so i have to switch out the media in my gb's and i was wanting suggestions for a media that my worms will be happy in.
Because of the amount of organic matter in your pile of top soil, there's a good chance at least some of the worms are epigeic worms---but, not knowing the "provenance" of the soil (like in making it yourself) it's probably the best idea to buy some compost worms. The "rather safe than sorry" route.
I'd look for a supplier who states the Latin name of the worm (ex.Eisenia fetida for red wigglers) and sells by the weight of the worms rather than the combined weight of worms and shipping/bedding material. For reference: a pound of worms looks similar to a pound of hamburger.
And I'd look for someone who doesn't feed their worms manure, because manure would just get you back to the original problem.
How much patience do you have Phil? You could always make a worm bin and put some of those worms from the soil into the bin and feed them on coffee grounds and other only green kitchen waste for several months before using them in your aquaponics system. If they do well in the worm bin, they will likely be quite happy in aquaponics. If they escape or perish in your worm bin, then they were probably earthworms instead of compost worms and that would give you the several months of "clean" living for your worms before you place them into your aquaponics to keep the pathogens at bay (hence why I recommended coffee grounds and green kitchen scraps to avoid things that might pass pathogens to your worms and hence on to your aquaponics.)
I am another AP enthusiast living in W. WA.. We run a commercail redworm farm in the Cascade Mtns. right along the Pacific Crest Trail.
My spouse and I were kidding the other day that we should have planted rice and fozen vegetables instead of the crops we've got going now.. . Been pretty wet at the southern edge of Washington this Spring too.
Yes, you can use the native worms you find in your manure piles. There are some cautions I will give you in a bit, so you can try it. It is common in Washington to find Eisneia fetida in manure piles, but they could be another of the species of worms/redworms too. The reason Eisenia fetida are most commonly used in vermicomposting is that they are very tolerant to a wide range of temperatures, pH and feed stocks. They are the fastest of those used in vermicomposting at conuming matter and in reproducing. A very important consideration for using Eisenia fetida in an AP system or in a contained vermicomposting situation, is that Eisenia fetida do not have the wandering habit that other species of worms do that are commonly also used in worm composting.
The environmental conditions you will experience in your home territory are well within what Eisenia fetida will tolerate and thrive in. Out on our place we have the redworms in outdoor beds under 4' of snow in the winter and in over 100 degree heat in the summer. They thrive in this range. We do insulate the beds with compostable matter for the winter, and make sure the beds have shade in the summer. You will read that the comfort range of Eisenia fetida is 44-88 degrees. Maybe in a lab this applies... We have practicle experience with them for years, and they have proven to be very hardly. We do care for our redworms, but we do not baby them. We do much of our hravesting in the winter, oddly enough, and have found the population of redworms happliy eating and reproducing in winter, just as we find them so in the summer.
Before anyone else here starts cringing at my advice to go ahead and use the worms that you have available, here is why. Redworms are used in 3rd world countries to fight diseases associated with open sewers. They actually consume the pathogens that cause disease. The result is clean "yuck". It is working to control diseases. So go head and get some of those redworms out of your manure piles. Rise them off. Put them in a container of wetted down cornmeal. Leave them there for over 24 hours. A few days would be better. What you are doing is purging their system of any manures. Overly cautious? Maybe. But if you want to keep things safe enough to sell, you need to be careful. Also the USDA does not keep up on the most current vermiculture research, and they do not figure this into their best practices recommendations. So after the redworms have been in the cornmeal, remove them, and wash them off. Plop them in your media beds. They will stay there if they are Eisenia fetida, other redworms may like it there too. It is worth a try.
Other wise, I recommend you get some Eisenia fetida redworms from a reliable source. There may be some available very locally to you.
