10 Worm Multi-Level Experiment-update 03-23-2017
Two Week update with Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers
Well, it’s been two weeks since we started the 10 worm multi-level experiment with Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers. Since we started with juvenile worms we were not really expecting much change this soon. And, with only 10 worms in each small bin, they had not consumed much of their food or bedding yet. No Cocoons were found, but a few of the worms had developed a clitellum.
We did add a big hole in the center of the lid to increase air flow. As a result, it did seem like the bedding was a little bit dryer than we want so some water was added to each. The worms all found near the food source in each of the six small containers. Both, the Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers were looking good.
Please let us know if you have any questions or comments about the experiment. We would love to hear from you. All who are following, please leave us a comment, even if it is a brief one just to let us know you are following along.
10 Worm Multi-Level Experiment
This 10 worm multi-level experiment will be done with Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers. There will be six containers each containing 10 worms. Three containers will contain 10 RW’s each and three containers will contain 10 ENC’s each.
There will be three different types of food source used. One pair of containers ( 10 ENC’s and 10 RW’s) will be fed fresh horse manure. One pair of containers will be fed a food mix containing 40% UCG (used coffee grounds), 40% soaked rabbit manure (soaked for 24 hrs) and 20% soaked leaves. And the final pair of containers will be fed a mix containing 25% UCG and 75% household food scraps. Each container will start out with approximately 1.5 inches of shredded and soaked cardboard bedding.
We will make any adjustments needed to all containers equally unless inappropriate. All containers will be fed the same amount of food by weight. Fresh bedding will be added equivalent to approximately 10% of the amount of food fed by volume at each feeding. This experiment will last 6 months with updates of progress every two weeks.
The Goal of the 10 Worm Multi-Level Experiment with Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers.
The goal of this experiment is to see how fast RW’s and ENC’s compare to each other in reproduction and total mass gain. Also, to find out which of the three food sources will produce the best results in reproduction and increase in mass. Additionally, I would also like to find out how well both Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers reproduce and gain mass with a fairly large percentage of uncomposted coffee grounds in their food mix.
Some of the Details of Preparation
I spray painted the containers since they are clear with black spray paint on the outside to darken them up some for the worms. For some air flow, I drilled 31-7/16th-inch holes in the lid. I am planning on removing the lids from the containers to maximize airflow once all the worms are settled in. If possible I will keep them in a controlled environment at approximately 70 degrees F. I will start with all small, juvenile worms that do not have a visible clitellum to keep things as even as possible.
We will be using 6 XL Family Size Glad Lock containers 104 ounces (3.07 Litters). When those containers get too small we will upgrade all the containers at the same time. Anyone who wants to do the experiment with us please sign up for the Midwest Worms Newsletter. If you advise us that you are going to perform the experiment with us we will publish your results also. I will be starting the experiment on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
If you would like to get started today composting with worms feel free to contact us or go to our Composting Worms page and get some Red Wigglers or European Nightcrawlers today. Even better get a gallon of our Compost Worm Mix, the least expensive, easiest and most effective way to start.
Organic Gardening with Worm Compost
If you are someone who greatly desires to provide your family with quality food. Food that does not have pesticides and other chemicals in it. Food that is non-GMO. Then, Organic Gardening is the best option, unless you don’t mind paying the increased prices at the health food store. And the best way to have an amazing organic garden is Organic Gardening with Worm Compost. Worm compost will give you amazing growth, disease resistant plants with natural pest resistant properties all in an extremely healthy product. And your organic produce will taste great.
Here is a great article on Organic Gardening and worms.
Get Some Composting Worms Today
The easiest composting worms to start out with is Red Wigglers, they compost very fast and very user-friendly. If you are a big fisherman I would recommend European Nightcrawlers, they compost very fast also, are almost as user-friendly as the Reds but are amazing bait worms. If you prefer not to compost with worms yourself take a look at our amazing Super Grow Worm Castings for your Organic Gardening needs. Just let us know what you need.
