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Worm Composting

Turn your kitchen scraps into compost with worms
  • The compost bin only needs a small area
  • It smells like wet dirt, no nasty smells
  • It can be anywhere in the house or basement
  • It also recycles your newspaper
  • Teaches your children about the web of life

 

Worms need the following things:

  • Container- A 10 or 15 gallon Rubbermaid bin with holes drilled in the sides for ventillation
  • Bedding- Shredded newspaper with only black and white print, colors are poisonous to earthworms, and /or straw and leaves. The bedding needs to be moist. After shredding newspaper, place it in a bucket and wet it. It is properly moist, if it holds together when squeezed but does not drip.
  • Darkness- Keep the lid on the bin.
  • Food- Using the earthworm gourmet food list, bury the food under a layer of bedding: apple cores, banana peels (not bananas), bread crusts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cereal, celery stalks, coffee grounds, ,corn bread, cucumbers, grapefruit peels, lettuce leaves, onion peels, orange peels, pears, potatoes (not potato peels), tea leaves, tomatoes
  • Sand- Add a 1/2 cup of sand for digestion.
  • Egg shells- Rinse egg shells and let them dry. Then crush them in a baggie with a rolling pin. These are a needed for calcium.
  • Temperature- Between 55 degrees and 80 degrees. After you have put your bin together and added the worms, continue to add food as they consume it.
New Bedding

The worm’s castings are poisonous to him. In about 3 months time you’ll have to start new bedding.

Method One:

Move the compost over to one half of the bin and add new bedding to the other half. As you add new scraps to only the new bedding the worms will slowly migrate to the new side and the old bedding can then be removed and added to the garden.

 

Method Two:

To quickly change the bedding, you can take the compost out and form about 10 piles on plastic. As you scrape away the top layer of each pile the worms will keep moving lower to get away from the light. Eventually, you will have a pile of worms at the bottom.

Worm casting tea:

Take a handful of castings and put them in cloth and tie it. Then put it in a bucket of water. After a day or two it can be used to water you house plants.

 

Red Wiggler Facts

These are a special type of worm that you won’t find in your backyard. They are Eisenia fetida or red wigglers.

Worms help return nutrients to the soil so they can be used by the next generation of plants. The worm is dependent upon decaying matter for food and plants are dependent upon the nutrient sources worms leave behind. Worms also plow and aerate the soil.

Handle worms gently, they are easily crushed. They need to be kept moist because they breathe through their skin. Keep them out of the sun. An hour exposure to the sun could kill them.

Outside the Earthworm

A worm can have up to 200 body segments or rings. He has bristles along he body for protection and movement. The bristles will help hold a worm in the ground when a bird is trying to pull it up. When moving, the front bristles dig into the ground while the back end moves forward and the back bristles dig in while the front move forward.

The front end has the mouth.

The back end has the anus.

The band or clitellum is about 1/3 of the way down from the head. A Mature worm has a clitellum, this is what forms cocoons to make new worms.

They are hermaphroditic. Both sexes are present in each worm.
They see by light sensitive cells. They hear by vibrations. They breathe through their skin. They move using 50 – 200 segments (rings, muscles) and bristles. They eat through their mouth and have taste buds. They are sensitive to touch due to groups of cells on their body that are sensitive to chemicals, temperature and moisture.

Inside the Earth Worm

Digestion is the breaking down of food into nutrients, which helps an animal grow and stay healthy.

Mouth
They eat by pushing their pharnyx out of their mouths and grabbing the food and pulling it into their mouths, they have no teeth.
Throat
(1) the Pharynx mixes and moistens the food and then pushes it into the (2) the Esophagus which secretes calcium carbonate to neutralize the acids.
Crop
Food then moves to the crop where it is sometimes stored. Here enzymes break it into smaller pieces.
Gizzard
The gizzards strong muscle walls use sand to break down the food even smaller. This is how a worm chews.
Intestine
The food then travels to the intestine where the digestion process is completed.
Circulatory System

A circulatory system is a group of organs that pump blood to all parts of the body.

The earth worm has 5 hearts. They are not like ours. They are actually 5 pairs of enlarged blood vessels with valves that prevent the blood from backing up.

4 jobs of the blood:

  1. To carry nutrients from the intestine to all the cells of the body.
  2. Carry oxygen absorbed through the skin to all of the cells.
  3. Carry wastes from the cells out of the body.
  4. Carry carbon dioxide from the cells out of the body.
Reproduction

A mature worm will have a clitellum (also called a band).
There are no male and female worms, all worms are both male and female. They all have sperm and eggs, but must exchange sperm to mate.

After mating a cocoon forms on the clitellum and then slips off the worms body. The ends close and it becomes a hard case. At first it looks like a white apple seed, then it turns brown and at the end of 3 weeks as many as 4 worms can come out.

They mature sexually in 60-90 days and can then produce cocoons which take 21 days to hatch 2-4 baby worms. They can deposit 2-3 cocoons per week. The limits on their reproduction include availability of food and room to breed, so populations do not exceed the size of the container.

1 worm can make 200 babies a year.

References:

  • The Wonderful World of Wigglers by Julia Hand
  • Worms Eat Our Garbage by Mary Appelhof, Mary Frances Fenton, Barbara Loss Harris

Places to dig up worm information:

Worms can be ordered from:Flowerfield Enterprises (http://www.wormwoman.com)A Good Classroom Resource:Title: The Wonderful World of Wigglers by Julia Hand ISBN: 1-884430-01-7Published by: National Gardening Association, 180 Flynn Avenue, Burlington VT 05401 Phone: 1-800-538-7476