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The Complete Guide to

With the Worm Factory® 360

With Excerpts From These Two Books:

Forward by:

Amy Stewart
Author of “The Earth Moved”
Jeff Lowenfels
Award Winning Garden
New York Times Bestseller Writer, Author of
“Teaming With Microbes”


Connect with other
Worm Factory Users Online At:

“Worm poop is gold.” How many times has a gardener heard
this? Well, if you are not vermicomposting, YOU haven’t heard
it enough, apparently. So as America’s longest running garden
columnist and the co-author of an award winning book on soil,
I am here to assure you that worm poop IS gold, actually even

You see, what goes into a worm and then comes out the other
end are, truly, two different things. Soil that a worm ingests is
suddenly 5 times richer in nitrogen, 10 times richer in potassium,
has 7 times more phosphate, 1.5 times as much calcium and 3
times the magnesium.

This unbelievable, free increase in the key, essential, plant
nutrients allow worms to do what Medieval alchemists couldn’t:
turn waste into gold from scraps and wastes and old soil.

Ah, but there is more. The compost produced in a worm bin
contains more than just nutrients. It contains enzymes and
beneficial microbes that speed up the soil food web to help
plants grow. They add polysaccharides and proteins to the soil
and they provide texture which builds structure.

Simply put: Worms will make you gold. A worm bin is a veritable
Fort Knox.

-Jeff Lowenfels
Author, Teaming with Microbes

Read an excerpt from Teaming
with Microbes on page 52!


Mission Statement Table of Contents
Nature’s Footprint, Inc. believes Section 1 - A Quick Start and Set-Up Guide
that vermicomposting is one of the Worm Factory® 360 Parts............................................ 4
most efficient ways to recycle and Obtaining Worms........................................................ 5
minimize society’s overall impact Quick Assembly........................................................... 6
on the earth and improve our soil. Preparing Bedding ....................................................... 7
Starting Your First Feeding Tray.................................. 8
Our goal is to inform and educate
An Active Feeding Tray................................................ 9
others regarding the benefits of Adding A Second Tray................................................. 9
vermicomposting and integrate Self-Sorting Upward Migrating System....................... 10
this form of recycling and waste Harvesting Compost.................................................... 11
minimization into household Vermicomposting Goals............................................... 12
composting and gardening practices.
Section 2 - Managing Your Worm Factory 360
Understanding Basic Concepts of Composting.............14
Finding A Good Location For Your Vermicomposter.. 16
Adding Worms..............................................................16 Feeding Your Worms.....................................................17
©2013 All Rights Reserved The Difference Between Browns and Greens as
Compost Ingredients.....................................................18
Adding Additional Trays...............................................20
Mineral Rock Dust.......................................................22
Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic...................................................22
Monitoring the Health of Your System.........................23
Managing Moisture in the Worm Factory® 360...........24
Controlling Bedding Temperature................................26
When Should You Harvest Your Worm Compost?.......28
Compost Harvesting Steps............................................28
Storing Your Worm Compost.......................................29
Using Finished Vermicompost......................................30
Leachate Vs Compost Tea.............................................32
A Living Ecosystem......................................................34
How to Deal With Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats........42
About Worms................................................................44

Section 3 - Appendix
How to Fatten Worms for Fishing................................50
What to Do If You Go On Vacation.............................50
Insulating and Heating a Worm Composter.................51
Excerpt - Teaming With Microbes...................................53
Excerpt - The Earth Moved............................................58

Section 1 A Quick Start and Set-Up Guide 3 .

a process that can take many years if Worm Factory 360 will produce a never-ending left alone. flower beds and vegetable garden. organic material (anything that once information and procedures necessary to manage was alive) is broken down into nutrients that plants your vermicomposter.Congratulations! You have taken an important step in changing your In full operation.000 worms. nematodes. fungi. paper and junk mail per week.000 to 10. your planters. Managed properly. of household waste that would otherwise find its way The composting worms and microbes (millions of into landfills. This owner’s manual will give you the basic In nature. junk mail. dried leaves. composting up to five garden for many years to come. Composting worms can do this same job supply of nutrient rich fertilizer for your plants and in as little as three months. inside your worm composter are the workhorses cardboard. The Worm Factory 360 is an incredibly bacteria. your use for food. pounds of food waste. your vermicomposter will be home impact on the environment by reducing the amount to a livestock population of 6. Worm Factory® 360 Parts Worm Ladder Collection 4 Stacking Trays Base Sprinkler Tray Spigot/Washer/Nut Assembly Quick Tips Lid Manual DVD Coir Shredded Paper Minerals Pumice Accessory Kit 4 . newspaper. and that process your household waste and transform it other organic matter into nutrient-rich compost for into rich vermicompost. and protozoa) living efficient way to quickly convert your kitchen waste.

Canadian orders are delivered by Canada Post. NOTE: It is important to have your vermicomposter set up with bedding to receive the worms when they arrive. but only a few will work in a worm hortensis). Municipal Recycling Programs: Many municipal recycling programs can help you find a local source of composting worms. Worms from local worm farms: Go to www. Worms from a bait shop: Not all fishing worms are suitable for composting. There are many thousands of varieties is the European (Belgian) Nightcrawlers (Eisenia of earthworms. We recommend starting with 1 pound (approximately We suggest that you use “red wiggler” worms 800-1. This variety reproduces slower but makes composter.000 worms) of worms for a healthy working (Eisenia fetida). Worms from a friend: It is possible to obtain worms from a friend who has an active worm composter. For a list of worm suppliers. 5 .com to find a worm farmer near you. You can start with fewer worms but it will matter and live only in the top few inches of the soil. Worms by mail: Composting worms are regularly delivered by USPS Priority Mail. take longer for your system to reach full operating They are voracious eaters and reproduce rapidly in a capacity.findworms. Be sure to check for the correct scientific Eisenia fetida name before you purchase. Most of the earthworms found in your a great fishing worm. Many bait shops sell “red wigglers” for garden are not suitable for your worm composter. start your Worm Factory 360 with 1 pound of worms. If this is the case.Obtaining Worms You will need a supply of worms for your Worm Another worm that can be used for composting Factory 360.findworms. Voucher follow the instructions on the voucher. go to www. There are many ways to get worms for your worm composter: Worm Voucher: Worm Some vermicomposters come with a purchased “worm voucher”. The following instructions assume you will worm composter. They eat only decaying organic population.

The Worm Ladder helps worms that have fallen into the collection tray back into the working Collection trays. Set aside the remaining trays. The remaining trays are added one at a time as they are Next: needed. Base 1 Set the collection base The Lid ships nested inside Note: the base. Remove the lid before placing the worm ladder in the base.Quick Assembly Quick 4 Add the lid Your vermicomposter is now ready to add Tips Lid bedding materials and worms.” Worm 2 Install the Worm Ladder Ladder Set the worm ladder inside the base. It may take three or four months to put all four Preparing for Worms trays into operation. 3 Add a stacking tray Stacking This tray will be referred to as the Tray “Starting Tray. 66 .

read page 20. Pumice Pumice is a lightweight. shredded of water over the brick and paper and minerals to use later when let it soak until it begins to adding your second tray. Crumble off the loosened coir equal to half the brick. Coir should be moist but NOT wet. increase aeration. This bedding material is provided to make sure your worms get off to a good start. ½ that will inoculate your worm Pumice. Set aside the unused ½ brick of coir to use later. It is the most desirable bedding material because it retains moisture and improves the quality of the worm castings that go into your garden. egg cartons and other types of paper provide an excellent source of carbon. they are not required. Minerals that worms depend on to help them digest came with your Worm Factory 360. Shredded Paper Shredded paper. volcanic rock which provides excellent aeration and drainage for your vermicomposter. porous.Preparing Bedding Included with your Worm Factory 360: Coir Coir is ground coconut fiber. This 2 Mix together the material contains organic organisms moistened Coir. and are an easy source of food for your worms. ½ Shredded composter with the beneficial microbes Paper. newsprint. however. cardboard. Prepare your bedding before your worms arrive. Coir and pumice make excellent bedding Next: Note: material. Add more water if needed. For more details about the bedding process. 4 Add one or two cupfuls of garden soil or compost to the bedding mixture. their food. Starting your 1st tray 7 . 1 Tbsp. break apart. Pour 1 cup Store the unused Coir. Pumice. 1 3 Place the end of the brick of Use this mixture in the starting tray. coir in a bowl.

Feeding Tray including all of the bedding included with Cover the bottom of the first starting tray the worms. home. Are the worms actively dripping. you can start adding more food. the starting tray will be referred to as Note: the “feeding tray”. Once you see the worms actively feeding. Place the lid on the worm composter. You’ll only do this on your very first tray! Replace the moist newspaper cover. GOOD! created a moist newspaper If not. 8 . Select 5-10 full pages of newspaper (no 7 Leave the worms alone for two or three days then open the lid and peek in. the moist bedding. them again in 2 or 3 days. Read more about adding worms on page 16. Your worms will 2 or 3 cups of food in one corner of the tray. Add the worms. then check cover. Add their new environment. Lift slick color paper). want to explore their new For food suggestions. Wet the paper the moist newspaper cover and look until it is damp but not around in your bin. When the feeding tray is filled to within an inch of the top of the tray. see page 17. Leave a light on for the first 2 or 3 days.Starting Your First When the worms arrive remove the moist newspaper cover. You have just moving around in their food? If so. next 4-6 weeks to fill the feeding tray. This will discourage the worms from exploring outside the composter. on top of with one or two sheets of dry newsprint. This tray will always be on top and is shown in the illustration by the color green. Place the moist newspaper cover on top of the bedding and food in the To provide the worms with an adequate starting tray and wait for food supply. it is time to add another tray. leave the worms alone. From now on. add enough food over the your worms to arrive. fold the paper so it will fit into the feeding tray. It is best to not disturb the worms for the Add the moist bedding mixture. spreading first two or three days while they adjust to it evenly on top of the dry newspaper.

Adding Additional Trays Once the feeding tray is filled. the vermicomposter is in full operation! Note: Always move the moist newspaper cover upward into Each time a tray is added the new tray each new tray. Remember! Do not add additional food to the lower trays. This tray newspaper cover in the second tray. Place the moist newspaper cover on top of the food and replace the lid. becomes the feeding tray (green. processing tray (yellow. migrating up. Replace the cover when necessary. that’s great! They have started tray becomes the processing tray. Do you see now becomes the feeding tray and the lower worms? If so. Place an After a day or two look under the moist empty tray on top of the feeding tray. on top) and the former feeding tray becomes a Each new feeding tray should be filled in 4-6 weeks. it is time to start the Worm Factory 360’s unique rotating tray system! Remove the moist newspaper cover. paper or other bedding material and add 2 or 3 cups of food. Continue adding food (a mix of browns and greens) under the moist newspaper cover For Cover the bottom of the tray with shredded a list of appropriate foods see page 17. below) A processing tray requires an average of 90 days to be ready for harvest. After you have 3 or more operating trays. 9 .

they will moisture down to migrate upward the collection base. As the worms process the food in the lower Gravity pulls excess trays. Always harvest your vermicompost from the bottom processing tray. to the newer food. removing themselves from the lower processing trays.Self-Sorting Upward Migrating System This page demonstrates the movement of worms and excess moisture Food always gets added to the top feeding tray. 10 .

Stir the compost. keeping the g edin trays in the same order that they were on the Fe y ra gT ce s sin collection base. on top of the “feeding” tray. ess Pr oc Return all the trays to the collection base. If inside remove the lid and place a light over the vermicomposter. Place the bottom “processing” o Pr in g Tr ay tray still on the base. Pr oce For more information on harvesting vermicompost see page 29. Transfer all the trays except the bottom Tr a y “processing” trays onto the lid. Occasionally To speed up the process remove about Tr a y h ed 1 inch of vermicompost every 1-2 hours Finis a y Tr into a separate container. This will drive the worms down into the Stir feeding tray below. 11 . stirring the e din g Fe a y Tr remaining material each time. 4-10 hrs If outside remove the lid.Harvesting Vermicompost Remove the lid and turn it upside down to use as a tray. it is in the correct ng Tr ay s si position to become the new ‘feeding’ tray. Congratulations! You just completed the first successful rotation of your Worm Factory 360. When the es sin g oc Pr ‘finished’ tray is empty. ocis eh s ngT seid ay Trra y Note: Pirn F Always replace the processing trays on the collection base in the same order to maintain proper rotation.

It may take more time depending on your vermicomposting needs and management style. After about four months. Following the instructions in this manual will ensure that you will become a successful vermicomposter. These insects help crumbly vermicompost ready to harvest and breakdown the food for the worms to use in the garden. 12 . experience will be the best teacher. (refer to the section. When you see the worms actively moving around in the top layers of the food you know you need to 1 gallon feed more. eat and indicate your system is working properly. A Living Ecosystem on page 34) You may be getting small amounts of leachate draining from the processing trays into the collection base. After 90 days your worm population should show signs of increasing and you will be feeding larger amounts of food. The worms are drawn up stages of composting. sprinkler tray It is important to remember that these are goals. you should reach the following goals: You should have an active top “feeding” tray The majority of the worms will have migrated and two or more processing trays in different to the trays above. The majority of the contents of the bottom You may see other beneficial insects in processing tray should be converted into dark the vermicomposter. to the food as you add new food to the upper tray.Vermicomposting Goals As you begin working with your vermicomposter.

Section 2 Managing Your Worm Factory 360 ® Learn More about Worms and Vermicomposting 13 .

nematodes. preferring a low to no oxygen environment. Hot compost is made with microorganisms that live in temperatures of 130°F to 160°F. The only work required is feeding the worms and harvesting the compost. Close attention is paid to the carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. In additions to bacteria. will kill most pathogens and weed seeds in the compost. in as little as 90 days. The high heat. The most common composting organisms are bacteria.Understanding Basic Concepts of Composting All types of composting rely on a host of living organisms to break organic material down to the basic nutrients that other living organisms and plants can use. There are many ways to cold compost. high levels of oxygen must be periodically introduced into the material. a healthy composting system will also be home to fungi. 3 Vermicomposting “Vermi “ or worm composting is an aerobic cold composting process that is accelerated by adding large numbers of composting worms in a contained system. 1 Outdoor ‘Cold’ Composting This could be called passive composting. This composting process is what takes place in nature. Most home owners randomly collect the material in piles as it becomes available. All three composting systems have populations of aerobic and anaerobic microbes. To achieve this temperature. Close attention is paid to the carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. There are three types of compost. nutrient-rich cold compost your garden will love. Anaerobic bacteria release methane. The rest are aerobic and thrive in an oxygen rich environment. Because oxygen is not being introduced by constant turning of the pile cold composting is less labor intensive. This allows for sufficient airflow and moisture necessary for the worms to thrive. arthropods and more. when maintained for three or four days. Some are anaerobic. the way material is mixed and the types of material used. ammonia and other nasty odors. The materials are processed by the worms and excreted as nutrient rich castings which are readily available to the plants. it may be coarser in texture but will have a high carbon content that feeds the life in the soil as it breaks down. Because it is left to breakdown at its own pace. 14 . you can start having having safe. Microorganisms and small insects in the worm composter work together with the worms to breakdown and consume the materials. How the types of composting are similar and different will help you understand and manage your Worm Factory 360. That means turning and fluffing the pile each time it begins to cool. Aerobic bacteria have a rich earthy smell we associate with healthy soil. Home composting systems fall into 3 categories. When you compost in the Worm Factory 360. 2 Outdoor ‘Hot’ Composting This requires a managed process. Cold compost is dominated by microorganisms that live in temperatures below 115°. This causes the ingredients to breakdown to a rich black material in as little as 90 days. molds. protozoa. Depending on conditions one type or the other type will be in charge.

• Produces strong healthy plants and crops • Greater water absorption and holding capacity 15 . Worm compost is special! Worms produce a fantastic “biologically-enhanced humus rich” product that has several advantages over traditional garden compost: • Full of beneficial soil micro-organisms • Very high humus content • Contains slow-release natural fertilizers • Higher in nutrients than traditional compost Note: • Concentrated water soluble nutrients that plants can use immediately Compost passes through distinct cycles • Helps to bind together soil particles or stages employing many different microorganisms. Adding new materials continuously results in a never ending process. Each new pile or tray is filled to capacity at which time no new material is added. This process is • Enhances disease resistance disrupted when new food is added to a • Encourages healthy/strong root system tray before the process is complete. A Quick Comparison COLD COMPOST HOT COMPOST WORM COMPOST Microorganisms do the work Compost made in sequential order Compost processed in several stages Requires Moisture Requires Oxygen Requires High temperatures Limited to warm weather Can be done all year Can be done indoors Can be done outdoors Requires minimal space 90 days or less to finish 90 days or more to finish 360 days or more to finish Regular turning (aeration) necessary The most efficient way to compost is in batches.

if it is to rain and wind. Keeping it inside weather (prolonged should not be a problem. A “ 40°F at night and 80°F porch. You should worm composter will not have any offensive bedroom (Sherman and closets. can work. So. If the worms ball up DO NOT try to separate them. 55°F-75°F (12°C-24°C). bathrooms. This information will help you to have a top. or utility area is a good place to keep your composter You can check the bedding temperature with the as long as it is protected from bedding temperatures thermometer included with your Worm Factory 360. in addition you do not have an will be fine. They may be the composter for a few days. first tray (pg. they are stressed from being place a spot light directly over jostled around during shipping. and Worms family Eat My ” rooms. garage. Garbage. we recommend leaving a light on in the room or successful vermicomposting system. the with an overhang is indoors or outside. 71) move it indoors during conditions of extreme odor. See page 44 for important facts about attempt to leave the worm composter through the worms. Appelhof. #1) helps to keep the worms from leaving the tray at the bottom of the composter. It is important to learn about the worms’ anatomy Worms are extremely sensitive to light. If is 60°F and your worms locations inside their homes. 16 . Adding Worms When worms arrive.Finding a Good Location for Your Vermicomposter Worms do best in a bedding temperature range of below 34°F or over 90°F. p. and overhang. basement excessive air temperatures below 34°F or over 90°F). breezeways. kitchens. Once they are comfortable they will move around and begin eating their food. The bedding temperature The Worm Factory 360 can be kept outdoors as long is generally an average of the air temperature on as it is protected from direct sunlight and not exposed a given day. placing it garages. Earthworm bins may be kept underneath a leafy tree A properly maintained in living rooms. 8. confused about their new surroundings and attempt The dry newspaper that was to exit the tray or they may ball up as a natural placed in the bottom of the survival mechanism. patio or balcony Earthworm bins may be kept during the day. The air temperature can be higher or lower than this. If they and behavior. People have average temperature vermicomposting systems in a variety of a good location. A kitchen. to basements.

paper egg cartons. All organic material will break down. Greens: Vegetable and fruit scraps. freeze. or anything too acidic. Citrus and spicy “ They’ll eat coffee grounds and stale bread.Feeding Your Worms Your worms will require a week or so to become fully acclimated to their new environment. (p. meat. recommended. salt. They can’t eat fats You can puree. however. Place only a few handfuls of food under the moist cover in the Note: feeding tray at a time. teabags. but they won’t touch onions. some faster than Amy Stewart. pasta. there are some suggested foods to Earth Moved: On the Remarkable avoid: salty foods. time. foods should only be added in small amounts. Make sure that the food has returned to a source of grit for their gizzards and help to moderate the pH level of the bin. fats. However. dead plant Worms can eat up to half their weight in food per day matter from houseplants in a fully established. well managed vermicomposter. coffee grounds and filters. They do. Once the worms Remember: NEVER add food to the become comfortable in their new environment they processing trays – only to the top feeding will begin to eat more and move around. This ensures the efficient operation of the You can add new food to the top feeding tray at any upward migrating system. or microwave food scraps in any form (including salad dressing). Always make sure that the worms are actively eating the food you added most recently before Foods to add to your adding more. offers packaged convenient foods. Prepackaged foods can some helpful tips on feeding red wiggler contain oils. tray under the moist newspaper cover. or before adding them to your worm composter to help meat. No matter what you feed them. break down fibers and speed up the composting like crushed eggshells because they provide process. If you do not see the worms in the top vermicomposter: layer of food it is a sign they are overfed and you should wait to add more food. the time of year and how may worms you have Equal portions of “greens” and “browns” is working in the entire system. oranges. The frequency and volume of feeding will depend Browns: Paper. oils. the author of The others. be sure to pile plenty of shredded newspaper on top to hold ” moisture in and keep fruit flies out. fats. additives and preservatives worms: that could be harmful to the worms. junk mail. how much kitchen cardboard. bread. on your management style. Be patient. dry leaves waste you produce. or dairy products. 204) 17 . dairy products and Achievements of Earthworms. where the worm composter is kept.