My Outdoor In-Ground Worm Bed
My Outdoor In-Ground Worm Bed will give me the ability to raise a much larger amount of worms and keep them alive through even the harshest of winters. I’ve raised compost worms for several years now in the basement of my home. Raising worms in the basement is not a bad idea. It’s amazing how many worms can be raised in a relatively small area. A few good size bins can support a good many worms. It also works out nicely in the winter time when it’s freezing cold outside, or in the heat of the summer.
With that being said, there “are” limits to what you can do in a small basement compared to the wide open spaces outdoors. Being blessed to live in the country with 40 acres of land, and a desire to raise more worms than I could possibly fit in my basement, I thought it might be nice to construct some outside beds last fall. As with everything I do it tends to be more work than fun. What made it difficult is the rocky ground around here.
I decided to put the worms into the outdoor in-ground worm bed in order to make it easier to protect the worms through the winter. So far I’ve completed one bed and began digging the second. Winter put a stop to things for now but I’m looking forward to getting going again this spring. The bed that I’ve managed to complete is four feet wide by twelve and one-half feet long.
Let’s look now at how I constructed the bed.
Below is a picture of the hole I dug for this first bed. Note the pick, rake, and scoop. There is no such thing as simply digging with a shovel in this ground. I used the pick-axe to loosen the ground then a garden rake to rake up the dirt and gravel into the scoop. It was a difficult slow process. I ran into some rocks that were quite big. One thing that really amazes me is that there is a pretty large mole population around here, even with such rocky ground. Another thing I should mention here is that the bed is located in a shady area under the trees so there were also roots to be chopped out.
These are some of the rocks I dug out of the hole. Also I was surprised to find a little ring-neck prairie snake while digging the hole (sorry the picture isn’t in focus).
After digging the hole to a depth of about a foot and a half deep I framed the bed with scrap oak boards that I had available. I ended up having to splice some of the boards together in order to have enough. After fastening the frame together I filled the bottom with crushed limestone. This will hopefully help to keep the bedding from becoming too acidic. After placing the crushed limestone in the bottom I raised up the frame and fastened 1/2″ wire mesh to the bottom.of the boards. This should keep moles from coming in through the bottom.
At this point I placed boards inside the frame on top of the wire mesh to prevent digging into the wire mesh and limestone when I harvest worms or change bedding. The boards I used for this are 1/2″x 6″ scrap pine.
Its Coming Together
After this I filled the bed with the bedding. I used aged horse manure for the bedding material. I then added another level of boards to the frame and placed more bedding inside.
Once I finished filling the bed with the bedding I then filled in around it with dirt and after that I stocked it with the worms. I used Red Worms from bins in my basement to stock the bed. I didn’t stock it heavily. I’m counting on the population increasing really good come spring.
The Final Result
The image below shows the outdoor in-ground worm bed as it appeared on January 31, 2015. It had been piled high with horse manure to help hold in warmth through the winter. At the time this picture was taken the bedding had thawed due to warmer weather, but a week earlier the top four to five inches of the bedding was frozen. The worms have plenty of room to go deeper to escape the frozen bedding. Upon inspecting the bed I found a good many healthy large red wigglers. There were also a good many smaller worms.
Now, with the weather finally starting to warm up, I am looking forward to getting back to work constructing some additional outdoor beds (and harvesting worms from the finished bed)!
I will be sure to share my updates here.
Super Simple Worm Farm Bin
Do you want to grow lots of worms at home? The Super Simple Worm Farm Bin is the answer. My advice is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple). It’s a lot easier to get started than many people think!
The basic plastic bin set-up described here is especially well suited for European Nightcrawlers – since they love moist condition – but it’s a great starter bin for Red Worms as well.
Here is all you need to build your Super Simple Worm Farm Bin:
- A Plastic Bin – my personal favorite is a Rubbermaid “Roughneck” tote, approx 21″x15″ and a depth of 9″. I wouldn’t recommend going much deeper than 18″ with a bin like this since it will impede air flow to the lower reaches of the bin.
