Wash and wear Earth Worming

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Earth Worms, Waste To Resource

In this day and age many people are aware of the benefits of composting with earth worms.

Earth worms turn waste ( that uses landfill space, causes pollution, and costs money to dispose of) into a valuable resource that is necessary for a healthy planet.

Worms are also a great way to teach children about nature, and worms can demonstrate many scientific principles.

As I've talked to teachers I found one area of concern, and that is the ability or inability to keep the worms alive. So I put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard to give the world my wash and wear guide to ranching the worm.

First, The earth worm Habitat

Earth worms need a cozy place to live and what could be more cozy than a bed. So this is where we will start , with bedding or the substrate the earth worms will call home.

From what I've read, the bedding I use is probably not the best, but it's convenient so I use it, after all I'm a wash and wear kind of guy.

The bedding I use is a combination of chipped tree branches ( this can be very good, however I believe the tree branches I use are not the right kind), grass clippings (if excessive clippings are used it can cause heat build up and clumping, which leads to yuk), and peat moss.

Probably my combination is fairly good if the right kind of chipped branches are used. My chips are mainly comprised of melaluka, which I don't think is the best for earth worms, but it works for me.

The other ingredients that can be harmful to earth worms are grass clippings, especially fresh grass clippings. If you use a lot of fresh grass clippings the heat caused by the grass as it begins to decompose can kill the worms. The clippings I use have been drying out as they sit in a compost pile.

Now comes the peat moss. The peat moss will help retain moisture. I use about 1/4 peat moss to the other bedding material. Peat moss is the first part of the bedding to be prepared. To prepare the moss just add water, and let the whole thing sit for a couple of days ( at least one day). The peat moss should be thoroughly moist but not dripping wet. Reach in and pick up a hand full to test it. If water runs out of your hands it's too wet. Now give it a gentle squeeze, if water gushes forth it's too wet. If your moss is too wet, just add more to dry it out a bit. Let it sit for a while to make sure the new material get thoroughly moist.

Now mix in to your pleasantly moist moss equal parts of the chips and clips, and stir it all together, then for good measure add a few more chips.

To be on the safe side cover your worm bedding with a blanket of moist news paper or cardboard and let everything set for a day. The next day stick your hand in and see if it's been thoroughly mixed and moistened, you are also checking that it's not to hot for the worms. If you've been mixing this in a mixing container it's now time to add the bedding to the well prepared bed.

There are two things every well prepared worm box (bed) should have, air and drainage. Earth worms breath air so don't expect them to live long in a small air tight container. Although earth worms might like a moist box even wet, they don't like living in a puddle of water. In fact they will drown.

If you've followed directions so far you are well on your way to healthy lively worms.

Now we come to feeding your herd of earth worms.

Let us realize that most people raise red worms, and red worms don't burrow deep into the earth to feed. Red worms feed at the surface or just under the surface in the substrate. So if you put food in the worm bedding, they will find it.

Improper feeding can degrade the earth worms environment. So if you've had worms in the past and they died, it can be a great learning experience. What better way to teach that a resource, something to make our lives better, if improperly managed can become pollution and kill a whole population.

If you over feed you can cause worm bed pollution.

I've read that earth worms can eat as much as their own weight every day. I think in the real world this is a bit high. You should not expect earth worms raised with the wash and wear method to eat more than half of the their own body weight a day. If you have one pound of worms, you might be able to feed one half pound of worm food. This will depend on how small or large the pieces of food are.

It is usually better to error by underfeeding rather than over feed.

If you worm food begins to really smell bad, it's probably not getting enough oxygen. This could lead to worm box pollution and what some humans would call air pollution. The wood chips in the bedding should help by providing space for oxygen to circulate though the bedding material. If you do not overfeed this should not be a problem.

When feeding your worms put the food in a different spot of the box for each feeding. Don't over feed, give the worms an area where they can move away from the food, just in case that part of their environment becomes undesirable or polluted.

Earth worms are not terribly fond of light, so they usually aren't to happy about being kept in a clear box and or exposed to the light of day.

The last thing to making your earth worms feel so cozy in their well prepared bedding is a wonderful blanket of damp newspaper or cardboard.

Happy earth worming

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