If not. focus on cutting the hard. If microorganisms. It may take shorter or longer depending on take longer to break down. This prevents the nitrogen from and “nitrogen”. composting microorganisms require the “Greens” are higher in nitrogen or protein and correct proportion of carbon for energy. Smaller pieces of food will break down faster. “Brown” and “green” are general that soil microorganisms need to survive. The technical terms are “carbon” in the compost. enabling them to grow and multiply in the C:N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you can end up the worm composter. Carbons help terms for different types of organic matter used in a absorb offensive odors. frozen or microwaved. and nitrogen higher in moisture content. For best performance. Food that has been pureed. the leachate that drains into the collection area of the worm composter. you will find The Difference Between BROWNS and GREENS as Compost Ingredients The meaning of the terms “browns” and “greens” is “Browns” are higher in carbon or carbohydrates and often not understood by many first time composters or lower in moisture content. most people can fill a tray in about one worm composter whole but they month. dense foods into smaller pieces and don’t worry about the others. food to absorb this liquid and promote air flow. Nitrogen rich foods break down with a stinky worm composter. Common Browns: Common Greens: Paper & Unsalted Nut Shells Cardboard Fruits & Coffee Grounds Pasta Junk mail & Dry Leaves Vegetables & Tea Bags & Cereals 18 . Carbons take longer to decompose. Be sure to add dry shredded paper to pureed time. This is called the C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratio. frozen or microwaved Chopping large chunks of food is recommended but releases liquid rapidly because the cellular structure not necessary. This can cause but whole carrots take a very long time to break the moisture level of the worm composter to rise down. This will result in a faster nutrients necessary for building cell structure in the production of fertile. accessible list of foods tray if it has been refrigerated. On the lid of your vermicomposter. Banana peels will disappear quickly of the food has been broken down. sweet-smelling worm compost. that can be added to your vermicomposter. How these two elements are balanced escaping into the air by evaporation or dispersing into in the composting process is important. quickly and create heat as they break down. Carbons capture the nitrogen worm composter. speeding up the composting process. TIP: Many foods can be put into the On average. These foods supply the energy organic gardeners. how much kitchen waste you generate. Chop up the food into small pieces if you have quickly. These foods provide the for protein temperature before adding it to your feeding “Quick Tips” with an easy. or cook it.

A C:N carbon to nitrogen ratio ranging from 25:1 to 30:1 is considered the dividing line for all organic materials between “Brown” and “Green”. beech) 30 . On the average. for example. carbon as they change color. Deciduous leaves are best for worm composting. birch. Breads.80:1 Vegetable Scraps 10 .50:1 Peat Moss 58:1 Paper. most household waste that is Grass clippings are high in Nitrogen but cycled through the worm composter will not generate a lot of heat so are not recommended require adjusting the amount of “browns/ in a worm composter.200:1 Tea Bags 70:1 Peanut Shells 35:1 Leaves (ash. This will help you to correct this least 50% of the volume of food fed to the worms problem. Managing moisture is discussed in should be composed of Carbons/Browns and more detail on Pages 23-27 of this manual. Leaves can have a high carbon” or “greens/nitrogen” as long as you nitrogen content when green. smaller than 30:1 is considered a GREEN. Cereals 20:1 19 . C:N ratio > 30:1 C:N ratio < 30:1 = Browns Any organic matter that has a C:N ratio = Greens Any organic matter that has a C:N ratio larger than 30:1 is considered a BROWN. 50% should be composted of Nitrogen/Greens. black elder. Knowing what materials are Here are C:N ratios of common household items you would feed worms or use for bedding: Material C:N Ratio Material C:N Ratio Cardboard 350:1 Cocoanut Coir 100:1 Fruit Waste 20 . but change to follow the 50% guideline. We recommend at is too wet.25:1 Sawdust 200-500:1 Garden Waste 30:1 Pasta. How does the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio relate high in carbon. elm & alder) 21 . composter. Newspaper 170 . Evergreen C:N ratios are guidelines for determining how leaves. will help you to to what you feed the worms? know what to feed the worms if your worm composter has started to develop an odor or The target C:N ratio is 30:1. needles and sawdust are very acidic to mix “greens” and “browns” in the worm and can contain oils harmful to worms. aspen.28:1 Coffee Grounds 20:1 Leaves ( maple. oak.

Adding a small allows your worms to process food more efficiently. paper towels. This encourages the worms to plastic rim of the tray below (see illustration above). This will introduce microbes in The Worm Factory 360 comes with four composting the fresh food and help speed up the composting trays but can accommodate up to 7 composting process in the new tray. outside Bedding yard and garden waste. such as from friends and neighbors. cardboard. searching This ensures that as the worms process the food in for new food. worm bedding is a coarse carbon-based material (browns) that breaks down more slowly than the food (greens). feeding tray does not need to be fully composted each tray in a different stage of decomposition. The worms will continue This helps to speed up the composting process and to compost material in the lower tray.Adding Additional Trays Your worm composter is an upward migration As the material in the tray is broken down it will system. Bedding allows excess moisture to drain feeding tray and add a good mixture of green and down into the collection base. food in the top feeding tray. egg cartons. Always add food to the lower processing tray. and tissues). The material in the current The goal is to have a systematic rotation of trays. Additional trays can be ordered if you find you have more kitchen waste than your present system If you don’t have enough kitchen scraps to fill a can handle. so it’s good to add at air passage between individual particles. least ½ inch when you start a new feeding tray. consider other sources of food and bedding. allowing for as bedding as well as food. amount of finished vermicompost to a new feeding tray is a good idea. It has little protein or brown foods underneath the cover. or paper products (paper. or has been active for about 45-60 days. The grid of the new down but always move toward newer food. the lower processing tray and it settles. Composting worms migrate both up and shrink and reduce in volume. This time frame will be more or less depending on your management style. trays. the worms are still able Add a new tray when the current feeding tray is full to migrate upward to the new to the top. leaving tray should make contact with the material in the their vermicompost behind. Bedding Material Included With the Worm Factory 360 Coir Shredded Paper Minerals Pumice 20 . It should not rest on the top feeding tray. tray regularly. Typically. Bedding is essential for Move the moist newspaper cover up to the new airspace. make their way up from the trays below. before you add a new tray. The browns act mineral content and won’t pack tightly.

add 1 or 2 cupfuls of garden soil or should comprise 50% of the material you add to the finished compost to your bedding material. Eggshells: Leaves: Eggshells are a great source of slow release calcium You can place dry leaves in each new feeding tray and can help prevent acidic conditions from or add them to your bedding mixed with shredded developing. bedding. bits of food setting up your Worm Factory 360 by placing it in and bedding. available.”.Add your worms and the bedding material they were your worms to be able to wiggle easily through the shipped in. fir. This gives the worms familiar material and a place to acclimate to their new surroundings. Garden feeding trays. The Worms will not survive in a dry environment. Grit: Minerals: Grit is small loose particles of crushed rock or shells. soil contains a wealth of microorganisms that are important to the composting process. and cedar trees. This mixture eventually becomes the a bucket or tub and start adding water a little at a biologically-enhanced. of it. fluffing it up a bit. Bedding If possible. humus-rich worm castings. Rock dust provides grit and help correct pH levels.. to the bedding in the first feeding tray. Never use leaves from plants such calcium leaches out of the shells they get very brittle as bay. If more water drips out. Lime is not necessary unless peat moss has been added as bedding or your worm composter becomes acidic. Once the bedding is Bedding can have an impact upon how quickly worms right. Break up any large clumps. add more dry bedding to get the moisture levels right. or magnolia trees. and never use and break into small pieces. need to moisten the bedding material when initially As worms graze they ingest the microbes. eucalyptus. Grit helps the worms Rock dust feeds the microbes that feed the worms to crush their food and adds minerals to the finished and help plants take up minerals otherwise not compost. You microorganisms break down the food for the worms. 21 . They are a good source of grit for the paper. See page 22 “About Lime. Worms have gizzards like birds. add it to the tray. You want grow and the maximum size that they will attain.. rolling pin to crush them. A couple of drops should be bedding help start the composting process and bring released from the bedding if you squeeze a handful the worms up to speed much faster. Use them wet or dry to help manage your worms to help digest the food in their gizzard. You can put dried egg needles from pine. These types shells in a used bread or sandwich bag and roll with a of leaves will kill your worms. time. As the bedding moisture. You want your bedding material to feel like The microorganisms in the compost you add to the a wrung-out sponge.

Although it is not necessary. are always when worms process waste through their digestive useful in the operation of your Worm Factory 360 tract the waste is neutralized by the worms’ intestinal but not essential. include dry leaves. if your vermicomposter gets too wet and or neutral.Bedding plays an important role in reproduction your system is acidic will be high populations of pot rates and has an impact on the manageability of worms and mites (see page 35 for worm bin creature the Worm Factory 360. to your finished compost and has also been proven to be beneficial to the worm composting process. which are slightly acidic conditions. it means on the pH scale) than alkaline (higher on the pH the anaerobic bacteria have moved in and set up a scale). An indication that waterlogged worm composter. Adding lime to composting materials can cause nitrogen to be released as ammonia gas. or a garden soil test kit. We recommend adding about 6 tablespoons (two Aerobic vs Anaerobic capfuls from the included jar) of mineral rock dust to the top of your full top tray and stir it in a bit before Aerobic bacteria require oxygen and moisture to adding a new tray. anaerobic bacteria pH of your system can be fun and informative. They help worms break down food and thrive in the same conditions that worms enjoy. Adding garden lime to your Worm Factory of the worms. To correct an acidic bin. This leaves TIP: A mixture of various bedding (brown) your compost with less nitrogen. 22 . This is the kind of bacteria that should be prevalent in your Acidity vermicomposter. Scientists believe that included with your start up materials. These are the bacteria test. Lime is used to manage the acidity of from packing tightly allowing for the free movement the soil. If the pH reading remains less than 6. you can mix from forming in the worm composter by providing crushed eggshell in with food. eggshells. It is better to adjust the pH of compost make a bedding that retains moisture. survive.7. It is more likely that that give off a terrible odor.. Other options that are helpful secretions. The ideal pH for a vermicomposting system is 6 . In contrast. For information on how to correct a smelly or and can lower the pH of your bin. 360 is usually not necessary or recommended. Worms prefer a neutral pH (6-7) but will tolerate Screened coconut coir and pumice. which is an important materials will provide a nice balance and will plant nutrient. and they do not give off a bad odor. carbon. does after it has completed the composting process. grit and minerals. Mineral rock dust adds nutrients compost before adding lime. testing the does not have enough oxygen. add about 3 tablespoons of garden lime to the TOP TRAY before placing a new Mineral rock dust is not mandatory but is tray on top. without which the system would sour. If you notice that your your vermicomposter will be slightly acidic (lower worm composter smells bad or is too wet. see page 25. not clump and provides food value over time. Foods such as tomatoes and fruits are acidic home. You will take over.. Anaerobic bacteria are able to live can test for pH using a pH meter. a litmus paper in the absence of oxygen. Bedding (browns) keeps the material in the trays About Lime. Always test the pH reading of the recommended. It helps to prevent odors information). Adding crushed eggshell to the feeding tray will help Mineral Rock Dust to correct the pH of the compost.

page 34 for a list of worm bin your trays off the base to make sure that excess creatures. See page 24 Be sure to replace the worm ladder in the base for tips on how to correct moisture problems. Worms do not like being disturbed and are sensitive to light and vibration. Your worm composter should have a moisture reading of 60%-75%. do not be alarmed. Most are not harmful to your worms or leachate has not collected in the base. moisture levels. this is a good sign. See page the composting process and even help out! 32 for tips on how to use the leachate. The there is a specific reason to do so. It indicates feed very moist food. See page 25 “Dealing With Offensive Odors”. worm composter. The worm ladder helps the worms to move from the Be alert to any offensive odors coming from the collection base into the upper processing trays. If there are. we recommend that you that worms are migrating upward to the new food leave your spigot open all the time and keep a source. sediment and worms on the worm ladder or in the base with the scraper that came with your Do a pinch test to determine if your compost is too Worm Factory 360 and place it in the top feeding wet or too dry. Just two or three drops built up on the worm ladder or in the collection of leachate a day indicates your Worm Factory 360 base where it can clog the spigot. If you are getting more than 2-3 ounces of leachate draining from the composter in a weeks’ time your Make sure there is not a lot of fine sediment system is probably too wet. See A Monthly Monitoring: You can pick up all of Living Ecosystem. you sprinkler tray that came with your Worm Factory have noticed a bad odor and are trying to aerate 360 works nicely for this! the compost. Remove any is operating with “the proper moisture level”. If more than a few drops of moisture liquid filtering down through the system and is come out. For example. It may isn’t moist at all or you see dry scraps of paper. also indicate that you waited too long to harvest your bedding is too dry. Flush the spigot with water to make sure it drains properly and is not plugged An inexpensive moisture meter can help monitor with fine sediment. If the compost an indication your composter is too wet. A buildup of ‘fine’ sediment is caused by and squeeze. Take a small amount in your hand tray. your system is too wet. Do not dig around in the lower trays unless plastic container underneath to catch drips. finished castings.Monitoring the Health of Your System Weekly Monitoring: Check to make sure your Lift the processing trays one at a time and worm composter is draining excess moisture by determine if any worms are hanging from the opening the spigot and collecting leachate. If you bottom. 23 . If you notice creatures other than worms in your vermicomposter. before restacking the feeding trays.

Wet bedding is probably the most common problem Rhonda Sherman and Mary Appelhof in the operation of your Worm Factory 360. Moisture affects the available the compost process. causing an offensive smell. The dry brown material will absorb texture and a fresh earthy smell. Worms create much of the waste if enough brown material has tunnels as they work their way through the waste. speeding up Worm Factory 360. If on the other hand. your bedding is MOIST. Soon anaerobic composter. The worms are not able to breathe so There are two types of bacteria active in a worm they seek somewhere else to live. As high moisture The Worm Factory 360 relies on aerobic bacteria foods start to break down this water is released into in a ‘moist’ bedding. Feeding large ” that there is little to no odor. Oxygen is then able to freely flow through the bedding Again. Anaerobic bacteria or bacteria that live in Pick up a small bit of the bedding and pinch it the absence of oxygen between your index fingers and thumb or pick up several tablespoons of bedding into your hand and A properly maintained Worm Factory should not squeeze it. feed should be browns or bedding and 50% should The design of the Worm Factory 360 also aids this be greens. It is important to keep these two types bacteria take over because they can live in the of bacteria in mind as you read this section. 75) amounts of these high-moisture foods (greens) and not enough paper (browns) can cause a worm composter to become too moist. (p. wet bedding compacts. you notice moisture dripping. The slime on their bodies seal the tunnels. flow of oxygen through the composter. Most users express surprise Fruits and vegetables are 80% water. levels is critical to the successful functioning of the pulling air upwards through the trays. In their essay “Small-Scale School and Domestic Vermicomposting Systems”. it is recommended that 50% of the food you allowing the worms to breathe through their skin. absence of oxygen. The Worm 24 . greens in the bedding will stick together forcing the oxygen out. Moist bedding has a spongy the bedding. Where state that: does most of the moisture in your bedding come “ People expect offensive odors when they start burying their food waste in a small from? earthworm bin. If a small amount of moisture is visible have any unpleasant odor. oxygen which the worms need to breathe. It also affects the type of bacteria that thrive in the In contrast. The browns and composter. been added to the trays.Managing Moisture Understanding the importance of proper moisture Factory 360 is designed to “thermo-syphon” air. your bedding is WET. Aerobic bacteria or bacteria that live in As mentioned before testing moisture in your an oxygen rich environment bedding can be done by doing a “squeeze” or vs “pinch” test.

we recommend keeping the spigot in the can add more high-moisture foods and re-wet the collection base area open at all times with the moist newspaper cover. aerating or breathe without oxygen. can dry leaves or dry coconut coir. This will cause a noticeable offensive odor. In extreme conditions. cover the foods with dry material such as paper. leaves. If you have done a squeeze test natural odor simply reduce the amount you are and determined that there is too much moisture adding to the worm composter. The food under drier. Too composting process. To correct a dry bin. When adding shredded paper will prevent the flow of oxygen and allow to a tray that is mostly composted material you will anaerobic bacteria to thrive. sprinkler tray underneath to catch the leachate. To cut down on the corrected. In this case you can remove some of the excess food or stop feeding until you see the worms are visible in the top of the feeding tray. This is not recommended because it will negatively affect the REVIEW: Too much moisture in your bedding composting process. soak up excess moisture. offensive odor. Worms will need to allow time for the paper to be processed not live in this environment. the moist paper cover should be moist. humidity or excessive browns in the bedding. the food will start to compact and smell. Shredded paper will also work. aerate when doing this. If you find that your worm bin is not moist enough. If you are putting more food in the tray than the worms can process. very small amounts of water can be poured on top of the contents of the feeding tray. increase the amount of “browns” (dry bedding material) you are feeding. Coir will absorb the excess moisture. They cannot by the worms. much water can cause bedding to compact creating offensive odors. Dry conditions. actively working on the food that is already there. Overfeeding can also generate anaerobic bacteria. cardboard. Foods like this in the bedding there are several ways this can be include cabbage or onions. turning over the bedding in a tray that has become 25 . you Again. Leave the spigot open to allow any the compost and it will not negatively impact the excess moisture to drain into the sprinkler tray. egg cartons. you should always keep a You can also stop feeding high-moisture foods like moist newspaper cover (see pg 9) over the food fruits and vegetables until your composter becomes and bedding in your feeding tray. Dealing With Offensive Odors If you notice offensive odors it should alert you to If the smell is coming from foods that have a strong moisture problems. which will help to also be a problem although this is less common. which can be a result of low air Add dry shredded paper. In very dry conditions. Be very careful results. The water Adding dry coconut coir will give you the quickest will filter down to the lower trays. To correct wet conditions. anaerobic will help add oxygen to the wet bedding. or coconut coir.