- Bedding – these are absorbent materials like shredded cardboard, shredded newsprint etc. They help to soak up and hold moisture and to provide the worms with a nice habitat to live in. Contrary to popular (newbie) belief – soil is NOT a good bedding material for a worm bin. Here is a great article on Worm Bin Bedding.
- Compostable Kitchen Scraps – fruit and veggie wastes are ideal. When starting out you are probably best to steer clear of citrus wastes, spicy/salty materials, and even starchy wastes.
- Composting Worms (not needed right away) – again, Euros and/or Red Worms are very well suited for this type of system. For a beginner Red Worms (Red Wigglers) are the easiest and most tolerant.
Setting up the bin is as easy as pie – really, it’s just a matter of starting and ending with thick bedding layers and putting some food waste in between. I recommend freezing/thawing the food materials and then chopping up before adding to the bin, if possible (i.e. MORE optimized than shown in images below, in case you are wondering), since this speeds up the breakdown process.
If the bedding is not already moistened, you can spray it down as you go. This is especially important if you plan to add the worms fairly soon afterward – but, if possible, I actually recommend leaving the bin to sit for a little while before the worms are added.
The Value of Moisture
The key with moisture is to get the habitat as moist as you can without excess pooling of liquid in the bottom. If you DO end up with pooling, simply add in some dry bedding to soak it up.
The bin itself should have some air holes in it. I used to drill lots of smaller holes in my bins, but have since switched over to cutting out fewer (but considerably larger) holes – as you can see in the image at the beginning of this article.
Ideally, your bin should sit someplace indoors. It is possible to keep plastic bin systems outside at certain times of the year, in certain locations – but once the weather gets really warm or cold, things can get a lot more challenging (impossible in many cases). We’ll talk more about effective outdoor systems in upcoming articles.
Adding worms to the super simple worm farm bin (a pound, or 1 gal. of our “Composting Worm Mix” for a bin of the size mentioned earlier) is easy too. Simply create a small depression in your bedding, empty out the worm bag(s), and leave in a well-lit location for several hours. If at all possible, I would actually recommend leaving the bin in a location that has some light all the time – at least until the worms are well settled in. Euros, in particular, can be prone to wander early on.
Things to Remember
- Use LOTS of bedding – again, shredded corrugated cardboard and/or shredded newsprint are prime examples of readily-available, highly-effective bedding materials (bleached office paper should be avoided if possible – or at least soaked and rinsed well before use). It’s always amazing to me how many people don’t add enough bedding when starting a new worm bin. Do not be afraid to fill the entire bin – the level will settle down quite quickly
- Start the bin a week or two before you add the worms – this provides time for the microbial community to develop (and waste materials to start breaking down as a result), helps moisture to become evenly distributed throughout system, and just generally leaves you with a habitat that will seem more like “home” for the worms. Many make the mistake of adding worms to a bin that’s basically sterile since set up right before the worms are added.
- DON’T add soil to a worm bin – people naturally associate worms with soil, but it’s important to remember that these are NOT soil worms. While a small amount of good quality organic soil certainly won’t hurt (and may even help to inoculate the bin with beneficial microbes), a lot of bagged potting soil can actually be very hazardous for the worms since it often contains fertilizer salts.
- Go easy on the feeding early on – people often get it in their heads that they need to “feed” their worms on a regular basis. It is important to remember, though, that the food and bedding added when the bin was set up can actually sustain the worms for quite some time. What is FAR more common than people starving their worms (next to impossible when loads of bedding materials are used) is overfeeding, which can create a lot of problems – and potentially even lead to the death of your worms!
Farmer’s Markets in South Central Missouri
It’s farmer’s markets season in Missouri, and the good news is that there are plenty of them to choose from. We recently found something called the Missouri Farmer’s Market Directory. This is a great resource for anyone wanting to find farm-fresh produce in the ‘Show-Me’ state.
