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Worms doing well in Houston heat

24 May

From Mark

My worms seem to be thriving now. Have dozens of them in every handful of compost. How quickly will they reproduce? How long before my population outgrows my 20 gallon plastic container? They are in my garage and it is getting a little warm, so I put a frozen gallon of water in it every day to keep temp in high 60s. They seem to like it. I keep one jug in freezer and one in bin and rotate every day. I am ready to harvest my first batch of compost in a few weeks. Mark.

Great to hear.  Excellent idea with the frozen water bottle.

Your worms should double in # in @ 90 days.  You can start a new bin at any time.  While harvesting castings is a good time to take inventory, see how they are doing, and start a new bin.  You can get another 20 gallon container or multiple 5-10 gallon ones.  Now the fun begins, watching your worms multiply and produce castings. 

Thanks for the update. 



Help. I’m losing my worms.

21 May

Below is a question I received via email, and thought I would share it.

Question from reader:

I have a problem with my worms and was wondering if you can help. I recently purchased a worm composter manufactured by Tumbleweed called Can-O-Worms. It has two working trays that have holes in them to allow worms to migrate upwards and also allows liquid to filter down into a collector tray. I have discovered that a lot of my red worms are dropping down into the collector tray and then dying. I also am finding several worms dying in the working tray (their bodies look as though they have been pinched). Have you ever heard of this? Is this a design flaw of my composter? I am very interested in worm composting and would welcome your advice. :

I’m happy to try and help. You only have a problem if you are losing more than a few.  It’s normal to lose a four or five every once in awhile, in the bottom tray. You’ll usually have a few curious worms, and they are highly sensitive to barometric pressure.

The pinching is not something I’m familiar with. The only predators are centipedes and moles. If you do suspect a predator, diatomaceous earth can be added to your bedding. This is safe for you and the worms but will kill insects and Arthropoda. You can find it in most garden sections, be sure and stay away from pool grade. The pool grade is too fine and can be ingested and can be dangerous. If your losses are more than a few, I might need some more info. What, how much, and how often are you feeding? Temp of bin? Is it too wet? What other critters do you see in your bin?

 From reader: Thanks for your rapid response. After reading your email I immediately went out and cleaned the collector tray. I counted about 18 dead worms. Today (two days later) I only found 2 dead and one alive. I was pleasantly surprised with the few numbers. Maybe things are stabilizing. I’ll keep you updated. I can only assume that the pinching I talked about is caused by the worm trying to squeeze through a hole much smaller than it can manage.  I have found worms pinched in half on the surface with guts exposed and bleeding.  At one point I was wondering if maybe I caused these injuries by scratching the surface to see how the worms were doing. Are they so delicate that I should not be probing the bed? Maybe these last couple of days by leaving them alone is the result of the few casualties. But then I wonder how is it possible for your worms to survive the tumbling action of your worm harvester? As for centipedes, I don’t know. I haven’t seen any. I started this worm composter about two weeks ago.  So far I have only fed the worms the original coir bedding, lettuce, banana peels and coffee grounds.   Today at 3:00 PM the temperature of the bed is 70F. The instructions of the bin calls for flushing the bed once a week with a pail of water. Since the water freely drains into the collector tray I didn’t think things could get too wet. What is too wet? Thanks again for all your input, :

Good, those numbers are more like it. 2 rather than 18.

The worms should not be pinching themselves trying to squeeze, and are
not going to get killed by you scratching the surface. The only thing
I can think of on the pinching front, is if you might by accident be
clipping them with the tray? They can also be gripping when the tray
is pulled off and be getting pulled apart. I am pretty gentle when
pulling them out of the screen. They wrap up and coil to hang on, I
will have to unwrap them sometimes because they will hold on tight.

The weekly flush I’m not familiar with? Why do they want you to flush
it? The flush could have sent some of the 18 worms to a watery grave.

Holes can get stopped up with castings, real wet bins get real fudgy.
Too wet will clog drainage holes and make harvesting more difficult.

Hang in there, we’ll get you rolling, and it will be a breeze.

Red Worms vs. Nightcrawlers for Composting. What’s the Difference?

15 May

Red Worms (Eisenia fetida)European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis), and African Nightcrawlers (Eudrillus eugeniae), are all excellent composters.  These worms vary in size, w/ Red Worms being the smallest and possibly the least picky.  Red Worms ease of care and ability to handle a wide range of temperatures make them a popular composting worm.

