I wouldn't be able to find worms in the winter, so I wanted to grow some in a bin for the winter.

Pic 1- I keep them in a bin inside a bin. I noticed that sometimes they escape their bin, so I put an outer bin around the culture because I didn't want dead worms all over the room. I originally had drilled small holes for air. Gnats got in and ...yuck... so I covered them with tape, and drilled some bigger ones that I stuffed with sponge so air can get in, but gnats can't.

Pic 2- Inner bin

Pic 3- I feed them newspaper and scraps. They really eat the newspaper! Unfortunately, I started the indoor worm culture with red worms I got from the pet store. I had TONS of worms but no one wanted to eat them. I gave them away, and put in the apparently more tasty ones from my yard. There are only a few in now, since I just did this about a month ago. I occasionally find a couple worms on warm days, but I'll have to wait until spring to really seed this new worm culture.

Pic 4- I also do this sponge air thing with my springtail cultures too. I hate those horrible gnats!!

Pic 5- A gratuitous picture showing off my rearranged newt room, since I upgraded everyone to larger tanks. You can see the caudata calendar. The four jars on the floor are daphnia culture attempts.
They must be tasty, because the cat prefers to drink from them than the fresh water from his bowl.
Although I'm not sure whether he prefers daphnia to toilet water.

Pic 4-
 

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Kaysie

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My cat's water preferences go: Daphnia culture, jefferson's sals water dish, toilet water, water from the bottom of the tub, window condensation, then MAYBE water from her dish, but only if it's licked from her paw (she dips her paw in, and licks it off). She prefers toilet water so much that she'll sit beside the toilet and yowl until we flush it so she can watch it swirl (she's got us trained).
 

jewett

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I hope Wyrd found these posts helpful, because I sure did. I have been thinking about setting up a wormery, but thought that only red wrigglers did well in them and NONE of my animals will eat red wrigglers any more. I think I will have to stop feeding my newts garden worms this spring so I can seed a culture. So Dawn, at what temps do you keep your indoor wormery, and what substrate did you use (organic potting soil, cocofiber, etc?), and how deep is the substrate? How often do you add food?
 

Otterwoman

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Well, I'm just assuming my garden worms will grow too, because the others did; I know that Jennewt grows her own nightcrawlers.

Anyway, the temp is whatever temp my basment is. Right now the water temps are between 51 and 53 F, I don't have a room air thermometer (my tanks are down there). This is their first winter; I started them (and my springtail cultures too) outside in the summer and just kept them in the shade until it started to get cold. I was planning on bringing them out again in the spring. Incidentally, I have a few springtail cultures, and there is one that is outside and on warm days I open it and they're still springing! I put that one out there because it got infested with gnats and I couldn't deal with it. I know that's off the subject.

The substrate is part garden soil, part dirt that I bought at the store (just dirt with no additives). It's about 4-5 inches deep.
I check my cultures every Friday (that's today!) and I add stuff if it looks necessary. I know I don't add stuff every friday. Maybe every 2-3, either some newspaper, some carrots, or whatever I have around. At work I go through the fridge and take out rotting food and bring it home for my cultures. That gets added whenever the food occurs. Today I have a large bag of carrots that I need to get rid of and I'll split it among all my cultures. I recently started some whiteworm cultures, too recently to know anything (1 1/2 weeks ago).
 
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Otterwoman

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I wanted to add...the 4-5 inches isn't packed...it's like a tossed salad of newpaper, dirt and carrots,
kind of like leaf litter with lots of dirt with newpaper instead of leaves.
 

Mark

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Most designs for domestic wormeries are focused on generating compost and it’s collection. In our case we just want to create worms so it doesn’t need to be too elaborate.

Things to consider are;
  • How easy is it to collect worms?
  • Is there enough ventilation to stop the contents becoming a toxic soup?
  • What species of worm works best?
My outdoor worm bin consists of a large plastic container with plenty of drainage holes drilled into the bottom. Plastic containers produce condensation so both the lid and base should be well ventilated. Many compost bins are made of wood to reduce this problem. The base is filled with stones for additional drainage and the bin is half filled with top-soil. Vegetable and fruit waste is placed on top but be careful not to add too much as you risk ending up with a mouldy, unhealthy mess. Worm collection for me is just a case of donning some gloves and getting stuck in.

Sadly worms that breed well in compost bins are not the tastiest for amphibians. Compost worms tend to produce a defensive secretion that is very distasteful (I haven’t tried it myself :D but from the newts reaction it must be bad!). One of the least distasteful compost worm is the European night-crawler (Dendrobaena) which produces less of the nasty goo. Many newts will learn to put up with the taste. Lob worms (Lumbricus terrestris) are the type you’ll find in your garden – these do not produce a defensive secretion and newts love ‘em. They will live in compost bins and may even breed but the reproductive rate is very slow and their lifestyle is not conducive to bin breeding.

This FAQ may be useful: http://www.wormsdirectuk.co.uk/faq.php
 

Jennewt

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I grow European nightcrawlers, Dendobaena hortensis. I thought I should clarify, in case anyone thinks that's it's possible to culture the big gray nightcrawlers. As Mark said, they reproduce too slowly to culture; also they die if they get too warm. My worms are similar in appearance and habits to red wiggler worms, but they are larger and have less of that smelly fluid that turns newts off to eating them. I never serve them chopped, only whole, and none of my newts has complained.

