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I know many folk have installed worm towers in their garden. Maybe others have plastic worm farm setups.

I assume that in both cases  compost worms are being deployed.

I am in a state of ambivalence at the moment as I consider this whole worm 'farming' thing. I've always been a conscious earthworm farmer.

Indeed I think that's the essence of kitchen gardening.Do that and the rest follows:pH, soil nutrition & friability

I mulch. Bury scraps. Keep up the moisture. I seldom use manures. Nothing leaves the outback.

Consequently, says I, I cannot turn over a sod of earth outback without scooping up earthworms. Many per trowel full. It's embarrassing as it's easy to accidentally slice the wee things into two with the implement in my hand.

I think that's awesome.

At the school garden there's hardly any worms so I'm keen to introduce a worm tower project: using a  steel mesh design (LINK)

Nonetheless, I cannot see the value of compost worms in such an enterprise. We have a few plastic worm farms but I'm in two minds whether re-activating them is warranted -- primarily because they can require ongoing maintenance.

Surely the only issue is the question of speed of break down and rotting? I'm not interested in collecting worm juice or separating worms from compost. I just want rot to set in.

As for the weeds: well they may be be compostable, but I don't trust composting enough to kill seeds, so I'm absolutely a groupie for weed teas and other ferments.

kill em by drowning, i say.

We have  compost bins but being a lazy so and so , I refuse to use them. I'm a pull and drop man when not preparing tea.

[It's is my tea making that has so enamored me to Wandering Jew: brews up great, it does. Easy harvest. Suppresses other weeds while it grows. Easily pulled out (although never completely removed.). Always on hand for a brew up. For a weed, the Wandering Jew is kosher!]

In the same mode, much as I appreciate eggs, I find keeping chooks not so useful for the soil as it is so difficult to harvest and deploy their manure. I can't establish a protocol that works. That's relevant because the chooks eat most of our kitchen scraps.

Alternatively, I could bury all of these leftovers in a series of towers.

I know worm villages work because that's what my clay pot irrigators fostered: worm gentrification.

Of course, issues of fetid smell, rodents, dogs, fruit fly and the like must be addressed in the design of the towers and the protocols of their management.

Am working on that.I've even picked out the designs i hope to paint on the caps.

But before I turn my back on the compost worms I want to be sure I'm doing  right by the soil.

I had originally considered trench mulching -- which was my past habit. But digging holes and filling them in gets confusing when you come to later plant out. I'd mark the spot but over time the markers got lost.

But trench mulching taught me that I can bury ANY thing and get away with it. Dead animals. Bones. Slops. Manures....Just lay off the salt.  But with trench mulching you need to expose your hole; throw in the scraps; and cover the hole up again with enough soil so that it cannot be raided by animals. 

Quite a labour.

Whereas with 'towers' it's an open and shut case....

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A clay pot even with a drainage hole left open could lead to drowning of the worms as it limits water run off.It wouldn't hold much rubbish either.

Worms like the outside perimeter of the clay pots because, I suspect, they are moist (and cool in Summer). Also with the consistent moisture you get a lot of microbial activity in proximity.

Of course you could remove the compost made in these setups by hand but you can just as easily insert another one -- or move the same one -- somewhere else.

[All my cost was $20 for more mesh than I can use and some  cut off  shade cloth plus on-hand old pots.]

My take on earthworms is that anything I place in one spot in the garden in way of biodegradable stuff will be ferried by the worms elsewhere via their tunneling habits and castings.

Works for me in my patch.

I have earthworms up to pussie's bow and a consistent soil texture despite uneven attention.

Prior to this I used to create mulch filled  holes:

  • dig a narrow hole
  • stuff rolled up newspaper and manures and cuttings down it
  • mark it with a stick
  • then hose it occasionally and use as a sponge similar to the clay pots/ollas.
  • it rots away in good time

Indeed I was going to do this on a larger scale with trenches rather than holes when I realised that all that digging and filling-in was effort that the worms could do for me.

Also trenches were prone to invasive undermining  by rodents, dogs or other ferals.And each time you drop off food scraps you need to cover them with lots of soil if only for smell and flies.

With  pet dogs, they will keenly dig up any meats or bones you bury...

It is a principle that underscores the African keyhole garden : basically a mulch pit with a garden built around it.

So I started looking at worm towers.

Usually they are designed with compost worms in mind.So they tend to be enclosed with far fewer perforations.  These mesh cages will accommodate them but the main  target is the earth worms.