This is why traditional outside composters cauliflower. worms refers to bedding temperature not air temperature may congregate together in a ball unless otherwise noted. beans. tofu. So if you have 12 hours at 80°F and 12 hours at 60°F the “mean air temperature” of the bedding for a 24 hour period would be 70°F.Controlling Bedding Temperature When composting worms are taken out of the soil It is common for people to move their worm and put into plastic containers it is important to composters to an indoor location with warmer keep in mind certain factors in order to keep your temperatures during the cold months of winter and worms healthy and productive. • Feed foods that are high in nitrogen. If the air temperature reached 100°F during the day it would be unlikely the bedding temperature would be adversely affected. However. seldom have large groups of composting worms. When keeping your Worm Factory 360 outside. The closer the bedding temperature is to sure the lid is on because worms are sensitive freezing the slower the worms will work. broccoli/ over 90°F. place it in a protected location where there is good Use the soil thermometer included with air movement. Make Celsius). Similarly. temperature”. peas. See page 51 Insulating and Heating a also slow down their reproduction rate. NEVER place your Worm Factory 360 your Worm Factory 360 to in the direct sun or rain. If the bedding When you see the word “temperature”. that looks like ground hamburger meat. These Worms will die if frozen and in bedding temperatures include leafy greens. A small portable heater can be placed next to the composter or a low Red wiggler worms survive in bedding temperatures watt lamp can be placed over the composter to between 35°F and 85°F. to a cooler location during the very hot months of summer. if the air temperature dropped to 25°F at night the bedding temperature likely would still be okay. The worms will naturally migrate temperatures between 55°F and 75°F (12° to 24° toward the warmer food and bedding. • Provide a heat source. if There are several things you can do to keep your extreme “mean air temperatures” persisted over a vermicomposter warm: longer period of time the worms would require your attention. Bedding is slow to react to changes in temperature. They will thrive in help warm it. they generate heat as they break down. Worm Composter. this always temperature is too cold. and mushrooms. oatmeal. lentils. It The average bedding temperature over a specific is a natural reaction and a signal that the worms are defined period is referred to as the “mean air cold and need to be moved to a warmer location. monitor the temperature of your bedding. This is one way that worms react to stress. They will to light. 26 .

feeding food with high salt content If conditions in your worm composter become too Signs of stress include: hot. worms will begin to migrate into lower trays • Worms gather and form a ball – this is a where it is cooler. The ice will melt and filter down through the lower trays. more than ¼” thick between trays. circulation. This works best at night. you can place pieces of wood no • Bin does not get enough air and worms suffocate. including: • Temperature extremes: too cold – under 40°F. the compost. out. • Bin is too wet and worms are drowning. • To increase airflow through the trays and cool • Bin is too dry and worms dry out. Just be careful that conditions don’t dry • The bin is exposed to extreme temperatures. and if you find • Worms were fed salty or offensive (a food they that you need more air movement. a fan. If you do not monitor the above Stressed Worms conditions you can have a dead box of Worms become stressed for various reasons. and worms migrate to upper trays • Drastic change in food or feeding food worms don’t like. The worms thrive in temperatures from 55°F to • You can use ice in emergencies. Never place your • Worms attempt to leave the trays or move into vermicomposter in direct sunlight. Dead worms decompose rather quickly. Place ice cubes 75°F. cooling them. • Sudden changes in barometric pressure • Vibrations such as those from a dryer or refrigerator • Exposure to light • Movement to a new habitat (such as when they arrive in your bin) • Moisture extremes: Too wet – bin smells. you can add particularly dislike) food. them. Leave the spigot Note: open to release any extra liquid. in the upper tray and cover with a layer of newspaper. or make sure it is in a shady spot with plenty of air worms crawling all over the bin trying to escape. If you notice the worm population dwindling. the collection base in large numbers • A sudden decrease in worm population as There are several things you can do to keep your worms die vermicomposter cool: • If your composter is outside in hot weather. This mimics their response to a protection mechanism hot surface temperature in nature. too hot – over 85°F 27 . check for the following: • Make sure the bedding remains properly moist. separating • Worms do not get enough food. Only do this in an emergency and be careful of your compost getting too moist. worms before you even realize it.

your worm enhanced worm castings and bits of decomposed compost is ready to harvest. chunks of matter are small and crumbly. Worm compost contains Over time you will have multiple processing trays minerals. Remove any buildup of castings 28 . although this varies. Compost Harvesting Steps 1 A good time to harvest the finished vermicompost is when the top “feeding tray” 2 Remove the bottom (finished) tray and place it on top of the stack of trays on your lid. so you should be able to harvest reference materials. Harvesting compost regularly also ensures that the finer compost doesn’t get into the holding tray and clog the spigot. Drain your leachate if you have any. enzymes. Worms sometimes gather in the collection base area. organic matter. a y Tr ed ish Fin ay Tr ing ed Fe a y Tr g in ss o ce Pr ay Tr Lid g in y ss a ce Tr y Pr o ed Tr a sh ni ing Fi ed 3 Fe y Check the collection base area to see if it a Tr g in e ss oc Pr ay Tr Pr oc e ss i ng needs attention. When the material is nearly black and the worms and be filled with nutrient rich microbially. Start by removing the lid and turn it finished tray should be directly on top of the upside down next to your Worm Factory 360. takes 3-4 months to complete the composting the bottom processing trays will contain fewer process. plant growth hormones. working at one time. compost about once a month. humus. Vermicompost is evenly granulated and is a dark coffee color.When Should You Harvest Your Worm Compost? As your worms migrate into the upper feeding tray. The is full. Refer to page 61 for a list of have increased. Remove all trays except for the finished tray on the bottom and place them on the lid. There is no exact point in time when the bottom Establish a regular harvesting schedule to help processing tray is ready to be emptied. it can become compacted and waterlogged and the lack of oxygen invites anaerobic bacteria to move in and create a stink. but it generally prevent your finished vermicompost from going anaerobic (which smells bad). current feeding tray. Your worm population should and living organisms. If finished compost is left too long in your system.

and partially decomposed Allowing vermicompost to become too dry halts organic matter that is still somewhat recognizable. store your compost in a non-airtight The partially decomposed organic material in container. castings comprise the bulk of become impossible to re-wet. It is now ready to reuse or set aside for later use. spatula that came with your system to gently Flush the spigot with water to ensure that it loosen the compost. Place a moist blanket of newspaper over vermicompost continues to break down during the stored compost. The tray that was previously second from moisture and become lighter and fluffier. and Your Worm Compost. depending on how the compost has been managed If you store vermicompost it is best to first let it dry a and how long the compost has been processed in little. the vermicompost storage. forming a hill or leachate. Repeat this process Fin ish ed Tra y several times. 29 . the material. pass through the worm. Wait at least 30 minutes the finished tray should be on top. decomposed organic matter that did not toxic by-products which can cause a foul smell. See page 32 for tips on using sides of the tray to the center. Placing actively decomposing organic slowly stabilizes in an aerobic environment and has a materials in an airtight container encourages shelf life of more than three years. This will cause it to lose 4 Replace the stack of trays on the collection base. Use your hands or the rake and below now becomes a “processing tray”. Stored this way. Worms do the tray should be empty. Storing Your Worm Compost Vermicompost is a mixture of worm castings (worm anaerobic organisms to take over. The empty not like light and any remeaining worms will tray is now in the correct position to become begin to migrate downward into the feeding your next “feeding tray” and the “feeding tray” tray below. air flow through the material to prevent anaerobic bacteria. the decomposition and can cause the material to In most situations. or worms and put them in the feeding tray. Storing the bottom should now be on the bottom. allowing light to shine on the tray of finished vermicompost. pulling it away from the is not clogged. Collection a pyramid. usually around 70-80% of the total. This exposes more surface to the Base light and will encourage the worms to migrate Worm Ladder down faster into the lower tray. You do not want it to dry out! See Pg 29. stacked on and then begin to scoop off the compost until the feeding tray. and form plant poop). always allowing time for the y worms to move down into the lower tray. This ensures sufficient the system. so it is damp but not wet. Drain Spigot The raking action will loosen and aerate the vermicompost. Then. you encounter worms. a g Tr e din Fe y Tra g in ss ce Pro y Tra g ssin ce Pro After you have done this a few times most of your worms should have migrated down and 5 Leave the lid off.

30 . and • By soaking worm castings in water. Teaming with Microbes. give your • Worm castings will not burn plants so you can vermicompost to a friend to use! Composting is a work castings into the soil before planting seeds great way to recycle household waste. national. (p.. “ worm castings are 50% higher in organic “ matter than soil that has not moved through By diverting all or part of your kitchen. local. 87) If you don’t have a garden or planter pots. used as a side dressing or mixed into potting soil. average topsoil. landfill space and gain a valuable soil those produced by bacteria in the worm’s amendment. ” ” crisis. even bonds that otherwise tie up nutrients and global ability to deal with our growing trash prevent their being plant-available. properly. seven times the available potting soil.The benefits don’t stop there. and yard waste you will save worm’s digestive enzymes (or. • Worm castings can be used periodically as a top As a fertilizer. phosphate. worm castings can be worked into the soil before planting. dressing around the base of plants. The nutrients are water-soluble and are immediately available to plants. worms. Recycle- A worm composter can reduce the amount of household waste going into landfills by up to 30%. 2) (Lowenfels and Lewis. The paper. and intestines) unlock many of the chemical vermicomposting are the logical steps to aid in our personal. p. you can also one and a half times more calcium than found in make a great liquid fertilizer. • Nutrients in worm castings are very stable and can replace “commercial” fertilizers in potting mixes. There are several ways to use your worm compost in a garden or planter. ten times the available potash. Recycling.. Worm castings on average contain five times • Worm castings can be used as an ingredient of the available nitrogen. • Because worms concentrate nutrients you can use castings as a fertilizer. In addition. or bedding plants. Grossman and Toby Weitzel say in Recycle with Earthworms: The Red Wiggler Connection.5 X NITROGEN POTASH CALCIUM As Shelley C.Using Finished Vermicompost Reduce your Impact. 5 X 10 X 1. composting.

4) plants. Jack states: needed. phosphorus. They will contain Use worm castings in planters or thousands of bacteria. magnesium.As a soil conditioner. • Worm castings lockup acid-forming carbon in the soil which increases nitrogen levels in a form that the plant can easily use. Some of these soil organisms lush growth for about 3 months without adding release potassium. adding of the mix of worm castings makes an excellent beneficial microorganisms back to the soil and providing a source of food for the ones germination mixture and will ensure continuous. already there. (Minnich. plants from absorbing more of these compounds Organic Wastes. strengthen plants against diseases. A starting medium mixed with 5-10% long after the casting is excreted. Use worm castings in houseplants- • Worm castings increase the ability of the soil to Side dress your houseplants by applying retain water. They form aggregates or mineral vermicompost around the clusters that combine to withstand water erosion base of the plant or make and soil compaction. Loren Nancarrow “ The potential of vermicomposts to suppress disease in a variety of pathosystems and Janet Hogan Taylor state that: ” has been extensively documented. Allison L. • Worm castings suppress “damping off” in new • Humic acid in worm castings stimulates plant seed starts. 142) into the soil when you water. and Environmental then they need and releasing them later when Management. iron. p. little holes in the soil and fill the holes with Worm Castings “ are vitally important in developing water stability. growth and development of beneficial micro flora populations in the soil. H. and sulfur into the soil • Worm castings aren’t harsh: they won’t burn your ” ready for plant use. The accept and retain moisture for growing nutrients will soak ” crops. any other plant food. This prevents In Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms. (p. enzymes. 175) “ Castings are food for other beneficial microorganisms. (p. that property worm castings to get it closer to the of soil which enables it to remain loose to root systems. calcium. and remnants of plant and animal material pots- that were not digested by the earthworm. 31 . The Earthworm Book. • Worm castings buffer soil by binding with and holding heavy metals in the soil. As a suppressor of plant pests and • Worm castings stabilize toxins and the beneficial diseases- microbes in castings often reduce or eliminate • Worm castings discourage many plant pests and harmful fungi and bacteria in the soil. • Worm castings can be used as part of a total The composting process then continues planting mix. In The Worm Book.

p. It is brewed by either soaking a porous bag During decomposition. DO NOT use on any and bad bacteria. The population of beneficial microbes sprinkler tray underneath to catch the leachate to will explode. Vermiculture Technology. For every story extolling the benefits of using leachate there is one lamenting the problems from having used it. to boost microbiological activity in soil by adding It should not be used on edible garden plants. Leachate can contain phytotoxins (toxins that can harm plants and humans). your worm composter is probably too wet! increase oxygen levels and create a healthy aerobic We recommend leaving your spigot open with the environment. avoid having it build up in your system.Leachate Vs. Then. Sherman. 32 . This is ok of course. 160) 2 Dilute it ten parts water to one part leachate (10:1). an air pumping system is installed to a week. array of microorganisms that colonize leaf surfaces. The worm compost inoculates the tea adjust the moisture level in your composter. Arancon. as long as the edible plants you intend to eat. stir it vigorously. fungi. This liquid or leachate seeps down the castings into a container of clean chemical free through the worm composter into the collection water. Leachate - 3 The liquid runoff that settles in or below the Aerate it with an air pump if available or vermicompost or worm castings is known as leachate. Every worm composter has good 4 Use it outdoors on shrubs. (Edwards. ornamentals or flowering plants only. The leachate should be drained regularly and to the water as a catalyst to stimulate growth of the if you are getting more than 2-3 ounces of liquid in microbes. These While leachate can have value as a liquid fertilizer it should be treated with caution. waste releases liquid from full of worm castings in water or simply dumping the cell structure. Some leachate Worm Compost Tea - can contain harmful pathogens because it has not Worm compost tea is known mostly for its ability been processed through the worms intestinal tract. Worm Compost Tea Keeping the distinction between these terms is important. Just keep an eye on it to make sure your container doesn’t Worm compost used in making tea is like the starter overflow! See Managing Moisture in the Worm you use in making yoghurt or the yeast you put in Factory 360 on page 25 to determine if you need to bread dough. good ones outnumber the bad ones. ” vermicompost teas. Some of these toxins are created by bacteria. bacteria. If you Salter and Edwards state: “ Direct foliar application of vermicompost tea provides nutrients that may be utilized directly by decide you want to use the leachate we recommend the plant while also introducing a diverse taking some extra steps. An increase in scientific studies is showing this to be instrumental 1 Do Not use if it smells bad! Pour it out on in the disease suppression capabilities of an area where it cannot harm living plants. actinomycetes. with a diversity of beneficial microorganisms. and protozoa to the soil. Molasses (a food source) may then be added area.

