You stand over your little angels at night, singing sweet lullabies to these gifts from God. You provide for them. You nourish them with food processed especially for them. You change their bed when it’s wet without a second thought. The idea of them leaving you some day is just too much to bear. You just can’t let them be, they’re so damned precious.
You really love your worms, don’t you?
It started as a weird little hobby, but now it’s starting to get a little creepy. You now judge food not on its taste, but how quickly it will break down in the bin. You sift through trash to find the coffee grounds and broccoli stalks your spouse or roomie threw away. You can’t look at a Rubbermaid bin without wanting to drill holes in its sides. But here’s the real problem:
You probably can’t keep your hands off them.
If there were a Jerry Sandusky for earthworms, you’re it.
Fondling your composting worms has a serious downside. It disturbs them! Think about it. If someone fed you and put you near other people in the hopes that you’d reproduce with them, yet came back hours later to toss you around the room, you’d probably find your feeding and sexy-time routines were constantly getting screwed up. And as a result, you’d probably eat and make sweet love a little less enthusiastically than you do now.
Now I haven’t polled the worms on this, but I know of no living organism that performs better at anything when its habitat is constantly being tampered with, which is exactly what you’re doing when you check on them. Your worms may be near the surface, but they typically aren’t visible when you open the bin you’re keeping them in.
So if you can’t see them, what is your likely method of checking on them each day?
Digging of course. It’s the worm equivalent of the SWAT Team raiding and ransacking your home, overturning your furniture and emptying your dresser drawers. When they leave, it takes hours for things to return to normal. Of course, you were only making sure things were OK, but wouldn’t it be better if you could do that without upending your worms’ habitat every couple of days?
Invest about 15 bucks in 2 things: A thermometer and a soil humidity/ph tester. If your composting worms are bedded in material they can readily eat, like paper, cardboard, or horse manure, you could leave them alone for weeks since these tools will help keep tabs on your worm container’s water level, acidity, and temperature, easily its 3 most critical measurements. Both are found cheaply on Amazon (though you may get what you pay for).
When the moisture drops below 70%, give your bed a liberal sprinkling of water. (Read this article for more tips on moisture control) When your bed measures more than 85 to 90 degrees F, move it away from open sunlight, out of hot areas if possible, or feed them less as the high temp may be from thermophylic composting. If pH is 6.5 or lower, add some rock dust or lime to increase it.
But whatever you do, please resist the urge to get “handsy” with your wigglers.
I know it’s awesome to find cocoons, babies, and adolescents to validate your worm breeder bona fides. It’s so cool to find that chunk of cantaloupe you just know the worms have been destroying. And just seeing evidence of proper pH, temperature and moisture isn’t nearly as satisfying as digging around. But you’re not doing them any favors.
I get it. You enjoy these worms. But if they had a worm courthouse, the little vermi-judge would have issued you a restraining order by now. So resolve to stop stalking your worms. Give them time to acclimate and reproduce. If you have your thermometer and tester, try to go two weeks without inspecting them. Keep track of where you fed them last with whatever so you’ll only dig where you need to put the food. I think you’ll find that reproduction and food consumption accelerate when you do go digging around again. If your worms are in homemade containers like Rubbermaid bins and you have a hard time feeding the worms without disturbing them, consider a flow-through system like the Urban Worm Bag, an inexpensive continuous flow system for the home, manufactured by your humble author.
Do you have a problem like this that you need to confess? Let me know in the comments below!
The 2020 Vermicomposter's Starter Guide
Your roadmap to a successful beginning in vermicomposting.