No more fiddling with layers or sifting through the trash to limit their menu. Just open up and dump. maybe throw in a bit of brown or green stuff . No churning or turning. no sweat.

if the dog is extra keen, just slap a rock on top (of the tower/not the doggie).

As it is, in the school garden I'm combining clay pot irrigation with worm towers.

A double whammy.

I've made 6 of these rigs so far and buried them.

I have plans for a few more.

If they work I'll let you know. One group will be in my garden maintained by moi. The other at the school and the kids will be  resourcing the mesh lined holes.

Resources: Earthworm Society...

Also: Worm Wise:

Earthworms improve soil fertility by their burrowing, casting and feeding. Water and plant roots penetrate deeper into soil in which earthworms have burrowed. Compared to the bulk soil, casts contain greater levels of available plant nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, as well as more bacteria and fungi. The quantity of nutrients contained in casts depends on the quality of the food the earthworm eats and the age of the casts. Fresh casts tend to have a higher nutrient content compared to old casts. Earthworms also create burrows through which rainfall can drain freely away from the soil surface. Increases in water infiltration of up to 40% means a greatly reduced risk of surface soil erosion and ensures that the plant roots can access this' water more effectively. Earthworm bUlTows also enable plant roots easier passage into compact soils or soils with a hard-pan and provide aeration for these roots. Increased growth of both pasture and crops has been demonstrated where earthworms have been introduced into soils either lacking them, or containing only low numbers. Scientific research has demonstrated pasture production increases of 25%, 20% and 10% in New Zealand, the Netherlands and Ireland, respectively. CSIRO research in' Adelaide has also demonstrated wheat grain production increases of 35% in glasshouse trials, and between 13% and 75% in paddock trials. Individual farmers like Bert Farquhar, who owns 30,000 ha of pastoral land in north-. eastern Tasmania, claims that by introducing earthworms into his paddocks he has increased the fertility of his soil by 25%.

Dave,  The earthworm's work is silent, it chews up our garbage and renews the soil with it's castings and drainage works.  They should be protected by law like certain snakes and birds.

I love the words "worm villages".  We should learn more about them.  Do they sleep, are they blind, how long do they live for.   

Keep up the good work, with teaching the schoolkids about farming worms.

Blind to our way of looking at the world but very aware of their surroundings. Put one on the soil surface and see how fast it gets away.

Never know whether worms or bees or other tiny animals sleep. I'd love to know. Maybe like horses they can snatch a few minutes and be refreshed. Lying abed for 8 hours is not for them.

 Worm farmer what does it cost to produce a kilo of worms .

What type of worms, Jeff.   I don't buy compost worms and my earthworms are free and plentiful.

Compost worms if can sell to others probably have value but if using as a food source for fish or other animals would have less value and if successful the numbers are going to grow what they produce from the compost may be enough to keep going.

Dumb and dumber follow their dream of a worm store.

It has been years in the making. An EPIC adventure under the earth. A cast of thousands....

I'm not familiar with other peoples' dirty stories but mine is chock full of worms.

I cannot dip my fingers into my garden soil without turning over earthworms. When I plant a seedling I fear I'm destroying a tenement block teeming with these wonderful creatures. They are less than 3-5 cm apart from each other -- a'wriggling and squirming at my disturbance.

I've never seen so many. Literally at my fingertips.

And they are everywhere. Within each sod. Each square metre of soil must have a very many worms per capita.  Alive. Dead. Young. Old. Their castings.

Can you have too many?

Worm villaging is definitely win/win.

Whereas, worm farming (with compost worms) I find is a precious activity , fiddly, involved and unreliable.

Says I. I failed the exam.

But if:

  • you mulch your garden beds generously year in and year out
  • you don't turn over the soil
  • you bury your kitchen and crop wastes
  • you keep layering your pathways with brush, paper, pulled weeds and other biodegradable stuff so that they act as stamped down compost strips.
  • you plant out all your beds with ground covers rather than leave them fallow or empty.
  • you leave in the roots of plants undisturbed after harvest
  • you dress the soil with some compost teas occasionally
  • you make eclectic use of shade
  • you fertilize with urine (I do anyway)
  • you keep up the water (that's H20) not the stuff you make yourself)

...& you'll have earthworm numbers like I have.

Indeed I have worms and soil outback. A teeming nation doing the heavy lifting and churning while I chill out.

I'd like to say that hedging your beds with Vetiver is also worm sponsoring but I can't know that for sure...not yet.

My perspective is that if they're content -- all's right with the underground world.

The worms know more than I do. I just serve them. Try to keep them happy.


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