For bacterial dominance. For the Along with these great benefits come a boost in molasses. in nitrogen or considered “greens” to your worms. liquid ounce black strap molasses per gallon of tea and an equal amount of cold-water kelp. Some need bacteria. trees. or plant skin. 25-26) a bacterial-dominated soil. you’ll feed one and long term. It has been proven that the worm compost tea. you can also substitute brown sugar. Plants produce Making organic worm compost tea involves several certain hormones (like the jasmonic acid hormone) important steps: 1) choosing the right compost. while grasses and vegetables prefer soils dominated by Plants differ in their soil preferences. can significantly increase and one part fish hydrolyzate or other proteins into plant growth. parasites like the infamous aphid. which are broken down and used over development of fungi in the tea. feed larger amounts of cardboard and paper or organic materials that are high in carbon or considered “browns” to your worms. prefer fungally dominant soils.beneficial microbes help the plants by occupying green plant waste or organic materials that are high infection sites on the plants’ root and leaf surfaces. the bad disease-causing microbes are again outnumbered and cannot populate to the levels of “ Since the path from bacterial to fungal domination in soils follows the general taking over a single plant. pond or distilled water for brewing. and still others like a soil that’s somewhere in between. saponin or aloe vera along with the castings. When worm tea is sprayed on leaves and foliage. 2) that insects find distasteful so they are repelled. the leaves from severe elements and reduces attacks In general. a waxy layer on top of the to predict what type of soil particular plants epidermis. and root knot nematodes. rainwater. p. you some background to tea making. This waxy surface protects preferred by noting where they came from. Our instructions are only meant to give as Pythium and Rhizoctonia. it became easy in creating the “cuticle”. To encourage the castings. out-competing any anaerobic or pathogenic Always use only de-chlorinated water. To make bacterially dominated vermicompost tea. organisms present. two parts yucca. others want a fungal- dominated soil. mix two parts time. the plant’s own immune system to be able to resist honey or maple syrup if you like. Teaming With Microbes. use food waste. and shrubs by certain harmful microorganisms and insects. choosing the right nutrients 3) brewing and applying Worm tea also helps a plant to resist diseases such tea correctly. ” (Lowenfels and Lewis. 33 . To make fungally dominated vermicompost tea. Worm compost tea that is applied to the plants is Brewing nutrients which are not necessary. as well as crop yields in both the short the water. perennials. humic acid. The tea also aids the plant course of plant succession. can absorbed more rapidly by the plant than worm be added to the finished tea. tomato cyst eelworm.

so they rely on elements for absorption. When you think of the smell commonly associated with fresh soil. (Sherman & Appelhof. “ The composting process continues after a worm casting has been deposited. but it contains billions of organisms. thus simplifying Earthworms actually lack the enzymes to break and reducing the molecules to their component down much of what they eat. the bacterial population of a cast is much protozoa. and the primary decomposers duplication of DNA and protein chemistry basic to of organic matter on earth. actinomycetes increases. In fact. In this way. also release various nutrients such as nitrogen and (Lowenfels and Lewis. or the earthworm’s These microbes are either swallowed with the earthworm’s food or are already present in a worm’s ” gut. By adding worm casts to this equation. it in our gardens. and a few dozen convert dead organics into a type of peat. that’s actinomycetes you are smelling! When you think of all the wonderful benefits that “ A mere teaspoon of good garden soil. contains are derived from humus. nematodes. which are rich chemical pesticides that poison everything in the in amino acids and minerals. As bacteria simplify the these microbes to do it for them. The digested microbes. This is the basis for the Bacteria are the most numerous organisms in the production of chlorophyll in the leaf and for the vermicompost system. Then the broken-down organic matter is excreted as a worm Actinomycetes are basically a higher form of bacteria cast (and is teeming with microbes). It is the nutrients organic matter they make it available to earthworms released by the bacteria that are absorbed into and other organisms in the system as well. worm castings Protozoa eat mineral releasing. you boost it and help it flourish. making it available for mixture into the topsoil. several yards working very deep in the soil. 34 . p. The opposite of microbes. and we can use which have several very notable characteristics. These include: bacteria. and ” nematodes. are excreted into the soil in the name of abundant yields. as measured by microbial geneticists. 68) gut. They work on organic plant growth. Often a billion invisible bacteria. material by secreting enzymes which break the bonds holding molecules together. Since actinomycetes possess the ability to produce antibiotics. greater than the bacterial population of either ingested soil. many other detrimental It is this incredible community of life that supports bacterial populations decrease as the number of all gardening. that’s actinomycetes! They are crucial to the formation of humus. nitrogen fixing are the ultimate organic fertilizer. fungi and molds. Plants are then able to take up these nutrients from the soil. compost. Teaming with Microbes. Worms Eat My Garbage. actinomycetes of equally invisible fungal hyphae. the worm’s bloodstream as nourishment. agriculture and forestry in our world. p. They work hard to aid the digestion of the worm’s food. several thousand protozoa. 19) carbon.A Living Ecosystem The Microbial Community A vermicomposting tray is small.

exoskeleton (external). They survive on energy which they obtain from the organic matter in dead plants and animals. 35 . They are often thought to be baby red arthropods are abundant small invertebrates that wigglers. quiet environments. pseudo scorpions. includes yeasts. ” Nematodes are very small. helping to break down the nutrients contained in those organisms to make them plant-available.Molds and fungi are common organisms in a healthy include mites. molds. They are also an additional food source to other organisms in the system. There are about 20. crustaceans and other organisms. are often irritation to humans with mold allergies. A small population of fruit flies may be inevitable. causing no harm. They are mostly Arthropods and other organisms you will find in your beneficial in your bin. translucent. your bin should be kept outdoors are white. Pot the animals living in the worm bin. These soil arthropods can be important Fungi are not classified as plant or animal. Soil earthworm. and They’re scientifically known as enchytraeids (enn- jointed appendages. A few of mold and fungi indicate there is more food than creatures that are large enough to be seen the system can quickly manage and the feeding rate may also start to show up. Because mold and fungi grow most microorganisms—bacteria—that occur in prolifically in still. eating bacteria and fungi and Worm Factory®360 are described below. Typical soil arthropods when they are tiny.) The pot worms are or in a garage or basement that is well ventilated to closely related to earthworms and feed reduce or eliminate irritation. secreting worm bin creatures in The Earth Moved: On the enzymes which break down and simplify the organic Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms: material. insect larvae. and worm system. Pill bugs— should be decreased. large amounts the bin as food scraps decompose. If you are mistaken for baby earthworms. a segmented body.000 species of nematodes on the planet. (Pot worms allergic to molds. Mold is a good indicator of whether or not the feeding “ Be prepared for a few critters to find their way into your bin no matter what you do. They feed on decaying Amy Stewart offers some words of wisdom on organic matter with tiny. including earthworms. Potworms Pot worms are small white worms commonly found Arthropods in soil. and they are harmless additions to the system. but are in controlling the rate of litter decomposition and organized into their own group. or terrestrial enchytraeids. hair-like hyphae.204-205) roundworms that mineralize nutrients contained in bacteria and fungi. The Kingdom of Fungi altering nutrient cycling in your worm composter. kee-TRAY-ids) and are segmented relatives of the arachnids. An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an especially in compost piles or in earthworm farms. roly-poly bugs—are always attracted to compost piles and are considered a sign of Mold and fungi pose no threat to the garden or good health in any composting system. unsegmented although they are also harmless. (P. They can develop into massive populations. but baby red wigglers are reddish even live in the soil and litter layer. and there will be several of them in your worm bin. alongside them. but baby worms are reddish and faintly translucent. springtails. After all. Fungi are simple living organisms. but can cause worms. and mushrooms. Arthropods include insects. the worms eat the rate is adequate.

Commonly they will spring up (seemingly out of nowhere) when lots of acidic materials are added to the bin. There is some mixing organic matter into the soil. They 36 . You can Feather-winged beetles feed on fungal spores. Some species are predators. while also try enticing them with bread soaked in milk. They are attracted to the soaked bread and can be lifted out and destroyed in large batches. Beetles If the bin is too dry. Pot worms feed on the same type of litter as earthworms and inhabit organic rich environments. Earwigs Adults measure about a quarter of an inch. logs or dead leaves. large quantities of acidic or starchy foods. or when starchy materials are added and allowed to ferment. They are not harmful in a worm to your red wiggler worm population. Most species of earwigs are scavengers that feed on dead insects and decaying plant material. They both need and are very attracted to moisture. composter but may eat some of the earthworm feed. and are easily identified by the prominent pincers on the end of the abdomen. Earwigs are outdoor insects usually found under mulch. Just as pot worms won’t harm other living worm species. case as pot worms and a host of other creatures. This species prefers an acid environment that is moist. They are efficient at aerating soil and breaking down just about any organic material. Pot worms feed on bacteria. The most common beetles in compost are the rove To keep potworm populations in check avoid feeding beetle. reddish brown flattened insect. and can may try to pinch if handled carelessly. often in great numbers. That is typically not the known to prey on nematodes. Pot worms tend unnecessary worry that overpopulation will choke to congregate together under food. up to one inch in length. the larger rove and ground beetles prey on insects. including those that cannot be seen except under Earwigs a magnifying glass or microscope.The name “pot worms” comes from the fact they ingest small mineral particles and may play a role in inhabit the soil in pots and containers. ground beetle and feather-winged beetle. Earwigs are rapid runners. The common earwig is a light. They are also out the worm population. fungi and dead organic matter. they have no enzymes for digesting these complex carbohydrates. they do no damage to living plants either. but are literally appear to be in the millions in comparison harmless to people. However. they will die. reside peaceably with earthworms.

drive not wet. Remember the same conditions that ensure high worm production will be less favorable to mites. gray. Springtails are most Mites can compete with the worms for available numerous in wet bedding. Most rove beetles are black or brown your vermicomposter and play an important role and are medium sized beetles. a nuisance because they eat the worm’s food and • Too much moisture. orange. They are slender. One deals with them found in composting bins. Review Pages 24 & 25 on Managing Moisture. mite population is too high the worms will burrow deep into the beds and not come to the surface Springtails to feed. metallic green and lavender. If you find your Worm Factory 360 overrun by mites. Their tail often bends upwards and they can be mistaken Mites are the most common insect to show up in for earwigs. They feed on mold. cut back on water and feed. over half of Mites the top surface of the abdomen is exposed. Rove the worms deep into the beds and keep them from beetles are the most common group of beetles coming to the surface to feed. Most worm composters contain to one inch long. while numbers decrease food if the population spirals too high. They are not known for attacking the earthworms but do eat the worm’s food. Mites are small and are runners. Add additional shredded 37 . which hampers worm reproduction and growth. Springtails can “jump” about 75 mm. They have a tiny spring- like structure under their bellies that causes them to jump when disturbed. fungi. Rove beetles are active fliers or several species of mites. High mite as the bedding dries out. a few species are up in decompostion. (See below) elongated beetles with wing covers (elytra) that are much shorter than the abdomen. Springtails are tiny. red. Rove beetles don’t sting. but can give Most worm beds usually contain several species a painful bite. snails. populations usually result from: Although they have on occasion been observed to • Feeding the earthworms overly moist food and eat dead or weak worms. usually white in color but may also be yellow. bacteria and decomposing plant material so they are harmless to earthworms. of feed. They are found in or near decaying of mites. the same way one deals with mites.worms. wingless insects. When the Beetles are not harmful in the worm composter. When they run they often raise the tip of usually whitish brown to reddish brown in color. when the populations are big enough. the abdomen. slugs and other small animals. They tend to concentrate near the edges organic matter and feed on other insects such as fly and surfaces of the worm beds and around clusters maggots. springtails are primarily vegetable refuse. Keep the trays damp but can.

The eggs attach to the surfaces centipedes is to remove them by hand which should of fruits and vegetables. but their bodies and check to make sure the spigot is not plugged. are more flattened and less rounded at either end. but those species 38 . damp conditions flying around in small circles in groups called “ghosts. They will use the pincers to sting. gangly legs. The worm bin is the perfect fruit fly and fungus gnat haven because both have a preference for organic Centipedes are fast moving predators that will matter and damp. but they are NOT harmful to your worms or the composting process. Drain off any liquid that has collected in the base Centipedes resemble millipedes. Gnats are usually encountered in warm. insect larvae and adult can lay 500 eggs in their lifecycle. area. They are simply a nuisance. and they can be unpleasant guests. each segment having two pairs of walking legs. They have light brown heads and Centipedes can be relocated to an outside garden red eyes and reach about 1/8” in length. Centipedes have one set of legs per segment on the Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats bodies and a pair of pincers which originate behind the head. moist conditions. The only way to control about a week long. They have black bodies and long. The stingers behind their head possess poison glands that they Fruit flies reproduce quickly and abundantly – each use to paralyze small earthworms.” See page 42 for further Reading– How to Deal with Millipedes have wormlike segmented bodies with Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats. into our homes. kill worms and should be removed. Millipedes Fungus gnats feed on and lay eggs in plants or rotting vegetable matter. Centipedes Colors range from black to red. Fruit flies can be a problem year round but are especially prevalent in the summer and fall because they are attracted to ripened or fermented fruits and vegetables. which is small insects and spiders. They eat a lot of bad bugs so are considered a beneficial insect in the proper setting. and that is how they travel be done carefully. Fruit fly invasions are a fact of life in the worm composting world.paper or coconut coir to absorb any excess moisture.

They are harmless to earthworms. Sow bugs are usually found in the upper Cut several 1 inch openings in the sides of a clean. scraps require a moist habitat because they have delicate and other insects. They feed on fungi. The presence of ants is also an indication of dry bedding. They will usually go away. and around the worm composter cleaned up. The rake. The slugs will be attracted to the beer or yeast mixture. 2 cups warm water. They are brown to gray in color and have seven pairs of legs and two It is best to remove any slugs or snails you find antennae. Check the container regularly. also known as a “wood louse” are fat bodied crustaceans with delicate plate like gills along the lower surface of their abdomens which must be kept moist and a segmented. ½ teaspoon baker’s yeast. Sink the container into the abundance of unprocessed organic matter. seeds. Slugs & Snails If ants have begun to establish themselves in the worm composter you can discourage their presence Slugs and snails can be found in your vermicomposter. They shred and consume some of the make a slug trap as follows: toughest materials. plants. armored shell similar in appearance to an armadillo. They bedding of the top tray of the worm composter so are highly beneficial in the worm composter but can that the holes are just above the level of the compost. harm young plants. If they become a problem you can vegetation. fall in and drown. They will roll up in a ball when in danger. 1 teaspoon sugar. They do not bite Ants are attracted to the food in the composting or sting or harm other plants or animals. those high in cellulose and lignins. sweets. areas of the worm composter where there is an covered plastic container. The eggs can reddish-brown. grazing on decaying immediately. 39 . Pill bugs or “rolly polly bugs” look similar to sow Ants bugs but roll up in a ball when disturbed. Sow bugs or Pill Bugs (isopods) Sow bugs. Keep any food that is spilled in gill-like breathing organs that must be kept moist. by soaking the area where they are located with While they will not harm the worms they will eat water and turning the bedding with a trowel or hand any fresh kitchen waste in the composter. Remove the lid and pour in ½ inch of beer or a yeast mixture of 2 tablespoons flour. Millipedes move much more slowly than Centipedes and have a rounder body. They move slowly. Millipedes are vegetarians that be transferred into your plantings in the compost break down plant material by eating decaying plant providing them with a meal of succulent young vegetation. Pill bugs trays.found in the worm bin are commonly brown or biggest detriment is the eggs they lay. They belong to the crustacean family.

which will attract them away from the worm composter. to to another. Most garden centers sell a sticky substance that will deter ants. They bit in order to latch onto your flesh with a barbed mandible The larvae of the fly are a type of small maggot that and will sting repeatedly in a circular motion. If you have a problem with blow flies or house flies where you live. It flies are often metallic in appearance. Adult flies vary in potassium by moving the minerals from one place color from black. It can rotting waste or feces when they hatch. They can quickly destroy not a real threat to the worms. Make sure feces. This prevents the ants from walking across the water. House flies is eco friendly and does not contain any insecticide are commonly gray in color. DO NOT use any insecticide on the actual abdomens. A properly maintained worm composter will not stink and therefore not attract blow flies and house flies. greasy food waste or pet by keeping the moisture on the dry side. They can be distinguished from other ants by their copper brown head and body with a darker abdomen. you can hang up fly strips. The feeds exclusively on decayed or rotting material. Most ants do not bother the worms. This is the perfect environment for them to that there is a good cover of bedding material over lay their eggs. The exception is Fire Ants (see below). Fire Ants Fire ants are a variety of stinging ant. Their larvae or maggots feed on the the feeding area. Like Blow Flies & House Flies the vermiculture worms their feces make excellent compost. 40 . brightly colored black and yellow patterns. them or compete with them for food and may in fact complement the compost worm’s activities. metallic blue.One way to keep ants out of your worm composter is to put each of your bin’s legs in a dish of water that has had a drop of dish soap placed in it to reduce the surface tension of the water. They can best be kept out of the worm Blow flies and house flies are attracted by the smell composter by not using meat and fatty waste and of fresh or rotting meat. In nature ants benefit the Soldier Flies composting process by bringing fungi and other organisms back to their nests. green or purple. They do not attack your worm populations. venom will burn and cause tiny blisters that persist They are often found in worm composters but are for days if left untreated. Adults have yellow poisons. The work of ants Soldier flies are true flies that resemble wasps in can make worm compost richer in phosphorus and their appearance and behavior. Blow be painted on the legs of your worm composter. Blowflies and house flies can spread worm bedding or you will kill your worms! disease.

blue/black fly. if allowed to stay in your vermicomposting Land Planarians. 41 . If you really can’t stand them. then in all likelihood the larvae ingest potentially pathogenic material the maggots you are seeing will be soldier flies. like the redworms. small pieces. or bury it in the garden). Just be sure iridescent slimy worms. will help to recycle your waste. your worms back into fresh bedding. gray to brown in color. maturity they leave the feeding area to pupate. Then put bite or sting. The most common type tropical plants. have any foul odors in the bin. each other. It has no mouth and cannot compost pile. moist areas during Larvae are the immature form of an insect that the day. found in a worm composter are grey-brown and about 1/2” long. They fly manure does make good worm feed. or collect to dry out in hot sun. they and destroyed as soon as you see them. that your worms get plenty to eat as well. Larvae are often areas and are thought to be dispersed with rooted reffered to as maggots. These larvae are insect larvae. it can be difficult to them harmless. In fact. When the larvae reach quickly) and fly off. fly. They eat slugs. and disease-causing organisms and thus render Once your bin has soldier flies. Your best tactic is to simply allow an odor which positively discourages houseflies and them to grow out of the larval stage (which they do certain other flying pests. your worms Flat Worms or Land Planarian and your plants. These are the larvae of the soldier Land Planarians are cannibalistic. predator of earthworms. and don’t housefly. The soldier with dark stripes running down their back. Land Planarians thrive Larvae in high temperatures and require high humidity to survive. The best way to destroy them is to spray them with orange oil or bleach. They will grow back from produce a high quality casting. They are very good decomposers and. are system. They should be removed and will not harm you or your worms. and are a voracious attracted to compost piles and to the worm bin. a large pretty. Moreover black soldier flies exude get rid of them. They are native to tropical and sub tropical undergoes some metamorphosis. as well. do not spread bacteria or disease. Smashing are good decomposers and. will will not destroy them. The you’ll have to harvest the worms and get rid of all adult fly is nocturnal and characterized by very fast your vermicompost material (put it in an outdoor and rather clumsy flight. cool.These remarkable creatures. Soldier fly larvae are harmless to you. have a hammer or disk shaped head. also called Flatworms. In fact. They hide in dark. Feeding and movement occur at night. unlike the common If you haven’t added animal proteins.

1 Place some apple or red wine vinegar (NOT white vinegar) in a container with a drop of dish soap to break the surface tension of the vinegar. Situate one close to destroys any eggs that exist in the food waste. do one of the following: XX Add a tray on top of your feeding tray with just shredded paper or cardboard in it. allows air and moisture to escape but thwarts the pesky flies. We recommend having a trap in operation near XX Add a layer of shredded paper and/or moist coir your worm bin at all times. your worm bin and the flies will get trapped. Then. flies and fungus gnats. Make sure the food has returned to room temperature before adding it to your composter. especially when used Create a Barrier in conjunction with other methods. By trapping the on the surface of your top feeding tray to help adults. Eliminate an Infestation XX The eggs laid on fruit and vegetable peels are If you already have a fruit fly infestation in your on the surface. get rid of them: XX Microwaving waste for 2-3 minutes or freezing XX Sticky fly tape or sticky fly traps can help to food before placing it in the worm composter control adult populations. XX Drape the worm composter with finely woven 42 . XX Build a fruit fly trap. The goal is to reduce the chance of infestation.How to Deal with Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats Destroy the Eggs piece of cloth. This is a simple. This creates a barrier to fruit flies looking to lay eggs in your food scraps. here are some options for how to peeling and adding to the worm composter. you prevent them from laying eggs in discourage adults from laying their eggs. This your bin. Wash all produce well before worm composter. effective tool for management. This will stop the fruit flies from getting into the feeding tray and prevent any Prevention is the best strategy for dealing with fruit that are in tray from getting out.

