Worm farm problem

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by PeterW, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. PeterW

    PeterW Junior Member

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    Hi all. I'm new on this forum, though not new to permaculture, having done a course at the PRI some years ago.

    I've got a worm farm in an old bath tub, which has been fairly successful for about 6 years. Lately the farm has gone into decline, with the worms just dying off, and slater bugs and earwigs are taking over. There were always a few of these critters around, but now they are outnumbering the worms by about 100 to one. Does anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. milifestyle

    milifestyle New Member

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    Welcome to the forum Peter,

    I'm wondering if its associated with the current weather pattern ? I've heard similar stories lately.

    If you have centipedes in the tub they have been known to eat worms, I have heard that slaters and earwigs can eat capsules and young worms, though i have never had an issue with them personally.

    Could be several factors really, blocked drainage, aged bedding, change in feed or feed source, chemicals, etc.
     
  3. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Did you do anything different from the routine you'd been doing for years?

    I probably can't help you as i only had a worm farm for a short time.
     
  4. permup

    permup Junior Member

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    Worms don't like the heat. Really hot days will have them committing suicide. Cover the farm in lots of hessian sacks and keep wet in hot weather. They don't like lots of citrus or onion. They like a weekly shower with about a watering can full of water but make sure thee drainage is good. A sprinkle of lime will keep their acid levels down. thats about all the advice I can give.
     
  5. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Can you describe the farm in more detail including your climate, and as suggested any recent changes?
     
  6. PeterW

    PeterW Junior Member

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    Thanks for those suggestions, there are already some good ideas (such as adding a little lime), and as pebble suggests, more detail would make the situation clearer.

    So ... The only recent change is that I've streamline my delivery system, so that where in the past I took out the little 2 litre buckets of scraps from our kitchen every time one was filled, meaning daily or almost, now I have a larger bucket on the back verandah which I fill first from the little buckets, then take that out when it's full, about once per week. The result is that the scraps in the large bucket are often half way to being composted, going brown and smelly (anaerobic) before they reach the worms. This semi-rotten stuff is possible not what the worms want, leading to the drop in their population.

    Having set it out clearly like that, the solution is sorta obvious - I'll take the larger bucket out more often, make sure it doesn't get too wet and also make sure the big bucket doesn't get cooked in the sun, so the worms will get fresher scraps. Then I'll stack the scraps at one end of the bathtub, hopefully drawing the worms that are left up into that pile, and in a week or two remove all the castings and bits left at the bottom, and start the whole farm afresh.

    That should improve things. I'm not sure how the slaters are playing into this, and maybe it's seasonal - I live in Nimbin, NSW Northern Rivers, and we've had an incredibly wet and humid summer with short intense hot spells. Pebble's suggestion of covering the farm on very hot days is a good one, although the heat has not caused a problem in the past.

    Milifestyle, I have cleared out the drainage just the other day (it seemed a bit too wet in there), but what do you mean by 'aged bedding'?

    Thanks again for your ideas,

    Peter
     
  7. barefootrim

    barefootrim Junior Member

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    bathtubs for worm farms work pretty good,,, but there is a method how to and how not to,,,,,,

    1, put 4 inches of gravel on botton,
    2, cover gravel with shade cloth, smallest holes you can get, and make the shade cloth go up the sides too,,,there is a another very fine cloth on the market but i cant remember what it is called sorry,,,,its very fine like a 25 micron swimming pool filter,,,,and cheap only 4 or 5 dollars per metre.
    3, only feed the worms what they can handle for 2 or 3 days,,,, if you are going away for a week or 2, only feed them well composted stuff that wont heat up
    4, dont do it like it says to on Geoffs dvd,,,you'll end up with an anaerobic mess,,,and other problems as described in above posts.
    5, cover with heshian
    6, best feed the tub surface area in halfs each time,,,,front half then rear half then repeat,,,, it encourages worms to travel, and allows you to water the non feeding bit to make a harvest of the juicy stuff.
    7 when the tub is full,,,empty and start over again.

    easy peasy lemon squeezy
    5,
     
  8. PeterW

    PeterW Junior Member

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    Thanks Barefootrim - that looks like a significant advance on the w'farm I've been running. I'll put it in place and let you know how it goes.
    PS I'll use a spare bit of weed mat to separate the gravel bed - nice fine holes.
     
  9. milifestyle

    milifestyle New Member

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    Peter,

    By aged bedding, I mean does it get fresh food supply on a regular basis... worms have been known to leave a bed in search of nutrition.
     
  10. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    I had my worms for 2 years and all of a sudden they disappeared.
    I put mine down to drowning (during the Qld flooding at Xmas)
    We had massive rain and I didn't drain them for a few days probably blocked holes and all gone.Not one left.

    All is well now thanks to a worm donation from a fellow poster here. and less rain and more drain

    Have you had some big rains?
     
  11. pippimac

    pippimac Junior Member

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    Could the anaerobic bacteria going into your bin affect the bacterial balance? I know worms hate anaerobic conditions.
    They also don't have teeth and have to wait for their food to decompose before eating it.
    The worms don't want 'fresher' scraps, but adding them regularly to break down aerobically could well help your problem.
     
  12. PermaGuinea

    PermaGuinea Junior Member

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    Just wondering if the "slaters" are actually slaters or if they might be soldier fly larvae. Do they roll up in a ball when touched (= slaters)? or do they try to wriggle away (soldier fly larvae)?

    Earwigs tend to flourish in drier conditions, so it sounds like dryness is a problem.

    Soldier fly larvae can eat tougher things like orange peels, etc. If you have cirtus rinds, onion skins, and other harder or more astringent matter in the food, the worms will retreat and the soldier fly larvae will flourish temporarily. I don't think they bother each other, they just eat different things, but if conditions are dry and there is a lot of tougher fibre to get through the soldier fly larvae will be much more conspicuous.

    The above suggestions by others about using a hession cover, etc., will keep the material moist and easier for the worms to move back up to the top amongst the food.
     

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