… a plethora of baby worms!
European Nightcrawler Eggs
Today I frantically dug through my indoor European Nightcrawler worm bin, trying to find out if my recent, too-acidic feeding killed anyone. I learned two things:
1. These are worm eggs.
European Earthworm Eggs 2
2. European Earthworms love cardboard and pretty much any paper products! I found a huge percentage of the adult ones clustered around the paper and torn up toilet paper rolls I put in there. Anywhere where there was a clump of that stuff, at least five big ones were tangled in it and some of these precious eggs were close by.
According to what I’ve read about them, this means that they consider my scrap paper an awesome feeding source. Apparently worms lay their eggs near their feeding source.
I wasn’t expecting for this to be the case; all of the online sources say that European Earthworms feed near the surface, but I found them anywhere the paper was, including near the bottom (where I found even more eggs). So, I tore up a couple egg cartons, soaked them in water, distributed them on the surface, and then tucked them in.
These guys are recycling machines!
When I have enough, I’m going to start giving these away to everyone I know. Five pounds of these guys (which could fit in this container) could eat 5lbs of matter per day, including paper! I suspect that they actually eat it a little slower than that, but there is less in there than there was when I started this bin. Imagine how much paper waste could be reduced if everyone had a worm bin!
This guy covers just about every topic imaginable dealing with indoor and outdoor organic plants. Check him out! His videos have reassured me that I’m on the right track with this blog’s concept.
Today I realized I’ve spent ~$105 on start-up stuff. I didn’t keep the receipts (going to start doing that), but here’s what I have so far:
- 1lb European earthworms
- spinach seeds
- garden bean seeds
- summer squash seeds
- cabbage seeds
- lettuce seeds
- pea seeds
- parsley seeds
- cilantro seeds
- oregano seeds
- basil seeds
- a small-well flat-sized planter set up
- 2 medium-well planter set-ups
- 2-ten inch diameter pots
- 1-fourteen inch pot
- starter soil
- potting soil
- liquid fertilizer
The soil alone has cost $10 so far and the pots have come out to be about $20.
Main Drawbacks and Possible Solutions
- The cost of starter soil. I can’t find starter soil in anything larger than a small bag for $3. This is not feasible in the long term. One bag starts about 36 plants, which will be transferred into larger pots. This means that the soil cannot be used for starting again. To solve this problem, I’m going to experiment with making starter soil from potting soil and worm castings.
- The price of pots. The starter pots aren’t that bad in terms of how many plants you can produce for the price, considering they are reusable. However, the larger growing containers are too expensive for a very low-income person to be able to budget for. I think the only solution here is going to be to find junk parts and figure out how to create planters that don’t drip all over the living room and meet the vegetable’s needs.
Update 4/8/2012: Okay, the solution is shown above- reuse old yogurt containers and any type of container you buy from the store (the lids can be put underneath to collect excess water.) Old baking sheets can also be used under the plants. Instead of transplanting into the store-bought containers I showed, you can transplant into plastic cups bought in bulk with holes cup into the bottom. For larger plants, you can turn old storage crates into garden beds by hammering holes into the bottom with nails and putting the container lid underneath to collect water. I will get a better picture of this and post it below when I transplant the lettuce into their largest container. You can also use a regular box with a garbage bag liner with holes poked in it for a couple plantings. When the box starts falling apart, you can transfer the liner into another box and use the worn one for worm food.
- Space. I knew this was going to be a problem. I cannot, realistically, grow 15 heads of lettuce at once in my living room if I use normal planting methods because I wont have room for anything else. I *think* the solution to this is to plant multiple things per container; to go for a total soil-cover instead of, say, just having a pot of garlic by itself. Instead, I’ll have garlic and herbs. I’ll grow cabbage surrounded by carrots. THIS is where experience is going to come into play. I have to figure out what can be grown with what to maximize soil space
- The cost of starting a “fertilizer maker” (worm bin). After researching the issue of worm purchase and maintenence expenses, I’ve concluded that this actually should be counted as a capital investment , rather than an expense. It turns out that the European Nightcrawler is a relatively new species with a previously unseen combination of attractive traits. It’s the hardiest worm used for composting, a prolific breeder, consumes the most food per worm, and reaches large sizes desirable for a bait worm. I will be able to sell the worm castings and the worms to a public that’s never even heard of this species. This investment alone may pay back more than I’ve spent on the entire operation so far. One pound of these worms is currently selling for a minimum of $20 over the internet. Locally, no one near me is breeding these worms and those that do breed other species are selling them for $40/lb. These same people are selling worm tea for $14 per quart. They should prepare to be put out of business.