Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Worm Ranching

For about a month, I've been trying to worm farm--feeding kitchen scraps to about two pounds of red-wriggler worms I bought from the Happy D Ranch in Calfornia.

I know, sending worms 3,000 miles across country, along with a bin, seems environmentally unwise but I tried to buy the worms here on Long Island, to no avail. I called about 12 places, bait shops, gardening centers, etc., trying to buy red wrigglers before finally giving up and buying them and the bin. (Someone at the gardening department of one of the big-box stores exclaimed, "I hope not!" when asked whether the store sold worms.) The Happy D site offers several different packages, including the option of buying worms or bins separately.

So I set the bin up outside, just in time for the really cold nights that we had through most of May. In fact, I had to bring the bin inside a couple of nights. Now, this week, the 100-degree heat has forced me to bring them into the garage again. When cold weather arrives in the fall, they'll have to go into a downstairs hall, near the utility room, where they'll be reasonably comfortable.

I'm not good at following printed directions but I think I got the bin set up properly, though the directions that came with the bin differ slightly from the ones that came with the worms.

A couple of things happened right away. Having the worms forced me to think about separating the garbage a little better. And it gave me a place to dispose of the lint from the dryer (apparently lint is a worm favorite.) It also taught me to be careful when poking around the bin because immediately it attracted slugs. Sprinkling some salt on the ground around the bin took care of that problem, though.

I can't really see that they've produced compost--apparently it takes a couple of months. They do seem to be munching their way through the leftover lettuce, beans and other kitchen waste. It's not clear to me, though, how you detect the difference between worm castings and the dirt put into the bin to get them started. It's probably time to join a worm forum. (My teenager won't speak to me about this whole project.) Stay tuned. More riveting tales to come.

And, separately, I've turned an old garbage can into a composting heap, too, bought a pitchfork and am turning the stuff to see whether I can produce more compost. I think I have really lousy dirt on my property--not even an azalea plant wants to grow properly, though I do have high hopes for a Japanese maple and a dogwood tree planted three weeks ago. But green thumb--no. Just a pasty little, dirt-covered white one.

UPDATE: Sorry to say that I waited too long to move the worms out of the heat Tuesday. They've gone to worm heaven, most of them. Clues: unmoving blob. Translucent.

So I've ordered more from NY Worms and am trying again.

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