Sunday, 11 December 2011

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,

Earth Worms

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,
Eat all the rotted vegetation, improve all the yields,
Drawn down into the earth, a worm hole there to leave,
Pushing up the worm casts, a little pile of soil is heaved.


Earth Worms

Part of the ecology of the earth and soil that it is made up of is occupied by earth worms. These are only seen when ploughing or digging, this is when you see hundreds of birds following the plough. Worms eat through and draw down compost and dead vegetation into the ground often leaving the familiar worm casts. This gives a natural drainage and aeration to the surface of the land.




Some years ago as a side line to my farming, we had a wormery, breeding and rearing earth worms, for fishermen, and supplying them to gardener's to be put into garden compost bins. It was very interesting in that, you could use the natural instincts of the earth worm, in order to "harvest" them or separate them from their eggs.

Initially we bought five thousand worms as a starter pack, and introduced them fifty at a time into a peat / rotted horse muck mixture in plastic bins or boxes measuring 12 x 18 inches by 12 inches deep ( for metric modern folk its, 30 x 45 mm and 30 deep) this was then covered with a bit of old carpet to keep the whole lot moist. They were stacking boxes as used in offices and store houses, and the worms could be stacked three high on trestle tables up out of the draught and kept at a temperature of no less than 60F. Each week they were checked for moisture to see the compost was not drying out,

And after six weeks the fifty worms had "eaten" the rotted horse muck and the litter had to be renewed. Each box was tipped out onto a table, any worms exposed soon burrowed deep back into the pile, the litter on the outside of the cone was gradually scraped away driving the worms into the centre.





Repeating this a few times within a few minuets you are left with a pile of just clean worms all trying to get under each other away from light, forgot to say you need a bright light on above the table while doing this job as it makes them move even faster. The piles of fifty worms are put back into their boxes with new peat and rotted muck and the carpet replaced.

The spent litter, on looking carefully is full of eggs, this is put into a box double the size of that they came out of, along with an equal proportion of new peat/muck mixture, a piece of carpet placed on top and keep an eye on the moisture of the boxes over the next month or so. It's quite exciting to find your fist hatchlings so small you can hardly see them. After a few more weeks the young worms can be tipped out with there own litter into a main muck ruck, or compost heap if that's what you like to call it.

This again must be covered with a large carpet, or something similar, and every week taken off and add another layer of rotted muck. You can hose pipe spray on top of the carpet if it's too dry, and the young worms will eat their way up from the compost below up into the muck. After ten or twelve weeks the worms will be approaching adult size, almost ready to breed themselves.

There are a number of ways of catching these worms when they are ready for sale, you can spread a fine mesh over the litter before you spread the next lay of muck, only a very thin layer, and the mesh needs to be big enough for the worms to get through. Then replace the carpet and moisten in the usual way, after a few hours or perhaps the following morning most of the worms are in that top layer above the mesh. Remove the carpet, and rollup the mesh and some litter and nearly all the worms from that area, and tip them onto a table beneath a bright light, they will endeavour to get to the centre of the pile and what bit of litter you have on the table can be gently scraped off then.

For smaller scale harvest you can used a fine garden riddle with a bit of new rotted muck and place it on the surface under the carpet, you get the same results as described above.

If your main rearing bed is outside, the biggest problem will be badger's, rats and moles, they must be excluded, as if they once find your worm population, they will insist on returning every night. The beds can be of sleeper on edge round the sides as in a raised bed for gardening, instead if old carpet nowadays the top can be covered with bubble wrap and secured down round the edges.

Once the fishermen and gardeners know where you are and what you've got they can be packed in fifties in a handful of new peat in small plastic boxes, with air holes in the lid. They can be posted all over the country this way, (so long as you've got your money in your pocket first). The largest consignment was for a months fishing trip to Ireland for two fishermen, who called and picked them up on the way.

To get an idea of what to charge you have only to go to one or two fishing tackle shops and enquire as to what they charges for worms.
The spent worm compost is ideal for selling to gardener and nursery men as it is completely weed free and stone free, and most of it derived from what goes through the horses gut, then through the worms gut, when starting a new bed use about a foot deep of the old compost/litter as that is where they reside and gradually eat their way up into new rotted muck. Very little or no peat is used once they have establish their own "living" litter; peat is mainly used for the breeding boxes mixed half and half with muck.

Worms in the garden

Worms in the garden, and worms in the fields,
Eat all the rotted vegetation, improve all the yields,
Drawn down into the earth, a worm hole there to leave,
Pushing up the worm casts, a little pile of soil is heaved.

Repeated over a garden, or over acres in the grass,
Drawing down the cow pats, does it quietly without harass,
Moving in its little way, tons and tons of soil,
Millions of them working hard, their little bit of toil.

Owd Fred


To cherish what remains of the earth and to foster its renewal is our only hope of survival.
Wendell Berry.

No comments:

Post a Comment