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There has been some (much?) chatter on other AP forums about using redworms in your media beds to "process" your solids.  I love this idea!  Not only are the solids removed, but the plants benefit from the vermicompost.  I added about a pound of worms in my six beds a few weeks ago, and I'm hoping that they are happily going to town in there.

So here are my questions...

Do you use worms in your system?  How many to use per square ft of bed?  When do you add?  Do you feed them something (food scraps) besides the delicious fish solids?  

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Greetings all,

  I read all the worm postings with great interest.  We run a commercial redworm farm in the Cascade Mtns. .  We have all the usual farm critters.  I have an Natural Sciences educational background including soil science, and enjoy doing a lot of volunteer educating on small scale vermiculture and vermicomposting in schools, for clubs including the master gadreners and for the Master Recyclers programs and the Scouts. For me it is just plain fun! When I first read about aquaponics, it really got my attention when I read the part about the nitrification cycle.  Wow! (Does that make me a science geek?) So then it was off-to-the- races to learn about aquaponics and add that to our farm.

    I may not have a lot to add about redworms in the aquaponics system, but I can address a few things that I noticed while reading the past posts in this thread about redworms in general, and worm castings that may be of help to some of you.

Since I noticed my post would be very long, I will add the information is a series of shoreter posts.  Hopfully this is acceptable.

 

 First off ‘redworm’ is just a generic term commonly used to describe a group of worms that characteristically live in the upper litter layer of the soil horizon.  Their  'job" is to consume the dead and decaying matter converting it to castings.  Redworms cannot survive in a soil environment.  That is the realm of the earthworm .    Many common names of different types of redworms are used interchangeably (examples are red wiggler, brandling worm, tiger worm and manure worm).  This is why most vermiculturists will use the scientific names of their redworms.  Different  species of redworms actually have different tolerances to temperature, ph and feedstock variations. Some have a wandering habit and some do not.  All this makes a difference as to whether a redworm will work well in a bin situation, and in differing regions.

     The Eisenia fetida (commonly also called a red wiggler, but not all worms called red wigglers are actually Eisenia fetida) is the most versatile redworm of those commonly used in vermicomposting.,  It has the fastest reproduction rate, and will consume half its body weight on matter a day. It can tolerate wide temperature ranges.  Ours live outdoors year round  in our wormbeds under a blanket of snow  up to 4’ deep and in temperatures over 100 degrees in the summer time.  Eisenia fetida redworms also do not have a wandering habit that many other redworm species have.  This is important if you want them to stay put in a worm bin.   As far as aquaponics additions go, my advice is if you have local redworms to try, go ahead and put them in your system.  If you are going to invest in buying redworms, be sure you are buying ones that will actually handle fluctuations of your system, or stay in your wormbin.

 

Sincerely,Converse

 

Greetings ALL,

  Here is the second section of redworm information.  I hope this is helpful:

Now on to the issue of fruit flies and gnats in the worm composting bin.

  This is a common complaint we hear for those who have the stackable type of worm bins, and from those who are just not quite managing their worm bins properly.   The stackable type of worm bins have an inherent design flaw that creates a high probability of having a fruit fly/gnat infestation.  Entomologists agree that fruit flies and gnats will not penetrate a bedding depth of 2 or more inches to get at a source of food.  If all food mater is surrounded (top, sides and bottom) by a layer of bedding at least 2 inches deep, then these insects will not have a food source to lay eggs in or to eat.  It is important to note that any food scraps added to the bin needs to be kept put of reach of fruit flies or gnats prior to adding to the bin, or they can lay their eggs on this matter and wind up in your bin anyway.  When they hatch they will think that were hatched in heaven. Because the stackable trays have no way to keep food matter that is added buried at the recommended depth, fruit flies and gnats can easily get at food matter and establish themselves in the set-up.  The watch word in the properly managed worm bin is to bury all food matter in the bedding.

 

Sincerely,

Converse

 

Hi All again,

 

Here is the final post in the series.  I hope some of you have been helped by these posts.

 

On to worm castings and “worm tea”

 Worm castings are high in plant available nutrients.  It seems that most everyone here knows this.  Here is one caution that most in the vermiculture world are trying to get the word out about.  While yes, worm casting tea is a valuable thing to use on your plants, the stuff that drains out of a worm bin set-up is NOT worm casting tea.  It is properly called leachate.  This leachate can harbor some very nasty bacteria, especially if you leave it sitting in any container to collect before it is removed.  Kind of a perti dish effect for bacteria.  This is something you DO NOT want to introduce to your aquapoincs system or your garden.  The best use of this is to dump it on a patch of weeds. A lot of worm composting set-ups have literature included that promote the use of leachate and even go so far as to refer to this as “worm tea” or ‘worm casting tea”.

      Worm casting tea is made from the castings the redworms leave behind after consuming food matter.  For all you newbies, worm castings are worm poop.  They are completely clean.  In fact redworms are being used in 3rd world countries to combat the disease problem associated with open sewers.  The redworms actually consume and kill the disease causing pathogens associated with these open sewers.  Worm castings look like fine coffee grounds and have no noticeable odor. 

