Monday, July 26, 2010

Tales From the Bucket: Hands Off That Worm(ery)

(image from IMDB, came up in a search for "worm dude". Don't ask.)

The bucket wormery was harvested mid-November or thereabouts, at which point I refilled the bucket half and half with cured bokashi and porch sweepings (that's “dried leaves” to most folks, though sweeping off a deck picks up different stuff than raking a lawn). It occurred to me just after adding the bokashi that there were almost certainly still a few small or stubborn worms clinging to the sides and seams of the bucket—I'd overturned it to collect the vermicompost, but hadn't bothered to rinse it out or anything.

Oh, well. Seeing as I hadn't killed any worms in a while, I tossed another dozen into the mix and decided to call it a test. Small population, lots of food guaranteed to heat but a good mix for wormfood aside from that, no modifications.


This bucket is the basic homebrew jr. wormery, nested kitty litter buckets with a spigot for drainage and holes in the upper rim and lid. But I have no tolerance for fruitflies, so my jr. got a cotton pillowcase snood fairly early on in its career, and I've never seen any reason to reclaim it. Once the bucket was full, I scrunched the pillowcase on, making sure it covered all the vent-holes, then shoved the whole thing underneath my outdoor seedling table. Where it remained. No insulation even during our hard freeze, no added water, no stirring, no dusting of eggshells, and no peeking.

Until spring. Around the time the BSFL were waking from hibernation, I decided to check on that bucket. Looked really pretty, lots of dark brown threaded with wriggling red, but I wasn't prepared to harvest that day, so I just tossed them some UCG and a few crushed eggshells to tide them over and went on my way.

Took another two months for me to get around to that harvest, so I'm glad I gave them that snack, but I think they might have been all right anyway. I pulled a respectable few cups of worms out during the harvest, along with eight beautiful liters of pure vermicompost all rich and dark and so very different from the less mature, soil-amended stuff I harvest more regularly (or at least more frequently) from the tower wormeries.

Not the most controlled experiment ever, but definitely worth doing again! For large planters, I prefer the soil-amended vermicompost, but for seedling mixes and soil-free applications having pure vermicompost is pretty much required. Also, it's a whole lot better suited to making compost tea*.

The planter towers are more immediately useful—I grow things in the tops—but there's something to be said for the no-tend model. No BSFL, no squash bug larvae, no fruitflies, no ants. Told myself that next time I'd be kinder to the worms, mix the leaves and bokashi in a worm-free unit to let it cook, but I didn't. Just as soon as I'd finished chortling over the total harvest, I tossed some leaves into the still-unrinsed bucket. And then some bokashi. And a dozen worms.

Hey, why mess with what works?

In a few generations, I might think about mixing some worms in from another colony. Other than that, I think this is part of the rotation. To a lot of vermicomposters, of course, this is heresy—planning to neglect the worms!—but I'm still working on the two-touch container garden (plant and harvest with no tending between). Always assuming I don't manage to cook this set before they produced some cocoons, I think this one's ready for cloning to my satellite locations.

Good thing my friends all know I'm obsessed. "Hi! How'd you like to foster a wormery? Junior's no trouble at all, just leave him tucked up in his blankie. I'll be back in a few months."


*or AIM, but that's a whole post on its own!

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