We were feeding the worms this week when I noticed something awesome—baby worms! There were tons of the little buggers, as well as a bunch of cocoons.
I find this reassuring, because it means that their environment is good enough for them to reproduce; it’s not too wet or too dry, the castings to paper ratio isn’t too high, and there’s enough food. In fact, I think they can handle even more garbage than what we’ve been giving them, since everything but the hardest veggies (cabbage leaves, celery) is completely unrecognizable by the time we feed them again.
These worms are so much more efficient than the first batch that I feel we really must have mistreated the first ones (before we killed them). We didn’t know that much about worms when we started out, just what we’d found out from some online research. At the time, I thought they were working out okay. They ate our garbage and they reproduced, but they did both very slowly compared to the new ones.
I think our problems were:
- We used regular paper instead of newspaper. Apparently, the newspaper absorbs more water, and I’m told soy-based ink (Boston Globe, New York Times) is less toxic to them than regular ink.
- We didn’t let it get wet enough. We knew moisture could be a problem, because if it got too wet they’d make a break for it. But we didn’t know that they needed a certain amount of moisture to allow them to breath through their skin. I think we slowly suffocated them.
- We let their poo build up too much. We didn’t know exactly what finished compost should look like, so we waited and waited until it looked like potting soil. Unfortunately, that meant that they were living in way too much of their own filth, and that’s what eventually killed them. This is actually a legitimate way to compost, if you’re looking for castings to add to your potted plants and don’t care if your worms survive.
This time, determined to do it right, we read a book on the subject (Worms Eat My Garbage) and went to a (free) class at the Somerville Community Growing Center (a great place—you should check it out). Now we’ve got a second bin all set up to transfer most of our worms into when this compost is almost done, and it seems like it’ll only be a few more weeks. These guys work fast!