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October 6, 2017

Can I add Red Wigglers to my Compost, Yard, Garden, etc?

Kingdom : Animalia  – Phylum : Annelida – Class : Oligochaeta – Subclass : Diplotesticulata
Order : Opisthopora – Family : Megascolecidae
Genus : Eisenia – Species : fetida 

All worms are not created equally, in fact there are about 8000 species of worms living on our planet. Of the earthworms, there are three major ecological categories – Anecics (Greek for “up from the earth” or “out of the earth”), Epigeics(Greek for “upon the earth”) and Endogeics (Greek for “within the earth”).

The worms commonly used for composting are Epigeics, and in our case the Eisenia fetida.  Epigeic species live in, consume, comminute and partially digest surface litter, rarely ingesting soil particles. Their mode of litter processing in natural systems results in greater nutrient leaching into the soil, creating readily available nutrients up to 7 times that of compost.

Since epigeics feed purely on litter and generally have a short gut transit time they probably depend on a rapid response of gut microbes to aid in digestion. This also means that they need a consistent and constant supply of food to satisfy their ravenous hunger.

Epigeic earthworm guts preferentially stimulate some microorganisms, and reduce others leading to a relative dominance of microorganisms different to that found in uningested soils. Soil dominated by beneficial bacteria and fungi naturally support healthy plants, hold moisture and help to prevent disease.

So understanding how worms live in the soil, the temperatures they can manager are between 40-80F, and they need to be moist to ensure they can breath through their skin.  These conditions will eliminate your yard (not enough food), your compost turner (too hot in the baking sun), your compost pile (composting gets too hot too), a bin outside in the sun/cold (too hot, too cold again).  Therefore you must manage worms inside a controlled environment where you can feed them as needed, like your dining room.  By using  a system like the Worm Factory 360 you can manage your food waste and have your worms too.  But remember, if you don’t want to do that, we can accept your food waste through our Community Compost Initiative and take all the work out of composting, so you can enjoy the beautiful weather.

Fall is the best time to add Big Red Worms Worm Castings or Compost X and Compost to your soil.  Apply as little as 1/4″ of castings or if you need organic matter, use Compost X up to 2″.  The microbial activity will work its way into the soil, creating tilth and attract earthworms to your garden. A healthy soil ecosystem with beneficial microbes (our worm castings are full of these) and good organic practices (adding compost, cover crops, minimal tilling) and the deep burrowing worms will come. Be good to your soil and it will be good to the worms.