Do not newsprint. if they are congregating in another area of the house. centers that can be sprayed to control pests in and around the garden. The flies tend to cluster around windows XX Predatory nematodes called Steinernema spp. to look for them. The problem is that flies can this method often renders it impractical. This because it has some negative effect on the is effective in killing adult flies as they escape beneficial organisms in the bin. This should be used XX Use a battery operated fly zapper. Punch small holes in the surface of the saran wrap. seal the bag. and other light sources so that is a good place also kill larvae. start adding food scraps to the trays again. but have trouble getting the fruit flies. to the vinegar. continue to fly and breed in these traps. 43 . gone. 2 Make a funnel out of paper that goes down XX Carnivorous plants can put a dent in your fruit into the container. The flies can fly underneath There is nothing in the papers that will attract the bag to get in. but once they touch it they cannot get back out and drown. A combination of several biocontrol methods seems Many people advise using banana to work to eradicate emerging fly populations. harm the worms. paper. Bio-Controls There are also various biocontrol organisms that will Note: help deal with a fruit fly or fungus gnat population. The key is to only when you have an extreme infestation get one that is designed for small insects. but it does not from the bin or congregate in lighted areas. peels and other fruit in fruit fly however the expense and complication of managing traps. Flies go through the small holes and then have trouble escaping and drown in the vinegar. When you are sure the files are back out because of the weight of the bag. XX A bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis can be applied as a soil or compost drench to help kill off larvae. XX Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the flies as XX Another method is a predatory mite called they emerge from your bin during feeding. cardboard or egg cartons. or Hypoaspis miles that eats gnat and fly larvae. The advantage to the vinegar traps is that flies drown. It is possible for fruit flies to live inside the vacuum cleaner so use care when XX Neem is an organic oil found in many garden emptying the vacuum. Fruit flies are attracted fly population when set near the worm bin. 4 Cover the container with saran wrap and secure with a rubber band. XX Stop adding food scraps to the worm composter and feed them exclusively moistened shredded 3 Put a Ziploc bag over the container.

worms. move through it. working through the detritus in which they live. p.000 species of earthworms on our planet. “ many endogeic species inhabit the rhizosphere. 148) ” ingest mineral soil and digest the organic material and microorganisms found there. The Earth Moved. They way. “ Worms are ruminators. but always in motion. They spend their lives in a kind of active mediation. almost thoughtful. and Asia and have since been introduced to the Americas and islands around the world.About Worms Most of us are unaware and perhaps do not Earthworms can be separated into three major appreciate how important worms are. Many of Amy Stewart informs us that: these species originated in the Middle East. (Stewart. They sift through whatever surrounds them. Endogeic worms are probably the least recognizable to most people since they very rarely come to the 44 . the bits of leaves and grass and particles of soil for a being with Endogeic worms live in the deeper soil layers and such a simple brain. the area immediately around plant roots. They make complex horizontal burrow systems that are very important for aerating soil and allowing moisture Types of Worms and nutrients to move through the soil. They are vital groups based on their burrowing and feeding habits. explore it. twisting and burrowing. 27) See ” (Stewart. to the development and function of the soil. p. The All three groups play important roles in the soil food ancient Greeks considered them to be ‘the intestines web but only one group makes good composting of the soil’. shrinking and contracting and eating. illustration above. and fungi. The Earth Moved. They are present in soil everywhere except for the harshest desert and arctic regions. in no great hurry. bacteria. Europe. They are deliberate creatures. a worm seems. where they feed on soil that has been enriched by decaying roots. turn it over. There are about 7. in this mineral horizon of the upper layers of soil.

is very similar to the like fallen leaves. also alongside or atop the opening of their burrows and known as manure worms. They mature and reproduce slowly and duplicated in a worm composting bin. they are better able to withstand temperature known as the Belgian. or red wiggler. and suitability for composting. • They are happy to live in high-population density situations. They also eat soil. The third group of worms are the ones we are most • Red wiggler worms are tolerant of handling by interested in. they prefer to live in loose organic litter. up to 6 feet deep. matter. These worms are medium-sized and pale in color and are not suitable for worm composting. Because they are not powerful burrowers. They will not survive There are several other epigeic worms that are good in most garden soils unless there is a good layer of for composting. Anecic worms build permanent. water retention. they are perfect for worm These large worms have long lives – sometimes up composting because their natural habitat can be to six years. • They are able to handle fluctuating temperature and environmental conditions. trout worms. • They are voracious eaters. These are the composting worms! humans. require stable burrows and a low population density to survive. They reproduce more slowly than consumed.surface. deep vertical burrows. Anecic worms are not suitable for worm • They reproduce at a high rate in ideal conditions. or European nightcrawler. consuming up to half of their body weight in decaying organic matter per day. These are Epigeic worms create castings that are many times larger than Eisenia fetida and live deeper in a worm higher in nutrients than the material they originally composting bin. and rise to the surface at night to search for food. feeding and habitat preferences. and are a vital part of the soil food web. or very loose topsoil rich in organic red wiggler in size. the Eisenia fetida. Because epigeic worms live on the very surface of Eisenia hortsenis. are important for aerating the soil and helping with or compost worms. Epigeic worms are surface dwellers and feed only on decaying organic material. ENC and Blue Worm. Super Red. is also soil. Carolina Crawler. They feed on fresh surface litter and often pull leaves or other decaying matter into their burrows to feed. organic matter on top. Giant Redworm. Lumbricus rubellus. 45 . composting but are great for fishing bait. and moisture fluctuations than other worms. tiger worms. Small and reddish-brown. For your vermicomposter. we recommend using the Anecic worms often leave little mounds of castings epigeic worm Eisenia fetida. • They have a very wide range of potential foods. or redworm.

Lift up the top layer of food and newspaper in your bin and you will surely be awestruck at the spectacle of CILIA MOUTH SEGMENTS such industry taking place…: thousands of CLITELLUM worms churning through your apple cores The ‘setae’ help the worm to move. or African nightcrawler. Along “ They [worms] are clean. Because worms live below ground. There is a film hot. Amy Stewart recognizes the beauty and Each segment is heavily muscled. arch its back. is good for fishing. lubricates the worms’ pathways through drive other species of worms out. They breathe Worm or Indian Blue Worm. soil. also known as Malaysian Blue like humans sweating to stay cool). Worms have five “hearts” that are vessels between 46 . In Staying moist is vital to this process. or being touched very Structure much. Oxygen is the Eisenia fetida and has an iridescent blue sheen. visit www.Eudrilus eugeniae. in most of North America (Hawaii excepted). and even beautiful in the way that any organism can be if you know just how to Adult Red Worm (Eisenia fetida) look at it. This will result in a successful worm is even larger than the European nightcrawler and composting experience. Perionyx excavates has been of mucus on the worm’s skin that helps it to hold known to invade worm composting systems and moisture. taking it all and turning it back ” into earth. Earthworms are cold-blooded. taken in through the body wall. They Understanding the biology of a worm will help you to are streamlined to move beneath our feet sensing understand how worms create compost. teeth or limbs. well- behaved creatures. The segmented strength of worms: structure of a worm allows it to push through dense soil. For sources of composting or at least underneath a layer of litter. You will PROSTOMIUM be won over. cements the walls of burrows and is vital to the reproductive process.’ Larger worms have more segments than smaller worms. lift sticks and rocks and move with agility. Put a worm in your hand and Anterior (Front) Posterior (Back) watch it expand each segment in turn. and they remain cool because they are always moist (think of it Perionyx excavatus. light and movement. interesting to watch. what food is best for them and how to maintain their living environment will help to avoid possible Worms have segments called ‘somites. is thinner and faster than through their skins through osmosis. each segment there are tiny bristles called ‘setae ’or cilia. They also have no ears. Knowing vibration. (The Earth Moved. and circulated throughout the body. your newspaper and ground when a robin or person is trying to capture it dryer lint. they have no need for Worm Biology eyes.FindWorms. 205-206) and to hold onto another worm while mating. tropical weather. disruption of its environment. It cannot handle extreme cold. which problems. flex its muscles. introduced into It is a tropical species not suitable for conditions the blood. quiet. to stay put in the and coffee grounds.

the intestine and the body wall. which. where there are stay out of UV light rays. food enters the pharynx. particularly called the prostomium. Pairs wood fibers and starches. including cellulose. which foods to feed your composting worms. which can kill them very taste cells. fungi. or push aside objects that are too big to are particularly sensitive to blue light but have eat. of these ganglia are basically the worm’s “brain”. Two worms Nephridia Ventral Nerve Cord of equal length lie with the undersides of their bodies Next. and is overhung by a “lip” Worms have cells scattered on their skin. Two Brain (ganglia) worms are needed in order to reproduce and they Esophagus can’t mate across species. 47 . the top and the bottom of the worm’s body. Worms can In each segment of the worm’s body. much as ours do. The rear portion of the worm is called reaction to light and moisture sensation. page 17) Intestine Gizzard Clitellum Reproduction Crop Earthworms are hermaphrodites. a nerve cord survive on any organic matter. the posterior. which detect light. and dislikes for various foods. make for excellent plant food. This means that Anus each worm possesses both male and female sexual Dorsal Blood Vessel Aortic Arches (heart) parts. The sexual organs are Mouth Buccal Cavity Pharynx Ventral Blood Vessel located in the anterior part of the worm. However. which powerfully contract to grind food for further digestion. all parts of the worm’s body. the anterior. nematodes and other organisms to break Nervous System down the fibers and predigest their food. which is kind of a together. from which impulses are given off to other parts of Worms are separated into two main parts. Worms have gizzards like birds. enlarges into nerve cells and forms a ganglion. After a worm brings a piece of food or soil into trouble detecting red light. molds. drawing food from the mouth into and their clitellums touching. their heads pointing in opposite directions suction pump. These cells help worms its mouth. and find food. The front the body. These vessels direct After the gizzard comes the intestine. There Micro-organisms in the worm’s gut help it to break are minor vessels and capillaries that carry blood to down food into water-soluble nutrients. few digestive fluids. These cells the mouth. when they are excreted. Worms have a very sensitive sense of touch. the food moves through the crop to the gizzard. Worm casts are the main ingredient in Because worms have no teeth or stomach and very vermicompost. (For information on which helps them to find other worms to mate with. Worms have shown strong preferences quickly. they are not self-fertilizing. The central nervous system then transmits of the worm where the “head” is located is called impulses on nerves that coordinate muscle action. This is where blood through two major blood vessels that run on most of the digestion and absorption takes place. it enters the buccal cavity. see avoid danger. The mouth of a worm is in the first section of the anterior. they depend on bacteria. The end product of the digestive process is a Digestion worm cast. the esophagus. From the esophagus. This helps to guide food into toward the anterior.

along with the about half an inch long and light red in color. they are helps the worms cling to one another. weeks. until the mucus for worms is between 30 and 80 days. or months after fertilization. Sizes vary based on the themselves. Mucus is secreted depending on the species of worm. space and the correct environment to support their offspring. pages 5-16. female organs on the other. and in doing so. but it will not be much wider than the worm that produced it. will not reproduce. if conditions are ideal. the sperm and eggs worms in the cocoons will not mature and hatch if can stay separate inside the cocoon for months the bedding is too cold. The worm wriggles backwards. but fertilization of the eggs does not happen Under ideal conditions.The male organs on one worm line up with the A few days. species of worm. hatch. The average incubation period with the mucus in a ring around it. it will take 8 to 10 weeks for them to become sexually mature and begin producing cocoons This is the worm cocoon. for long periods of time and will hatch baby worms when bedding temperatures become warmer. Parent setae.27° Celsius). your Eisenia fetida worms immediately. It also a larval stage. fertilization finally takes moisture. cocoons are viable before fertilization. That is. the cocoon around the clitellum of each worm and this makes hatches one to six baby worms. The babies are on their own as soon as they are born. worms do not nurture their young. It is lemon shaped and Your worm population should double every 3 to 4 brownish or dirty yellow in color. 48 . A wonderful resource for worm biology is The Earthworm Book: How to Raise and Use Earthworms for Your Farm and Garden. Worms do not have for the safe transfer of sperm between them. Worms separate from each other after a few hours. Once the new worms front of the worm. The eggs and sperm are held together can double in population every 90 days. When the baby worms hatch. If the in mucus formed on the clitellum. seals itself. as long as they have adequate space. When the cocoon months. and the mucus worms aren’t happy with their environment. depending containing the eggs and sperm finally slides off the on environmental conditions. Worms self-regulate their population. However. they begins to harden. and bedding temperatures are between place. The baby too cold or too wet or too dry. This means that they hold off on reproduction unless they have sufficient food. If it is too hot 60° and 80° Fahrenheit (15° . is separate from the worm. food. by Jerry Minnich.

Section 3 Appendix Additional Information. Resources and Reference Material 49 .

How to Fatten Worms for Fishing
1 Feed your worms lots of green 2 Make a power snack.
vegetables. Limit starches and highly
acidic fruits and vegetables. • Place 12 rinsed & dried eggshells into a
blender and pulse until they are a powder.

• Add 2 cups oatmeal and 1 cup cornmeal, each
in small amounts, continuing to pulse until the
ingredients are mixed.

• Sprinkle the dry mixture over the top of the
worm bin. Spray down this mixture with
water using a spray bottle. Place a thin layer
of shredded newspaper on top and spray this
down, too.

• Repeat this as desired every few days.

What To Do If You Go On Vacation
Worms do not need to be fed every day. How much They should be briefed on basic care instructions
you feed will depend on how many worms are in and provided with food packets that have been
your system. made up in advance and frozen. Place the sprinkler
tray that came with your Worm Factory 360 under
When leaving for a few days you can add enough the spigot. Leave the spigot open to collect any
food to last for several days. If you are planning to leachate. A large can or plastic container that fits
be gone for an extended period of time, say several under the spigot will also work. Have additional
weeks, you need to consider the amount of food the bedding (shredded paper/coconut coir) available
worms will need and how to handle any moisture should they need it.
runoff so that the bedding doesn’t get too wet.
Worms will reprocess the material in the trays so it
is possible to go away for several weeks without any
attention or additional food.

If you plan to be gone for an extended period of
time (several months) it would be a good idea to
make arrangements with someone to check on your
worms after 30-45 days and periodically thereafter.

Insulating and Heating a Worm
This is only practical in specific weather zones: If Purpose: As temperatures approach freezing, worm
your winter weather is above freezing most of the activity and the compost process comes to a stop.
time, only occasionally drops below freezing, or Worms are cold-blooded so their bodies adjust to
does not go below 32°F for more than a few days at the temperature of their environment. Using a small
a time. The worm composter should be placed in an heater and insulation can raise the temperature of
area that is protected from wind and rain. your bedding as much as 10 to 20 degrees, increasing
worm activity. Insulating the worm composter is of
It is NOT for winter weather that will stay below no benefit unless you provide a continuous heat
freezing for 5 or more days in succession. Under source.
those weather conditions you should bring your
worms inside. Remember worms will die if the There are different ways to raise the temperature of
bedding freezes. the worm composter in winter. What works depends
largely on how cold the temperature is where the
composter is located.

How To Make An Insulating Blanket

You can make an insulating blanket from bubble or You want it to fit loosely to allow for air flow. A piece
foam packing material that has a foil cover. It should of rigid foil covered insulation can also be used under
fit over the top, covering the lid and trays. It can then the composter to insulate against cold concrete
be easily removed when tending to the composter. floors. This works best if used with a heater.

5 pieces of foam core poster board cut to size as 1 sheet of bubble insulation large enough to cover
follows: 4 - 18” x 24” core poster board for the core poster board or purchase foam packing
sides. 1 - 18” x 18” core poster board for the top material that has a foil cover and cut to size.


Marker Pen Tape Measure Cutting Knife Duct tape



1 Cut poster board to size if needed.
5 Cut a small 1/4 - 1/2 inch x 1 inch slit in the lower
edge of one side for the cord.
2 Tape the 4 large pieces of poster board
together both inside and out forming the
sides of the box.

3 Then tape the top of the box sides.

4 Tape the bubble insulation to the poster board
box covering all 4 sides and the top. Wrap the
bubble insulation so that any seams wrap at
least 2 inches around the corners. This will
help to reinforce the box, making it stronger.

How To Build A Heater

1 Purchase a small aquarium 110 volt heater
that will fit inside of a one quart canning jar.
check the temperature of the sand. The sand
should never be above 70 degrees.
Make sure you use a canning jar which is made
of tempered glass. A common glass jar could
easily crack.
5 Remove the feeding and processing trays from
off the base. Place the tray with the jar, heater
and sand at the bottom of the worm composter
2 Place the heater in the jar and fill it with
moistened garden sand (no salt).
just above the collection base. Replace the
feeding and processing trays.

3 Line an empty tray with paper to prevent the
sand from falling down into the collection
6 Monitor the temperature of the trays for
several days and periodically thereafter, to
base. Place the jar in the tray and fill the tray, insure the composter does not get too warm.
covering the jar, with more moistened garden See Page 26, Controlling Bedding Temperature.
sand. The cord will hang over the side of the Some worms may move into the sand and you
tray. The sand will allow moisture to move may have to remove them. They will be OK as
down through the tray to the collection area long as the sand is moist.
below and will spread the heat evenly through
the sand. Care should always be taken when

handling electrical apparatus
4 Conduct a safety test for at least 24 hours using
the tray you just made. Use a thermometer to
around liquids and should be
tried at your own risk.

Teaming with Microbes
By Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis

Jeff Lowenfels has had a weekly column in the Anchorage Daily News for over 27 years and
hosted Alaska public television’s most popular show, Alaska Gardens with Jeff Lowenfels.

For the last 30 years, Jeff has lived in Anchorage,
Alaska, where he founded Plant A Row for The
Hungry, an active program that created over 14
million meals to feed the hungry in 2005.

A popular national garden writer and leading
proponent of gardening using the concepts of the
soil food web, Jeff is the former president of the
Garden Writers of America and was made a GWA
Fellow in 1999. In 2005, he was inducted into the
GWA Hall of Fame, the highest honor a garden writer
can achieve.