Here in Laclede County we have the “Lebanon Farmers’ Market” from April through October. It is open on Wednesdays from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm, and on Saturday’s from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm. We also have the “Farmers’ Market of Laclede County”. It runs on Saturdays, 8:00 am – noon, from May through October as well. Close by (to us in Eldridge) in Camdenton (Camden County) is “Farmers Alliance of Rural Missouri (FARM)”. And it runs on Saturdays 7 am – noon, May to September. They even have a nice Facebook page to can visit: Farmers Market in Camdenton
Jere Gettle – of Missouri’s own “Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co” – was quoted (in this NPR article) as saying that the number of farmers markets has tripled in United States in the last 10 to 12 years. This is great news for all those of us involved in supporting the local food movement!
Bennett Spring State Park Trout Season
I recently came across this video about Bennett Spring State Park Trout Season and thought it was interesting. Bennett Spring (often called “Bennett Springs”) State Park – a popular Missouri trout fishing spot – isn’t too far from us here in Eldridge.
I’ll be honest – this isn’t really MY kind of trout fishing. I have no idea how they avoid getting their lines tangled together constantly! But I still enjoyed watching the video.
The trout fishing in Bennett Spring park is pretty tightly regulated. There are 3 different fishing zones – with their own specific rules (eg. Zone 3 is the only one where you’d be able to use worms, in case you’re curous) – and specific hours during the day you are allowed to fish for trout. You can learn all the details on the Bennett Spring State Park trout fishing page.
If you love fishing, try our European Nightcrawlers, probably the best fishing worm in the World.
Kayak Fishing on Lake of the Ozarks
We recently came across an interesting video showing someone kayak fishing on Lake of the Ozarks! That’s definitely a different way to wet a line!
My first thought, if someone told me about this before seeing the video, would have been wondering about stability. When I think of kayaks I think of people rolling under water – not exactly what I would think of as a stable water craft.
If you watch the video, though, you will see that he has some nice stabilizer pontoons.
I guess my next question would be – what if he lunked into a huge catfish, or paddlefish (Lake of the Ozarks produced the state record for this fish – a whopping 111 lb fish)? I guess you might end up getting a scenic tour of the lake if that happened!
I actually found another video showing someone catching a 65 lb blue catfish from a kayak!
The May 7th fishing report from Missouri Department of Conservation for Bagnell Tailwater shows “fair” for catfish (“on worms, cut shad and chicken liver”). Everything else looks pretty “slow” for that area. Looking better for Niangua though (“good” fishing for catfish and crappie – “fair” for black bass and white bass).
Keeping Fishing Worms Alive
We recently found an interesting video on YouTube about keeping fishing worms alive until your next fishing trip. This is definitely a smart young man, and we were very impressed with this advice! If you are using regular soil bait worms, such as Canadian Nightcrawlers (“Dew Worms”) – what he suggests is a great idea.
But here’s another great option…use European Nightcrawlers instead!
Euros are not only the “perfect” bait worm because of their size and durability on the hook (even in really cold, and brackish water) – but also because they are incredibly easy to raise in captivity! Unlike Canadian Nightcrawlers, they will happily breed in a small indoor “worm bin” (see below for basic instructions on making one). No need to keep them in the fridge.
Or Grow Your Own
All you need to get started is a basic Rubbermaid tub. The size doesn’t really matter, but we DO recommend keeping the depth of the bin under 16″ if possible (deeper is OK when using a large bed, though). Check out our article on building a Super Simple Worm Farm Bin.
1) Drill a lot of holes in the upper sides and lid
2) Moisten strips of newsprint or shredded corrugated (or egg carton) cardboard, and add enough to basically fill the bin. If you have some really well-aged horse manure (should be earthy smelling) you can mix in a little of that as well.
3) Add some fruit and vegetable scraps – avoid anything with a lot of oil or salt on it. Also best to avoid citrus when first starting out. Make sure the food is well covered with bedding.
4) Leave the bin to sit for a week or so. Part way through the aging period, mix in even more moistened bedding materials.
5) Add your European Nightcrawlers.
If you set up a few of these bins and you don’t harvest too many of the “breeder” worms (larger adults) at a time, you can easily end up with a continuous supply of healthy, vigorous bait worms!
As an added bonus, you’ll also end up with some of the finest all-natural fertilizer in the world. Your plants will love you for it!