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Harvest Dignosis
April, 2001

Subject: Worm Harvest
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 07:24:46 -0500
From: Nancy Lieder

Not as big as I'd hoped! I'm clearly not doing something I should be doing, like feeding them enough. I'm copying Darryl Jones of Vital Earth to see if he any suggestions. What do they put into their commercial worm beds to ramp up the production of liquid fertilizer?

  1. Last July we completed the first row of worm beds here in the Hydroponics Lab - Earth, ground leaves, and covered with chipped compost from the garden. We added apx 250 red wrigglers to each of the 4 beds in the row. They were watered when the soil felt less than damp, and given new compost on top of the soil when they'd consumed what was there down to a straw covering. We chipped some 60 gallons of garden compost, and they were fed most of that during the ensuing 9 months.
  2. My son recently constructed a second row of beds, and I again put soil and ground leaves in each, but transferred half the soil (with worms) from the first row into the second, to seed them. I could see adult red wrigglers and babies, so they are clearly breeding, and they were everywhere and very healthy but NOT in the massive numbers I'd hoped for!
  3. I got 5 little Rhode Island Red chicks brooding on top of my refrigerator (where the dog can't get them) and plan to put them under chicken wire ON TOP of a couple beds in the second row of worm beds (where the dog likewise can't get them). My thought was to see if they could live on the worms that come to the surface to feed on compost, and likewise if the worm population would grow from chicken poop. I'm still planning on doing this, but am going to feed them mash of some kind.
  4. I've got another bunch of catfishlings coming in a couple weeks (so I've been assured) and planned to likewise feed them worms, to avoid the problem we had with the last bunch where the cheap commercial fish food had a yellow dye additive that eventually turned the water mustard yellow and killed the fish. In a closed system, one needs to be careful what is added! Now I'm talking to the fish distributor about buying some Purina fish food (which he stated he uses, best quality) from him, as I can't seem to locate that for sale or special order here in the immediate area.

Subject: Re: Worm Harvest
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 11:07:27 +1000
From: Darryyll Jones <>
To: Nancy Lieder

Dear Nancy

Just like fish farming, you need to cull fish to grow fish, the same with worms, with a big extra. The secret to worm farming is simple you have to extract worm all the time, but unlike fish farming you also have to remove the cast at the same rate. With fish farming you leave there water behind. Without doubt you are leaving cast behind as well as not harvesting, when you harvest they rapidly relicate themselves. When you leave cast behind the mechanism for cocoon burst and egg creation is switched off. Think of a bell curve, on the left hand side is worm multiplication in fresh food, then as cast appears the bell curve peaks, from there on it goes down hill in direct proportion to the quantity of cast remaining. It is always the same mistake. So harvest on the left hand of the curve and replication will be doubling every thirty days, then strip stock at the peak when cast appears, reset the pits and the growth rate remains near vertical.

Best Regards, Darryl

Subject: Re: Worm Harvest
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 00:18:43 +1000
From: Darryyll Jones <>
To: Nancy Lieder"<>

> - how often do you harvest.

We have a weekly harvest all the time by drawing worms to a special formula they love over all other materials, we use simple experience about how many kilos to remove. Do not over harvest as you slip to far down the left hand side of by now a flat section in the bell curve, likewise keeping too much allows you to plateau.

> Somewhere we read that messing with the soil kills
> the babies, ruins the worm trails, and reduces the harvest. So, you do this
> weekly, monthly, quarterly?

By drawing the stock to a harvest point without disturbing the bed is best.

> - how do you recognize the worm casings? Are they on the surface?

The uniformity of particle size and the darkening colour are good indicators. But the best is to just simply check to see if worms are mating and making coccoons, check to see that more coccoons have been made each day. A cardboard template laid over a few areas is an easy way to see if you can count more coccoons. Check to see worms are coupled up making a coccoon each, but don't disturb for long. No mating signs means the food is insufficient or the pH is wrong. Ph is the next biggest thing that goes wrong after too much cast. You are running a bacteria farm primarily, worms have NO bacteria naturally like every other animal, so pay attention to pH first or the wrong bacteria will grow and the worms can not use them to break down the food first, next keep moisture levels high and constant, once again to peak bacteria, keep light out primarily for the bacteria as well. Peak the bacteria count and you peak worm growth, which simply responds to an apparent over supply of suitable food. So add large quantities of AG lime to keep the pH up to around 6.5 to 7.5 ideally, peak correct bacteria is best maintained in that range.

> Color identified? Like little stones? What?
> The soil with worms I transferred to the second row of beds was moist, and other
> than seeing an occasional worm or baby, I could not identify anything else of
> note!

There is no role for fresh "soil" in Vermiculture, the beds should always be 100% organic, with about 25% max in worked out material [cast] as a bed on the bottom to act as a safe haven. Definately NO soil.

Regards, DJ