To obtain your copy of Jeff Lowenfels’ Teaming with Microbes,
please visit:


eaten by more than one type of predator. environment? It sure made the plants grow. albeit a the end of the season. help a birch. grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and tilled who eats whom in the soil world. perhaps you as well: something so strong. the chains 54 . These things we did religiously.Excerpt from Teaming With Microbes We were typical suburban gardeners. Okay. And vegetable contest at the Alaska State Fair—and at we really employed only one weed killer. then birds and allowed all manner of wildlife to wander we strafed their weeds with a popular broadleaf in our yards. and occasionally organisms eat from more than one food chain or are we let loose batches of lacewings. It is all nitrogen to them. the color and texture of finely ground coffee. It was a good thing we did protect nitrogen from an inorganic one. high- continued to use chemical fertilizers throughout nitrogen fertilizer. Each year. we were mostly using water-soluble. Once was never enough either. some of Rachel Carson’s teachings. assuming he or she took the time to read the incredibly small print Central to the way we cared for our gardens was a on the chemical’s label. at the and praying mantids—our version of integrated beginning of the growing season. Next. Since some fallen leaves into the garden beds. we would suit nurseries. these didn’t amount to much in our up into protective clothing—complete with rubber minds. one application lasted not one nitrogen from an organic source is the same as but two years. as both spray products are now off the care if their nitrogen and other nutrients came market. How bad could that be for the the season as if we were competing in the large. In short. At the same time we were also practicing what we considered to be Then….we stumbled upon the work of Dr. We fed the nitrogen fertilizer and watered like crazy. we attacked our vegetable gardens and environmentally conscious (if not downright and flower beds with a bag or two of commercial responsible). in particular. until you finish this book. We composted. we were like most home fertilizer and leveled them with a rototiller until the gardeners. withdrawn as health hazards. Surely we couldn’t be causing harm when gloves and a face mask—and paint our birches to we were only trying to save a spruce. Then we sprayed our spruce notion shared by tens of millions of other gardeners trees with something that smelled even worse— and. but when we considered what was on the shelves of our favorite When necessary (and it often was). as did most of our neighbors. ladybird beetles. between better living with chemistry and at least lay as smooth and level as the Bonneville Salt Flats. for some nonselective. Plants really didn’t ourselves. Elaine an “appropriate” measure of environmental Ingham. maintaining just the right balance soil. resorted to an insecticide too. protect them from invading aphids by using some or prevent noxious dandelions and chickweed from god-awful smelling stuff that listed ingredients no taking over the world? normal person could pronounce. high our newspapers and aluminum cans. we occasionally inexplicable reason. We left the with the life that resides in soil and. we carpet bombed pest management. Don’t misunderstand us. We Besides. In our minds we were pretty organic herbicide. from a blue powder you mixed with water or aged manure. broadleaf one. We recycled our lawns with a mega-dose of water-soluble. a soil microbiologist famous for her work responsibility and political correctness. we rototilled again.

incomprehensibly far away. yards. forms of life in the soil interrelate—the soil food Slowly. Classic soil science is covered. where we initiated these new practices. their findings about what goes on in the web) has made us better gardeners. texture. it is almost always gardening becomes much easier and gardens much limited to the soil’s NPK chemistry and its physical better. Home gardeners really have no business applying poisons. fungi). After the players are universe literally right under our feet. myrmecology (the study of ants). aware of and appreciate the beautiful synergisms silviculture and viniculture. chemistry. mycology (the study of particular. bacter-iology. pH. In the second we were out spreading fertilizer and rototilling half of the book. the system we espouse is an organic one. We are not abandoning soil chemistry. world of complex communities in the soil. we begin to wonder what other heretofore-unseen things were going on down there What makes this book different from other texts in the soil. you will not only become science to things we grow in our home yards and a better gardener but a better steward of the earth. but in other parts of the world as well. and slick commercial pitches designed to sell products dictates our seasonal We now know not all nitrogen is the same and that activities. into question. these outcomes are formed into our garden beds by rote. and lawns? We have soil and organisms in the soil and their impact on all been dazzled by Hubble images of deep space. plants. feed to their families) land. and the lawns on which they play.Since chemical fertilizers kill the soil excellent teacher. yet few of us have ever cation exchange. May your yard and your gardens grow to their 55 . and soon realized that while interrelationships. It is time we applied this between soil organisms. introduced and their individual stories told. rules that we’ve applied in our of scientists around the world had been making yards and gardens. a place where a blend of old wives’ tales. gardens. and other ways had the opportunity to marvel at the photographs to describe soil. throughout the Pacific Northwest in microbiology. If there is any understanding of the if the plants and the biology in the soil do their jobs. became our guide to the whole microorganisms and chase away larger animals.Excerpt from Teaming With Microbes (Continued) are linked into webs—soil food webs. anecdotal science. to the food Most gardeners are stuck in traditional horticultural they grow and eat (and worse. but produced by a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Naturally. and yet apply them they do. underlying science of gardening. free of chemicals. Ingham. or lack thereof. an ever-growing group a few simple rules. porosity. from the premise that it is the stage where biology which provide a window to an equally unknown acts out its many dramas. an structure…. Might the world revealed to us by tools on soil is our strong emphasis on the biology and like the electron microscopes affect how we care for microbiology of soils—relationships between the plants in our gardens. We think that learning about and then applying agriculture—came together in recent decades to soil science (particularly the science of how various focus jointly on understanding the world of soil. Many scientific disciplines— So have others. Once you are soil are being applied to commercial agriculture. as have many of our neighbors discovery after discovery that put these practices in Alaska. what evolves is a set of predictable outcomes from their We looked for answers.

carbon) to fuel their metabolic functions. presence wakes up. the roots. These secretions are known as life: centipedes. or its water or hyphae. You’ve undoubtedly seen results from photosynthesis in the leaves is actually worms in good soil.Good soil. there are up to 50 sloughed off as the plant’s root tips grow. in numbers that are nothing less than staggering. ants. microscopic organisms— couple of millimeters. contains a constantly changing mix of soil organisms. Anything they don’t need is excreted as wastes. a zone immediately around unless you use sophisticated and expensive optics. fungi. contains a billion invisible and even larger organisms. Few realize that a great deal of energy that and poor soil doesn’t. specifically nematodes and metabolism—it is an eat-and-be-eaten world. as measured including bacteria. and more…. Good soil is absolutely teeming Root exudates are in the form of carbohydrates with life. and look like jelly or jam under the electron microscope. they attract and are eaten business of all soil life is obtaining carbon to fuel by bigger microbes. which can bacteria. A mere teaspoon of good garden soil. attracts. which are attracted to and consume plant organism needs energy to survive. springtails. and a few dozen mineral content. leaves. the straight-line food chain instead becomes a At the center of any viable soil food web are plants. Given its vital importance to our hobby. who eat bacteria and fungi (primarily for on soil. A good analogy is perspiration. and unless you habitually use used by plants to produce chemicals they secrete pesticides. in and protozoa…. Each soil environment has a different set of organisms and thus a different soil food web…. Amazingly. is not exudate. extending out a tenth of an inch. so if roots are readily able to absorb as nutrients. protozoa. web. ladybird exudates. pro-tozoa. slugs. it is Most gardeners think of plants as only taking up amazing that most of us don’t venture beyond the nutrients through root systems and feeding the understanding that good soil supports plant life. series of food chains linked and cross-linked to each Plants control the food web for their own benefit. The rhizosphere. their so engender a reaction of satisfaction. you should have come across other soil through their roots. In turn.Excerpt from Teaming With Microbes (Continued) natural glory. At the bottom of the soil food web are bacteria and The common denominator of all soil life is that every fungi. yet seldom does the realization that this is (including sugars) and proteins. nematodes—appear. there is secretion of exudates and sloughing off of cells takes a whole world of soil organisms that you cannot see place in the rhizosphere. just a few animals. The first order of root exudates. several yards of equally invisible fungal for the exudates in the rhizosphere. an other. however. fungi. and grows specific beneficial bacteria and fungi living in the soil that In addition to all the living organisms you can see subsist on these exudates and the cellular material in garden soils (for example. creating a web of food chains. a human’s beetle larvae. or a soil food amazing fact that is too little understood and surely 56 . you make a diagram of who eats whom in and on the soil. nematodes. We know ours now do…. several thousand protozoa. nematodes. which plant Most organisms eat more than one kind of prey. or a Only then do the tiny. All this “life” competes bacteria. All this earthworms in a square foot of good soil). by microbial geneticists.

You will have natural disease smallest fungi and bacteria. the nutrients they retained 57 . The organisms in the soil food web will do most of Without this system. in turn. This worm activity The soil food web. fungal and bacterial decay. Even microscopic fungi can help in this regard. but you or mineralized. and are allowed to decay. Nutrients are preserved and form each particular plant wants and needs so they eventually are retained in the bodies of even the will be less stressed. also helps create soil structure: the activities of its members Why should a gardener be knowledgeable about bind soil particles together even as they provide for how soils and soil food webs work? Because then the passage of air and water through the soil. consume them. opening it up for soil. a tiny bit hits to plants. building defense systems against pests the rhizosphere. they are retained in organisms will be continuously at work throughout the bodies of soil life. where it is absorbed. but most of it and diseases. One way or another. It where. a state known as immobilization. you can manage them so they work for you and your plants. nutrients in these bodies are passed on to other herbicides. Not so with the nutrients locked up inside dioxide.Excerpt from Teaming With Microbes (Continued) not appreciated by gardeners who are constantly are again immobilized in the fungi and bacteria that interfering with Nature’s system. soil organisms. or they may be decayed after soils and return them to usefulness. When these are in the prevention. in addition to providing provides yet more nutrients for the soil community. For example. Worms. move through the soil in life in other ways. continues to drain through soil until it hits the water providing necessary pathways for oxygen and carbon table. then. these nutrients are eventually released as wastes. The reduce and at best eliminate the need for fertilizers. providing nutrients when you apply a chemical fertilizer. Instead. form when they. nutrients to roots in the rhizosphere. protection. they release nutrients in plant-available will hold more water. Soils will retain they die. together with insect larvae and moles and The nutrient supply in the soil is influenced by soil other burrowing animals. you can at least fodder for other members of the community. You can improve degraded may eat them alive. Here is the gardener’s truth: the year. be it decaying the organism directly instead of letting them leach out to God knows or working on the dung of the successful eater. loosening soil and increasing drainage. Gardening with the soil food web is easy. fungicides. worms pull organic search of food and protection. You won’t have to do these things yourself. Your plants will be getting nutrients in the makes no difference. Your soils rhizosphere. By using techniques that employ soil When any member of a soil food web dies. most important nutrients the work of maintaining plant health. are consumed or die. fungi and bacteria nutrients in the bodies of soil food web organisms get involved. And when the plants themselves die must get the life back in your soils. and pesticides (and a lot of members of the community. A larger predator accompanying work). where it is shredded by beetles that allow air and water to enter and leave the and the larvae of other insects. Billions of living would drain from soil. and suppression. doing the heavy chores. it becomes food web science as you garden. creating pathways matter into the soil.

and Good Morning America. Wicked Plants and Flower Confidential. To obtain your copy of Amy Stewart’s The Earth Moved please visit: naturesfootprint. the San Francisco Chronicle. NPR’s Morning Edition. including Fine Gardening. Stewart has appeared on hundreds of national and regional radio and television programs. and a California Horticultural Society Writer’s Award. Nature’s Footprint is pleased to present this free excerpt from one of our favorite books on earthworms. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She includes her own personal guide to worm composting.The Earth Moved: On The Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms By Amy Stewart Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of five books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world. including three New York Times bestsellers. including CBS Sunday Morning. Amy Stewart goes beyond the how-to and explores the remarkable history and science behind our relationship with the humble worm. Wicked 58 . the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award. Fresh Air. She has written for the New York Times. where she is a contributing editor. but that’s only the beginning of the fascinating journey she takes through the surprising hidden world of earthworms. THE EARTH MOVED: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms has inspired us and we know it will delight you as well. and every national garden magazine.

skin. we like to turn over a log or pull operation on my back porch in which I deposit scraps up a plant by the roots to see what’s there. But the worms themselves are not messy. that most scientists before one. A good sturdy specimen was working its way up Charles Darwin didn’t consider worms worthy the side of the bin as if it was ready for adventure. quite interested live in the bin—ten thousand.Excerpt from The Earth Moved (Continued) The first time I held a worm in my hand. With Observations on in half and in half again. it will be a curious little book. in the work they do. the subterranean activity taking place underfoot. devoting his last book to a It was completely limp. a mass squeeze it and smell it as if we are checking a ripe of churning bodies. and you’ll probably find layer of damp newspaper and disappeared. I could see a purplish vein painstakingly detailed research of their physiology running along the length of it. He was an old wonder how a creature this weak could do anything. of champion of worms. I began to Their Habits was published in 1881. just beneath the and behavior. folding it Through the Action of Worms. where it ducked under a a mound of damp leaves. Sometimes in earthworms. Ask a gardener about the earthworm population in but when it came time to pull her garden. I did spend a minute looking down at them. eating and laying cocoons in the mess. Now. I poked at the worm in my hand. This slime. I was segment at a time into the air. like me. maybe. and we sift through it to see what inhabits it. to think of them as individuals. trying to return to its familiar habitat. Latin name Eisenia and this time pointed its head down towards the fetida. my palm. red wigglers. small and reddish pink. It didn’t and left a little slime in my palm. on by pulling it out of its bedding and exposing it to light. It is in many ways a quintessential worm. I curled my palm around the worm. I shuddered but slither around or try to get away. trying to choose the right It seems strange. then. or dropped it into the bin. but the subject had even move through dirt.” 59 . making new dirt. The worm I held was a red wiggler. The Formation of Vegetable Mould. It moved with purpose. I am not alone. Dig around in pig slop. barnyard manure. The worm moved to the edge of my hand. how harmless. the worms are so thick earth. Gardeners are inquisitive by nature. It is a master composter. It raised one end up—the head. churning the when I dig around in there. and I guarantee she will have something one out of the bin and set it on to say on the subject. that they look like ground beef set in motion. It is hard melon. it seemed tired of this expedition. It didn’t react. It came out of my worm bin. Instead it lay curled didn’t drop it. of study. Then a few seconds later. I else. finally. I suppose—and extended one “As far as I can judge. a small composting we are explorers. this one When I stand over a patch of earth and wonder about slipped out of its pile of rubbish perfectly clean. as if it had already accepted way of reacting to stress—stress that I had brought its fate. We hold soil in our hands. towards home. Most of from the kitchen. preferring something after all. It was intent on getting back. was its in near-perfect circle. it moved surprised at how light it was. man when he wrote the book. Very little was known about them in the nineteenth century. seeking a heap of rotting garbage to just about anything to escape. interested him for decades. bin. I don’t know how many of them the gardeners I know are. this worm mucus. when Darwin emerged as a sort With one finger. with faint stripes between Just then it looked as if it were capable of doing each segment.

He lived at an exciting At the time. Darwin is a kind of who considers the facts … will hereafter.” Nevertheless. the book attracted worker of vast geological changes. they were figure to be one million. he believed. dumb. senseless.Excerpt from The Earth Moved (Continued) he wrote prior to publication of The Formation of slime annelid. he credited them and a length of only two or three inches. though. service by perforating the earth and allowing water helping to explain the astonishing fertility of Egypt’s to penetrate. Earthworms were earthworm. or earthworm manure. “In the eyes of most men … the earthworm than even he could have guessed. “The subject has been to me his character. no teeth. from handfuls of whole country has passed many times through. No exotic plants and birds and fossils awaited discovery.” It is a stupendous achievement for archaeologists by an industrious earthworm for a blind and deaf creature with no spine. Mr. Another critic dryly to be reckoned with. is a mere blind. Darwin undertakes to rehabilitate Vegetable Mould. As Darwin had only just begun to early papers insisted that they were too small and suspect. At best. He looked belowground with real doubt that worms play an important part in nature. and unpleasantly Over the last one hundred years. touchstone. This makes them beings which Darwin assigned them. to seek out the in the creatures living underfoot. a foolish detail. He studied earthworms’ conviction that “all the vegetable mould over the ability to bury objects in soil. population. Now we know that Darwin had only still largely considered a garden glimpsed the potential power of worms: his conclusion pest that damaged plant roots and that over fifty thousand worms could inhabit an acre spoiled clean green lawns with of soil was in fact quite low. Most of all. Darwin wasn’t deterred by the criticism of his He described the volume of soil that earthworms colleagues.” he admitted. a force for change in more ways observed. and chalk scattered on the ground to Roman ruins that will again pass many times through. people thought his estimates were time for scientists: in every corner of the world. a muse. “The subject may appear an insignificant swallow and eject as castings. grossly over-inflated and his claims exaggerated.” vigorous writing and its surprising conclusions. come to be buried and preserved canals of worms. quick to express their skepticism. one. and I have perhaps treated it in once as an intelligent and beneficent personage. and to saturate it with their intestinal secretions … no one Today. Scientists have shown that their castings. and the earthworm steps forth at a hobby-horse. earthworm 60 . Scientists with the transformation of the soil itself. earthworms pass the top few inches of soil weak to carry out the massive movements of soil to through their guts every year.” He could hardly restrain himself over fifty thousand earthworms and yield eighteen before laying out his central thesis: his remarkable tons of castings per year. the intestinal had. scientist before Darwin had taken such an interest But he chose to look underground. a planer down of nonscientific readers who enjoyed its clear and mountainsides … a friend of man. and they were work is to sift the finer from the coarser particles. At least one reviewer of Darwin’s agricultural land. “Their chief of the day could scarcely believe it. “but we shall see that it possesses reporting that an acre of garden soil could contain some interest. as I believe.” interest and treated the dark earth as the mysterious unexplored territory that it is. among earthworm scientists. Earthworms in the Nile valley thought to provide some small can deposit up to a thousand tons of castings per acre. to mingle the whole with vegetable debris.

creating pockets of air everywhere it goes. and earthworms would not be An earthworm travels through the soil. and other detritus into its burrow. relying on damp interior the study of its role in the soil. could not grasp the importance of the earthworm’s pine needles. They work alongside humans. A strain of bacteria was The body of an earthworm is perfectly designed first identified as the cause of a plant disease in 1878. tugging leaves. particles aside and ingesting others. This impact on the soil ecosystem. exchanging the study of earthworm behavior was eclipsed by oxygen for carbon dioxide. pushing some advanced for several more decades. but the ideas were quite new. ejecting a small mound of castings around so many pages of published work to it. the relationship between the microscopic world subterranean world. Although its food choices may look alike to the casual observer. that during his had always known: that worms. and transforming the earth. No scientist had paid so much burrow as it goes. the present state of knowledge. It searches for food. Louis Pasteur small. Scientists in his day simple routine is enough to ingratiate it to the farmer knew that bacteria and other microorganisms lived in or gardener. nor devoted burrow. very efficient. named after the ability to recognize when a scientific question could taxonomic class in which earthworms fall. They alter its composition. initiated the science of microbiology during the last few decades of Darwin’s life. the earthworm breathes through its skin. To understand what’s of a mammal’s lungs facilitates the passage of air into happening underground. On its nightly forage for food it acts like a the soil. which it will swallow along possess enough intelligence to judge how to best pull with some clay or sand particles. 61 . for instance. transporting. selectively extraordinary vessel for soil—the perfect container for drawing organic matter down from the surface. “You expressed quite correctly increase its capacity to absorb and hold my views where you said that I had intentionally water. instead. through lifetime. plants. a sensitivity to light is all a worm of soil and the macroscopic ecology—the earthworms needs to avoid straying out of its habitat. a said of Darwin’s insight into the role of earthworms remarkable accomplishment for a creature that weighs in the soil.Excerpt from The Earth Moved (Continued) scientists (called oligochaetologists. Lungs are not and other visible creatures that inhabit the earth— much use in the tight confines of a burrow. substantially change question of how life first began. no significant progress would be made on the their actions. Oligochaeta). Sight is unnecessary in the Still. was largely a mystery. the worm When The Formation of Vegetable Mould was published is actually sorting through the soil in search of tiny bits in 1881. to understand the complex relationships between soil microbes. In short. he wrote to a colleague. They move the earth. plough. for life underground. It builds a permanent objects into its burrow. Near the end of his life the earth. and bring about an increase in left the question of the Origin of Life uncanvassed nutrients and microorganisms. The technology that would allow scientists only a fraction of an ounce. Over the next several decades. The earthworm’s shape allows it to be an this creature that lives below our feet. He knew. sifting and One of Darwin’s most extraordinary qualities was his digesting particles of earth.” The same could be extracting a life from the land. But even Darwin the entrance. we have to know more about the body. it was a novel idea that an earthworm could of decaying organic matter. they prepare as being together ultra vires [beyond the powers] in the soil for farming. holding. not be answered due to the limitations of the science have come to quantify what farmers of his day. At night it rises to the surface of its attention to this seemingly trivial matter.

