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Author Topic: Harvesting Compost Worms  (Read 1759 times)

Offline Lesgold

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Harvesting Compost Worms
« on: October 02, 2023, 02:07:18 am »
Hi Folks,

I was contacted on Saturday by a compost worm farmer who wanted some worms to help fill one of his orders. He supplies a large hardware chain with boxes of compost worms for people to purchase when they want to start a small scale worm farm at home. I harvest worms two or three times a year and supply them to him to ease the pressure on his own beds. I have 8 worm farms in old bath tubs that supply me with good quantities of compost for the vegetable garden. The worms are mainly fed on coffee grounds with a bit of timber mulch and horse manure when it is available. The beds are fed once a week and watered with rainwater as required. The first shot shows what the bed looks like when the cover is lifted. The worms tend to live mostly in the top layer and feed on the food as it breaks down. The first step is to remove about 70mm of compost and worms from the top layer and place it onto a plastic sheet out in the open air. I use rubber gloves and a bucket for this task. Normally, three or four beds are worked on at a time. The windrowed compost is left for about ten minutes which gives the worms time to burrow down away from the light. A grass rake is then used to remove some of the compost from the surface of each pile. When the rake starts to turn up a few worms, it is time to stop. The compost that has been raked off still contains a few worms and also some worm eggs and is returned to the bed. This process is then repeated and the windrows shrink rapidly.

Offline Lesgold

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2023, 02:19:10 am »
By the time the piles get to about 18? in diameter, the rake is no longer used. The worms become really concentrated and start pushing soil and compost to the surface in order to keep light away from their bodies. At this point I use my fingers to lightly rake away the compost and expose the worms below. Eventually a pure mass of worms is left. The piles of worms are then placed in a polystyrene box and covered with about a 1/4? of damp soil before being delivered to the worm farmer. The worm farms recover quickly due to the extra space that they have in the beds. Only about 50% of the worms are taken at any one time.

Online Ben Framed

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2023, 07:23:54 am »
Looks like you have it figured out Les. When I was a kid we loved to go fishing. We did not have a worm bed as such, but we did have a place where we deposited the yearly leaf drop. (mostly oak) This pile of decaying leaves could always be counted on as the earthworm 'honey hole'. The worms were huge there! We in the South call them Nightcrawlers... They would wiggle like baby snakes! Catfish love them, we would put them on trotlines. For Bream, they were good bait as well....
In the wild some folks would recover worms by using electrical probes while others recover worms by using the grunting method. Of course worms in the leaf piles required neither, just rake back the top layer of leaves by hand and there they were. I also noticed wild worms were smaller and a pink color while the 'leaf found worms' were dark in color and quiet large as I stated earlier...

https://youtu.be/FK-Oo7NwPiQ?si=v8PBB70h_NAbUUOz
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Online Terri Yaki

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2023, 09:05:38 am »
This is something I've always half wanted to do. I did buy a warm farm container once but all I did was kill worms in it so my attempt didn't last long. I have made a grass pile out back, which should produce and I need to check it. I don't fish all that much but when I do, worms are my primary with lures being secondary when the worms don't work. I never heard of this 'grunt' method but at night, they can be picked up off the ground in areas where they live. There is a knack to getting them. I have a camp in Upstate, NY and a hardware store that consistently has nice, large crawlers but they are getting expensive.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2023, 11:10:12 am by The15thMember »

Offline Kathyp

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2023, 10:59:13 am »
Orriginally I thought about doing earthworms, but around here there's a bigger market for meal worms so that's what I am raising.  I do think I'll have to take them out of the bedroom though.  We can hear them chewing the egg cartons at night.   :grin:

How do your worms do over winter in tubs like that?  I know they can take low temps, but do they go dormant over winter and do you do anything to protect the tubs?
Someone really ought to tell them that the world of Ayn Rand?s novel was not meant to be aspirational.

Online The15thMember

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2023, 11:15:57 am »
I totally want to do this!  That is incredible!  And all that on coffee grounds, wood chips, and manure, all of which we have a surplus of. 

I do think I'll have to take them out of the bedroom though.  We can hear them chewing the egg cartons at night.   :grin:
Eeeeewwwwwuh!  :oops:
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Online Ben Framed

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2023, 11:20:07 am »
Reagan with the food supply you have, you should be able to grow earthworms the size of Cottonmouth Water-Moccasins!  :shocked: :wink: J/K.

I suspect you leaning toward growing mealworms?

Phillip
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Online The15thMember

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2023, 12:09:07 pm »
I suspect you leaning toward growing mealworms?
Well, the question would be which one we could use more of.  We could use the earthworms for the garden, but the mealworms would be great chicken food.  We could use both as fishing bait.  We found a new spot to bass fish recently, so I suspect my dad is going to vote for the earthworms.  :grin:
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Online Ben Framed

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2023, 12:18:17 pm »
 I hope you dad catches a whale of a Bass!!!

 :grin: 👍🏻
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Offline Kathyp

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2023, 12:35:04 pm »
you could use the mealworms for fishing, but I'd suggest you do the bigger variety.  I am doing the smaller for the chickens.  The munching is not unpleasant.  Kind of a white noise to lull you to sleep   :grin:  It's just that as I get more of them going, it's getting louder.

A consideration with the mealworms is that they go dormant if not kept warm.  that's why I was asking about the earthworms.  I ended up putting a seedling mat under my big container so they'd keep going for winter.  I'll split them again in spring when it warms up and I hopefully have more.
Someone really ought to tell them that the world of Ayn Rand?s novel was not meant to be aspirational.

Offline Lesgold

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2023, 06:23:51 pm »
Hi Kathy,
The bath tubs are off the ground on 4 posts that were placed in the ground. A hinged lid which is covered in roofing iron protects the worm bed from birds and the heat of the day. I have positioned the beds in an area which is mostly in shade and had no other useful purpose as a garden etc. A strip of old carpet is placed directly on top of the bed. This carpet keeps the bed dark, cool and reduces evaporation. During the summer the carpet is wet down after the worms are fed. The moisture slowly evaporates and helps to keep the bed cool. When we went away on our trip around Australia, I gave the worms a good feed and then covered the worm bed in about 2? of chaff. We were away for a total of 16 weeks. When we got home the beds were checked. Worm numbers were still quite good and the beds were still moist. Most of the worms are tiger or red wrigglers.

Offline Kathyp

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2023, 10:44:08 am »
Quote
Most of the worms are tiger or red wrigglers.

Thanks!
Someone really ought to tell them that the world of Ayn Rand?s novel was not meant to be aspirational.

Offline Lesgold

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2023, 05:39:48 pm »
The worms were delivered and the farmer paid me and then started to mix them back with some prepared compost ready for packaging. The total for this harvest was just over 10kg or 22 lbs which equates to about 40 000 worms. Sure beats picking them out one at a time.

Online The15thMember

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2023, 05:43:42 pm »
Incredible! How much did he pay you for them?
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline Lesgold

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Re: Harvesting Compost Worms
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2023, 06:04:09 pm »
Hi Reagan

I get $40 per kilogram. I really only keep the worm farms for the compost and the liquid fertilizer that they produce. Selling the worms is just a nice bonus that allows me to buy a few more beekeeping supplies or tools.