European and African Nightcrawlers are larger worms.  European Nightcrawlers are popular w/ fisherman, due to size.  You’ll find their larger cousin (Canadian Nightcrawler) in bait shops, as well.  European Nightcrawlers can be used for composting, but thought to be less efficient than Red Wigglers or African Nightcrawlers.

African Nightcrawlers are a tropical worm that thrive in warmer climates, need to be kept in temperatures above 70F and will start to die off at 60F.  They are the choice for many commercial worm casting producers that have access to climate controlled facilities.  All three species or varieties can be prolific in the right conditions, and make excellent composting worms.

Add Alabama Jumpers, Red Worms to your soil or raised bed.

19 Apr

When your worm order arrives here is one way to add them to your garden, raised bed, soil.  Your farm is a great place to raise your worms, but soon you will need to harvest the worms in order to make room for more.  You can use all or a portion of your worms.  In this example I am adding a box of Alabama Jumpers or as I like to refer to them “Texas Jumpers” to a raised bed I have prepared.

1. Choose a location preferably a shady spot that you can keep somewhat moist.  If you are adding to a full sun area be sure to cover with a few inches of mulching material to protect from the sun and to retain moisture. Leaves, newspaper, straw will work fine.  Morning or evening are the best time to add your worms.

2. Pre-wet the area you have chosen to prepare a nice moist environment for your worms to settle in.

3. You will need to dig a small hole about the size and depth of the box or container of your worms and contents.

4. Empty contents worms and compost into the hole.

5.  Cover with a section of wet newspaper.  This will keep the worms cool and protected from drying out giving them an opportunity to settle in to their new home. The Alabama Jumpers will eventually spread out on their own.  Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers will stay were they are fed and are not going to spread like the tunneling Jumpers. In the event you are adding Red Worms or European Nightcrawlers you will add a handful of kitchen scraps to the same location you placed your worms every few days.  As your worm population grows you will learn how often to feed based on how fast they work through the organic material.  The Alabama Jumpers are great for aerating and fertilizing the soil.  Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers are better composting worms.

For added protection I covered the newspaper with some leaves.  This method is one I have used with success, I have included some other similar worm bed set up links I have used.  Have fun and send us ideas.  Let us know if you have any questions.

Worm Tubes, Worm Pit, Outdoor Worm Bed, Flow Through Worm Bin.

Worm Composting Bins and Garden Worm Tubes

31 Mar

Brian in San Antonio was kind enough to share some pictures of his worm tubes that he placed under the eves of his home and buried about 18″.  He drilled several holes in the  bottom 18″ buried portion of the pipe for drainage.

I just wanted to thank you for your help and encouragement starting worm composting. I went ahead and mixed 50-50 cow manure and peat moss in my tube and added a hand full of your red worms, and built a two bin system for the rest of the worms. two worm I added to my potted pineapple plant as an experiment. I figured I’d let the worms settle in for 3-7 days before adding vegetable mater. take a look at my pictures   and let me know what you think. thanks again brother. BRIAN

Here are some more pics of his two bin system.

Above: drainage bin to catch excess moisture from worm composting bin.

Thanks to Brian in San Antonio for sharing your pics and ideas.

Let us know if you have any questions about composting w/ worms.  Red Worms, European Nightcrawlers, and Alabama Jumpers available at for composting, gardening, and fishing. For more tips on what to do when you receive your worms check out our Care of Worms section.

Alabama Jumpers in Texas

28 Mar

I have been experimenting for a little over a year with the Alabama Jumper, sometimes referred to as the Georgia Jumper, or in this case Texas Jumper. The scientific name of which being Amynthas agrestis.  Now that that’s out of the way, this Jumper isn’t even originally from Alabama?   As a matter of fact, it is believed to hail from Asia.  How about that?  This aggressive and super strong worm can and will jump right out of your hand.  This super strength makes it a powerful tunneler, and allows it to burrow through some of the hardest packed clay soil.  This worm is a hot item, and is in high demand by gardeners everywhere for these reasons.  European nightcrawlers, African nightcrawlers, and Red Worms, are all great, but the Alabama Jumper can go to work in clay and sand unlike the other varieties.  I have experienced it’s power first hand, and been amazed at it’s strength and ability to work through some hard soil.  In San Antonio, we’ve got some pretty tough clay, and I have seen these Jumpers perform mightily in it.  I too have read all the hype about this worm, and it is the real deal.  The Alabama Jumper is great for people that want a worm to go to work in their soil, garden, or flowerbeds.  For composting, producing castings, or fishing I would recommend the others.

