Journal Entry

a Worm Story
Mon 24 Mar 2008

Our worm box is a year old this month!! And it was seriously full. It was mostly dirt, and it came all the way up to the vent holes. The last time I put food in, the top layer of bedding was hitting the lid and I had to squish it down.

So, yeah, it was definitely time to do something! My idea was to dump the whole thing out, separate worms from dirt, and start over with fresh bedding. In preparation of the big day, I quit feeding the worms for a couple weeks, so they could eat what they had.

worm dump

And then I just picked a non-rainy day! I raked off the top layer of bedding and set it aside to put back in the box. Then just dumped the rest of the box onto some plastic garbage bags. It slid right out without any trouble. The bottom part was solid with the leaf litter (oak leaves) that we started with, mostly not decomposed.

I refilled the box with bedding -- newspaper shreds that came from the guinea pig home. And then the tedious part. I'd scoop up a handful of mud, glance through it for worms. Then throw the mud in the garden and put the worms back in their box with the new bedding.

working on the worm box

The box is 14 gallons, and going though that much dirt took me four or five hours, total. I worked on it over three days, just covering the worm pile with another garbage bag to protect them from the rain and the cold nights.

At first, I was pretty careful about getting each worm adult and any worm eggs I saw ... but eventually I scooped out the worm nests to put back in the box and ignored individual worms, who I just tossed with the dirt into the garden.

The last day, I got tired of looking at it (surprise, surprise!), and I turned the pile over in the garden and scooped off the worms that had migrated to the bottom. I left a lot of worms to fend for themselves in the garden... it's a shame because they probably won't live very long out there.

But about half of my new box is filled with worms! There are just too many! Next time, I will definitely have two boxes ready to split the worms between.

all done

All the new dirt, spread out in the garden, looks so wonderful! By the way, those are white irises growing in the garden, and the little plant behind the corner of the worm box is some parsley I planted last year. These are the only things that have survived ... with no sunshine, no rain in the summer, and just a couple inches of wood chips for dirt over a very solid and impregnable floor of tree roots.

Now that I have a short layer of real dirt, I'm thinking about planting some flowers. They won't live, but just think how lovely it will look for a few weeks.

  Read last year's worm saga... 2007 Tag: Vermicomposting

  Some popular forums... Vermicomposting Forum at Garden Web and The Worm Bin at Yahoo Groups.

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