As worm bedding, I use coco-fiber or peat moss supplemented with pulverized egg shells.
 

Otterwoman

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So how long is their life cycle? A year? What I am thinking about then for my new culture is, in the spring start adding worms, and seeing what happens. If the life cycle is a year, I can just keep loading it with worms so that I'll have enough to get me through next winter and instead of being a breeding wormery, it'll just be a storage wormery to use as needed. I had pondered the idea of collecting enough worms last fall to get me through the winter and just keeping them in the fridge; but I'm not ready for that level of devotion to my newts yet. It was barely just a year ago I was able to begin to stomach cutting up worms.
 

Jennewt

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I don't know what the life cycle is for ordinary gray earthworms that you would find outdoors. They produce eggs less frequently, probably a few egg cases in a year instead of many egg cases in a year. Since compost worms live in a high-nutrient environment, they can crank out a lot more eggs. Would you be keeping them indoors or out? Gray worms don't do well if they get warm, but if you could keep them cool there's no reason you couldn't keep a stockpile through the winter. Let us know how it goes.
 

pete

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I tried a canadian nightcrawler culture this year. Because the ones that escape in my tiger salamander enclosure reproduce very well, and since my apt temp is usually between 55 and 65˚F , I thought I'd try my luck. The setup was similar to Dawns, but it was a very large volume. I was thinking to offset the slow reproductive rate with a large volume. Initially, I did find eggs...or so I believe, but I ran into a problem controlling the moisture levels. My previous redworm culture drained well and I never had this problem, but with the canadian nightcrawlers, the soil/castings seem to be constantly soggy and compact and didn't drain well. Over the six months it was going, I slowly lost a lot of worms from sickness. I think fungal infections (I think fuzzy patches, blisters and contorted worms). I believe this was due to it being too damp. I haven't checked it lately, but my current assumption is that the culture is dead.
 

Mark

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The main problem with Lumbricus terrestris is that it forms permanent burrows from which it half emerges to feed and breed. The nature of a compost bin doesn't provide a stable environment for this lifestyle. Their natural burrows would be deep and cool. I think Ed provided data which suggested a Lumbricus terrestris would produce up to 35 eggs a year - so not many.

I used to think that because they are always available as bait someone was culturing them somehow but it seems they're shipped on-mass from Canada where they are considered a pest species.
 

jewett

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Jennewt, can you order Dendobaena hortensis online (a quick Google search didn't bring up any retailers)? Where did you get your starter culture?

As a side note and I thought it was quite a coincidence in view of this thread, while visiting my aunt yesterday I discovered that one of her neighbors has a small bait worm business. I am planning on going by today and seeing what I can get from them. I may not have to worry about a culture after all seeing how I live less than 10 minutes away.
 

pete

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Yeah, I'd verify the vendor before you purchase them. When, I bought "european nightcrawlers" online and received regular old redworms. I wish I remembered who it was, now.
 

Otterwoman

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Since everyone's talking worms, I thought I'd update my own worm projects.

My outdoor wormeries are great. I can always find worms when I look for them. I created a few new ones this year, starting with a few areas I covered with cardboard. One attracted bees and became a yellow-jacket hive, as I discovered to my unhappiness as I moved the cardboard off and gasped and ran. I created some larger ones, and I never run out of worms until it's too cold for them. I'm still getting them on warm days.

As far as trying to grow my yard worms indoors, I can't even keep them alive! I had such great luck with the red worms, but all summer I've been putting yard worms in my indoor bins and they just die after a while. I tried all kinds of parameters: temperature (too hot? I made it cooler in the basement: I have an air conditioner in my basement now and not even in my living room!), I thought maybe too moist, too dry, I tried all kinds of modifications.

I tried to keep a bunch alive in the fridge for my friend who came over and fed my salamanders when I was on vacation. The ones in the basement bin stayed alive long enough (I can keep them alive for at most 2-3 weeks, then they just die), and I tried putting some in the fridge in a drawer (in a container). After all, the nightcrawlers I buy stay alive in the fridge in their container for months. They all died too. I had been hoping that even if I can't breed outdoor worms, I could at least collect a lot and keep them alive through the winter to feed my sals. If anyone has any tips on at least keeping them alive, whether they breed or not, I'm all ears.


One last word on the air conditioner in my basment: most of the time it's cool enough down there, but when I do my laundry and have the dehumidifier running or I'm down there doing hobbies (it's also my hobby room), I can heat it up with lights and machines. Thus the air conditioner. It keeps it basement temperature all the time, and it's on a temp monitor, so it only goes on if the basement gets above 68 degrees.

If I can't find a way to keep the outdoor worms alive long enough or at all, I'm going to try to raise nightcrawlers, so I'll have small ones to feed my sals whole. But I think my yardworms are the best for them, and I don't want to admit defeat yet.
 

oceanblue

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I keep mixed garden worms in a small container in the fridge with a little garden soil and grass clippings (about equal volumes earth/worms/grass). Any injured worms are not put in the box, I try to feed these straight away. This cold mini wormery seems to keep them alive for months.
 

Otterwoman

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The one time I tried the fridge thing, perhaps my worms were too wet. I'm always afraid to have them too dry. I think I'll try this with whatever I collect for the rest of the season.
 
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