Worm growers of Oregon, much like other worm growers throughout the U.S., raise worms for many different reasons. Worm growers provide fishermen with a steady supply of fish bait. Other Oregon worm growers may sell worms to pet stores, bait and tackle stores, and through online stores. But one of the most popular reasons for worm growing is composting. In some cases “worm growing” and “composting” are used interchangeably as far as meanings. Because composting is more popular than ever, we will discuss worm growing and composting as one in the same.
When worms consume food scraps, the scraps become compost as they pass though the worms body. The compost exits the worm’s body through its tail. The result is a powerful fertilizer that can be used to help grow plants to their maximum potential. Worm compost is such a powerful fertilizer because worms eat nutrient packed fruit and vegetable scraps and in turn, their bodies turn the scraps into nutrient-rich compost.
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Worm growers of Oregon usually grow worms under controlled conditions and indoors. Worm growing is actually a process of using worms to recycle organic material and food scraps into a useful soil amendment called vermicompost. Vermicompost is also called “worm compost.” Other terms for worm growing include “worm composting” or “vermiculture.”
To be successful at worm growing, you will need several items:
·Raw fruits and vegetables
·A shallow container (24″ X 18″ X 8″ should suffice) with a lid
·Worms, preferably red worms such as Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus
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One of the first things you should do to begin the worm growing process is to purchase red worms. Red worms can be purchased from a number of online retailers or at most plant and/or pet stores. Next, wash out the container or bin. If you have a wooden bin, line the bottom of it with sturdy plastic such as a heavy trash bag or shower curtain. Mix the organic materials together and add the worms. It takes roughly 3-5 months for the worms to eat through the materials. At this time, you will notice very little materials and a hefty amount of compost. Once this happens, it’s time to harvest.
Harvesting means: do not add any food to the bin for two weeks. When two weeks has passed, simply move all of the worm bin contents to one side of the bin and remove any large pieces of undecomposed materials. Add fresh materials – leaves, fruits and vegetables, to the empty side of the bin. Over the next two weeks or so, the worms will begin to move to the side where the new materials are located, leaving their compost behind. All that is needed at this point is to remove the old compost and replace it with fresh materials. Cover the new side of the composting bin to encourage the worms to migrate to the new side.
When you are ready to use your fresh worm compost, you can use several methods of extraction, but one method in particular seems to be the most effective. Dump the entire contents of the bin onto a large sheet of plastic and make several piles. Once exposed to the light, the worms will quickly bury themselves in the bottom of the compost within 2-3 minutes. After a few minutes, remove the top layer of compost, leaving the worms on the bottom. Once you have removed all of the worm compost, simply collect the worms and return them to the composting bin.
Worm growing material is ready to use immediately or if you choose, you can store it for later use. Worm compost can be added directly into your potting soil or mixed in with your garden soil as a soil amendment. If you notice a worm or two in the compost, don’t be alarmed. This is fairly common. Worm compost use is not limited to outdoor gardening. Because the odor is not offensive, worm compost can also be used in the tops of plants.
For more information about worm growers of Oregon, visit the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts at www.oacd.org.