I have been trying various methods of raising the Alabama Jumper for over a year, and have had success with raising them in bins, as well as, worm beds or pits.  They are reproducing in both environments, and I have a limited amount available for sale.  Call for availability.

Make your own worm pit.

25 Mar

Due to a lack of morning or afternoon sun, I had a difficult time growing anything in this flower bed.  What began about three years ago as a compost pile would be converted into a worm pit.

First, I dug out some of the existing soil that was mostly clay and caliche (rock).  I dug out about 18″ and began filling w/ organic matter.  I began adding coffee grounds, horse and cow manure, grass clippings, leaves, and other vegetable waste.  I didn’t add worms until about this time last year.  Adding the worms at this point,  gave the organic matter plenty of time to break down, and provide a rich environment for the worms.  The worms have flourished and every handful yields a good many worms.  I have continued to add compost material, and water as needed to keep the bed moist.  Over the last month or so, the live oaks have given us a ton of leaves, and I have added them to the top layer as a mulch.   You can use newspaper, hay, or other kinds of mulch to keep the worm bed from drying out.  A layer of mulch will also keep the worms cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  This particular worm pit I am raising Alabama Jumpers, but is suitable for other species, red worms, European nightcrawlers, and African nightcrawlers.

Harvesting Worm Castings w/ a Homemade Sifter

23 Mar

For large jobs of sifting worms from castings or compost I use my Texas Worm Harvester, but for smaller jobs I have built a small box sifter.  With some scrap materials,  and the left over 1/4 inch wire mesh I had I put together this sifter.  I have also seen where other worm farmers use 1/8 inch screen, for my use I have found the 1/4 inch to do just fine.  Separating worms from castings using this or the harvester method is the first step I take and removes most of the worms are course unprocessed organic matter.  I do spend time picking out tiny worms and eggs, but losing a few is not a big deal.  Here is a picture of a tiny hatchling that I found while harvesting castings.  As you can see, or maybe not, these little guys are hard to find.  This little thread of a worm was wiggling which made him easier to see.

Outdoor worm bed question?

8 Mar

Thanks to Chris from Arkansas who sent in a great video question via email.

My response:

Looks like a great spot to build a worm bed. (Pick a shaded area that can be kept moist, well drained, with decaying organic matter.)

You can do either:
If you bury your plastic bin, be sure the bottom of the tub is either removed or has lots of good sized drainage holes.  You could also dump the contents of your plastic bin into the flower bed.  For added protection from drying out, and critters you can cover with a few layers of damp newspaper, cardboard, straw, mulch, old carpet, or plywood.
Or you can do both:
Bury your red wiggler bin.  Use the rest of the space for European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis), or other species.  By building up organic matter you can attract your native earthworms and/or supplement with some purchased worms.   You can keep tabs on your red worm population, and watch the locals come to feed.  I have done this in a couple of flower beds, and it seems to work well.  The red worms will not stray and stay close to the food source.  The earthworms (European nightcrawlers) tend to spread out more which is great for surrounding soil.  Keeping your bed moist and full of organic matter will attract them and keep a fair amount close to home.
Hope that helps.
Red Worms– (Eisenia foetida) top feeders, composting worms, extremely prolific.
European Nightcrawlers– (Eisenia hortensis) deeper feeders, great for aerating lawn and garden, can also be used for composting.
Both Red worms and European nightcrawlers can be used to reduce household waste, accelerate the composting process, as well as, add nutrient rich natural fertilizer to plants, grass, and garden.

Cold Hardiness of Worms

21 Feb

WIth temperatures dipping into the mid-20’s and a wind chill well below, I transported several pounds of red worms and european nightcrawlers in the back of a pick up from San Antonio through Houston to southeast Texas.  I knew it was going to get cold, but the forecast for San Antonio was way off.  When planning our trip, the most recent weather reports called for morning temperatures in the mid-50’s.  Thank God for the cold hardiness of these worms.  We finally reached our destination and the 6 hours the worms spent in small bins exposed to these temperatures I feared I would have lost many of the worms.  Temps. in bins dipped well below freezing.

Fortunately, both species (europeans and red wigglers) recovered just fine.  Even the smaller juvenile worms were actively working the next day, as I checked the bins and got them to 50F.

God bless these little guys who prove over and over their resilience in some less than ideal conditions.  I don’t recommend testing the limits, as I typically keep them fairly protected (indoors when possible, the garage, and worm beds several inches underground).