This post is a little late as I started my colony in January and neglected to post about it. However my colony has exploded in population and I am splitting it into two colonies. I figured better late than never!
I ordered my 1 pound, 1,000 worm colony for $20 shipped right before a lengthy cold snap. Coupled with the timing of my order corresponding with multiple holidays observed by the postal service, I was pleasantly surprised when my package arrived 2 weeks later with hundreds of worms that were still very active.
Having had recently moved, I had emptied out 2 18-20 gallon rubbermaid containers. Red wigglers are fascinating creatures in how they eat organic matter. Or so I thought. It seems recently the school of thought has shifted and red wigglers eating the microbes or the microbial soup resulting from that break down organic matter is now the accepted theory. Regardless, these creatures speed up the composting process, create castings that contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary compost and most importantly for indoor colonies, their decaying organic matter environment does not smell! Well it will smell like rich earth, but not what you would expect from decaying food.
Tips for starting a colony:
Use whatever container you have on hand that has a lid that blocks light.
Weigh your bedding before adding it to the container (A good kitchen scale is vital to most aspects of my craft and kitchen enterprises).
- Bedding can be shredded paper, cardboard etc. I avoid overly dyed, printed or bleached products.
Weigh 3 times as much water as the bedding then add it to the container
- If you are using a rubbermaid container that does not allow drainage, add 2 times as much water
Add any organic matter that will decay and provide the worms with food. It can be leaves, grass, food scraps, coffee grounds with filters, tea bags, etc.
- The moisture in food scraps will bring the moisture level of your colony up to the desired levels.
Often it is cited to provide half the weight in food as the weight in worms per week. So for my 1 pound starting point, I would give them roughly half a pound per week.
- I just give them all the kitchen scraps I generate and plan to stop if any decomposition smells are produced indicating that the feeding schedule is beyond the worms feeding capacity
- The only danger in over feeding is if the heat generated from decomposition kills the worms. I have not found this to be an issue though
- A healthy colony will double in population every 90 days so increase the feed accordingly
Including a handful of regular soil provides helpful microbes as well as gizzard grit for the worms. Like chickens, the worms lack teeth and rely on gizzards to help “chew” food.
Below is a new colony habitat ready for population. Some kitchen scraps and coffee are included under the bedding for food.
It has been a very easy and rewarding process. If you have any gardening or in my case, tree propagating aspirations, worm castings are one of the best root treatments for transplanting. They can also be made into a very nutritious tea with which plants can be fertilized. I’ve seen a lot of anecdotal evidence that spraying the tea on foliage and stems has positive results in both pest control and plant health.
Lastly in addition to their composting/gardening application, mature worms make excellent fishing bait. I’m always on the lookout for simple way to add income to the farm so these worms fit perfectly with my model.