Spraying Brewed Worm Castings Tea. Back in this discussion a ways, someone mentioned not using a sprayer to apply brewed worm castings tea to your plants. They use a watering can, if my memory serves correct. Fine for them. However if you want to use the tea to fight off insect pests or plant maladies (it works for many things like damping off, black spot, powdery mildew to name a few) you need to coat the plants stalks and foliage top, sides and bottom. This requires a sprayer. Using a sprayer will not adversely effect the microbial population you cultivated in the freshly brewed worm casting tea to the point it will not be effective. According to Ohio State University Soils Lab research, the spraying they do is effective. No mention of compromised microbial population there. And according to our clients who use the freshly brewed worm casting tea, they get excellent results when it is sprayed on too. We have both backyard gardeners and commercial operations that use this tea. It will NOT be effective if you do not get adequate coverage though, which is why a sprayer is recommended. Just a hand held spray bottle like your household cleaners come in (buy a new one though, not used) is adequate. If you have lots of plant canopy to cover, you can use a sprayer lke that recommned for applying lawn chemicals (but use a new one). If you are just using the worm casting tea for a nutrient boost, you do not need to worry about the coverage issue, and a watering can application is just fine.
I have enjoyed reading this discussion on redworms in the mediabeds. Bottom line is that Eisenia fetida are very hardy, and perfect as an addition to your media beds. Other redworms can work in the beds too.
Thank you for the input Converse!
These are three links that Converse posted in another thread that helped out immensely in making heads or tails of worm identification...
LOL, I'm lazy, the reason I might be tempted not to bother using a sprayer for worm tea would be that keeping the sprayer clean means careful straining of the worm tea to be put into the sprayer and careful cleaning of the sprayer after. If doing a soil drench with the worm tea, no need to bother with a sprayer, watering can if far easier.
I suppose some microbes might be lost due to straining and spraying but as converse says, complete coverage being necessary and the plants seem to respond to the sprayed tea so it must work. Now I suppose if one was really OCD about it, they could watering can the tops of the plants and then come back and spray the undersides and stems but I know I'm too lazy for that.
The only need for sprayer application is if you are using it to fight off insect pest invasions on your plants, or plant maladies. Other than that spraying is not necessary. You can get cheap pump sprayer bottles at the Dollar Store even. These are like the pump spray bottles many household cleaners come in. You could have these as a one-time use thing, which would solve the how-to-clean-it dilemma. It would still be less expensive than buying chemicals to get rid of pests and plant dieases.. And safer too.
The watering can needs to be completely cleaned after use too. This means clear up the long spout and in the sprinkling head. Otherwise you have the petri dish effect going on.
Thanks for the advice here Rob.
Rob Torcellini said:
i have red wigglers in all my beds...some have crushed granite, most are expanded shale. If it's a new-ish system, there isn't much organic material for them to feast on so you will have a very small population. I usually don't bother to introduce them until after 1 or 2 growing cycles....
-Rob T. (http://www.youtube.com/web4deb)
I put a pinapple top that I have sliced up rigtht down on the cinders and everyday I just love to pick it up and see how many worms are there. you can put any piece of food on the top of the media. It is actually fun to show visitors that you really can have worms in your system. They seem to do well in cinders and blue rock/. They do love for you to put some thing they could have for desert on the media. It does not have to be rotten either. Later I will put a picture up here.
Well, you said what I was thinking...but I couldn't find a tactful way to get the notion straight without making someone possibly feel stupid about harming the microbial population that we cultivate while brewing worm casting tea.....Thanks for saying what I was reluctant to say, and putting it very clearly.
Jon Parr said:
Thanks for your wisdom, Converse. Always a pleasure.
As far as the idea that a garden sprayer would damage bacteria, well, that's just silly. They are bacteria. Very very tiny, bacteria, microscopic, as in you can't strain them out, pass right through a paint strainer by the billions. It's been mentioned that sprayer is needed to use for bug control, and that is because the bugs that need to be killed often live on the undersides of leaves, like mites and white flies. All plant surfaces must be sprayed for effective bug control, so get spraying! I've had great success with a Hudson sprayer, actually the Ace knockoff version is cheap, all plastic, and works great. After spraying anything, I rinse tank with water, add back some fresh water and a splash of peroxide, and spray through for a minute to clean it.
I have not found a media that worms don't like.