Composting and Worms

TheGardenLady received emails from two people asking questions that are similar. I will try to answer both together as well as saying a few words separately to each.

Laura King wrote:

I wanted to know more about composting and what kinds of things I can put in it. I heard so many different things, I know what not to put in but not everything I could be adding.I also want to know if I can add my used tea bags to my rain barrel? Thanks for your help.I just found your web site, so tomorrow when the ids are gone I’ll be back.Thanks for a great site. Laura your friend in dirt.


Jay wrote:

Heard that putting worms in garden makes the garden grow better. true? How about in flower pots or boxes? inside?


The Garden Lady’s Oct. 24 column entitled “Would You Throw Out Your Old Gold” has an extensive list of things that can be put in the compost bin. And the Nov. 30th column about “Good Animal Waste for the Compost” talks about a few more items to be added. Reread those two columns and also check out this site where you can find a comprehensive list of what to compost. Tea bags are excellent for the compost bin. They can be put in the rain barrel but it is better to use in the compost bin. When you read the words compost “tea,” that is a euphemism for putting the (proper) animal manure into water, letting it sit for a few days, so that it won’t burn plants when it is poured in the garden.

Jay’s interest in worms goes along with Laura’s question about composting.

Worms are important in the soil and are found in good, healthy soil where they aerate and improve the soil by making natural fertilizers.

Worms are wonderful for the compost bin. There is a type of composting called Vermiculture. Vermiculture means adding worms to your compost bins and feeding the worms your garbage. The worms think they have gone to worm heaven just eating all their favorite foods. In return, as a present to you from those happy worms, the garbage is now in the form of the best soil you can dream of.

The way you do vermiculture composting is to build or buy a bin (see this site) and buy the worms and just feed them all the garbage you have while keeping the bin snugly warm and moist. You can read about vermiculture here and here as well as other vermiculture sites.

Jay’s question seems to tell the Garden Lady that he wants to do more than just put worms into his compost bin. He wants to add the worms directly to the soil so that they will aerate the soil while making compost directly. His is an interesting question.  I have read of one company that is selling worms to do just such a thing. It is called “Advanced Prairie, Inc. (API) is developing commercially available methods of introducing earthworms into agricultural sites. William R.
Kreitzer, CEO of API, has patented a product that reintroduces earthworms back into a field during planting, which was previously biologically impossible. Mr. Kreitzer invented VermiPodsâ„¢ (VP’s or Encapsulate Earthworm Cocoonsâ„¢, i.e. eggs) and received his Patent (US 6,834,614) on December 28, 2004.” I don’t know the company but their site looks interesting.

Darwin wanted to know how deeply worms aerated the soil and there is an interesting article about his experiment with worms.

I don’t know enough about the different types of worms that one would use. There have been scientific articles about invasive worms that are now becoming a problem in some areas. I would imagine that the companies I suggested would let you know if the worms they sell are the best ones for your area.  You might want to read this NYTimes article which talks about this issue.

Also worms need moisture, so you can’t just put them on your grounds and expect them to “go dig.” They will probably crawl away to a spot of their choosing. You asked about putting worms into pots or boxes and even bringing them indoors. I would imagine that you can put the worms into pots. But you have to have a pot that wouldn’t dry out and
would hold enough food  and wouldn’t get too cold for the worm. So a typical flower pot probably wouldn’t work. There is a minimum size for the vermiculture bin for a reason. About bringing the bin indoors.  Yes, if you are using the worms to compost your garbage, you can bring the bin indoors. They do need a certain amount of warmth in cold weather.

Good luck. And if you use worms, TheGardenLady would like to hear about your experiences with them.

There is a young company in NJ called Terracycle that makes a “tea” from the worm wastes that they collect and mix with water.  I use and like the product. The product was developed by students in Princeton. Jay, you might be coming up with something important for organic growers with your idea; if you can get the worms to stay where you want them in the soil.

2 Replies to “Composting and Worms”

  1. I have been growing worms for the past five years and over the last two, I have a problem with maggots or fly larve. What can be done to get rid of this problem without harming the worms? Also, the worms are healthy but small, what can be done to add weight?
    Thank you for your help in this matter.

  2. My pot plants are all full of worms where the sheep poo is put. (see below) They all seems to do very well. When potting up flowers, bushes etc. I put a layer of potting mix and then a layer of sheep poo then another layer of potting mix, some fertilizer, the plant/plants and fill with potting mix. This is all watered in with seaweed water mix.
    If the pot is very big I add more layers of sheep poo.
    Please note that I do not use very small pots and I have many pots all sitting on very bad soil and all pushed up close together.

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