Wonderful World of Worms

Aristotle once expressed a vital observation, saying “Worms are the intestines of the Earth.”

Consider for a moment the soil we walk on. It appears a solid mass. Yet underneath the surface is a labyrinth of plant roots, animals, microbes, mycelium, minerals, water and air. Generally speaking, plants thrive in conditions where the soil composition contain 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air, and 5% organic matter, also considered ‘loam’. But how do the layers of earth transform from chunky organic material into rich soil? There are multiple soil organisms responsible for this time-consuming task, but worms are my favourite, and surprisingly easy to raise at home!

You can read some background or skip to my lovely little worm bin and some resources for starting your own at the bottom.


 

Biological Background

There are three worm species operating on different soil levels. Think of this as a high-rise building.. just underground. In the basement (deep mineral layers), Anecic species are found building permanent structures, where organic material brought down from the surface  is consequently digested. The next floor is home to the Endogeic species. They build impermanent burrows in the upper mineral layer, digesting soil material found nearby.  They are known as “ecological engineers,’’ or “ecosystem engineers’’ because of their ability to modify resource accessibility for other organisms. Then we step into the top action layer where the Epigeic species live. These are the common earthworms that come out after rain, inevitably becoming bird food. These wigglers do not form permanent burrows, and mainly dwell in the top few inches, ingesting decaying plant matter and humus. A mix of these three species are mainly responsible for soil fertility.


Okay, today’s lesson is over. Check out my worm bin!

Vermicomposting
Layers of my worm bin (bottoms up!) | shredded newsprint > leaf mulch > garden soil > food scraps > leaf mulch > moss |

Why would I want WORMS?

They eat decomposing food waste, which eating a gluten-free, vegetable based diet produces a lot of. Ah, the humble act of keeping a worm bin! Also known as vermicomposting. I started this one after my aquaponic adventure in Hawai’i, where the farm operator had rows of 55 gallon buckets full of red wigglers. (Blog update in progress). Tired of carrying my apartment food scraps up the road to my auntie’s compost bin, I created this supplementary system for my apartment. Worms can eat their weight in material every day, so a small bin can handle most kitchen scraps. My bin is now 4 months old and the population is multiplying steadily.

As you can see above, there isn’t much to it.

I drilled a few holes, purchased a pound of local worms, threw bedding and soil in the bottom, and started adding kitchen scraps. My dad got a bit fancy and added a sliding partition, to slightly raise  when the first side is full. Simply put bedding in the other side, add food scraps and the worms will move over, leaving a half bin of nutrient dense worm castings to use. I’ve recently added moss and marigolds for some pizazz. Just remember to replicate natural conditions: damp, dark, moist and cool. Do not place directly in the sun. You will have fried worms… high in protein and nutrients! I added shade cloth over my bin to keep them happy.


 Connect

There are endless things to discuss when you start to love worms.. different bin designs, species, optimal conditions, acceptable bin scraps, worm castings and how to use them in the garden, worm casting tea… the list goes on.

Are you interested in starting your own bin? The DIY resources abound.

Find me on facebook

Click here for the DIY Worm Bin article that got me started.

Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting

 

Research References

Mycelium | NaturalNews Article by Kim Evans | Topic Paul Stemets, mycology researcher | http://www.naturalnews.com/028132_detoxification_mycelium.html

Vermicomposting | The Basics by Brande Plotnik | http://www.blogher.com/basics-vermicomposting

Biological Background | C. G. Jones, J. H. Lawton, and M. Shachak, “Organisms as ecosystem engineers,” Oikos, vol. 69, no. 3, pp. 373–386, 1994.

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