C:N RATIO: The ratio of the mass of carbon to the mass mesophilic. either by CARBOHYDRATES: An organic compound that turning or by forcing air through the material. bread or pasta) or the simple containing alkali. A sustainable alternative to peat moss. BENEFICIAL ORGANISMS: Any organism that benefits COLLECTION BASE/AREA: The area of the Worm 62 . bacteria. CALCIUM: A chemical element with the symbol Ca. retain moisture and improve aeration in compost. arachnids. random passage and draining of excess moisture. BEDDING MATERIAL: A coarse carbon based material that breaks down slowly. hydrogen and oxygen. of nitrogen in a substance. characteristic earthy smell. skeleton or shell with jointed legs. or starch (such as cereal. This includes materials are use and left to break down at their such things as coconut coir. having a pH below 7. it action and decomposition. other of photosynthetic bacteria which gives soil its animals. carbohydrate sugar (such as candy.Glossary of Terms ACTINOMYCETES (AC-tin-o-mi-see-teez): A type the growing process including insects. having a pH greater than 7. pumice. grit. intensive. jams and desserts). ARTHROPOD: Invertebrate animals that have an outer CASTINGS: The nutrient rich byproduct of earthworms. does not require turning so is less labor garden soil/compost. and nematodes. The three types of bacteria are psychrophilic. that releases the heat associated with hot composting. fifth most abundant element by mass in the earth’s crust. or containing calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal and is the acid. BACTERIAL DOMINATED: Soils that have an alkaline pH COCONUT COIR: Ground coconut fiber. BACTERIA: Microorganisms that break down organic CLITELLIUM: A thickened section on earthworms that materials in the first stages of composting. worm feces. used as a soil conditioner. organic wastes using bacteria that need oxygen. can take 1-2 years to finish. has little protein or mineral COLD COMPOSTING: Dominated by microorganisms content and won’t pack tightly but allows for air that live in temperatures below 115°F. helps which encourages nitrogen-fixing bacteria to thrive. is nonmetallic. and thermophilic. This requires that the waste be exposed to air. ACIDIC: Having the properties of an acid. own pace. the 15th most abundant element in the earth’s crust and in the human body the second most AEROBIC COMPOSTING: A method of composting abundant element by mass after oxygen. It is bacteria contains male and female sex organs. fungi. shredded paper. viruses. consists of carbon. any food that is particularly rich in the complex carbohydrate ALKALINE: Having the properties of an alkali. leaves. AERATION: Adding air to a compost pile through turning or ventilation to allow increased microbial CARBON: The chemical element with the symbol C.

earthworms. DECOMPOSITION: The breakdown of organic matter through microbial action. condensed out of mixed solid wastes and extracted dissolved and suspended materials. humus-like material types of materials used. COMPOST: Organic matter that has been decomposed GANGLIA: A network of cells forming a nerve center and recycled as a rich fertile soil amendment. It is dark. are needed to kill pathogens and weed seeds. the decomposition of leaves and other plant material eat only decaying organic matter.Factory composter where any liquid leachate. temperatures of 130°F . extracted the microbe population from the compost along with the nutrients. by soil microorganisms. in the nervous system of invertebrate insect and rich in nutrients and has an earthy smell. or placed for the worms to eat. Eisenia fetida: Small composting worm also know as “red wigglers”. raw or cooked. this is achieved by turning the pile when it cools to introduce COMPOST TEA: An aerobic water solution that has oxygen. FUNGAL DOMINATED: Soils that have an acid pH LIME: A compound of calcium or calcium and in which the nitrogen remains in ammonium form magnesium capable of counteracting the harmful encouraging fungi to thrive. Dolomite limestone contains 63 . live in decaying vegetation and manure HUMUS: The organic component of soil. Enzymes catalyze and regulate all or an internal skeleton. of soil. released FUNGI: Microorganisms found on decaying carbon- from the food waste as it breaks down. collects. composter. liquid that drains FOOD WASTE: Food residuals generated from human from the mix of fresh organic matter. can produce compost in as little as 90 days. increases the ability of the soil to hold nutrients in a way that can be easily taken up by plants. effects of an acid soil.160°F called compost. HOUSEHOLD WASTE: Waste that is generated in the day to day operations of a household. FEEDING TRAY: The top tray of the Worm Factory composter where food waste and dry material is LEACHATE: Liquid which has percolated through. formed by piles and does well in closed container composting. HUMIC ACID: Principal component of humic substances which are the major organic constituents DOLOMITE LIME: See “lime”. such as in a worm food preparation and consumption. biochemical reactions that occur within the human body. pathogen-free. ENZYMES: Energized protein molecules found in INVERTEBRATE: Insects that do not have a backbone all living cells. KITCHEN WASTE: Any food substance. COMPOSTING: A controlled biological decomposition HOT COMPOSTING: A managed process where close of organic material in the presence of oxygen to attention is paid to how materials are mixed and the produce a stable. which is discarded. based plant material.

such ORGANIC: Of or relating to or derived from living as a plant. actinomycetes. PHOSPHORUS: A chemical element with the NEMATODE: Small. litmus. fruit. this excludes human and pet waste. fungi. A fertilizer that is derived from other parts that work together to carry on the various vegetable or animal matter. pH: The standard abbreviation for “potential hydrogen” which denotes the hydrogen ion concentration of a N-P-K: An abbreviation for nitrogen (N). once alive. arrangement. A ratio of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 is considered alkalinity of a liquid or semi-sold substance. bacterium. ORGANIC CONTAMINANTS: Synthetic trace organics MICROORGANISM: These are microscopic plants including pesticides and other synthetic chemicals. and potassium (K). ground pearls. In the agrochemical industry. odorless uncreative gas that forms about 78 percent of the earth’s atmosphere. usually microscopic. development. combustible nonmetal of the nitrogen roundworm with elongated rounded body pointed at group. promotes the growth of seeds. a body made up of organs. increasingly more alkaline philosophy goal of improving the biodiversity of the as the values increase towards 14. or organic agriculture. soil). carbonate. force crop production (as opposed to the organic Values above 7 are alkaline. membranes. Values these three elements are considered important to below 7 are acidic. or organisms. They include bacteria. microorganisms. or alkalinity of water or soil. They exist in the soil for the purpose of breaking down organic matter into basic mineral ORGANIC WASTE: Any waste material that was elements. animal. yeast. a dye obtained from certain lichen (fungus) that is red under acid conditions and blue under NUTRIENTS: The chemical elements necessary for alkaline conditions. a dietary mineral that is important for bone both ends. and nematodes. essential for LITMUS TEST: A test for acidity or alkalinity using growth and reproduction in both plants and animals. a colorless. A scale of 1-14 expresses the relative acidity (P). fungi and protozoa capable of producing an infection or disease in a susceptible host. protozoa. increasingly more acidic towards 1. For the purposes of vermicomposting. bacteria. phosphorus solution. MINERALS: Naturally occurring inorganic solids with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic PATHOGEN: An organism including viruses. MOISTURE METER: An instrument used to measure the percentage of water in a given substance.about equal parts of magnesium and calcium NITROGEN: A Chemical element with the symbol “N”. mostly free-living but some are parasitic. organelles. processes of life. healthy plant growth. A pH of 7 is neutral. un-segmented symbol “P”. good. and animals. except where a composter is specially dedicated and monitored. US law requires that the ratio of these three elements be specified on every bag of commercially pH METER: A device used for measuring the acidity or available fertilizer. LIVING ORGANISMS: An individual form of life. energy production and normal cell the most numerous multi-cellular animals on earth. 64 . foods raised according to standards of fungus. algae.

UPWARD MIGRATION: The movement of worms in a Worm Factory 360 from the lower trays into the upper PROTOZOA: Single-celled microscopic animals that trays. or partially molten material that cools and solidifies quickly trapping air with in it. a natural fertilizer consisting of finely crushed rock containing PINCH/SQUEEZE TEST: A simple test used to determine minerals and trace elements. Pumice is added to potting soils to increase digest organic matter. gardens. moisture content of soil. STABILITY: The degree to which compost or other material can resist further break down or the PROCESSING TRAY: The trays below the feeding tray absorption of other compounds. that are in various stages of decomposition. include amoebas. SOIL THERMOMETER: An instrument that measures important for the proper function of all cells. ciliates and sporozoa (parasites). the soil-like byproduct resulting aeration. PUMICE: A type of igneous rock formed from molten VERMICAST: See castings. and organs in the human body. and nutrients to grow plants over time. tissues the temperature in soil or compost at different depths. RHIZOCTONIA: A common soil fungus that sometimes causes plant diseases such as damping off and root rot. which can in microscopic holes which can hold and release water turn be applied to plants. ROCK DUST: Rock powders or minerals. Pumice is full of from worms digesting organic matter. SOIL AMMENDMENT: Matter that when added to PHYTOTOXIN: toxins which may endanger plant the land will make the soil healthier by balancing and viability or functionality. helps promote plant growth and make strong stems. VERMI: Latin for worm. flagellates. can also cause disease in humans or animals. SEDIMENT: Solid material that is moved and deposited PYTHIUM: A pathogenic parasite found in water or in a new location through the process of water. adding nutrients and the pH. POTASSIUM: A chemical element with the symbol “K”. ice or humid environments causing problems with crops and wind. encouraging the activity of microorganisms. earthworms and their byproducts. of the Worm Factory 360. It is similar in appearance VERMICOMPOST: The process by which earthworms to perlite. From a legal standpoint this is PLANT GROWTH HORMONES: Molecules in plants different than “fertilizer” and is not governed by laws that regulate cellular processes. 65 . which regulate fertilizers. porosity and drainage. VERMICULTURE: The raising and production of RED WIGGLER: See Eisenia and root growth in plants.

A. & Neuhauser. 1977 Nancarrow & Taylor. Ohio State University.A. University of California (Reprinted from Components. Springer. C.aspx?PublicationID=857 Detritus. A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web. The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms.J. Timber Press.A. Viljoen.vims. Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms. 24(12): 1295-1307. The Worm Book: The Complete Guide to Gardening and Composting with Worms. Earthworm Ecology and Sustaining Shields Matthew Werner.calrecycle. 1997 Steward. The Earthworm Book: How to Raise and Use Earthworms for Your Farm and Garden. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. Organic Fertilisation. Chapel Hill NC. Perionyx excavatus and Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta) for Vermicomposting in Southern Africa in Terms of Their Temperature Requirements. http://www. No. Arancon & Sherman.ucdavis. 2011 Grossman & Weitzel. Eagle River WI . Rodale Press. Manel.F. Bulletin 792. The Hague. no. 96-10. http://compostingcouncil. Keener & Hoitink. C. Sherman & Appelhof. Breakdown of animal. Teaming with Microbes.pdf Hansen. Kalamazoo MI. Edwards. CRC Press. Jerry.sarep.Resources Books: Edwards. 1992. Worms Eat My Garbage. London. 1.A. Portland OR. Berkeley CA.J. The Suitability of Eudrilus eugeniae. 2004 Articles/Publications: Compost Microbiology and the Soil Food Web. and R. 4 (Fall 1990)).. Amy. 66 . 2007 Lowenstein & Emmaus PA. Soil Quality and Human Algonquin Books. Organic Wastes. Technical Report. 2006 Minnich. A. Bohlen. Mother Nature’s Rice Cake. The Biology and Ecology of Earthworms (3rd Edition). Chapman & Hall. C.ccrm. October 1996. 21-31. http://www. Recycle with Earthworms: The Red Wiggler Connection. Composting Council Fact Sheet. The Composting Process. Saayman. 426pp. Ten Speed Press. 1998 Reinecke. Boca Raton FL. Earthworms in Waste and Environmental Management. Dijon France 1988 Edwards. Virginia Institute of Marine Science. and P. E.J.html The Benefits of Including Paper in Compost. 1996. SPB Academic Publishing Co. http://ohioline. http://www. vegetable and industrial organic wastes by earthworms.osu. vol. Edwards. and Environmental Management. Flower Press.

htm Controlling Mite Pests in Earthworm Beds. Washington State University. Glossary of Composting Terms. http://mypeoplepc.html Fun Facts About Fungi.cfm Websites: Compost Composting in Schools. Utah State University.htm http://www. html Worm Bin Cornell Composting.htm How Do I Know the Difference Between Greens and Browns? http://faq. Cornell University http://cwmi.wormdigest. http://herbarium. Ray depts/ent/notes/Other/miteworm. http://web. A Living Soil The Science of Composting. University of Illinois Extension. AgMRC. http://working-worms.agmrc. North Carolina State 67 .org/commodities__products/livestock/worms.html Vermicompost. Iowa State University (Reviewed June 2012). Sherman & http://theearthproject.

................. 17 bedding types of food........... 32-33 beetles........ 45 adding trays...... leaves.Index A E accessory kit..............9.42-43 managing moisture.34 worm compost...41 C see Living Ecosystem........... 34 actinomycetes. 45 aerobic.................. 34 Eisenia fetida.....12 H see living ecosystem....................................11.......36 composting worm...........17-19 preparing bedding.......................... 14 hot compost................ 18-19 centipedes............38 see Eisenis hortensis....6 millipedes.... 41 harvesting compost...................................14 living ecosystem using compost...............................17-19 larvae....................... 5 I compost insulating/heating a composter.............................................. 51 comparison of................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. grit.................................... 36 acidity.....................................................7.............. 5........................... 4........... 44 aeration................................. 46 anaerobic.........................................................12 storing compost......................... 22 ecosystem................ 4......... 15 Epigeic worms......17 bacteria.... 22 Eudrilus eugeniae.................30-31 microbial community...... 7 slugs & snails......... house flies......................35 compost tea.................... 36 G beneficial insects grit....... 14............. earwigs.......... blow flies................ 20 Eisenia hortensis............................................15 L compost ingredients............................................................ 45 see Eisenia hortensis arthropods.................................................. 5................................ 34 beetles.................................................19 flat worm or land planarian...............42 temperature......................................................... 34 frequency...........................................................14-16 lime........... 14..................................................................... 14 collection base................................... 22 European Nighcrawlers...............................38 c:n ratio........................ 15 ants.......16....................... 24-27 draining from trays...40 browns and greens............. odor.......... 28-29 leachate moisture..29 odor................................. 6 larvae............ 14................................................32 temperature........................................ 4 earwigs........... 9...........................................................................34-41 harmful insects biologically enhanced humus.............................................34-41 coir....... how to use........ 35 F assembly.......................................23-25 fruit fly trap......6 mites.39 cold compost....................... potworms......................... 26-27 fungi............................... 21 role in composter.............. 16 Endogeic worms..........................10................ minerals.....................................................41 see Eisenia fetida.......................37 68 ..................... 5 anecic worms.. 22 types of compost... 6 feeding B amount........................ 45 adding worms..21 how to deal with. 8.................. 20-22 fruit flies/fungus gnats eggshells.................... 4............14 arthropods...........

............50 quick assembly........ 4 adding trays...................................23 S temperature......................................... 4.......... 4............................................. 37 sprinkler tray....................................................................................... 34 feeding tray............................................. 36 spigot assembly... soldier flies................23........................14............... 12 moist newspaper cover.............8...................................................................................47 obtaining worms......... 21..... 16........... 15.......................... 35 adding worms...................... 34 worm ladder.............8..................... 17............................................ 10................. 25 Lumbricus rubellus.... 11................ 14 feeding ..............................................9............. 6 harvesting compost...................... 20 microbes..............................................29 rock dust.........4................................................................... 21.... 10 W molds.......... 4 nervous system. 16 nutrients......................................................... 35 types of worms.......................................... 8 excess moisture. 4................11.... 22 processing tray..... 24 vermicompost goals............................................... 8..6 oxygen....... 4...............6 odor....... 39 stressed worms.......... 29 N worms nematodes.......... 16 too little moisture.............................................47 Perionyx excavatus.............5.................................... 12 stacking tray............................................................................28-29 quick tips lid.................... microorganisms................................ 4....................................... 32................................................ 16 Eisenia hortensis...................11...........14 Q going on vacation...................... 14...................................................37 thermometer...............6 pH.. 26-27 shredded paper................24-27 R offensive odors................................................... 25 using compost..... 15........................ 28 minerals .........................10 U managing moisture............... 12 moisture starting tray........................................30-31 soldier flies................. 29 mites..................... 17 P how to fatten............25 Red wigglers (see Eisenia fetida)........................................24-27 upward migration.... 7 castings.................... 20 millipedes........9....................... 30-31 biology............ 38 finished tray............................ 7......... 22 system health... 4 springtails... 4.................. 12.........................47-48 pill bugs....27 potworms............................... 22 reproduction... 24-25 M trays manual.............. 14.................40 T sowbugs........................................................................46 O digestion..... 20-22 worm Composting pumice.................................. 4......44 Preparing Bedding....... 4........ 5 storing compost... pill bugs... 7.................. 24 V squeeze/pinch test.......15...................... 45 too much moisture. 46 obtaining worms.............. 26-27 springtails...........................................39 temperature........... 15........ 5 moisture problems..................... 4........ 5 69 .. 32-33 Sow bugs........................ 16..................................................... 26 location...... 40 worm tea........ 10... 37 sprinkler tray......... 7............................... 10............................................. 10 requirements............................. 5 Eisenia fetida.............50 parts list.........................