    There are two main types of tea to make from worm castings.  One is a sun-tea.  The other is one that is “brewed”.    Worm casting tea is the best use of a small amount of worm castings, enabling the benefits of the castings to be used over a large area.  It needs to be noted that worm castings in any amount will not harm plants.  It is also completely safe to use around your aquaponics system.  Use the sun tea to water your plants just like you were watering with regular water.

     A huge benefit of the brewed worm casting tea is that you can use it to combat many plant maladies, some often associated with green house operations.   You can get rid of spider mites, aphids, tomato horn worms, white flies to name a few.  You can also make damping off, powdery mildew and black spot ( to name just a few) a thing of the past.   To brew, you just need to either put a cheap fish tank air stone connected to  an aerator in the sun tea mix for 12-24 hours (add some molasses or table sugar).  You will achieve a beneficial microbial bloom that will allow for the control of these insect pests and plant maladies, as well as feed your plants. You then can do away with buying any more chemicals or “natural” remedies.  You have it all at your fingertips with out any additional cost! 

   I’ll be happy to share the “recipe” for these with anyone who want this.

   By the way, any sealed bottle of “worm tea” or “wom casting tea” will not have the live beneficial  microbial population associated with healthy fresh worm castings.  Yes, you can use it as a fertilizer, the nutrients are still there. Anything else that would be of further benefit is dead. There is some concern about the processing of bottled worm casting tea.  Be sure it was pasteurized, so that you are not buying a bottle that also contains botulism. But this process also will kill the beneficial associated microbial population too. Botulism is also a concern with a new type of product hyped on the market referred to as “Worm Tea Extract” or “worm casting tea extract” .  If you want to have something that will really “do it all”, make it fresh, form worm castings your redworms create, or from fresh from castings you buy. 

 

  Worm castings contain natural plant growth hormones.  This is why people who start seeds in worm castings or worm casting mixes or those who mist their seeds with worm casting tea  prior to planting have such a huge success.  Worm castings will lower germination time and raise germination success.   So if you start your seeds in seed pots prior to adding to the aquaponics set-up worm castings or worm casting tea can be a great benefit.  

 

   For those of you who like this sort of thing, there is some great research online done on vermicompost, worm castings and worm casting tea by the USA's premier Soil Science Lab at  Ohio State Univ..  It is rather heavy reading, but even the phots say a lot.   

  Well that’s all I have time for at this time to add to the Redworms topic for aquaponics.  I hope this is of help to some of you.  I am enjoying learning for all of you as well.

 

Sincerely,

Converse

Thank you for this excellent info :-)

 

God bless


Converse said:

Hi All again,

 

Here is the final post in the series.  I hope some of you have been helped by these posts.

 

On to worm castings and “worm tea”

 Worm castings are high in plant available nutrients.  It seems that most everyone here knows this.  Here is one caution that most in the vermiculture world are trying to get the word out about.  While yes, worm casting tea is a valuable thing to use on your plants, the stuff that drains out of a worm bin set-up is NOT worm casting tea.  It is properly called leachate.  This leachate can harbor some very nasty bacteria, especially if you leave it sitting in any container to collect before it is removed.  Kind of a perti dish effect for bacteria.  This is something you DO NOT want to introduce to your aquapoincs system or your garden.  The best use of this is to dump it on a patch of weeds. A lot of worm composting set-ups have literature included that promote the use of leachate and even go so far as to refer to this as “worm tea” or ‘worm casting tea”.

      Worm casting tea is made from the castings the redworms leave behind after consuming food matter.  For all you newbies, worm castings are worm poop.  They are completely clean.  In fact redworms are being used in 3rd world countries to combat the disease problem associated with open sewers.  The redworms actually consume and kill the disease causing pathogens associated with these open sewers.  Worm castings look like fine coffee grounds and have no noticeable odor. 

    There are two main types of tea to make from worm castings.  One is a sun-tea.  The other is one that is “brewed”.    Worm casting tea is the best use of a small amount of worm castings, enabling the benefits of the castings to be used over a large area.  It needs to be noted that worm castings in any amount will not harm plants.  It is also completely safe to use around your aquaponics system.  Use the sun tea to water your plants just like you were watering with regular water.

     A huge benefit of the brewed worm casting tea is that you can use it to combat many plant maladies, some often associated with green house operations.   You can get rid of spider mites, aphids, tomato horn worms, white flies to name a few.  You can also make damping off, powdery mildew and black spot ( to name just a few) a thing of the past.   To brew, you just need to either put a cheap fish tank air stone connected to  an aerator in the sun tea mix for 12-24 hours (add some molasses or table sugar).  You will achieve a beneficial microbial bloom that will allow for the control of these insect pests and plant maladies, as well as feed your plants. You then can do away with buying any more chemicals or “natural” remedies.  You have it all at your fingertips with out any additional cost! 

   I’ll be happy to share the “recipe” for these with anyone who want this.

