Tag Archives: indoor worm composting

I’m Expecting!!!

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… 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.

Implications

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!

Taken Over By Dirt

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how to keep your garlic fresh: put it in dirt and forget about it (except for water)

LETTUCE FAILURE

The last couple weeks have been packed with seemingly insignificant progress. While I learned that the best and easiest way to keep garlic fresh is to sprout it, I haven’t had time to make a grow light, or construct an organizational scheme for the planting. In the mean time, as seen below, my lettuce plants are suffering.  According to several online sources, they are “too leggy” and this is apparently caused by lack of proper lighting.

leggy lettuce display 1

leggy lettuce display 2

Also, as you can see, cut in half, gallon milk-jugs with holes sliced in the bottom make excellent medium table pots (and are readily available throughout the neighborhood on recycling day).

Lettuce Lessons Learned

  1. Do not attempt to grow lettuce indoors without a grow light or excellent windows.
  2. They sprout exceptionally well, so there is no real need to put them in a starter cell and then transplant them through various containers. In fact, this is more likely the damage their extremely thin roots than to help them. Just throw 1 seed in a medium bin of dirt (the cut in half milk-jug is just about perfect), water it for two days, and watch it sprout nearly 100% of the time.

WORMS

In other news, I solved my worm bin problem (they were all crawling out at night and dying on the kitchen floor). I bought a very fine mesh cloth for $2 and it seems that the worms are incapable of crawling on it. Since putting this in, not one worm has been found crawling up the sides.

worm bin tutu

A side note: it’s taking a while to get the European Nightcrawlers to eat regular kitchen scrap compost. They wouldn’t touch it to begin with, so I started covering it in this “worm food” I bought from the worm dealer (which appears to be some sort of grain ground into fine flakes) and mixing this whole concoction with finely crushed egg shells. As soon as I added the egg shells, the garbage started disappearing.

Important Recommendations Based on Experience with Nightcrawlers so Far

  1. Give them finely crushed egg shells with each new feeding
  2. Place the food on the surface and don’t mix it in. First of all, European Nightcrawlers are especially sensitive to the acidity of the soil and you may unwittingly be throwing it off for them when you mix it in. Secondly, they are surface feeders and naturally come to the top to feed and mate. Third, you don’t want to overfeed these little guys and the only way to make sure you aren’t putting too much in there at once is to keep it all where you can watch it.
  3. The majority of the food should be grains or non-acidic foods, such as green vegetables. You can feed them used coffee grounds and coffee filters (also on the surface) BUT make sure to mix egg shells in with this stuff and to keep it on the surface!
  4. Keep the soil moist by dampening it morning and night when you first get them. My bin drains really well, which seems to be working out for the worms- I haven’t found one dead worm since the great escape.  But this means it also dries out within a day and a half. Which brings me to my next point.
  5. Keep a large bucket of water that was drawn at least 24 hours before use next to the worm bin (the chlorine in tap water kills off the bacteria that help your worms do their job and enhance your soil. Letting the water sit out overnight allows the chemical to evaporate). Use this on the worm bin and your plants. Most likely, you will find that some of it collects in the container under your worm bin after draining through and under your plants. Collect this before anyone or anything is flooded and dump it back in the bucket. Over time, this water will turn into worm tea and you will already be in the habit of using it on everything. In addition, you wont have to refill the bucket more than once a week if you’re like me and have a fairly small indoor operation taking place.

MORE SEED REVIEWS AND A PLEASANT SURPRISE

A wonderful man in Oregon sent me these and five other packets of various seed types thanks to the seed exchange site (which I linked onto here a while back)

Seed Review

I ordered broccoli, pearl onions, and two-star loose-leaf lettuce off of the Territorial Seed company website. So far, I’ve only had time to plant the broccoli, but it immediately sprouted! By the way, these are open-pollinated seeds (all of the ones I purchased from this company). I’ve also received my seed order from Sustainable Seed Company, but have not had time or resources to plant any. This should change in about two more weeks and I’ll have more to update with.

Territorial Seeds. The website sells them for less than the price listed on the packet.

Sustainable Seed Co.

Worms, Green Onion and Garlic Green Harvest

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My European Nightcrawlers arrived a day before I thought they would and I had to throw this together at the last second.

I forgot to put a cloth or something similar in it to prevent the worms from crawling through the holes. This resulted in the great worm escape of 2012.

All that dirt on the side is the result of them scaling the walls. Some  died on the kitchen floor, but the majority were put back in the soil and placed under light so they’d crawl back in. I’ve had the lid on ever since and now they seem to be congregating by the food and not trying to go crazy. The guy I bought them from (who sounded like Larry the Cable guy age 80 over the phone), said they would be kind of crazy for the first couple days until they settled down from the trip

In other news, I enjoyed my first “harvest” today. I took the tops off my some of my green onion and garlic plants.

and made this:

The trick to harvesting salad shoots from these plants is to cut at least four inches from the base of the soil. The rate of growth increases the taller the plant gets. The onions in particular, started with about 1/5th of an inch of growth a day. Now they are growing nearly a half inch a day and this rate seems to keep increasing the taller they get.

Lessons Learned

  • Put a cloth in the worm bin to keep them from crawling out of the holes
  • Harvest green shoots 4 inches from their base

Praxxus55712 on youtube is AMAZING!

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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmglnVmA1qg&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy5fzPlsXK0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmlcb2c7dzY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84h4aYIfO3s

Some Indoor Gardening Polls

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Worms for Making Your Own Compost

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Much thanks to The Soulsby Farm for offering a free tutorial about how to start a worm farm! I was wondering how I would afford enough fertilizer to keep a year-round, complete, indoor vegetable garden running. In the last day, I’ve spent a great deal of time researching worm tea and discovered that youtube is a wonderful resource for how-to information about making it .

Worm tea is a concoction made from worm castings. These are obtained via a type of composing where worms digest your food/paper scraps and essentially convert them into fertilizer/amazing soil. You can order worms online or obtain them from a local dealer. Unfortunately, those near me want to rip my arm and possibly a leg off with their prices. My next project: grow worms and sell them for prices that put these suckers out of business.

I ordered mine from this site and I decided to buy the European Nightcrawler as opposed to the more common Redworm. The reason for this is that my family enjoys fishing and the red worm is a bit too small and fragile to conveniently double as our bate. European Nightcrawlers are the larger cousin of the red worm and thus perform just as well for composting purposes while also being the most hardy and conveniently sized bait worm. In addition, they can be sold to local pet owners as live food.

After reading and watching a lot of good advice about worm composting, I became extremely curious about the validity of their claims about worm tea being the best fertilizer available. I am not the touchy-feely-tree-hugging-earth-lover type who immediately becomes enamored with every “natural” idea and believes everything anyone says about it. I want to test these claims. Hopefully, they are true, as that would save me a ton of money.

So, upon establishing a good colony of “fertilizer makers”, I’m going to start an experiment comparing the growth rates of plants provided just water (which will be left out overnight to let the flourine evaporate), plants provided a common store-bought fertilizer, and those given compost tea + the scraps from the bottom of the tea jug. I will start the same type of seeds from the same supplier in the same container types and measure their weekly growth  (both height, width, and largest leaf size). All of the plants will be rotated daily so differing amounts of light are not a factor.

I will compare the growth rates of 50 plants of each group (150 total) from planting to maturity, calculate the means (averages) for each group, and run a t-test to see if there are any statistically significant differences between the groups. This way, when I tell you that worm tea is the best, I will have actual data to back it up!

Update: I thought this video was pretty amazing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEwB23uhBGY&feature=related