Notes: 70 .

They feed plants in a two-step These microorganisms break nutrients supply of the trace minerals all living generating permanent organic colonies process. you create a powerful combination again with a result “Teaming with numbers of additional microorganisms than traditional compost – and these that feeds the soil and in turn feeds your Microbes” as described in the Jeff on top of those already present in living convert more nutrients to plant food. and next making those plants can absorb them through their come if not disturbed by tilling. Compost feeds the nutrients to the plants while warding off rely on nature’s organic system..naturesfootprint. discovered a way to “fix nitrogen”. . in were once alive. multiplying them Organic compost generates huge additional microorganisms – even more soil. Around 1900 a scientist describe the difference between to feed plants through their roots in the organisms including bacteria. vast herds of microscopic agriculture. and overtime they kill off the In contrast to synthetic fertilizers. 71 SOIL KEY available at www. Plants grow rapidly microscopic organisms that nature’s compost is a natural organic source of tion. Plants no longer the soil. This is a continuous sustain- re-apply their products constantly. SO IL KE t OST pos st st po Y om CO po om COMP ic om Verm ic M ic m CO PO rm r Ve Ve M ST PO ST Nature’s Soil Key is designed to feed the microorganisms from organic Vermicompost (worm compost) By supplying organic compost and compost and vermicompost. known synthetic fertilizer brands on the market today. Nature fertilizer industry. fungi. able process. your plants because nature’s “immune organisms pass the nutrients on to the requiring more and more. they sterilize nutrients from plants and animals that provide a never-ending supply of to a “steroid” for plants. Those microorganism in turn. relies on a slow composting process. when they die. “soil food web” – are busy supplying step of our present-day synthetic fertilizers and their insidious side effects Then water carries these nutrients into nutrients to your plants above. the plant roots and feeds them. Unseen below the surface of essential process for gardening and early 1940s in an effort to better ago. There are many well on our food supply. Living things die and decay and and nematodes – all members of the chemical process which was the first ever-expanding use of synthetic their nutrients are released into the soil. Adding rock dust assures a good Lowenfels best-selling garden book. that will remain in your soil for years to organic matter. You have to system” has been destroyed. accelerat- contains hundreds of thousands of adding vermicompost to your organic ing their growth. first feeding on the soil and down to a water-soluble state so that organisms require. CO M PO ST Synthetic fertilizers skip nature’s continuous composting process by In fact. organism require to increase in popula- bypassing the soil. nature has used the same system your garden. become dependent on the fertilizers. plant roots. nutrients available to plants as food roots. Serious side effects appear. a nature’s “organic” process and the soil. but these synthetic fertilizers act similar process relies on. plants. In time. synthetic fertilizers are Compost provides the nutrients soil feeding nutrients directly to roots salt-based.Did You Know? May 1943 10¢ From the time plant life first appeared Nature’s system of feeding plants still All plants require nitrogen and it is an The word organic first appeared in the on Earth hundreds of millions of years works. but the form of diseases and pests attacking living organisms in the soil. These disease and pests.

. All you have to do is watch the reservoir Reservoir 72over or under water again. and promotes The results are truly spectacular. Oxygen in the soil helps plants found in the vermicompost package.. the organic compost you supply. nutrients. Oxygen in the soil helps plants take up water and nutrients Soil for healthy growth and improved Soil rests on the soil separator grid. Plants control the water supply away when you using capillary action • Valuable nutrients do not wash water so plants can use them more efficiently. The producing an advanced soil medium air space created by the soil separator stimulates new root which is 100% organic. This is exactly how nature continually replaces the water in the soil surrounding roots. Sub-Irrigation Watering System By adding water to the water reservoir tray during peak growing periods. added) and volcanic pumice will create a soil that allows you to grow organic vegetables for years to A significant improvement in any plant you grow! come. wicks the water into the soil above. plant growth as water. patio. patio. Air vigor. frontyard 1 water reservoir 1 bag volcanic pumice porch. frontyard 1 watering reservoir minerals 1 bag pumice porch. your plants will always have enough water. Working with Soil Key development and prevents the roots from circling. or deck 1 soil separator 1 seed tray 1 coir mulch block 1 DVD EASY TO SEE 1 instruction manual Water reservoir on the OUTSIDE Growing Container Coir Coir Pumice Coir Soil Water Separator Reservoir Seed Tray How does the UrBin Grower Work? TM “Air is as important to with trace through the Plant roots quickly grow downward Volcanic air space. or deck 1 soil separator 1 block of coir mulch Food Grade 1 seed tray EASY TO SEE Quality Plastic 1 DVD Microbial Nutrients Water reservoir 1 instruction manual 1 bag vermicompost on the OUTSIDE 1 bag Soil Key MADE IN USA Grower Growing new UrBin TM way to GARDEN! A new A sub-irrigation Vermicompost watering system Grow Organic Container Soil Key Patent Pending anywhere Contents Soil Amendments 1 growing container 1 bag coir w/ trace backyard. you will see. Capillary action gradually -Elsie Konzelman. Your plants Water only take up water as needed.N e w UrBin Grower A new way to GARDEN! TM A sub-irrigation watering system Grow Organic Contents Contents Patent Pending anywhere 1 UrBin growing 1 bag coir container with trace minerals backyard. healthy growth and plant vigor. through the and into the water below. and you will never . capillary action in the soil replaces the water from the water reservoir below.” minerals In two small areas the soil touches Water Pumice the water. to pull water UPWARD in an UrBin • You won’t overwater your plants instructions. Master Gardener prevents the • The airspace below the separator soil from becoming water logged. Mulch soil separator grid. GrowerTM if you follow the watering Soil Water Seed Tray Separator *Supply 3 gal of additional compost Reservoir THREE UNIQUE SYSTEMS Soil Separator Microbial Nutrients The soil separator provides significant One cup of Soil Key will multiply the air space in the bottom of the growing millions of living organisms already Vermicompost container. take up water. the included coconut coir (with minerals By just adding the soil separator. As roots extend into the soil drawing water upward.

... Dried manure can have a lower nitrogen content and We recommend two great garden books is not a biologically active as mature composted manure.30% 4 container such as a plastic tub. Place the 6 Many gardeners make their own backyard compost. Mix all the soil ingredients together in a large UrBin GrowerTM Soil Mix 2 gal coir W/ Trace Minerals........ from chicken............Getting Started 1 Coir 2 3 Mulch *For 100% Organic Vegetables You will need 3 Gallons of Organic Compost Set aside the coir Reserve 2 cups of coir Place the soil (not included in this kit) mulch and seed tray and 1/3 cup Soil Key for separator in the to use later.8% Volume PLUS *3 gal Organic Compost.. vermicompost in the UrBin If the bag says “certified organic” this is the best.. As with any garden. Read the label Grower soil mix. herbs and vegetables can be grown successfully in the UrBin GrowerTM.... The soil mix you are preparing is an “organic potting soil or mix”. bottom of the growing See suggestions and options below container... later use...50% 6 gal (you provide) Can I use a “potting ” soil from the store? Soil Key It is not recommended for several reasons. along with the enclosed items in this kit. or cow. that will provide valuable additional information! What else should I look for? When reading the bag look for: “composted plant material” including garden and kitchen waste.... One plant will provide a bountiful crop in the UrBin Grower.15% 5 Cups Vermicompost... Slowly add water to moisten the materials as you mix them. Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable. Most commercial a nic g Or st “potting” soil found in stores contain chemical wetting agents.. Most important is that you grow what you like to eat! *not included in this package.... This gives the Soil Do not add Key time to work with the What should I look for when purchasing organic compost? water quite yet. Do not use fresh manure! Fresh manure could be too rich in nitrogen and may burn plants.. Vermicompost and synthetic fertilizers...... which we water reservoir Wait 5 to 6 recommend.... NOT WET 1. Read the label carefully. See pg 6... rabbit.. the soil mix should be moist.... Where can I find organic compost? 5 Fill the growing container with the UrBin Grower soil mix... Request one that has not been sterilized... P umice The UrBin GrowerTM has been tested using many popular commercial fertilizers and soil mixes that are available at most garden centers with good results.. Avoid compost that contains “forest products”.... We still recommend growing in a more natural soil environment that you create.... Keep in mind you will be growing in a small space. will Volcanic create the best soil mix for growing organic vegetables.. carefully... planting..5% • When finished... leaves.. horse.... container.. What will you grow in your UrBin GrowerTM? Most flowers. manure.0. 1 gal Pumice... You may also purchase organic compost at your under the days before local garden center... A good substitute for organic compost is garden soil mixed with aged composted manure.. 73 ..3 cups Soil Key. g al mpo ply) 3 Co sup Coir u Why am I asked to supply organic compost? (yo Organic compost. individual results vary.......

Oxygen in the soil helps plants take up water nutrients. capilary action in the soil replaces the water from the water reservoir below. front yard.N e w Wicky Grower TM A New Way To Garden Contents: Grow Anywhere! 1 Soil Separator 1 Growing Container Backyard. and promotes healthy growth and plant vigor. Your plants only take up water as needed. you will see a significant improvement in any plant you grow. By just adding the Soil Separator. 74 Reservoir . drawing water upward. your plants will always have enough water. Sub-Irrigation Watering System By watering in the water reservoir tray during peak growing periods. As roots extend into the soil. This is exactly how nature continually replaces the water in the soil surrounding roots. All you Water have to do is watch the reservoir and you will never over or under water again. 1 Saucer Reservoir porch patio or deck Patent Pending Berries Vegetables Blackberries Corn Blueberries Beans Raspberries Peas Huckleberries Tomatoes Artichokes Potatoes Peppers EASY TO SEE Water Reservoir Soil Separator on the OUTSIDE The Soil Separator provides significant air space in the bottom of the growing container. The air space created by the Soil Separator stimulates development and prevents the roots from circling.

or makeing 1 1/2 gal coconut coir sure your soil medium is or sphagnum peat moss moistened before adding it 1 1/2 gal pumice or perlite to your Wicky Grower. and letting the 5 gal high quality compost water wick-up. tray a few days before you’re Nature’s Footprint’s Suggestions: ready to plant. penetrate. 2 1/2 gal of soil 75 . Note: it is important to purchase “potting mix” soil media. on web sites or by following our by either filling the watering suggestion below.” -Oregon State University Pruning Circling Roots “Circling roots are ‘burned’ off or pruned when exposed to air. Before you plant Directions for making your own growing 2 Make sure the soil in your Wicky Grower is well-watered medium can be found in garden books. While allowing roots to Airspace moisture. wicking up soil from entering the water Airspace below. which is designed for containers and contains amendments to help aerate the mix and retain moisture. Water Water Extending Plant Life & Stimulating New Root Growth “Circling roots (in potted) plants have difficulty getting enough water and nutrients. shortening plant’s life span.Sub-irrigation Watering System Water supply The Majority on the outside is of soil rests always visible on the Soil Separator Wicking Chamber Holes in the Separator Soil comes in contact with Designed to prevent the Soil Soil the water in only a fraction of the surface area.” Long non-circling onion roots The Soil Separator creates -Washington State University an air gap between the soil 2011 Test and the water Getting Started Growing Medium 3 The Wicky Grower has been successfully tested using a broad range of commercial potting grow mixes available at your local 1 garden center. causing the plant to constantly produce Pot with circling roots new and highly branched roots.

and mats have been made from the fiber in the holds around 1000 times more air than soil. Its ability to rehydrate repeatedly as soil moves from wet to dry Coir is a bi-product of coconut harvesting. The Worm Factory® can easily convert Coir into a superior growing medium. Sri Lanka and India to- gether produce 90% of the annual coir production world wide. Unmatched medium for seed starting Coir has a high lignin content. periods of time. Coconut Coir. Excellent in both clay or sandy soils lite. These fibers are obtained by husking or superior choice for creating potting mixes. Organic Growing Medium 100% abundant renewable resource What is Coir. lywas discarded as waste. general purpose soil amendment. Coir out performs peat moss. breaking up the hard shell. expanding air space. forms a chief part of woody tissue. With better nutrient absorption. With its high water-holding capacity. Backyard/garden compost breaks down rapidly in the soil Similar to traditional compost and must be re-applied annually. Up Up to 7 10times times itsits weight weight The Coir in this package has already been screened. washed and graded as a premium horticultural product. 76 . Coir provides plant roots with excellent drainage. and high Similar to traditional compost moisture holding capability. unlike your backyard garden compost which contains fungi and bacteria. will last in soil for years. It is the lignin that resists rapid breakdown in the soil. After adding Coir to soil it has an estimated lifespan of 5 to 10 years before it begins to break down. along with cellulous. For centuries. with little loss in yield is remarkable. Coir is remaining two thirds consisting of pith or dust which previous. coir fosters excellent growth and plant formation. Coir is a 100% organic wetting agent. it is important to make sure Coconut Coir is washed and free of any salt. making Coir the husk of coconuts. then soaking it in water-filled pits to soften the fibers. wet Coir rope. Coir has the ability that horticulturists began studying Coconut Coir dust as a to store and release nutrients to plant roots for extended substitute for sphagnum peat moss. vermicu. Many times coconut husks are processed in water-filled pits FEATURES: of sea water. and where Most commercial bagged potting mixes contain chemical does it come from? wetting agents. Over an extended period of time Coir as a growing medium Absence of weeds. Vermicompost is loaded with these nutrients. rockwool. About 60% of the world’s Coir fiber is produced in the state of Kerala on the western coast of India. an excellent high quality. In addition. Significant reduction of root diseases Compost and Coir have many of the same characteristics. and perlite as a soil amendment. and Unlike peat Unlike peatmoss mosswhich whichhas hasa high acidity pH acidity is the source of Coir’s longevity. Coir’s high air to water ratio These fibers make up about one third of the husks with the is extremely valuable for healthy root development. twine. seeds and pathogens Coir contains no nutrients. on the other hand. such as a spongy texture. It was not until the 1980’s perfect for potted plants and gardens. Lignin is an organic substance that.

many gardeners will disagree because the clay is container with Coir. coir stays in the soil mix for many years. 5kg Garden soil is never recommended for seed starting for many reasons. These characteristics make Coir an ideal soil amend- ment. including peat moss. leaving mers. a sand particle true leaves. appearance of flour. if available. Soil sand however must be small enough creating your own seed starting soil. however. and nutrient storage and retention. How- ever. adds air space and loosens the soil making it easy to till.” fertilizer or add fertilizer to the container your plants are in. perlite and wetting agents like poly- the water will readily drain out along with nutrients. diseases. is slippery when wet. water reten- tion. 250g 650g 9102 77 v061713 . Available Sizes Coir as a seed starting mix For many gardeners starting seeds is a challenge prone to failure. will insure your transplanted plant will adapt its roots into the new location. containing large amounts of minerals which plants need. Coir breaks up the clay particles. Garden writers suggest two important things to consider: 1. to hold some water. and pathogens. water in an attempt to manage moisture as some recom- mend. Silt soil holds more water and has the Remember seeds don’t require fertilizer for germination. clay is by far the best soil for garden. Coir builds strong root structures and air to plant roots. There is also no need to place the starts in a pan of lots of air space. begin to add fertilizer once the plant’s leaves have developed. Since coir retains moisture so well. Make sure there is sufficient light. cannot be compacted. holds seven times its weight in water. it is highly beneficial. unlike garden Adding a handful or two of Coir to each new tray will speed compost which breaks down quickly. unlike gravel for paths. Even so. most of rockwool. Use moist Coir. Transplants ing. Silt soil is much smaller than sand .Sandy soil is by far the largest of the three and can be seen Coir replaces all other recommended soil amendments for with the naked eye. and fill the rest of the area around the difficult to cultivate and is so compacted that it provides little plant with potting soil. is free of weed seeds. Add moisture using a fine spray as the top surface dries out. 2. Of the three soil types. “If a clay particle was the size of a marigold seed. a wetting agent and limestone to correct the pH of peat. fosters root development and does not waterlog. Many advise making a soil mix using peat moss or sphagnum. yet still contains air spaces. it is time to transplant into a container which has would be the size of a large garden wheelbarrow. A medium that retains moisture but avoids becoming wet or soggy. In the book Teaming With Microbes the following illustration is given.will need a microscope to see individual particles. It Worm composters also adds porosity to the mix similar to garden compost. Coir is easy to wet. vermiculite. When mixed with clay soil. Coir also improves sandy soil by adding texture. In fact you will need an electron microscope to see a single clay particle. Clay soil on the other hand is much. rock hard when dry and has little air space between the particles. Gardeners report amazing results converting their home soil into useful medium for soil mixes and container plant grow- ing. much smaller. Starting seeds Clay holds lots of water. a Once your seeds have reached 3” or 4” in height and have silt particle would be the size of large radish. up the compost process and produce a much higher quality of finished worm compost for your garden. Coir however. Coir in not an essential ingredient to operate a worm com- poster. Example: fill the bottom 1/3 of your However. A disease free growing medium. When transplanting any size plant adding Coir is recom- mended below the plant.

even if you don’t have a garden! Patented One cup of SoilKeyTM will multiply the millions of living organisms already found in vermicompost. and a patent pending self-watering reservoir design. and plant your Users Online At: 78 @WormFactory . Grow your own nutrient rich fresh organic vegetables at your own home. The results produce an advanced soil medium which is organic.naturesfootprint. Contact your retailer to learn more about other great products like these from Nature’s Footprint! Connect with other Worm Factory® 360 www. Simply mix in the amendments with your soil. Get the most from your vermicompost! The UrBin GrowerTM provides endless organic vegetables by facilitating growth through a mixture of all natural soil amendments.