   By the way, any sealed bottle of “worm tea” or “wom casting tea” will not have the live beneficial  microbial population associated with healthy fresh worm castings.  Yes, you can use it as a fertilizer, the nutrients are still there. Anything else that would be of further benefit is dead. There is some concern about the processing of bottled worm casting tea.  Be sure it was pasteurized, so that you are not buying a bottle that also contains botulism. But this process also will kill the beneficial associated microbial population too. Botulism is also a concern with a new type of product hyped on the market referred to as “Worm Tea Extract” or “worm casting tea extract” .  If you want to have something that will really “do it all”, make it fresh, form worm castings your redworms create, or from fresh from castings you buy. 

 

  Worm castings contain natural plant growth hormones.  This is why people who start seeds in worm castings or worm casting mixes or those who mist their seeds with worm casting tea  prior to planting have such a huge success.  Worm castings will lower germination time and raise germination success.   So if you start your seeds in seed pots prior to adding to the aquaponics set-up worm castings or worm casting tea can be a great benefit.  

 

   For those of you who like this sort of thing, there is some great research online done on vermicompost, worm castings and worm casting tea by the USA's premier Soil Science Lab at  Ohio State Univ..  It is rather heavy reading, but even the phots say a lot.   

  Well that’s all I have time for at this time to add to the Redworms topic for aquaponics.  I hope this is of help to some of you.  I am enjoying learning for all of you as well.

 

Sincerely,

Converse

i have just heard from a friend that there is now a practice of pasteurizing worm castings to kill off the pathogens at a temp. that will not kill off the beneficials. it is a simple system using a cooler and a heating device...anybody heard of this....

I seriously doubt there is a temp that will kill the bad stuff and not kill the good stuff.  If you are heating anything enough to kill off botulism spores in the bottling process, you are talking it above boiling like when canning in a pressure canner.  I don't know any good bacteria that are going to survive that.  If you are only pasteurizing then that is trying to kill off as much bacteria as possible without changing (cooking) the nature of the material like milk or orange juice but as most people realize the pasteurization does still change the end product.

 

As Converse said, if you want the good stuff, brew it fresh yourself from fresh worm castings.  I can tell you, seeds germinate great in worm castings.  Don't believe me, just put the seeds from a cantaloup in your worm bin and see what happens.  Use worm castings fresh and worm tea too.  As to the worm wee (leachate) just let it go on the ground.

 

Good posting Converse


francis spalluto said:

i have just heard from a friend that there is now a practice of pasteurizing worm castings to kill off the pathogens at a temp. that will not kill off the beneficials. it is a simple system using a cooler and a heating device...anybody heard of this....
Great Posts Converse, thanks for all of it :)
Converse, thanks for posting!

As I understand it, the plant roots exude a substance which feeds and attracts bacteria.  It follows that the bacteria attracts fungi, beneficial nematodes and other living soil organisms and, eventually, worms.  The worms are not feeding on the living plant roots but the other living things attracted to the plant roots.  All of these things work together to benefit the plant.  It's been a while since I read about these things so I may not have it exactly right but I did learn that it is an amazing process and knowing a little about it completely sold me on organic gardening.  When you add chemical fertilizers or pesticides, the natural processes are disrupted and the plant is diminished in many ways, including its ability to resist pests and the nutrient content.  Generally when I harvest a plant from soil, I cut it off at the ground and leave the roots in the soil to decompose.  However, when I pull a plant, the worms are there around the roots.

Molly Stanek said:

Yesterday I noticed some interesting worm behavior.  I was pulling out the roots of a chicory plant that had been harvested several days previously to toss it into the compost bin.  To my surprise, the entire root zone was a wriggling mass of worms! 

Normally when we harvest our plants we immediately pull the roots and compost them.  After a bit of thinking about it, I'm guessing that the worms were feeding on the roots that had died back after the top was sheared off.  I have never seen that many on healthy plant roots before.


Anybody else have any similar experiences?  I'm wondering about those of you with media-filled beds and worms - do the worms help with the clean up in the media after you harvest?

Thanks Converse.  I've used large amounts of aerated tea for soil drench but never for insect control.  I'll try it.

Converse said:


     A huge benefit of the brewed worm casting tea is that you can use it to combat many plant maladies, some often associated with green house operations.   You can get rid of spider mites, aphids, tomato horn worms, white flies to name a few.  You can also make damping off, powdery mildew and black spot ( to name just a few) a thing of the past.  

File this under: Don't try this at home, teenage stupidity, mischief and curiosity.

30 years ago I learned a trick on how to harvest worms from any back yard to go fishing.

 

Step 1

wet an area of ground about 10x10

Step 2

take a coat hanger, cut it in two and make spikes

Step 3 

attach a cut extention cord, one wire to each spike with electrical tape

Step 4

insert spikes in to ground 10 feet apart (maybe further... 30 years ago ya know)

Step 5

move to dry ground and plug in... and watch the worms rise to the surface.

 

Sick, but true... I thought i'd share it.

 

 

a welder tuned down low hooked to 2 metal rods does the same thing. they actualy sell a pre wired setup just for this. the ground has to be wet or nothing hapens. the whole thing is literaly grounded so well that you are definatly not the rout the curent wants to take, ok mabby just a tikle or two.

 

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